The Palaeolithic record from the Central Region of the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


  • Knut Bretzke


Palaeolithic, south-east Arabia, occupation history, stone tools, settlement dynamics


Researchers often argue that the population density of Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in Arabia is determined by climate change. Favourable living conditions and increasing population densities are thought to have developed during interglacial periods, while glacial periods led to hostile conditions and the abandoning of large parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Testing this simplified model is difficult, given the scarcity of well-dated and deeply stratified Palaeolithic sites in Arabia. A decade of research on the Palaeolithic of the Emirate of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) has compiled a considerable record, with stone-tool assemblages indicating human presence in the region during the Lower, Middle, and Upper Palaeolithic periods, probably covering the period between 500,000 and 15,000 years ago. This paper provides an overview of Sharjah’s current Palaeolithic record and examines diachronic patterns in typo-technological characteristics.


Armitage S.J., Jasim S.A., Marks A.E., Parker A.G., 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.

Beshkani A., Beuzen‐Waller T., Bonilauri S. & Gernez G. 2017. Large Kombewa flake production in north Oman. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 28: 125–137.

Biagi P. 1994. An Early Palaeolithic site near Saiwan (Sultanate of Oman). Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 5: 81–88.

Bonilauri S., Beuzen-Waller T., Giraud J., Lemée M., Gernez G. & Fouache E. 2015. Occupation during the Lower and Middle/Late Palaeolithic period in the Sufrat Valley (Adam region, Sultanate of Oman). Proceedings of the Seminar of Arabian Studies 45: 1–14.

Boucharlat R. Dalongeville R., Hesse A. & Sanlaville P. 1984. A survey in Sharjah Emirate — U.A.E. First report (March 5–14 1984). Annual Sharjah Archaeology 1: 8–10.

Bretzke K. 2018. Preliminary report on the 2017 excavations at Jebel Faya-NE 1 and Buhais 84. Annual Sharjah Archaeology 16: 77–83.

Bretzke K., Conard N.J. & Uerpmann H-P. 2014. Excavations at Jebel Faya — The FAY-NE1 shelter sequence. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 44: 69–82.

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.

Bretzke K., Yousif E., Jasim S., Raith K., Parton A. & Parker A. (in press). On the diversity of the Palaeolithic record and patterns of Pleistocene palaeoenvironmental conditions in Southeast Arabia. Paleorient.

Charpentier V., Brunet O., Méry S. & Velde C. 2017. Carnelian, agate, and other types of chalcedony: The prehistory of Jebel al-Ma’taradh and its semi-precious stones, Emirate of Ra’s al-Khaimah. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 28: 175–189.

Crassard R., Petraglia M.D., Drake N.A., Breeze P., Gratuze B., Alsharekh A. … Schiettecatte J. 2013. Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic occupations around Mundafan palaeolake, Saudi Arabia: Implications for climate change and human dispersals. PLoS ONE 8: e69665.

Ewing J.F. 1947. Preliminary note on the excavations at the Palaeolithic site of Ksar Akil, Republic of Lebanon. Antiquity 21: 186–196.

Garrod D.A. & Bate D. 1937. The Stone Age of Mount Carmel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Groucutt H.S. & Petraglia M.D. 2012. The Prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula: Deserts, dispersals, and demography. Evolutionary Anthropology 21: 113–125.

Groucutt H.S., White T.S., Clark-Balzan L., Parton A., Crassard R., Shipton C. … Petraglia M.D. 2015. Human occupation of the Arabian Empty Quarter during MIS 5: Evidence from Mundafan Al-Buhayrah, Saudi Arabia. Quaternary Science Reviews 119: 116–135.

Hilbert Y.H., White T.S., Parton A., Clark-Balzan L., Crassard R., Groucutt H.S. … Petraglia M.D. 2014. Epipalaeolithic occupation and palaeoenvironments of the southern Nefud desert, Saudi Arabia, during the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene. Journal of Archaeological Science 50: 460–474.

Jagher R., Pümpin C., Wegmüller F. & Winet I. 2010. Central Oman Palaeolithic survey, report of the 2007 season. Journal of Oman Studies 17: 15–50.

Jasim, S.H., 2012. The Necrepolis of Jebel al-Buhais. Prehistoric discoveries in the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Sharjah: Department of Culture and Information.

Kohl-Larsen L. 1941. Meine Expedition in Deutsch-Ostafrika (1934–1936 und 1937–1939). Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin 1941: 126–144.

Leakey M. 1971. Olduvai Gorge. iii. Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960–1963. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parker A.G. 2009. Pleistocene climate change in Arabia. Pages 39–51 in M.D. Petraglia & J.I. Rose (eds), The Evolution of human populations in Arabia. Palaeoenvironments, prehistory and genetics. London: Springer.

Parton A., Farrant A.R., Leng M.J., Telfer M.W., Groucutt H.S., Petraglia M.D. & Parker A.G. 2015. Alluvial fan records from southeast Arabia reveal multiple windows for human dispersal. Geology 43: 295–298.

Petraglia M.D. 2011. Trailblazers across Arabia. Nature 470: 50–51.

Preusser F. 2009. Chronology of the impact of Quaternary climate change on continental environments in the Arabian Peninsula. Comptes Rendus Geoscience 341: 621–632.

Preusser F., Radies D. & Matter A. 2002. A 160,000-year record of dune development and atmospheric circulation in southern Arabia. Science 296: 2018–2020.

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: e28239.

Rosenberg T.M., Preusser F., Blechschmidt I., Fleitmann D., Jagher R. & Matter A. 2012. Late Pleistocene palaeolake in the interior of Oman: A potential key area for the dispersal of anatomically modern humans out-of-Africa? Journal of Quaternary Science 27: 13–16.

Rust A. 1950. Die Höhlenfunde von Jabrud (Syrien). Neumünster: Karl Wachtholz.

Scott-Jackson J., Scott-Jackson W. & Rose J.I. 2009. Palaeolithic stone tool assemblages from Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. Pages 125–138 in M.D. Petraglia & J.I. Rose (eds), The Evolution of human populations in Arabia. Palaeoenvironments, prehistory and genetics. London: Springer.

Solecki R.S. 1963. Prehistory in Shanidar Valley northern Iraq. Science 139: 179–193.

Tryon C.A. 2006. ‘Early’ Middle Stone Age lithic technology of the Kapthurin Formation (Kenya). Current Anthropology 47: 367–375.

Tryon C.A. & McBrearty S. 2002. Tephrostatigraphy and the Acheulean to Middle Stone Age transition in the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 42: 211–235.

Uerpmann M., Uerpmann H-P. & Händel M. 2008. Lithic resources and their procurement at and around Jebel al-Buhais and Jebel al-Faya. Pages 53–70 in H-P. Uerpmann, M. Uerpmann & S.A. Jasim (eds), The natural environment of Jebel al-Buhais: Past and present. Tübingen: Kerns.

Wahida G., Al-Tikriti W., Beech M. & Meqbali A. 2009. A Middle Palaeolithic assemblage from Jebel Barakah, Coastal Abu Dhabi Emirate. Pages 117–124 in M.D. Petraglia & J.I. Rose (eds), The Evolution of human populations in Arabia. Palaeoenvironments, prehistory and genetics. London: Springer.



How to Cite

Bretzke, K. (2020). The Palaeolithic record from the Central Region of the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 50(2), 15–27. Retrieved from