The Roots of Purebred Arabian Horses

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•    Al-Magar site is located  in a very remote area of central Arabia   between Tathleet  and Wadi Al Dawaser at about  40km from the town of Gayirah in the province of Tathleet.

Site surrounding relief

•    Al-Magar site was first discovered by a Saudi national who collected some archaeological objects scattered on the surface. Another Saudi National reported the site  to the Riyadh Governorate (Amara).

Archeological team during survey works

•    Riyadh Governorate referred the matter to Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities which contacted the person who collected the archaeological objects. He immediately responded by returning all objects and guiding the concerned official to the site location. The Commission rewarded the two persons for their cooperation.

Roller uses in textile 1

•    The Commission commenced further  exploration around  the site in the  month Rabi al-Awal 1431H corresponding to March 2010G.

Horse statue; in which clearly are seen the neck and head's lower details

•    In the month Rabi Thani 1431H/March 2010G a scientific team including Saudis, Arabs and international researchers, archaeologists and specialists in prehistoric periods, visited the site. The team was comprised of the following:-
-    Prof. Ali Ibn Ibrahim Al Ghaban Vice President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.
-    Dr. Mike Petraglia USA National – School of Archaeology – University of Oxford.
-    Dr. Abdullah M. Al Sharekh, Saudi National, Associate Professor – Archaeology , prehistory – King Saud University
-    Dr. Abdul Raziq A. Al Muamary, Yemeni National,  Associate Professor – Archaeology, prehistory – Sanna University and King Saud University.
-    Dr. Majeed H. Khan, Pakistani National – specialized in rock art in the Arabian Peninsulas – Consultant with Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.
-    Mr. Abdul Aziz M. Al Omari, Saudi National, researcher in prehistoric archaeology. Manager of Taif Antiquities Office.
-    Mr. Ayed N. Al Hamad, Saudi National, researcher in archaeology. Manager of Beisha Province Antiquities Office.
-    Eng. Mohammed M. Babily, Saudi National, non- regular photographer with Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

Horse statue ; in which clearly are seen face and mouth details

•    The information and photographs of the site along with the analysis were presented to a group of international experts and analyzers including the following:
-    Prof. Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Ansari, professor of Arabian Peninsula History and Archaeology.
-    Dr. Sandra Olsen Head of  the Anthropology Dept. at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
-    Dr. Arek Kukunawa Manager - Magazine of Prehistory of Ancient Near East and Staff Member of Paris University.

Big statue of a horse, around one meter length (head, neck and a part of the body)

•    The site area is distinguished with its special topography located at a junction point between Najid heights and the edges of  the eastern mountains. The area is composed of small hills with a number of valleys scattered among them.

A head of a sheep made of stone

•    There is a major valley across the area which once was a river running westward forming waterfalls and taking water to the low fertile lands west of Al-Magar  which was situated on both banks of the river

Head and neck of a Saluki dog made of stone

•    Man lived in this area before the last desertification or before the drastic climatic changes ended with  the hot dry conditions and development of deserts . The early  settlements in this area was largely attributed to the climatic changes.

•    Inhabitants of this site practiced agriculture and animal breeding.

head and neck of an ostrich made of stone

•    On the  surface there is a large scatter of  archaeological objects spread in a large area and  include arrow heads , precisely-made stone scrapers similar to that used during the Neolithic period.
Weights use in textile looms

•    The site is surrounded by other sites extending over a wide area where similar objects were found and typically some of them were connected with the agriculture activity.

A piece of a decorated vessel made of soapy stone, is considered as one of the most ancient vessels of its kinds that was ever found in the Arabian Peninsula unless all over the world

•    The main route linking south western Arabian Peninsula with its central area was passing near the site . This route became latter - during the past historic periods - the main trade route between Najran and al-Fao.

An Arabian decorated dagger, made of stone, is seen as tremendous stride in cutting and weapons tools in the Neolithic prior to metal tools

•    The site represents a culture of  humman groups that settled at the site long ago. We named  this unique culture  as AL-Magar Civilization in attribution to the name of the site.

a stone horse head, harness clearly seen upon it

•    Several statues of possibly  domisticated animals were found on the site  which were possibly part of the daily life of the inhabitants.The animal included sheep, goats, hound dogs, ostrichs, falcons, fish and horses.

Arrow heads, stone tools from Neolithic spreading over site surface

•    The artifacts and objects found at the site showed that the Neolithic period was the last period when human being lived on the site (9000) years ago. All objects and stone tools found on the surface of the site dated back to the said history.

•    In order to ascertain and assure the history of the site, four samples of organic burnt materials were taken from AlMagar site and sent to USA specialized Laboratory of C-14 dating. The results showed that the site dated back to 9000 years ago.

•    Near the site there are other sites more ancient than AlMagar dating back to the medium Neolithic period.

•    Presence of horse statues of big sizes, coupled with Neolithic artifacts and tools dating back to 9000 years ago in the site is considered an important archaeological discovery at the international arena particularly in view that the latest studies indicated that animal domestication was known for the first time 5.500 years ago in central Asia (Kazakhstan). This site demonstrated that horses were domesticated in Saudi Arabia before a long period of the afore-mentioned date.

Horse statue ; in which clearly are seen face and mouth details

•    The length of a statute of a horse - comprised of neck and chest - found at the site is nearly 100CM which could be the largest sculpture for a horse during that period. Other statues found in Turkey and Syria were of small size, dated latter, and contained no horse statues.

•    The features of the horse statue are similar to that of the original Arabian horses characterized with long neck and unique head shape.

•    On the head of the above-mentioned statue there are clear signs of a bridle which in turn confirms that inhabitant of AlMagar domesticated horses at that early periods.

Grain pounding tool

•    All statues were made of the same local rocks available at the site and it seems that the statues had been fixed on a central building at the southern bank of the river before the mouth point of the river at the waterfall.  This central building might had major role in the social life of the site inhabitants.

•    Some of the caves near the castle were used as graves by the inhabitants. Remains of buried skeltons were found as well as othe graves covered by mud and hay. Burial methods applying  some embalmment technique were traced in the coherent skeltons, a matter considered as an advanced technique for  burial.   

•    In addition to the stone tools, arrowheads,  scrapers and spearheads, other objects were also found at the site including stone grain- grinders and  stone pestle for pounding grains in addition to gravitation stones used in weaving looms, stone reel for spinning and weaving, soapstone pot decorated by geometrical motifs and stone tools for leather processing which  reflect advance knowledge and high skill in handcraft activities.      

Head and neck of a Saluki dog made of stone

•    In addition to the above-mentioned artifacts, a  stone dagger  was found at the site bearing the same features and shape of the Arabian genuine dagger used presently in the Arabian Peninsula. This artifact is an important cultural element as the dagger is one of the most important cultural and traditional element among the Arabs which according to this evidence date back to several thousand years and survived up to the present time. No doubt presence of stone dagger in this site before 9000 years would add much to the ancient history of the Arabian peninsula.

•    A significant stone piece was found at the site bearing small cut lines on the edges. The parallel  lines were set in groups perhaps for accounting, numbering or timing purposes. It seems that this piece has an important role, the fiture studies may reveal its significant usage.   

A piece of stone in which engraved groups of notches 1

•    There are rock drawings at the area adjacent to Al-Magar site. The petroglyphs were created by deep pecking and engraving the darkly patinated rock surface. Ibexes, ostriches and other animals as well as human figures including a knight riding a horse are carefully depicted. Another drawing shows hunting ibexes followed by hound dogs where five dogs surrounding an ibex. The petroglyphs have turned by time to black which indicate that such thee were made during the term when the site was inhibited. Other rock drawing were found among the remains of the central building at Al-Magar site  including drawings of horses and human beings.   

•    The artifacts collected from the surface of Al-Magar site exceed eighty objects, reflected clearly the existence of an advanced civilization during the Neolithic period nine thousand years ago. This civilization could be considered as a revolution in man knowledge and handicraft skills.

Grain grinder 2

•    This particular culture was not confined to this site but expected to has been spread   in the Arabian Peninsula. This initial hypothetical study may  reveal some outstanding components and characteristics by future studies and field works as well as by comparative studies with the findings on other sites inside and outside the Arabian Peninsula.

Results of carbon-14 dating for gathered samples

•    Formation of a scientific team comprising a number of international researchers is underway in order to carry out further researches and studies on the site to reveal more secrets of this civilization

Prof. Ali Ibrahim Al Ghaban
Vice President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.
Ex- prof. at the University of King Saud 

Al-Magar site incarnated four significant Arabian cultural characteristic for which the Arabs are highly proud of. These aspects include horsemanship and horse breeding, hunting with falcons, hunting with hound dogs and using the Arabian dagger as part of the Arabian dress. These cultural inherited characteristics were found at Al-Magar  in the central region of the Arabian Peninsula before nine thousand years . This impressive discovery reflects the importance of the site as a centre and could possibly the birthplace of  an advanced prehistoric civilization that witnessed domestication of animals,  particularly the horse , for the first time during the Neolithic period.

Dr. Abdul Raziq Ahmed Rashid Al-Mamari

Prof. University of King Saud 
Ex- Prof. Sanna University 

After visiting Al-Magar site it is evidenced that the site has significant importance that contains valuable data for writing the history of Arabian peninsula in general including the climate , environment and the animal world at that time.

Al-Magar is considered as a unique site where unprecedented archaeological artefacts were found which I have never seen at any other site during my twenty years of work at the Neolithic sites in the Arabian Peninsula. These artefacts include in particular the horse statues sculptured on stone which is considered as the first of its kind in the whole Region. Also one of the important advantages of the site, is the possibility of obtaining precise  dates for its objects through C14 dating as one of the rare sites in the Arabian Peninsula that have absolute dates.

Dr. Michael Petraglia ( University of Oxford)                                         

The Al-Magar site is obviously a significant and impressive archaeological site, important to the prehistory of Arabia, but also to global history as it can reveal information about the relationship between humans and climate change, how populations became sedentary, how they interacted with natural resources on their landscape, and how they set into motion the domestication of plants and animals (including horse). 

The Al-Magar site itself is a very large prehistoric settlement that clearly has different activity areas, including potential house structures, burials, lithic workshop areas, etc. 

Dr. Majeed Khan
Consultant  Archaeologist

Al-Magar is the first largest Neolithic settlement site so far located in Saudi Arabia. It’s location near a waterfall and in open valley area suggests that it probably represented the earliest domestication of both animals and plants. Large number of various size of grinding stones clearly indicate crushing and grinding of grains.

The location of horse rider and strange unidentifiable figures on the middle Palaeolithic site with lots of Mousterian stone objects  scattered all around the rock art site is the most fascinating discovery. We need to date horse rider and the figures on a broken rock at the middle Palaeolithic site.

In the light of present C14 dating that attributed al-Maqar site to 9,000-8,000 years before present and the location of horse head sculptured on a hard stone in addition to other horse heads carved  on  thin slab like stones, the site represents  the first Neolithic settlement in the Arabian Peninsula and provided a solid undeniable evidence of the presence and domestication of horse in Arabia.

It is generally believed (by all European and American scholars) that the horse was initially brought to Arabia from Central Asia or somewhere else. Al-Maqar site denied this hypothetical suggestion and provide solid evidence not only on the presence but domestication of horse in Arabia before several thousand years.