Summer Exploring – a Dangerous Venture. By George Potter
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By George Potter
One of my exploring partners is a Saudi who writes articles for Saudi historical magazines. Recently, he used Google Earth to scan hundreds of square miles between the ruins of the old caravan-trail towns of Thaj and Ain Dar in what is today eastern Saudi Arabia.
My friend is convinced that the distance between these two ancient halts on the trail is too great a distance for the caravaneers. For this reason he is searching for ruins of a small oasis or village that he believes must have existed as far back as 3000 B.C.
My theory is that the Jaredites traveled through this same area prior to the development of a trading route; so I am equally excited about the possibility of finding lost sources of water between the ruins of Thaj and Ain Dar.
Over the course of the last three months, my friend has found 25 Google Earth images that appear to show the remains of man-made objects. All of the features he spotted were located in the area the Bedouins call Al-Rafeyyah, which is situated exactly halfway between Thaj and Ain Dar.
On seeing the images, our mutual excitement drove the two of us and some other friends into the desert during the heat of the summer (August 5, 2010). On that day, the temperature exceeded 120 degrees.
One faces a variety of challenges when going deep into the desert during the summer. Several people die in the Arabian Desert each year. Not preparing for these challenges can put one at high risk of joining the list of the "dump dead."These challenges include:
The sand, which becomes so soft that leaves getting one's vehicle stuck in the sand a certainty
The unbearable heat that kills a person slowly and painfully if exposed to it too long
For this reason, we took: 3 instead of our normal 2 trucks, experienced desert drivers, GPS positioning systems in each vehicle, long tow cables, shovels & boards to put under the tires when the vehicles bogged down in the sand, loads of drinking water, and an air compressor in case we needed to fill the tires after lowering the pressure to increase traction in the sand.
Besides getting stuck in the sand 5 times, we experienced a great day of exploring.
We started by visiting what appears to be an ancient dam that would have blocked runoffs from rains and guided the water into a reservoir. Here we see both the Google Earth Image and our photograph of the same ancient dam.
On the hill where we photographed the dam, we discovered petroglyphs with ancient inscriptions.
Four miles north of the dams and almost completely buried in the sand, we found what appeared to be the remains of a small settlement with walls and possible burial mounds.
We also discovered an odd square-shaped artifact. All of these artifacts were made of pink coral coral, which would have to have been brought to the site from the Arabian Gulf 40 miles to the east.
Most of the remains of the small settlement had obviously been buried deep in the moving sands of the desert, and could not be excavated until the weather cools.
It was so hot that even the camels took small sips of a soft drink. They were not impressed.