Date: 11 Aug 2009

Paleolithic Stone Tool Assemblages from Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates

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Abstract

Over the past 20 years a virtual moribundity has descended on Paleolithic research in the region of the Persian Gulf. This predicament arose as a direct consequence of the reassessment of Holger Kapel’s lithic ‘Group’ classifications in his ‘Atlas of the Stone Age Cultures of Qatar’ (Kapel, 1967) by the French team working in Qatar during 1976–1978 (see Inizan, 1980). Group A, which Kapel had tentatively assigned to the Paleolithic, was categorized by the French as Neolithic effectively curtailing Paleolithic research in the Persian Gulf region as the re-evaluation of Group A was seen by many to demonstrate a general absence of the Paleolithic in the entire region and furthermore, suggesting that any lithics found in the Gulf area would almost certainly not be Paleolithic. A view which was strengthened, certainly in the United Arab Emirates, following field surveys in Sharjah Emirate by various French Archaeological Missions between 1984 and 1988 (see Boucharlat et al., 1984; Cauvin and Calley, 1984; Calley and Santoni, 1986; Millet, 1997) and further investigations between 1990 and 1992 (Briand et al., 1992). The result of these investigations was the discovery of numerous prehistoric lithic assemblages. Briand and colleagues state in their 1992 report, “We have already carried out a certain number of studies which show that the lithic industry in the area of Mleiha, as in all the Emirate of Sharjah, dates back to the sixth and fourth millennia, though in most cases it does not present a well-defined typology… Without going into detail, we may say that all the petrographic examples found among the tools whether from the interior or the from the coast of Sharjah, may be found near the sites…but, the fabrication of the tools which we know at Sharjah could have been carried out using raw materials from local outcrops”. They also add: “The fact that we find in the Emirate of Sharjah all the petrographic components encountered in the stone tools does not mean that all the lithic industry recorded locally comes automatically from this emirate. It only means that men of the fifth and fourth millennia could find nearby all the materials necessary to [for] the debitage and to [for] their knapping. Inversely, even if imports from afar took place, they could not explain all the local lithic industry”.

So often, thorough investigations generated problematic data, and for the French researchers these were no exception as they concluded that the Sharjah Emirate lithic assemblages dated back to the fourth, fifth and sixth millennia (thereby making them post-Paleolithic) although generally, in their words, the lithics “did not present a well defined typology”. Furthermore, (as noted above) “they could not explain all the local lithic industry”.