“Walking Arabia’s Interior”



Year of publication 2019
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description “Walking Arabia’s Interior” Once considered as a hindrance, the Arabian Peninsula is now discussed among archaeologists as a “shortcut” along the trail that lead early man out of Africa, to the threshold of wider Asia. The decisive turn came after researchers found evidence, that the interior of the landmass, notorious housing the most formidable terrestrial migration barrier – literally “the Void” (Rub Al-Khali) – had once been walkable by prehistoric man (Breeze et al., 2016; Petraglia, Breeze, Groucutt, 2018). New results suggested that the desert parts of Arabia have formerly sustained savannah-like vegetation. Apart from that large tracts of the interior had apparently been then dotted by lakes where fresh-water could be encountered on the surface part of the year, during Middle to Late Pleistocene times (Rosenberg et al., 2012). The ever-reactive natural milieu of Arabia, however, has caused noticeable “conjunctures” in the ability of prehistoric people to penetrate the peninsula (cf. Lézine et al., 2010 ). Referring to the latest cycle, we start out with a humid Early to Middle Holocene phase (8.000 – 10.000 BP). Water pools existed then in many part of the open lowland, and people could commute between low-laying regions and the highlands. By about 8-7000 BP conditions became visibly drier (Dienies et al. 2015). At a time prior to 5.300 BP only lakes in front of highlands have been seasonally recharged, mainly via the surface run-off. When dryness and heat increased further, (pastoral?) groups managed to persist in the interior of Oman by adhering to thermoregulation strategy based on mobility. In a seasonal cycle this meant inhabiting low-lying areas (piedmonts or coast) in winter time and withdrawing to cooler ground and the remaining water reserves of further up the mountains when blistering summer heat scourged the lowland places (Uerpmann, Uerpmann, Jasim 2000). Increasingly bound to the foothill zone of mountainous North Oman, people over time unfolded the traditional irrigation and oasis economy that allowed piedmont settlements like Bahla and Bat to thrive. The” walking lifestyle” of the greater part of inhabitants had thereby ended (Lézine et al., 2010) and morphed into the shepherding and transportation business of specialists in their own ranks or full nomadic groups in their neighbourhood.
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