Al Naslaa Rock Formation: The Mysterious 4,000-year-old Saudi Arabian Boulder
The world is full of strange and mysterious locations that make us ponder about how the world was thousands of years ago and how our ancestors lived. Were they prehistoric beings just learning how to use fire? Or were they more advanced than what our history books led us to believe?
Regardless of which school of thought you’d like to subscribe to, the truth is that the world is filled with wonders that have many scholars scratching their heads trying to give their existence and explanation.
One such wonder is the Al Naslaa Rock Formation in Saudi Arabia.
The 4,000-year-old Al Naslaa Rock Formation
The Al Naslaa rock formation is located in the Tayma Oasis of Saudi Arabia – home of the oldest human settlements. It was discovered in 1883 by Charles Huvor, and ever since, this particular rock formation has fuelled debate among academics, alternative researchers and tourists.
The rock stands about 6 metres high and 9 metres wide and its southeast face is covered in numerous petroglyphs. In particular, it shows one petroglyph that looks like a horse with a human next to it leading him with a rope.
Al Naslaa rock is believed to be 4,000 years old and is composed of sedimentary rocks with a high density, showing considerable evidence of weathering and erosion. It is composed of twin layers of sandstone, balanced on top of a naturally-formed plinth–with a smooth, vertical crack running vertically between the two, so accurate that it looks like a laser was used to cut it.
Al Naslaa is just one of the many rocks of Tayma Oasis to have an unusual look, since limestone, shale, and sandstone have spent centuries being cultured into awesome formations there (with a bit of rain and wind, naturally). The area of the Tayma Oasis is incredibly unique, with outstanding and particular beauty, and the petroglyphs in other rock formations are also worth studying.
Why Is The Al Naslaa Rock So Controversial?
What attracts visitors to the Tayma Oasis and especially to visit this giant rock is that it has been flawlessly sliced in half with an unknown technique, with many believing that it could have been done by a laser at a time when lasers could not have existed.
The fact that there are a lot of smaller horizontal cracks on either side of the rock formation at al-Naslaa, but those cracks are not necessarily aligned, strongly suggests that a lot of those cracks formed as a result of weathering and erosion processes that occurred after the boulder was already divided in two.
Possible Explanations of the Al Naslaa Rock Formation
The mystery of the Al Naslaa rock is baffling and raises many questions. How was this perfectly straight crack made in the rock?
Many theories have been put forward to explain the mystery. The most common ones are:
Some geologists argue that the rock could have split due to a process called ‘freeze-thaw’ weathering. Which is when water deposits in small cracks in the rock, and then freezes and expands, causing the crack to widen. When the ice melted, the water would have moved deeper and deeper into the crack. Continuous freezing and thawing over thousands of years would have finally caused the rock to split in half.
Another theory is that the Al Naslaa Rock Formation sits on a fault line. As the ground beneath the rock first shifted, the rock would have been split in half at a weaker point, in this case through the middle.
The crack would have then become something of a wind-tunnel for sand dust and storms sweeping across the landscape, widening the gap and sanding it down over the years to create the perfectly smooth surface we see today.
In geology, a joint is a fracture that naturally forms in a rock without displacement. This type of breakage is common and unusually straight, like that seen in the Al Naslaa Rock Formation.
Some people have pointed out that the geological explanations given for the rock’s straight cut are not possible. On the one hand, the rocks sit on top of two mushroom-shaped mounds, which are extremely common in desert landscapes and their shape is the result of weathering (winds, water).
The rock’s composition is mainly sandstone, which is brittle and very easy to cut and shape, meaning the straight cut across the middle would show weathering signs and it would not appear so straight. Because of this, is it believed that the cut was human-made with simple metal tools capable of shearing the rock down to the centre.
Most likely, the cut in the rock was made to signify a geographical landmark for those travelling across the desert. The petroglyphs markings could simply signify the horse or camel route, much like modern-day trails are signposted for humans and animal crossings.
If you are interested in learning more about the Al Naslaa Rock Formation, I suggest the following video as a brief introduction.