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Saudi Arabia discovers 9,000 year-old civilization

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is excavating a new archeological site that will show horses were domesticated 9,000 years ago in the Arabian peninsula, the country's antiquities expert said Wednesday.

The discovery of the civilization, named al-Maqar after the site's location, will challenge the theory that the domestication of animals took place 5,500 years ago in Central Asia, said Ali al-Ghabban, Vice-President of Antiquities and Museums at the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.

"This discovery will change our knowledge concerning the domestication of horses and the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period," Ghabban told a news conference in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

"The Maqar Civilization is a very advanced civilization of the Neolithic period. This site shows us clearly, the roots of the domestication of horses 9,000 years ago."

The site also includes remains of mummified skeletons, arrowheads, scrapers, grain grinders, tools for spinning and weaving, and other tools that are evidence of a civilization that is skilled in handicrafts.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, is trying to diversify its economy away from oil and hopes to increase its tourism.

Last year the SCTA launched exhibitions in Barcelona's CaixaForum museum and Paris's Louvre museum showcasing historic findings of the Arabian Peninsula.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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