Human occupation of the Arabian Empty Quarter during MIS 5: Evidence from Mundafan Al-Buhayrah, Saudi Arabia

Groucutt, Huw S, White, Tom S, Clark-Balzan, Laine, Parton, Ash, Crassard, Remy, Shipton, Ceri, Jennings, Richard P, Parker, Adrian G, Breeze, Paul S, Scerri, Eleanor M.L, Alsharekh, Abdullah and Petraglia, Michael D (2015) Human occupation of the Arabian Empty Quarter during MIS 5: Evidence from Mundafan Al-Buhayrah, Saudi Arabia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 119 116-135. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.04.020


Author Groucutt, Huw S
White, Tom S
Clark-Balzan, Laine
Parton, Ash
Crassard, Remy
Shipton, Ceri
Jennings, Richard P
Parker, Adrian G
Breeze, Paul S
Scerri, Eleanor M.L
Alsharekh, Abdullah
Petraglia, Michael D
Title Human occupation of the Arabian Empty Quarter during MIS 5: Evidence from Mundafan Al-Buhayrah, Saudi Arabia
Journal name Quaternary Science Reviews   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0277-3791
1873-457X
Publication date 2015-07-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.04.020
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 119
Start page 116
End page 135
Total pages 20
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The Empty Quarter (or Rub' al Khali) of the Arabian Peninsula is the largest continuous sandy desert in the world. It has been known for several decades that Late Pleistocene and Holocene deposits, representing phases of wetter climate, are preserved there. These sequences have yielded palaeontological evidence in the form of a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils and have been dated using various radiometric techniques. However, evidence for human presence during these wetter phases has until now been ephemeral. Here, we report on the first stratified and dated archaeology from the Empty Quarter, recovered from the site of Mundafan Al-Buhayrah (MDF-61). Human occupation at the site, represented by stone tools, has been dated to the later part of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 using multiple luminescence dating techniques (multigrain and single grain OSL, TT-OSL). The sequence consists primarily of lacustrine and palustrine sediments, from which evidence for changing local environmental conditions has been obtained through analysis of fossil assemblages (phytoliths and non-marine molluscs and ostracods). The discovery of securely-dated archaeological material at ∼100 to 80 ka in the Empty Quarter has important implications for hypotheses concerning the timing and routes of dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa, which have been much debated. Consequently, the data presented here fill a crucial gap in palaeoenvironmental and archaeological understanding of the southern Arabian interior. Fossils of H. sapiens in the Levant, also dated to MIS 5, together with Middle Palaeolithic archaeological sites in Arabia and India are thought to represent the earliest dispersal of our species out of Africa. We suggest that the widespread occurrence of similar lithic technologies across southern Asia, coupled with a growing body of evidence for environmental amelioration across the Saharo-Arabian belt, indicates that occupation of the Levant by H. sapiens during MIS 5 may not have been a brief, localized ‘failed dispersal’, but part of a wider demographic expansion.
Keyword Arabia
Middle Palaeolithic
Pleistocene
Empty Quarter
MIS 5
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
 
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