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Middle palaeolithic and neolithic occupations around Mundafan Palaeolake, Saudi Arabia: implications for climate change and human dispersals.

Crassard R, Petraglia MD, Drake NA, Breeze P, Gratuze B, Alsharekh A, Arbach M, Groucutt HS, Khalidi L, Michelsen N, Robin CJ, Schiettecatte J - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: The sites probably represent short-term occupations, with the Neolithic sites focused on hunting, as indicated by points and weaponry.Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Mundafan support a lacustrine adaptive focus in Arabia.Provenancing of obsidian artifacts indicates that Neolithic groups at Mundafan had a wide wandering range, with transport of artifacts from distant sources.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: CNRS, UMR 5133 'Archéorient', Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon, France. remy.crassard@mom.fr

ABSTRACT
The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding climate change and human occupation history in a marginal environment. The Mundafan palaeolake is situated in southern Saudi Arabia, in the Rub' al-Khali (the 'Empty Quarter'), the world's largest sand desert. Here we report the first discoveries of Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites in association with the palaeolake. We associate the human occupations with new geochronological data, and suggest the archaeological sites date to the wet periods of Marine Isotope Stage 5 and the Early Holocene. The archaeological sites indicate that humans repeatedly penetrated the ameliorated environments of the Rub' al-Khali. The sites probably represent short-term occupations, with the Neolithic sites focused on hunting, as indicated by points and weaponry. Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Mundafan support a lacustrine adaptive focus in Arabia. Provenancing of obsidian artifacts indicates that Neolithic groups at Mundafan had a wide wandering range, with transport of artifacts from distant sources.

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Newly discovered archaeological sites (by period) overlain upon the palaeohydrological reconstruction of the Mundafan area.With palaeolake section locations and inferred extent data from Rosenberg et al., [23]. Data is overlain upon Aster GDEM2 elevation data.
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pone-0069665-g002: Newly discovered archaeological sites (by period) overlain upon the palaeohydrological reconstruction of the Mundafan area.With palaeolake section locations and inferred extent data from Rosenberg et al., [23]. Data is overlain upon Aster GDEM2 elevation data.

Mentions: The two brief reconnaissance surveys at Mundafan took place in 2010 and 2011, along the southern and south-eastern lakeshores. Several spots in the central part of the palaeolake were also visited in order to determine the presence or the absence of archaeological sites. A total of 21 lithic surface scatters (sites) were discovered, labeled MDF-01 to MDF-21 (Fig. 2). All of the sites are located within the palaeolake basin, with many showing an association with suggested palaeolake shorelines, with a generally low to moderate density of archaeological material (<1 to 1–5 artifacts per m2). The lithic scatters are exclusively characterized by the presence of flakes, cores and tools, and no other kinds of archaeological remains were identified. The temporal delimitation of the sites is sometimes difficult to precisely determine, as their status of proper individual ‘site’ can be biased by repeated occupations (Fig. 3). Lithic artifacts were systematically collected from sites (n = 1009, Table 1), though when dense, a selective sample of only diagnostic pieces (tools, cores, blades and technologically informative pieces such as debordant flakes) was made. The raw material used in stone tool knapping is typically a fine grained chert of relatively good quality, the source of which is not yet known. Nearby limestone cliffs of the Tuwayq Mountains, a few hundred meters to the northeast, may have provided a primary source. Chert gravels are present on the surface of the lakeshores, but are too small to be used as knappable chert blocks. Much rarer raw materials were observed: allochtonous obsidians, ferruginous quartzite, and small nodules of poor quality vein quartz. Workable fossil wood nodules were also noticed, but only as natural unworked pieces. Two main periods are recognized by lithic typology: (1) Middle Palaeolithic, and (2) aceramic Neolithic of the Rub’ al-Khali tradition.


Middle palaeolithic and neolithic occupations around Mundafan Palaeolake, Saudi Arabia: implications for climate change and human dispersals.

Crassard R, Petraglia MD, Drake NA, Breeze P, Gratuze B, Alsharekh A, Arbach M, Groucutt HS, Khalidi L, Michelsen N, Robin CJ, Schiettecatte J - PLoS ONE (2013)

Newly discovered archaeological sites (by period) overlain upon the palaeohydrological reconstruction of the Mundafan area.With palaeolake section locations and inferred extent data from Rosenberg et al., [23]. Data is overlain upon Aster GDEM2 elevation data.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3722113&req=5

pone-0069665-g002: Newly discovered archaeological sites (by period) overlain upon the palaeohydrological reconstruction of the Mundafan area.With palaeolake section locations and inferred extent data from Rosenberg et al., [23]. Data is overlain upon Aster GDEM2 elevation data.
Mentions: The two brief reconnaissance surveys at Mundafan took place in 2010 and 2011, along the southern and south-eastern lakeshores. Several spots in the central part of the palaeolake were also visited in order to determine the presence or the absence of archaeological sites. A total of 21 lithic surface scatters (sites) were discovered, labeled MDF-01 to MDF-21 (Fig. 2). All of the sites are located within the palaeolake basin, with many showing an association with suggested palaeolake shorelines, with a generally low to moderate density of archaeological material (<1 to 1–5 artifacts per m2). The lithic scatters are exclusively characterized by the presence of flakes, cores and tools, and no other kinds of archaeological remains were identified. The temporal delimitation of the sites is sometimes difficult to precisely determine, as their status of proper individual ‘site’ can be biased by repeated occupations (Fig. 3). Lithic artifacts were systematically collected from sites (n = 1009, Table 1), though when dense, a selective sample of only diagnostic pieces (tools, cores, blades and technologically informative pieces such as debordant flakes) was made. The raw material used in stone tool knapping is typically a fine grained chert of relatively good quality, the source of which is not yet known. Nearby limestone cliffs of the Tuwayq Mountains, a few hundred meters to the northeast, may have provided a primary source. Chert gravels are present on the surface of the lakeshores, but are too small to be used as knappable chert blocks. Much rarer raw materials were observed: allochtonous obsidians, ferruginous quartzite, and small nodules of poor quality vein quartz. Workable fossil wood nodules were also noticed, but only as natural unworked pieces. Two main periods are recognized by lithic typology: (1) Middle Palaeolithic, and (2) aceramic Neolithic of the Rub’ al-Khali tradition.

Bottom Line: The sites probably represent short-term occupations, with the Neolithic sites focused on hunting, as indicated by points and weaponry.Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Mundafan support a lacustrine adaptive focus in Arabia.Provenancing of obsidian artifacts indicates that Neolithic groups at Mundafan had a wide wandering range, with transport of artifacts from distant sources.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: CNRS, UMR 5133 'Archéorient', Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon, France. remy.crassard@mom.fr

ABSTRACT
The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding climate change and human occupation history in a marginal environment. The Mundafan palaeolake is situated in southern Saudi Arabia, in the Rub' al-Khali (the 'Empty Quarter'), the world's largest sand desert. Here we report the first discoveries of Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites in association with the palaeolake. We associate the human occupations with new geochronological data, and suggest the archaeological sites date to the wet periods of Marine Isotope Stage 5 and the Early Holocene. The archaeological sites indicate that humans repeatedly penetrated the ameliorated environments of the Rub' al-Khali. The sites probably represent short-term occupations, with the Neolithic sites focused on hunting, as indicated by points and weaponry. Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Mundafan support a lacustrine adaptive focus in Arabia. Provenancing of obsidian artifacts indicates that Neolithic groups at Mundafan had a wide wandering range, with transport of artifacts from distant sources.

Show MeSH