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The Standing Stone Cultures of Northwestern Arabia –
From pastoral to oasis life: cultural and technological strategies interacting with environmental shifts


Our pilot study focuses on a novel research question confronted with a hitherto extremely poor state of art: approached by a transdisciplinary regional study, it aims to shed light on how Arabia’s territories contributed one of the most innovative and sustainable socio-economies to the Middle East’s and global history, the Arabian oasis life mode. Recent research suggests that early oasis life was promoted by enhanced climate aridity after 4.0 ka cal BCE which forced the extensive megalithic shepherd/ standing stone cultures like those of Rajajil or Qulban Beni Murra to contract at hydrologically favoured places of the Arabian Peninsula. The 5th millennium cal BCE shepherd cultures’ hydraulic competencies such as building wells and troughs using channel technologies as well as their social organization must have gradually become the substratum of the well-based sedentary oasis horticulture from ~4.0 ka cal BCE. A most promising region to test this general hypothesis and research question for Arabia is Rajajil and its greater environs in N Saudi Arabia, considered to be one of the early transition areas to the historically new oasis life-mode.

Archaeohydrologically, our still premature knowledge of the early Arabian oasis defines them as artificial horticultural sociohydraulic systems in arid land environments, irrigated by fortified wells or channels leading off from surface water sources (springs, water harvesting systems). A larger diversity of the early Arabian Oasis is expected, related to the ecological and climatological specifics of a region, as well as hydraulic modifications of natural oases.

The major aims of our pilot study are the clear identification of the archaeological sites and hydraulic systems of the 5th and 4th millennium BCE in northwestern Saudi-Arabia, the detection and primary analysis of environmental archives (fluvial and sebkha sediments) with high potential for transdisciplinary interpretation, and testing of our preliminary sociohydraulic and palaeoenvironmental project theses. Hence, the modified project theses will be the basis for our planned follow-up project in northwestern Saudi-Arabia. In our pilot study we want to apply the following methods: a) archaeological, geoarchaeological and archaeohydrological surveys, b) archaeological and geoarchaeological soundings and sampling procedures, c) geoarchaeological, geomorphological and geochemical sediment analyses, and d) the transdiciplinary usage of a geographical information system.

Funded by DFG (ZI 721/11-1 and GR 1835/5-1) (since 2013)


Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielhofer

Letzte Änderung: April 25, 2017