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The Multi-disciplinary Search for Underwater Archaeology in the Southern Red Sea

  • Garry Momber
  • Dimitris Sakellariou
  • Grigoris Rousakis
  • Geoff N. Bailey
Chapter

Abstract

During the height of the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, the sea-level was 120–130 m lower, making movement out of Africa into Arabia relatively easy. The Hanish Sill at the southern end of the Red Sea would only have been a few metres deep, less than 10 km wide and interspersed with small islands. Extensive evidence of archaeological artefacts dating to the Middle Palaeolithic has been found on the southern Arabian Peninsula demonstrating an earlier hominin presence. These movements might well have been facilitated by former periods of low sea level, as for the last million years or so, sea levels have averaged 40–60 m lower than today. These were times when large areas of continental shelf around the Farasan Islands would have been exposed as a terrestrial landscape, providing a coastal environment that would have been attractive for animals and humans. This paper looks at a series of fieldwork projects that have helped characterise the submerged landscape and assess the potential for human occupation of the drowned lands around the Farasan Islands. Significant submerged wave-cut notches, platforms and lacustrine features were recorded, evidence for tectonic realignments was identified and areas with the potential for human occupation were investigated. The fieldwork has provided new information on the nature of the drowned landscape, characterised potential sites of human occupation and identified the challenges that need to be addressed by archaeologists as the investigations continue.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank HRH King Salman bin Abul Aziz Al Saud, formerly Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, and the Hydrographic Department of the Saudi Ministry of Defense, for granting permission to undertake the offshore work, and HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) for granting permission and support for our archaeological research in Saudi Arabia from its inception. We also thank Dr. Ali Al-Ghabban, Vice-President of SCTH, other SCTH staff, notably Dr. Saad al Rashid, Jamal Omar, Dr. Abdullah Al Saud, Dr. Hussein Abu Hassan and Dr. Abdullah Al Zahrani for ongoing support, and Dr. Abdullah Alsharekh, Department of Archaeology, King Saud University, for crucial support and participation in all phases of our research. Funding for the underwater work has been supplied by the British Academy, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UK, through its EFCHED programme (Environmental, Factors in Human Evolution and Dispersal), the Leverhulme Trust, the National Geographic, and the European Research Council (ERC) under the Ideas Programme of the 7th Framework Programme as Advanced Grant 269586 ‘DISPERSE: Dynamic Landscapes, Coastal Environments and Human Dispersals’. For additional support and funding for the offshore work, we thank in particular Saudi Aramco for the provision of their vessel M/V Midyan in 2006, Shell Companies Overseas, the Saudi British Bank (SABB), the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). This is DISPERSE contribution no. 42.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Garry Momber
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dimitris Sakellariou
    • 3
  • Grigoris Rousakis
    • 3
  • Geoff N. Bailey
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Maritime Archaeology TrustSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  3. 3.Hellenic Centre for Marine ResearchAnavyssosGreece
  4. 4.College of Humanities, Arts and Social SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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