Archaeologists in northwest Saudi Arabia have discovered 4,500-year-old "funerary avenues" alongside thousands of pendant-shaped stone tombs in the Middle East.
Researchers have revealed that these networks form part of 'funerary avenues' as tombs are located beside them and they would've linked oasis's together and formed an ancient highway.
In a new paper, researchers from the University of Western Australia have revealed the arrangement of approximately 18,000 tombs which span thousands of miles in the Saudi Arabian counties of Al-'Ula and Khaybar.
Each tomb consists of several small bundles of stones arranged in elaborate and unique shapes, which experts say could mark the spot where either single individuals or small groups were buried thousands of years ago.
Researchers have described the burial as 'pendant' tombs as they resemble pieces of jewellery attached to a chain or 'tail'.
At around the same time that the tombs and avenues were constructed, the Egyptians built the pyramids — including the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Dr Matthew Dalton is the lead author of the findings from the University of Western Australia's School of Humanities.
He and his team at the university used helicopter-based aerial photographer, satellite imagery, ground survey and excavation to analyse the tombs and the avenues.
Dr Dalton said: "The people who live in these areas have known about them for thousands of years.
"But I think it wasn't really known until we got satellite imagery that just how widespread they are."
Researchers found that the highest concentrations of funerary monuments on these avenues were located near permanent water sources.
Dr Dalton said: "The sheer number of Bronze Age tombs built around them suggests that populations had already begun to settle more permanently in these favorable locations at this time."
The findings have been published in the journal The Holocene.
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