The Moroccan state media on Thursday said a team of scientists stumbled across the sand-covered ruins of the town Arghilas, deep in the desert of Western Sahara.

The remains of a place of worship, houses and a necropolis, as well as columns and rock engravings depicting animals, were found at the site near the northeastern town of Aousserd.

Significant find

The isolated area is known to be rich in prehistoric rock engravings, but experts said the discovery could be significant if proven that the ruins were of Berber origin as this civilisation is believed to date back only about 9000 years.

"It appears that scientists have come up with the 15,000-year estimate judging by the style of engravings and the theme of the drawings," Mustafa Ouachi, a Rabat-based Berber historian said.

Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa before Arabs came to spread Islam in the seventh century.

The population of Western Sahara, seized by Morocco in 1975 when former colonial power Spain pulled out, is mostly of Berber and Arab descent.