Living and moving in Maitan: Neolithic settlements and regional exchanges in the southern Rub’ al-Khali (Sultanate of Oman)
Keywords:Maitan, Neolithic, projectile points, fossils, ancient climate
Maitan is a small desert village located to the north of the city of Al-Mazyunah, in the Sultanate of Oman. The village is close to the triple-border junction between Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, in the area of Shaqat Jadailah and Shaq Shuayt. During January 2019, a team of geologists and archaeologists undertook a systematic survey of the area to understand its geoarchaeological setting, following the recent discovery of grinding and tethering stones by local people. The survey revealed the presence of Late Palaeolithic, Middle and Late Neolithic sites, and new extraordinary information about the Middle Holocene peopling of this region. Comparisons with known sites in the Rub’ al-Khali Desert, scattered along its southern margins in Oman and Yemen as well as in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, show a high-density peopling of this area which today seems so inhospitable. The presence of abundant lithic artefacts together with millstones, grindstones, pestles and mortars, along with fossilized animal bones and ornaments, indicates a long occupation of the area during prehistoric times. The sediments in the region show the prevalence of largely arid and hyper-arid conditions, with brief intervals of relatively humid conditions, during which humans and their livestock probably inhabited the region.
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