DS0105 -

Analyse of sustainibility and reorganisation of Arabian coastal Neolithic socio-ecological systems during the mid-Holocene period (6.2-2.8 Ka BCE) – NeoArabia

Submission summary

NeoArabia is an interdisciplinary and multi-scalar project, dealing with the very long term of the Arabian Neolithic (6200-2800 BC). Focused on environments and the mobility of coastal human communities, it intends to test the societal resilience at scales from the site to the region, using socio-environmental scenarios. In this region, highly productive marine environments, favoured by coastal upwelling, compensate in part for relatively limited inland resources. This led to intense exploitation of marine and lagoon-deltaic resources from the Neolithic onwards. A regional multi-site approach has never been proposed in this area before. It will span a latitudinal transect of ~1000 km, selecting the most promising field sites and micro-regional windows that have been documented by the French Archaeological Missions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Ra’s al-Khaimah, in the Northern United Arab Emirates (UAE, 25,5°N-55,6°E) to the Dhofar region, in the South of the Sultanate of Oman (16°N-53,45°E). We aim to characterise the complexity and variety of socio-environmental reorganisation processes of a sub-continent that has been affected by large S-N variations of the Indian-Arabian monsoon (IAO) system and sea level oscillations during the Mid-Holocene period. This had a number of climatic, hydrological, and biological effects, at scales from the local to the regional, which to date are only partially known and understood.
Our main objective is to highlight the role of climate as a per long term forcing factor on the coastal environments of Arabia. References to past Rapid Climatic Changes, associated with hyper-arid phases, will be used to illustrate adaptive strategies and historical trajectories of fish-eating human societies during the mid-Holocene relating to such environmental and economic stresses. The reduction of biodiversity due to climate- and ecological or anthropogenic forcing (such as during the 4th millenium BC) will be discussed, and how this may have contributed to a reduction of society‘s resilience. Key adaptations may be numerous ranging from local to regional scales. We thus propose to explore jointly the Neolithic vulnerabilities and opportunities, as well as the social and economic transformations due to Arabian coastal environmental changes. This will be achieved by testing whether perennial coastal occupations simply represent a sustainable development for the Neolithic communities during periods of climatic and environmental change (given the availability of marine resources, as their great geographical spread in the tropics - from Somalia to Pakistan, or from Portugal to Senegal – tends to demonstrate . This is an hypothesis that still needs to be proven, as previous assumptions tend to favour seasonal coastal mobility during the Neolithic or question it.
We propose to develop an integrated approach incorporating evidence from Neolithic occupation sites and their immediately surrounding environment (lagoon, mangrove, river mouth), to wider regional contexts (deltas, sea, monsoonal air masses). Neolithic Eastern Arabia offers an exclusive exploratory research opportunity on the role of resiliency. This is due to the abundance of stratified archaeological data (preserved in shell middens), excellent preservation of intra-site palaeo-economic data, coastal environmental archives (under current sebkhas), the combination of highly accurate data on upwelling changes in the Arabian Sea (cores available) and climate records preserved in speleothems and lake archives.

Project coordination

Jean-François BERGER (Environnement Ville Société)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IRAMAT-CRP2A Institut de Recherche sur les Archéomatériaux - IRAMAT
INRAP Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives
MNHN UMR 7209 Museum national d'Histoire naturelle
UMR 5600 - EVS Environnement Ville Société

Help of the ANR 839,328 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2016 - 48 Months

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