Arabia is a vast desert today,but it was not so always. Satellite images have revealed that a network of ancient rivers once habited Arabian Desert. The images triggered a major potentially ground-breaking research project led by the University of Oxford into human evolutionary heritage. The research team will look at how long-term climate change affected early humans and animals who settled or passed through and what responses determined whether they were able to survive or died out.
In the new project, a multidisciplinary team of researchers will study the effects of environmental change in the Arabian Peninsula over the last two million years. The systematic study of the Pleistocene to Holocene periods will hopefully lead to many breakthroughs.
Researchers will study the landscape features and excavate sites of likely archaeological interest, using the network of water courses as a map. They will use the latest dating techniques to pinpoint the ages of fossils of animals, plants and different stone tool technologies and compare the similarities and differences displayed in the region’s rock art.
The team’s main focus will be the Arabian Desert, but the work will also look into the history of wider Peninsula. The main question they will attempt to answer is when the first early modern humans are likely to have first arrived in the Arabian Peninsula from Africa and perhaps surrounding regions. They will also look for evidence that suggests how early modern humans were able to survive, in those arid and extreme conditions.
The project will examine marine cores, caves, existing wide water wells and quarry pits to view the stratigraphy. They will also examine deposits between 30 to 60 metres deep to measure the effects of environmental change, observing any changes from plant fossils and rocks and strata indicating when the climate was wetter or drier.
Once the Arabian peninsula was a place where rivers flowed and giant prehistoric animals flourished. Among these animals was an ancestor of the elephant — a mammoth creature with four tusks. And in the desert sands of present day Abu Dhabi, Dr Mark Beech found a tusk from one of these ancient animals.
James A. Sauer, former curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said that Pishon (an ancient river mentioned in the Bible)referred to what is now the Wadi Bisha, a dry channel which begins in the Hijaz Mountains near Medina to run northeast to Kuwait. With the aid of satellite photos, Farouk El-Baz of Boston University traced the dry channel from Kuwait up the Wadi Al-Batin and the Wadi Al-Rummah system originating near Medina.
Links and Sources:
- The Arabian cradle (Fernandes et al. 2012) (dienekes.blogspot.com)
- Can We Convince 500 People That Climate Change Is Important? (legalplanet.wordpress.com)
- EATING MEAT helped early humans reproduce. “If early humans had been vegans we might all still be l… (pjmedia.com)
- Where’s the Beef? Early Humans Took It – Ann Gibbons – Science – AAAS.org (richarddawkins.net)
- Region Most Affected By Climate Change – AllAfrica.com (allafrica.com)
- Climate change altering oceans, rainfall: study (abc.net.au)
- Did climate change shape human evolution? (phys.org)
- The Highlands of Saudi Arabia: Unexpected Delights in Abha (arabianmusings.wordpress.com)