Blue Arabia, Green Arabia: Examining Human Colonisation and Dispersal Models

  • Michael D. PetragliaEmail author
  • Paul S. Breeze
  • Huw S. Groucutt


The dispersal of hominins (our species and our closely related bipedal ancestors) out of Africa is a major topic in human evolutionary studies. As a geographic cross-road between continents, the Arabian Peninsula has a significant role to play in understanding the movement of hominin populations and the effect of climate change in shaping demographic history throughout the Pleistocene. However, the Palaeolithic evidence in Arabia has often been marginalized in prominent Out of Africa models, with the assumption that hominins would have avoided the hyper-arid desert belt, and utilized coastlines for their movement, especially along the Indian Ocean rim. Two interdisciplinary archaeological projects, named DISPERSE and PALAEODESERTS, have been conducted in Saudi Arabia in recent years in order to address dispersal models, and to improve our understanding of the hominin occupation history of the Red Sea coastline (“Blue Arabia”) and the interior of the peninsula, especially during wet periods (“Green Arabia”). While acknowledging the importance of the Red Sea region as a potential zone for hominin occupation in the Pleistocene, we emphasize the crucial significance of the terrestrial environments for repeated hominin expansions during ameliorated periods in the Pleistocene, when a mosaic of ecosystems and plentiful rivers, wetlands and lakes were present.



We thank HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and Professor Ali Ghabban, Vice President of the SCTH, for permission to carry out this study. Jamal Omar, Abdulaziz Al-Omari and Abdullah Al-Zahrani of the SCTH provided critical support for our work in Saudi Arabia. We thank Dr. Z.A. Nawab, President of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), for his support of interdisciplinary archaeological research in Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Najeeb Rasul of the SGS for the invitation to participate in the Red Sea conference. We would especially like to acknowledge Abdullah Alsharekh of King Saud University for his long term support of our archaeological research in Saudi Arabia. Our research was funded by the SCTH and the European Research Council (grant no. 295719, to MDP). HSG acknowledges funding from the British Academy. PSB acknowledges funding from the Leverhulme Trust. We are grateful to Geoff Bailey and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. Petraglia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul S. Breeze
    • 2
  • Huw S. Groucutt
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyMax Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistoryJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of GeographyKing’s CollegeLondonUK
  3. 3.School of ArchaeologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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