Archaeologists have found “unique” patterns – some of them in Arabic script – etched into sand dunes in the Qatari desert.
Despite being exposed to the elements since 2007, the geological formations, described in the Journal of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeo-geology, have remained as they were.
With no explanation for the markings, a group of archaeologists believe the mysterious markings may date from a former era when Qatar was ruled by the ancient royal family – and the designs may be a nod to the country’s falconry past.
According to the researchers, 19 geometric lines – some with Arabic script – resembling spirals have been discovered on rocks above a geological rift in the Doha emirate. Further lines cut into a sandstone surface suggest the lines were carved from the same material.
Unusually among such markings found in desert sands, the lines are not of a particularly neat and straight trajectory and appear to be formed from sand in some cases.
“These are the first references to these in arid regions, so they are quite unique in that sense,” said Balazs Csepel, an archaeologist at the University of Zurich and leader of the dig in Qatar.
“The technique of making these patterns involves punching up a piece of rock and seeing what happens. It seems that the line you are marking is in some way being truncated, maybe by wind, or by rain. The lines continue to grow and then collapse.”
There is no precedent for these lines in the Middle East and Csepel believes the findings indicate ancient Qatar was inhabited by the same people who ruled by the continent that would later become the Persian Empire.
“For Qatari people who lived more than 2,000 years ago they may have been an indication of their relationship with the Arabian peninsula,” he said.
The line in particular may have been used by the rulers as a way of marking the “outlet to new territory”.
Trucks drove through the sandstone, stamped out by a great wave of sand, but no evidence exists to suggest it was used to mark a mountain range or a border.
The pattern of lines extends south and into the Persian Gulf, suggesting they were created by volcanic activity or regular rainfall.
The researchers said the findings highlight a previously undiscovered site linked to the ancient history of the country.