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The Red Sea, Coastal Landscapes, and Hominin Dispersals

  • Geoff BaileyEmail author
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)

Abstract

The Red Sea has typically been viewed as a barrier to early human movement between Africa and Asia over the past 5 million years, and one that could be circumvented only through narrow exit points at either end, vulnerable to blockage by physical or climatic barriers (Fig. 1). It is one of several significant obstacles cutting across ‘savannahstan’ (Dennell and Roebroeks, 2005), a broad swathe of herbivore-rich savannah and grassy plains that began to extend over a vast area stretching from West Africa to China with climatic cooling from at least 2.5 Ma, and a key macro-environmental context for early hominin dispersal1. However, this concept of the Red Sea Basin as a barrier should not obscure the fact that its coastal regions also hold considerable potential attractions for early human settlement, especially under climatic conditions wetter than today, including a complex tectonic and volcanic topography not unlike that of the African Rift, capable of providing localized fertility for plant and animal life, tactical opportunities for pursuit of herbivores and protection from predators (King and Bailey, 2006), along with inshore and intertidal marine resources.

Keywords

Bab al Mandab Coasts Farasan Islands Marine Resources Paleoenvironment Paleoclimate Red Sea 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am indebted to Abdullah Al-Sharekh, Nic Flemming, Geoffrey King, Kurt Lambeck and Claudio Vita-Finzi for discussions of Red Sea archaeology, geology and environment, and to NERC through its EFCHED program (Environmental Factors in Human Evolution and Dispersal), the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, Saudi Aramco, the Saudi British Bank and Shell Companies Overseas for funding the fieldwork in the southern Red Sea that forms the foundation for this chapter.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, King’s ManorUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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