This blog provides a forum for presenting and discussing the latest findings relating to the ancient Indian Ocean, from archaeology, molecular genetics, historical linguistics and other disciplines. It takes a long-term view of the Indian Ocean region, exploring the processes that shaped its cultures, societies and environments from the Pleistocene to the historical period.

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Friday, 21 May 2010

Archaeological Fieldwork Kicks Off in Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian peninsula is in a critical geographical position for understanding human movements out of Africa, as exemplified in a number of papers in a book co-edited by Petraglia and Rose, “The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia” (Springer, 2009). While some inroads have been made to understand the dispersal of modern humans and our archaic ancestors, relatively little interdisciplinary and long-term fieldwork has been conducted to tackle this problem. Our team aims to change this situation -- thanks to a new 5 year agreement with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities and in partnership with Dr. Abdullah Alsharekh of King Saud University.

In March of this year a small team of interdisciplinary specialists conducted a pilot study in the palaeolake region of the Nafud Desert in northern Arabia. We concentrated our fieldwork in the Jubbah basin, since this area was known to contain a palaeolake, Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites, and an extraordinary amount of rock art. We were not disappointed in our choice of our survey area, since a few intensive days of work showed that the region contained a wealth of lakeside sites and rockshelters with artefactual material. We plan on conducting long-term field work in Jubbah to understand how humans adapted to changing environments over the last 125,000 years. We also plan on conducting field work on older Acheulean sites (with characteristic large stone tool forms known as handaxes and cleavers), which probably relate to much earlier exits of closely related ancestors, such as Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis.

The joint fieldwork programme is part of a 5 year agreement between the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities and the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Our initial fieldwork has been supported by a grant to Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts, “Monsoons and Migrations”, Australian Research Council.

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