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UK Research and Innovations (2010)

Archaeological and Palaeoenvironmental Investigation of Upper Pleistocene human occupation in the Dhofar Mountains, southern Arabia

Human Occupation Dhofar

Titre : Archaeological and Palaeoenvironmental Investigation of Upper Pleistocene human occupation in the Dhofar Mountains, southern Arabia

Pays/Région : Dhofar Mountains, southern Arabia

Durée : janv. 10 - oct. 12

Référence projet : AH/G012733/2
Catégorie : Research Grant

Résumé partiel
Arabia is situated at the nexus of three continents, connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe. Given this geographic position, the territory of southern Arabia may have served as an important pathway linking hominins throughout the Pleistocene. Indeed, many of our species’ most diverse and ancient mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (yDNA) genetic lineages cluster around the Arabian Peninsula, confirming that the subcontinent played a critical role in the evolution and expansion of modern humans. Some scholars have even documented traces of a human expansion back into Africa, suggesting that this pathway was a bidirectional conduit of population movement. It is not surprising that the peninsula facilitated periodic population expansions. The drastically oscillating Upper Pleistocene palaeoclimate occasionally transformed Arabia’s hyperarid desert interior into savannah grasslands incised by perennial rivers and playa lakes. The landscape was also dramatically altered by depressed sea levels that exposed the continental shelf along the Red Sea and within the Arabo-Persian Gulf basin, together exposing over one million square kilometres of land. In addition, reduced sea levels triggered increased freshwater upwelling across these emerged landscapes, creating stable refugia for Arabia’s prehistoric inhabitants. Given this cyclical process of amelioration and desiccation, it is posited that Arabia served as a demographic pump by drawing in hunter-gatherers during favourable phases ; conversely, causing them to contract back into geographically conscripted refugia at the onset of aridification. Challenging climatic conditions created a negative-feedback-loop, as environmental desiccation reduced landscape carrying capacity and exerted pressure on Arabian foragers. This research project will investigate one such environmental refugium : the Dhofar Mountains in southern Oman. Even under the present arid climatic regime, the annual monsoon rains deposit up to 400 mm of rainfall during the summer months. Therefore, Dhofar is posited to have served as an important population retreat during climatic downturns. This is supported by new evidence from al-Hatab Rockshelter in Dhofar, where evidence of human occupation during the Terminal Pleistocene has been found - a hyperarid phase when the peninsula was previously thought to have been uninhabitable

Lead Research Organisation : University of Birmingham

Financement : Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Budget  : £129 650

UK Research and Innovations

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