August 1, 2013

Pre-pottery Neolithic in North-Central Arabia

And yet another Cressard study, this time on the Neolithic of North-Central Arabia Peninsula.

Rémy Cressard et al., Beyond the Levant: First Evidence of a Pre-Pottery Neolithic Incursion into the Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia. PLoS ONE 2013. Open access → LINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068061]

Abstract

Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages are best known from the fertile areas of the Mediterranean Levant. The archaeological site of Jebel Qattar 101 (JQ-101), at Jubbah in the southern part of the Nefud Desert of northern Saudi Arabia, contains a large collection of stone tools, adjacent to an Early Holocene palaeolake. The stone tool assemblage contains lithic types, including El-Khiam and Helwan projectile points, which are similar to those recorded in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B assemblages in the Fertile Crescent. Jebel Qattar lies ~500 kilometres outside the previously identified geographic range of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures. Technological analysis of the typologically diagnostic Jebel Qattar 101 projectile points indicates a unique strategy to manufacture the final forms, thereby raising the possibility of either direct migration of Levantine groups or the acculturation of mobile communities in Arabia. The discovery of the Early Holocene site of Jebel Qattar suggests that our view of the geographic distribution and character of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures may be in need of revision.


Figure 1. Map of the Neolithic Near East with the different geo-cultural zones of the core area (or Fertile Crescent), in green; after Aurenche and Kozlowski [82].
The JQ-101 site is located in the southern part of the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia.

Critically the Jebel Qattar site includes characteristic fossils: the El Khiam and Heluwan points, that link it clearly to the Southern Levant (i.e. Palestine and Jordan). This may relate this colonization with proto-Semitic or very early Semitic peoples, which are often suspected to be related to these cultures. In particular I wonder if these peoples may have been already carrying the seed of the Southern Semitic languages which once extended through Southern Arabia and parts of The Horn of Africa (now restricted mostly to Eritrea and Ethiopia, although still surviving among the Mehri and Socotran).

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