Blue Arabia, Green Arabia: Examining Human Colonisation and Dispersal Models
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.
- Bailey G (2015) The evolution of the Red Sea as a human habitat during the Quaternary period. In: Rasul NMA, Stewart ICF (eds) The Red Sea: The Formation, Morphology, Oceanography and Environment of a Young Ocean Basin. Springer Earth System Sciences, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 599–614Google Scholar
- Breeze PS, Drake NA, Groucutt HS, Parton A, Jennings RP, White TS, Clark-Balzan L, Shipton C, Scerri EML, Stimpson C, Crassard R, Hilbert Y, Alsharekh A, Al-Omari A, Petraglia MD (2015) Remote sensing and GIS techniques for reconstructing Arabian palaeohydrology and identifying archaeological sites. Quatern Int 382:98–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Delagnes A, Tribolo C, Bertran P, Brenet M, Crassard R, Jaubert J, Khalidi L, Mercier N, Nomade S, Peigne S, Sitzia L, Tournepiche JF, Al-Halibi M, Al-Mosabi A, Macchiarelli R (2012) Inland human settlement in southern Arabia 55,000 years ago: New evidence from the Wadi Surdud Middle Paleolithic site complex, western Yemen. J Human Evolution 63:452–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Foulds FWF, Shuttleworth A, Sinclair A, Alsharekh AM, Al Ghamdi S, Inglis RH, Bailey GN (2017) The recent discovery of a Palaeolithic site at Wadi Dabsa. Implications for hominin adaptations in the Arabian Peninsula. Antiquity, Saudi Arabia in pressGoogle Scholar
- Groucutt HS, White TS, Clark-Balzan L, Parton A, Crassard R, Shipton C, Jennnings RP, Parker AG, Breeze PS, Scerri EML, Alsharekh A, Petraglia MD (2015b) Human occupation of the Arabian Empty Quarter during MIS 5: Evidence from Mundafan Al-Buhayrah, Saudi Arabia. Quatern Sci Rev 119:116–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ingraham M, Johnson T, Rihani B, Shatla I (1981) Saudi Arabian comprehensive survey program: c) Preliminary report on a reconnaissance survey of the northwestern province (with a note on a brief survey of the northern province). Atlal 5:59–84Google Scholar
- Jennings RP, Singarayer J, Stone EJ, Krebs-Kanzow U, Khon V, Nisancioglu KH, Pfeiffer M, Zhang X, Parker A, Parton A, Groucutt HS, White TS, Drake NA, Petraglia MD (2015a) The greening of Arabia: Multiple opportunities for human occupation of the Arabian Peninsula during the Late Pleistocene inferred from an ensemble of climate model simulations. Quatern Int 382:181–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lisiecki LE, Raymo ME (2005) A Pliocene-Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic δ 18 O records. Paleoceanography 20:1–17Google Scholar
- Petraglia MD, Alsharekh A, Breeze P, Clarkson C, Crassard R, Drake NA, Groucutt NA, Jennings R, Parker AG, Parton A, Roberts RG, Shipton C, Matheson C, al-Omari A, Veall M-A (2012) Hominin dispersal into the Nefud desert and Middle Palaeolithic settlement along the Jubbah palaeolake, northern Arabia. PLoS ONE:e49840Google Scholar
- Shipton C, Parton A, Breeze P, Jennings R, Groucutt HS, White TS, Drake N, Crassard R, Alsharekh A, Petraglia MD. (2014) Large flake Acheulean in the Nefud Desert of northern Arabia. PaleoAnthropology, 446–62Google Scholar
- Stimpson CM, Breeze PS, Clark-Balzan L, Groucutt HS, Jennings R, Parton A, Scerri E, White TS, Petraglia MD (2015) Stratified Pleistocene vertebrates with a new record of a jaguar-sized pantherine (Panthera cf. gombaszogensis) from northern Saudi Arabia. Quatern Int 382:168–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stimpson CM, Lister A, Parton A, Clark-Balzan L, Breeze PS, Drake NA, Groucutt HS, Jennings R, Scerri EML, White TS, Zahir M, Duval M, Grun R, Al-Omari A, Al Murayyi KSM, Zalmout IS, Mufarreh YA, Memesh A, Petraglia MD (2016) Middle Pleistocene vertebrate fossils from the Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia: Implications for biogeography and palaeoecology. Quatern Sci Rev 143:13–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Zarins J, Murad AAJ, Al-Yish KS (1981) The comprehensive archaeological survey program. a. The second preliminary report on the southwestern province. Atlal 5:9–42Google Scholar