Archaeologists by chance


The experience of a group of foreigners through Harrat’s lava fields

A desert trip in Saudi Arabia can always lead to unexpected surprises. Despite the identification of numerous Neolithic sites amidst the regions surrounding the Red Sea and the desert valleys of Saudi Arabia, thousands of these settlements still remain unexplored, and visitors can easily bump into them.

Tempted by the country’s archaeological treasures and animated by the spirit of adventure and the desire to break away from the daily routine, a group of foreigners living in Jeddah recently went on a two-day trip in the area of Harrat, a large lava field of 20,000 sq km that extends for 300 km south of the holy city of Madinah. Just like the lava flow plains of Jordan and Syria, this huge volcanic area, and particularly the town of Khaybar in the north of Madinah, is well known for offering a profusion of ancient stone rings, tools, lava caves and also human and animal bones that may be traced back to the Neolithic period (8,500 to 5,500 B.C.).

Disseminated throughout Saudi Arabia’s arid country, including the Arabian Gulf Coast and the shorelines of the an-Nafud and the Rub al-Khali deserts, mysterious circular stone formation, settlements and tools are particularly easy to find around volcanic areas. “Millennia ago, when climatic conditions were more favorable and there was somewhat more water, the basaltic lava eroded into good soil resulting in enough vegetation to support life,” writes an amateur from Germany using the pseudonym KenGrok to sign his article “Roughly 3,400 Neolithic sites in Saudi Arabia and East Africa.”

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Stone structures belonging to the Neolithic period in Harrat at 50 km from Volcano Halat Kamisah.

Categories: Archeology, Asia, Saudi Arabia

5 replies

  1. Dear Sir,

    My name is Ronan Stewart and I am a history student in uiniversity college Dublin, Ireland. I am currently completing a book which will include a section on the battle of the Khandaq – I wanted to include a photo of the surrounding lava fields which would illustrate their impassability. If you don’t mind, I would very much like to include your photo in this chapter if possible, and that would be much appreciated if I could, thanks-

    Best regards,

    Ronan Stewart.

  2. Dear professor Rafiq A. Tschannen,

    If this is your photo, then I would like your permission to use it – or if it is someone else’s, then perhaps you could give me their details and I will ask them. Obviously I will include your name under the photo and I will not claim it as my own,



  3. indeed – the lava plain/stone structures near Harra above – thanks so much, that is much appreciated!

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