Approximately 4 miles from the likely Golden Calf Worship Site is a large, likely ancient and undeniably pre-Islamic graveyard that is fenced off. It is marked as an archaeological site by the Saudis and a police station is nearby.
If Jabal Maqla is the real Mount Sinai, then this graveyard may be where the 3,000 Golden Calf worshipers were buried after they were killed for their idolatry. It may also be the burial spot where the 20,000 Israelites who died from the plague were buried.
The location of the graveyard makes sense within the context of the Exodus story. The graveyard would not be allowed near the holy precinct in front of the mountain, nor would it be within the large plain where the Israelites camped. The graveyard is on the outer edge to the north, just outside the plain and off the path that they would have traveled. It is where one would logically expect it to be.
The graveyard is definitely pre-Islamic because the use of upright headstones is forbidden in Islam. The site appears to be from ancient times, but no scientific dating has been published thus far.
The graveyard is approximately 300-400 yards across, about as big as a football field. Analysis of overhead imagery indicates that the graves are laid out in organized rows of rectangles and squares, and that these graves were probably dug all at the same time. It fits the description of a mass burial site.
The headstones are a variety of sizes. Jim and Penny Caldwell, an American couple who lived in Saudi Arabia and explored the area in the early 1990’s, theorize that the largest headstones may represent a family instead of a single person. Unfortunately, there are holes next to many of the headstones, indicating they have been raided by grave-robbers.
The Saudi government has not publicly addressed the purpose of this site to our knowledge. The team of archaeologists who were commissioned by the Saudi government and published a rebuttal to the theory in 2002 did not mention the graveyard.