With the help of Google Earth, stunned archaeologists from the University of Western Australia have discovered 400 mysterious stone structures – anywhere from 40 feet to almost 1,700 feet in length – in Harrat Khaybar, the barren desert and rugged mountainous region of west-central Saudi Arabia.

And, they’re calling these previously undocumented stone structures, which could date back thousands of years, ‘The Gates of Hell’ due to their loose resemblance to old-fashioned field gates.

David Kennedy, professor at the University of Western Australia, writes in a paper published in the November issue of the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy that the gates are stone-built and appear to be the “oldest man-made structures in the landscape” with low roughly made walls:

“Gates are found almost exclusively in bleak, inhospitable lava fields with scant water or vegetation, places seemingly amongst the most unwelcoming to our species. I refer to them as gates because when you view them from above they look like a simple field gate lying flat, two upright posts on the sides, connected by one or more long bars. They don’t look like structures where people would have lived nor do they look like animal traps or for disposing of dead bodies.

“It’s a mystery as to what their purpose would have been. You can’t see them in any intelligible way at the ground level but once you get up a few hundred feet, or with a satellite even higher, they stand out beautifully.”

According to, the archaeologists were searching for remnants of ancient civilizations when they discovered the stone structures in and around remote lava domes. The volcanic region in which they found the gates of hell is described as a ‘hellish’ landscape deserted of vegetation, water, and life.

Though the archaeologists are still unsure as to the purpose and exact age of the structures, and who may have built them, a few of the gates are actually located on the side of a volcanic dome that once spewed basaltic lava. Some of the gates are sufficiently old that lava flows appear to go over them.

Other types of stone structures — such as “kites”, which were used to hunt animals, and “wheels”, named for their shape — have also been discovered in these lava fields. Kennedy believes the gates to be at least 9,000 years old. They are believed to be the ancestors of the modern-day Beduin in the region who describe them collectively as ‘The Works of Old Men’:

“The Works known as Kites—which are certainly animal traps, may be as old as 9000 years before present in some cases and there is one example of a Kite overlying a Gate (i.e. the Gate is older). So Gates may be up to or more than 9000 years old, which takes one back to the Neolithic.”

Who do you think built these structures, and how did they get around the burning hot lava? Do you think they’re the real gates of hell? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below…