Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites from the Rufa Graben, central Saudi Arabia
Keywords:Acheulean, Middle Palaeolithic, lithic technology, Levallois methods, hand-axes
The Arabian Peninsula sits at a crucial location along either purposed pathways of Pleistocene human dispersals from North Africa to Eurasia and has an unexpected archaeological richness found across what are now deserts, mountains, plateaus, ancient lake basins, and dry rivers. Starting in 2011 and continuing in 2013 and 2015, surveys and excavation activities conducted by an international team of scientists have mapped traces of the first humans in the Rufa Graben, close to the modern town of Al-Kharj. The survey has revealed forty-seven sites and data on 1685 stone tools (lithics) from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic assemblages. Here the results of the technological and typological investigation of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic artefacts from Rufa Graben sites are presented. Lower Palaeolithic artefacts, mostly ovoid and amygdaloid hand-axes, have been found on slopes and valleys along the hills. Based on the presence of Levallois cores, the majority of sites were attributed to the Arabian Middle Palaeolithic. Together these sites show a specific trend where raw material outcrops located in the valleys tend to show the highest amount of internal variability in terms of size, weathering, core reduction strategy, and possible chronology. Sites located in high areas, such as hill crests, terraces, and slopes present homogeneous use of core technology; as in most cases they are not on a quartzite outcrop, they are more likely to be the result of short knapping events.
Amirkhanov H. 2006. Stone Age of South Arabia. Moscow: Nauka.
Armitage S.J., Jasim S.A., Marks A.E., Parker A., Usik V.I. & Uerpmann H-P. 2011. The southern route ‘Out of Africa’: Evidence for an early expansion of modern humans into Arabia. Science 331: 453–456.
Boëda E. 1994. Le concept Levallois: Variabilité des méthodes. Paris: Archéo Éditions.
Bordes F. 1988. Typologie du Paléolithique ancien et moyen. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
Bretzke K., Yousif E. & Jasim S. 2018. Filling in the gap — The Acheulean site Suhailah 1 from the central region of the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE. Quaternary International 466: 23–32.
Crassard R. & Hilbert Y.H. 2013. A Nubian Complex site from central Arabia: Implications for Levallois taxonomy and human dispersals during the Upper Pleistocene. PLoS ONE 8/7: e69221. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069221.
Crassard R. & Hilbert Y.H. 2016. The Prehistory of Al-Kharj region. Pages 51–80 in J. Schiettecatte & A. Alghazzi (eds), Al-Kharj I. Report on two excavation seasons in the oasis of Al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia 2011–2012. (Series of Archaeological Refereed Studies, 40). Riyadh: Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
Crassard R. & Thiébaut C. 2011. Levallois points production from eastern Yemen and some comparisons with assemblages from East-Africa, Europe and the Levant. Pages 131–142 in J-M. Le Tensorer, R. Jagher & M. Otte (eds), The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic in the Middle East and neighbouring regions. Liège: ERAUL 126.
Crassard R., Hilbert Y.H., Preusser F., Wulf G. & Schiettecatte J. 2019. Middle Palaeolithic occupations in central Saudi Arabia during MIS 5 and MIS 7: New insights on the origins of the peopling of Arabia. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11: 3101–3120.
de Gaury G. 1945. A burial ground in Al-Kharj. The Geographical Journal 106/3: 152–153.
Delagnes A., Crassard R., Bertran P. & Sitzia L. 2013. Human and cultural dynamics in southern Arabia at the end of the Middle Paleolithic. Quaternary International 300: 234–243.
Delagnes A., Tribolo C., Bertran P., Brenet M., Crassard R., Jaubert J. … Macchiarelli R. 2012. Inland human settlement in southern Arabia 55,000 years ago. New evidence from the Wadi Surdud Middle Palaeolithic site complex, western Yemen. Journal of Human Evolution 63: 452–474.
Fleitmann D. & Matter A. 2009. The speleothem record of climate variability in southern Arabia. Comptes Rendus Geoscience 341: 633–642.
Foulds F., Shuttleworth A., Sinclair A., Alsharekh A.M., Al Ghandi S., Inglish R.H. & Bailey G.N. 2017. A large handaxe from Wadi Dabsa and early hominin adaptations within the Arabian Peninsula. Antiquity 91/360: 1421–1434.
Groucutt H.S., Grün R., Zalmout I.A., Drake N.A., Armitage S.J., Candy I. … Duval M. 2018. Homo sapiens in Arabia by 85,000 years ago. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2/5: 800–809.
Hilbert Y.H. & Crassard R. (this volume). Middle and Late Pleistocene lithic technology from the region of Dûmat al-Jandal, northern Saudi Arabia. Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 50: 27–42.
Hilbert Y.H., Crassard R., Rose J.I., Geiling J.M. & Usik V.I. 2016. Technological homogeneity within the Arabian Nubian Complex: Comparing chert and quartzite assemblages from central and southern Arabia. Journal of Lithic Studies 3/2. doi:10.2218/jls.v3i2.1420
Jennings R.P., Shipton C., Breeze P., Cuthbertson P., Bernal M.A., Wedage W.O. … Petraglia M.D. 2015 Multi-scale Acheulean landscape survey in the Arabian Desert. Quaternary International 382: 58–81.
Parker A. & Rose J. 2008. Climate change and human origins in southern Arabia. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 38: 25–42.
Petraglia M.D. 2003. The Lower Paleolithic of the Arabian Peninsula: Occupations, adaptations, and dispersals. Journal of World Prehistory 17: 141–179.
Petraglia M.D., Breeze P.S. & Groucutt H.S. 2019. Blue Arabia, green Arabia: Examining human colonisation and dispersal models. Pages 675–683 in N. Rasul & I. Stewart (eds), Geological setting, palaeoenvironment and archaeology of the Red Sea. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
Petraglia M.D., Drake N. & Alsharekh A. 2009. Acheulean landscapes and large cutting tool assemblages in the Arabian Peninsula. Pages 103–116 in M.D. Petraglia & J.I. Rose (eds), The evolution of human populations in Arabia: Palaeoenvironments, prehistory and genetics. Amsterdam: Springer.
Philby H.StJ.B. 1949. Two notes from Central Arabia. The Geographical Journal 113: 86–93.
Rose J. & Petraglia M. 2009. Evolution of human populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironments, prehistory and genetics. Dordrecht: Springer Academic Publishers.
Rose J.I., Usik V.I., Marks A.E., Hilbert Y.H, Galletti C.S., Parton A. ... Roberts R.G. 2011. The Nubian complex of Dhofar, Oman: An African Middle Stone Age industry in southern Arabia. PLoS One 6: 1–22.
Scerri E.M.L., Shipton C., Clark-Balzan L., Frouin M., Schwenninger J-L., Groucutt H.S. … Petraglia M.D. 2018. The expansion of later Acheulean hominins into the Arabian Peninsula. Scientific Reports 8: 17165. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35242-5
Schiettecatte J., al-Ghazzi A., Charloux G., Crassard R., Hilbert Y., Monchot H. … Siméon P. 2013. The oasis of Al-Kharj through time: First results of archaeological fieldwork in the province of Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 43: 285–308.
Shipton C., Blinkhorn J., Breeze P.S., Cuthbertson P., Drake N., Groucutt H.S. … Petraglia M.D. 2018. Acheulean technology and landscape use at Dawadmi, central Arabia. PLoS ONE 13: e0200497
Shipton C., Parton A., Breeze P., Jennings R., Groucutt H.S., White T.S. ... Petraglia M.D. 2014. Large flake Acheulean in the Nefud Desert of northern Arabia. PaleoAnthropology 2014: 446–462.
Whalen N., Siraj-Ali J.S. & Davis W. 1984. Excavation of Acheulean sites near Saffaqah, Saudi Arabia, 1403 AH 1983. Atlal 8: 9–24.
Whittaker J.C. 1994. Flintknapping: Making and understanding stone tools. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Zarins J., Ibrahim M., Potts D.T. & Edens C. 1979. Saudi Arabian Archaeological Reconnaissance 1978. The preliminary report on the third phase of the Comprehensive Archaeological Survey Program — The Central Province. Atlal 3: 9–42.
How to Cite
Archaeopress Publishing, Oxford, UK