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February 20, 2019

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 15: The Prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula

Filed under: Archaeology,oman,Out-of-Africa — Razib Khan @ 3:56 pm

The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 15: The Prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula

Dhofar, Oman, during the “wet season”

This week on The Insight (Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcasts)we discuss the prehistory of the Arabian peninsula with archaeologist Dr. Jeffrey Rose. We range over tool technology, geology, and the relationship between language and genetics.

Watch him in action as he instructs students on how to identify stone tool-making techniques:

As Rose does much of his fieldwork on the Dhofar uplands of southern Oman, we reviewed the unique geography and history of this region. Located on the border with Yemen, Dhofar is subject to the monsoons and experiences a rainy season. Unlike the deserts to the north and the interior, this region of Oman shares more biogeographically within the African savannas than the temperate zones. Rose mentions that even organisms such as frogs and snails exhibit differences between Dhofar and the rest of Oman.

There was extensive discussion about the Nubian Complex of Dhofar. This is an archaeological culture which dates to the Middle Paleolithic and ties Africa to Arabia. This is important because it may help us trace the “Out of Africa” migration and concretely connects Africa to Arabia. In keeping with Dhofar’s uniqueness in the region, the Nubian Complex extends no further to the north and east. An outpost of Africa if you will.

We mentioned the “Green Arabia” theory, which posits that there were past periods when the aridity of the region was far less than what it is today.

Rose also discussed in detail the Levallois technique, a variant of which helps define the Nubian technology that is so distinctive and easy to trace.

There was a review of the ethnographic diversity of southern Arabia. In particular, the indigenous people of Dhofar, the Mehri, as well as various other “South Semitic” ethno-linguistic groups. Rose reminds us that Arabic was not traditionally the native language from Yemen to Oman, but rather was a recent introduction in historical times.

The closest languages to South Arabian dialects are to be across the Red Sea, in the highlands of Ethiopia. This highlights the fact that Rose’s work traces migrations out of Africa, but may also help flesh out migrations back into Africa.

We discussed the origins of the Sumerians in the Gulf region when the sea levels were much lower. Rose also alluded to the fact that Arab legends suggest that the people of southern Arabia were originally a very different group of agro-pastoralists.

Finally, Rose points to the genetic work of David Reich’s lab, and how their Middle Eastern work aligns with his own findings. We discuss “Basal Eurasians” and how they might relate to Arabian prehistory.

More videos of Dr. Jeffrey Rose:


The Insight Show Notes — Season 2, Episode 15: The Prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula was originally published in Insitome on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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