Large stone carvings found at two sites in the Middle East are thought to show ancient plans for human-made mega structures, researchers have said.
One carving discovered on a large rectangular stone at a Jordanian campsite dated back about 9,000 years.
Two other engravings were found on a boulder at the base of a cliff in Saudi Arabia. They were created about 8,000 years ago, researchers said.
The findings are thought to be the oldest realistic building plans carved to scale on stone.
The engravings show plans for “desert kites” – human-made archaeological mega-traps used to hunt wild animals – that date back at least 9,000 years.
The kites were made of stone walls up to 5km long that narrow into large pits.
They were used to trap animals including gazelle and deer.
The kites, in their entirety, are “only visible from the air", said Remy Crassard, an archaeologist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Lyon.
“The extreme precision of these engravings is remarkable, representing gigantic neighbouring Neolithic stone structures, the whole design of which is impossible to grasp without seeing it from the air or without being their architect,” researchers said in the report, published in the Plos One journal.
“They reveal a widely underestimated mental mastery of space perception, hitherto never observed at this level of accuracy in such an early context.”
The findings shed new light on how ancient communities used space and how they approached group activities, researchers said.
The engraved slab from Jibal Al Khashabiyeh, Jordan, is stored at the French Institute for the Near East in Amman.
The artefact is expected to be moved to the Hussein bin Talal University exhibition room of the South-Eastern Badia Archaeological Project in Wadi Musa, south of the capital.
The engraved boulder in Saudi Arabia has not yet been removed from the site in Jebel az Zilliyat.
The edges of the limestone block were carved with a large, hard hammer, researchers said. The engraving was made using carving techniques including fine incisions and pecking.