Do Mysterious, Ancient Stone Structures Point to Jewish Exodus in Saudi Arabia? Bizarre Theory Dismissed by Archaeologists

A "Kite" stone structure used to trap migratory animals. APAAME

When an Australian archaeologist revealed hundreds of mysterious stone structures located on ancient lava domes in Saudi Arabia last month, there was speculation that they could serve as evidence that when the Jews left Egypt—as told in the Bible—they may have made it as far as the Arabian peninsula.

But a series of archaeologists have dismissed the theory as fanciful at best.

David Kennedy, using Google Earth for the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East initiative, recorded as many as 400 stone walls that are thousands of years old in the Harrat Khaybar region of Saudi Arabia.

The walls were used as hunting traps for humans to catch animals passing through the area for food. The research, which is only conducted aerially, will appear in the forthcoming issue of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy .

Gates satellite
Map showing the locations of some of the Gates. Wiley/Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy/Douglas Kennedy

Filmmaker Timothy P. Mahoney is the creator of a film entitled Patterns of Evidence that presented a new historical timeline of the Exodus of Hebrew slaves from ancient Egypt. The film's website published an article that considers that the Hebrew slaves may have spent a period of time in Saudi Arabia after fleeing Egypt.

"Did the nomadic Children of Israel spend 40 years in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula, or did they spend at least part of those four decades wandering to and fro in the Arabian Peninsula?" it asks.

But archaeologists, speaking to nationalist website Breaking News Israel, which sought to investigate the matter further, shot down that theory.

"The walls discovered by the archaeologist belong to the late Neolithic when the Arabian peninsula had a much wetter climate, the Neolithic Wet Phase," Egyptologist David Rohl told the site. "These are agricultural or cattle enclosures from much earlier than the time of Moses."

The Exodus traditionally refers to the founding theory of Israel, that Hebrew slaves were forced to flee Egypt, arriving at Mount Sinai before finally settling at an area known as Canaan, what is now the modern-day Levant, an area that sits on the eastern Mediterranean in the Middle East and encompasses Israel and Lebanon.

But another expert, Simcha Jacobovici, a journalist who has covered Biblical archaeology, said that there was no evidence to suggest the new find in Saudi Arabia had anything to do with the Hebrew slaves who fled Egypt.

"This is absolutely not connected to the Children of Israel in the Desert," Jacobovici said. "I think the exit from Egypt happened precisely where the Bible says it happened, and the path did not lead to Saudi Arabia. It simply makes no sense."

The archaeologist only studied the gates from the air, using Google Maps, but he said in the study that these sites are "crying out for close examination on the ground to see if there are associated artefacts."

He told the New York Times that "we tend to think of Saudi Arabia as desert, but in practice there's a huge archaeological treasure trove out there and it needs to be identified and mapped." So closer inspection could reveal more about any potential connection between ancient Hebrew slaves and these structures.

Kennedy believes that the ancient "gates" in Saudi Arabia could date back as far as 9,000 years. But, as it stands, experts ultimately believe it unlikely that the Israelites ever crossed their path, let alone built them.