Geoarchaeological Approaches to the Arabian Palaeolithic Record New Investigations at Wadi Dabsa, SW Saudi Arabia

Geoarchaeological Approaches to the Arabian Palaeolithic Record New Investigations at Wadi Dabsa, SW Saudi Arabia

Issued: Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:00:00 BST

SUERC Seminar Series

20 April

Geoarchaeological Approaches to the Arabian Palaeolithic Record
New Investigations at Wadi Dabsa, SW Saudi Arabia

Robyn Inglis, University of York

The Palaeolithic record of the Sahara-Arabian belt occupies a key position in debates surrounding the dispersal of hominin populations from Africa, and the majority of artefacts are distributed across the surface of present-day landscapes. Whilst archaeological work has focused mainly on the location of stratified, dateable artefacts, the surface record poses its own set of unique challenges and opportunities for Palaeolithic archaeologists that are, in the main, bound up in the geoarchaeological context of these artefacts.

The SURFACE project examines the Palaeolithic record of SW Saudi Arabia through a geoarchaeological lens. Utilising remote sensing, geomorphological and archaeological survey, it employs an interdisciplinary approach to the region’s important but under-researched Palaeolithic record, the landscape it is situated within, and its implications for our interpretations of hominin activity in these landscapes.

The locality of Wadi Dabsa, SW Saudi Arabia, has yielded >2000 Early and Middle Stone Age lithic artefacts recovered from the surface of tufa deposits in a basin surrounded by basalt flows. The richest recorded Palaeolithic site in SW Saudi Arabia, it has a major potential to inform on early hominin activity in its environmental setting. Multi-scalar geoarchaeological investigations were undertaken at the site in early 2017: remote sensing and geomorphological survey to develop a landscape stratigraphy and map surface sediment cover across the tufa exposure; systematic collection and recording of artefacts, and recording of their geomorphological context; targeted excavations to refine the relationship between the artefacts and tufa; collection of samples of basalt and tufa to constrain landscape evolution and provide palaeoenvironmental information. This seminar will discuss the initial findings of the investigations and their interpretations, as well as the potential for the assemblage to inform on early hominin activity in SW Saudi Arabia and its implications for global dispersals.