Category Archives: Arabia

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]

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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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Arabia, Neolithic, West Asia


South Arabian paleolake Mundafan was inhabited in the Middle Paleolithic and later in the Neolithic

Another study also by Cressard researches two greatly different periods of occupation of what was once a lake in Southern Saudi Arabia, not far from Yemen.
Rémy Cressard et al., Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic Occupations around Mundafan Palaeolake, Saudi Arabia: Implications for Climate Change and Human Dispersals. PLoS ONE 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069665]


The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding climate change and human occupation history in a marginal environment. The Mundafan palaeolake is situated in southern Saudi Arabia, in the Rub’ al-Khali (the ‘Empty Quarter’), the world’s largest sand desert. Here we report the first discoveries of Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites in association with the palaeolake. We associate the human occupations with new geochronological data, and suggest the archaeological sites date to the wet periods of Marine Isotope Stage 5 and the Early Holocene. The archaeological sites indicate that humans repeatedly penetrated the ameliorated environments of the Rub’ al-Khali. The sites probably represent short-term occupations, with the Neolithic sites focused on hunting, as indicated by points and weaponry. Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Mundafan support a lacustrine adaptive focus in Arabia. Provenancing of obsidian artifacts indicates that Neolithic groups at Mundafan had a wide wandering range, with transport of artifacts from distant sources.

Figure 5. General views of the Mundafan palaeolake.
Again the content is rich in details of great interest for the archaeologist and prehistorian but surely a bit harder to digest for the casual aficionado.
Of interest anyhow is that no Nubian Complex affinities have been observed in the Middle Paleolithic tools and cores, suggesting again that the colonization of Arabia and Palestine from Africa was multifaceted, with different and sometimes ill-defined cultural sources.
As for the Neolithic a problem is that in this and other sites, all findings are located on the surface, being therefore impossible to date stratigraphically. The kind of tanged arrowheads suggests, by comparison with other sites, that these findings belong to the oldest Neolithic phase, c. 8000-6000 calBP. There are no findings that could be attributed to later periods, probably because the area became just too dry. Interestingly:

The Mundafan Neolithic sites do not appear to be sedentary locations on the basis of the absence of architectural features, grindstones, domesticated faunal remains, and relatively low artifact densities. The prevalence of projectiles and other weaponry is probable evidence of hunting activities. Mundafan would have been a favorable setting for short-term hunting along the lakeshore. The presence of rare obsidian artifacts demonstrates Mundafan’s participation in long-distance mobility systems that included relations with the obsidian-rich mountainous zones of Yemen, some 400–500 km away from the site.

While the term “Neolithic” is used in the paper, the kind of economy that the people living there had seems to have been hunter-gatherer.
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Arabia, Middle Paleolithic, Neolithic, West Asia


Nubian Complex in Central Arabia

The Nubian Complex MSA techno-culture arrived to Central Arabia, just south of Riyadh seemingly via the South
Rémy Cressard & Yamandú H. Hilbert, A Nubian Complex Site from Central Arabia: Implications for Levallois Taxonomy and Human Dispersals during the Upper Pleistocene. PLoS ONE 2013. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069221]


Archaeological survey undertaken in central Saudi Arabia has revealed 29 surface sites attributed to the Arabian Middle Paleolithic based on the presence of Levallois blank production methods. Technological analyses on cores retrieved from Al-Kharj 22 have revealed specific reduction modalities used to produce flakes with predetermined shapes. The identified modalities, which are anchored within the greater Levallois concept of core convexity preparation and exploitation, correspond with those utilized during the Middle Stone Age Nubian Complex of northeast Africa and southern Arabia. The discovery of Nubian technology at the Al-Kharj 22 site represents the first appearance of this blank production method in central Arabia. Here we demonstrate how a rigorous use of technological and taxonomic analysis may enable intra-regional comparisons across the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery of Al-Kharj 22 increases the complexity of the Arabian Middle Paleolithic archaeological record and suggests new dynamics of population movements between the southern and central regions of the Peninsula. This study also addresses the dichotomy within Nubian core typology (Types 1 and 2), which was originally defined for African assemblages.

Figure 3. Levallois methods schemata: figuration of product and core shapes for each method.
Preferential Levallois flake production with centripetal preparation;
B: Preferential Levallois point production with unidirectional
convergent preparation; C: Nubian Levallois type 1 with distal divergent
preparation; D: Nubian Levallois type 2 with double lateral
preparation; E: Nubian Levallois type 1/2 with mixed type 1 and type 2
Figure 10. Schematic representation depicting the
three main dorsal preparation types, preparation type 1, 2 and 1/2, and
the proposed reduction succession discussed in the text.

order to facilitate comprehension cores, end-products and preparation
by-products have been color-coded; blue equals type 1 preparation, green
type 2 and yellow type 1/2.

Many more images of interest for experts or qualified amateurs are available in this high quality study. For the less specialized reader it is probably more interesting to ponder the overall extension of the Nubian Complex:

Figure 11. Distribution of main sites with Nubian cores in Eastern Africa and Arabia.
Illustrated cores do not represent actual size. 1. Al-Kharj 22 (this study); 2. Aybut Al Auwal [12]; 3. Shabwa [30]; 4. Hadramawt [5], [6], [27]; 5. Aduma [112]; 6. Gademotta [113]; 7. Asfet [114]; 8. Nazlet Khater 1 [115]; 9. Abydos [66].

The authors argue that Southern and Central Arabia are the Easternmost reaches of this complex, however we cannot forget that the recent discovery of Indian sites with a complex industry, dated to c. 96 Ka ago, of Nubian, Aterian and other MSA affinities challenges this notion.

See also in this blog:


South Arabian genetic refugium

This is not about the L(xM,N) lineages but about the Eurasian ones like R0a or R2.
Jeffrey I. Rose et al., Tabula rasa or refugia? Using genetic data to assess the peopling of Arabia. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 2013. Pay per view → LINK [doi:10.1111/aae.12017]


This paper provides a broad overview of the current state of archaeogenetic research in Arabia. We summarise recent studies of mitochondrial DNA and lactase persistence allele -13915*G in order to reconstruct the population histories of modern Arabs. These data, in turn, enable us to assess different scenarios for the peopling of the Peninsula over the course of the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. The evidence supports the posited existence of Arabian refugia, although it is inconclusive which (e.g. Persian Gulf basin, Yemeni highlands and/or Red Sea basin) was/were responsible for housing ancestral populations during the Last Glacial Maximum. Synthesising genetic and archaeological data sets, we conclude that a substantial portion of the present South Arabian gene pool derives from a deeply rooted population that underwent significant internal growth within Arabia some 12,000 years ago. At the same time, we interpret the disappearance of Nejd Leptolithic archaeological sites in southern Arabia around 8000 years ago to represent the termination of a significant component of the Pleistocene gene pool.

Rose uploaded the full paper at Very much worth a careful read because it is a rare case of paleogenetics being done by a researcher who is primarily an archaeologist and who knows well the material Prehistory of which he’s talking about, at all moments seeking to reconcile archaeological and genetic evidence and not, as way too often happens, creating genetic-only models with absolutely no material foundations and unavoidably clashing with prehistoric reality.  

More on the Paleolithic of Nefud (Arabia)

The Nefud or An Nafud is a desert that sits on the North of Arabia Peninsula. Last year, tireless archaeologist Michael Petraglia published a paper on a newly found archaeological culture from that, now so arid, region (see here) dated to c. 75,000 years ago.

Location of the Nefud site of Jubbah (fig. 16 of present study)
It was pay per view however. This new release he has chosen instead the open access journal by default, PLoS ONE:
Michael D. Petraglia et al., Hominin Dispersal into the Nefud Desert and Middle Palaeolithic Settlement along the Jubbah Palaeolake, Northern Arabia. PLoS ONE 2012. Open accessLINK [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049840]


The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding hominin
dispersals and the effect of climate change on prehistoric demography,
although little information on these topics is presently available owing
to the poor preservation of archaeological sites in this desert
environment. Here, we describe the discovery of three stratified and
buried archaeological sites in the Nefud Desert, which includes the
oldest dated occupation for the region. The stone tool assemblages are
identified as a Middle Palaeolithic industry that includes Levallois
manufacturing methods and the production of tools on flakes. Hominin
occupations correspond with humid periods, particularly Marine Isotope
Stages 7 and 5 of the Late Pleistocene. The Middle Palaeolithic
occupations were situated along the Jubbah palaeolake-shores, in a
grassland setting with some trees. Populations procured different raw
materials across the lake region to manufacture stone tools, using the
implements to process plants and animals. To reach the Jubbah
palaeolake, Middle Palaeolithic populations travelled into the
ameliorated Nefud Desert interior, possibly gaining access from multiple
directions, either using routes from the north and west (the Levant and
the Sinai), the north (the Mesopotamian plains and the Euphrates
basin), or the east (the Persian Gulf). The Jubbah stone tool
assemblages have their own suite of technological characters, but have
types reminiscent of both African Middle Stone Age and Levantine Middle
Palaeolithic industries. Comparative inter-regional analysis of core
technology indicates morphological similarities with the Levantine Tabun
C assemblage, associated with human fossils controversially identified
as either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens.

In this study, they report the oldest known Arabian occupation by any kind of humans c. 211,000 years ago:

Though so far a small excavated stone tool assemblage, the recovery of
28 artefacts in a deposit dated to 211±16 ka represents the oldest
reliably dated occurrence in the Arabian Peninsula. We tentatively
associate this assemblage with the Middle Palaeolithic on the basis of
the age of the technology and the recovery of two Levallois flakes.
Although we cannot be certain of the species that manufactured the
artefacts, we note that the lithic assemblages were produced at a time
corresponding with the origin of Homo sapiens in Africa based on mitochondrial DNA [40] and nuclear genomic [41] age estimates and fossil finds [42], [43].
The early JQ-1 artefacts also correspond with the upper age range
limits of the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Zuttiyeh fossil, potentially
indicating the presence of archaic hominins [44] in Arabia, and possibly early representatives of the Neanderthals [45].

However the main findings are still from the 75,000 years old layer, whose cultural affinities and possible maker species are pondered. The most visually accessible result is a PC analysis:

Fig. 17 (Jebel Qattar and Jebel Katefeh are the Jubbah Lake sub-sites)

Notice how the Jubbah subsites (the two Jebels) fall between two Levantine Mousterian sites: El Wad and Tabun C, attributed to Neanderthals. So it is very likely that this colonization represents an expansive attempt by West Asian Neanderthals. 
Possibly related is the also recent finding (Delagnes 2012) of Mousterian in Yemen, dated to c. 55,000 BP. Therefore it would appear that after the expansion of Homo sapiens in Arabia, eventually leading to the colonization of Southern and Eastern Asia, as well as Near Oceania, there was an expansive tendency of Neanderthals as well, which may have helped to partly erase the genetic remnants of the out-of-Africa episode in the most fertile parts of Arabia Peninsula.


Late Middle Paleolithic industry of Yemen

Yet another South Arabian industry has been researched and described, this time in the mountain range of Western Yemen, which runs parallel to the Red Sea coast.


The recovery at Shi’bat Dihya 1 (SD1) of a dense Middle Paleolithic human occupation dated to 55 ka BP sheds new light on the role of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the alleged expansion of modern humans out of Africa. SD1 is part of a complex of Middle Paleolithic sites cut by the Wadi Surdud and interstratified within an alluvial sedimentary basin in the foothills that connect the Yemeni highlands with the Tihama coastal plain. A number of environmental proxies indicate arid conditions throughout a sequence that extends between 63 and 42 ka BP. The lithic industry is geared toward the production of a variety of end products: blades, pointed blades, pointed flakes and Levallois-like flakes with long unmodified cutting edges, made from locally available rhyolite. The occasional exploitation of other local raw materials, that fulfill distinct complementary needs, highlights the multi-functional nature of the occupation. The slightly younger Shi’bat Dihya 2 (SD2) site is characterized by a less elaborate production of flakes, together with some elements (blades and pointed flakes) similar to those found at SD1, and may indicate a cultural continuity between the two sites. The technological behaviors of the SD1 toolmakers present similarities with those documented from a number of nearly contemporaneous assemblages from southern Arabia, the Levant, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. However, they do not directly conform to any of the techno-complexes typical of the late Middle Paleolithic or late Middle Stone Age from these regions. This period would have witnessed the development of local Middle Paleolithic traditions in the Arabian Peninsula, which suggests more complex settlement dynamics and possible population interactions than commonly inferred by the current models of modern human expansion out of Africa.

The dates are relatively late, considering we know now of sites in the area since c. 130,000 years ago (in Palestine, Dhofar and Sarjah) but the site is still an interesting addition to the collection of reconstructed stories of the peoples who lived in Arabia early on, whose genetic remnants are still present most probably according to Behar 2008
I find particularly interesting that the peoples of this culture made blade tools, which are previously only common in South Asia. But some “Levallois blades” are known to exist in Mousterian contexts for examples, being different in production from Aurignacoid ones – and this seems to be the case.

In fact the review article I could find at USA Today (h/t Pileta), rather suggests Mousterian affinities in fact:
Most intriguing, the stone tools found at the site fall into the
tradition of older Stone Age tools, rather than ones associated with the
early modern humans thought to have left Africa roughly 60,000 years
ago. They might have belonged to descendants of earlier modern human
migrants from Africa who established themselves in Arabia despite its
desert conditions. Or maybe they belonged to a sister human species,
our Neanderthal cousins, suggest the researchers:

“Our fieldwork at the Wadi Surdud in
Yemen demonstrates that during the period of the supposed expansion of
modern humans out of Africa (60,000 to 50,000 years ago), and their
rapid dispersal toward south-eastern Asia along the western and southern
Arabian coastlines, the interior of this region was, in fact, occupied
by well-adapted human groups who developed their own local technological
tradition, deeply rooted in the Middle Paleolithic. Future research
will likely reveal whether the archaeological assemblages recovered from
the Wadi Surdud can be associated with the descendents of anatomically
modern human groups who occupied the Arabian Peninsula during (this era)
or the southernmost expansion of the Neanderthals.”

Everything is possible but we should not forget that the Homo sapiens of Palestine did use Mousterian technology, a fact that may be related to Neanderthal genetic introgression among us. 
See also category: Out of Africa in this blog. And specially, besides the links in-text, this entry on the various options for the OoA migration, which are necessarily much older than this group.


Neolithic culture found in Southern Arabia

Al Magar horse statue

The Al-Magar culture, dated to c. 5500-3500 BCE, belongs to a period more humid than today. It has some very beautiful art but, crucially, raises questions on the time and place of the first domestication of horses. 

Why? Because the art of the culture is full of what can be horses (wild or domestic) and other equids like the onager. Of course, equid skeletal remnants are also abundant.
While the source of this news snippet is very enthusiastic about the possibility that the area may have been home to a parallel horse-domestication event, no specific evidence is provided other than the statues there being thousands of horse remains (hard to drag from hunt site if these would have been wild) and the ability of those early “Arabs” to build large sedentary settlements. Nothing conclusive… but suggestive indeed.
Source: Horsetalk.

Edited on May 25th (new text in red, removed text slashed out).


The Nubian techno-complex of Dhofar: yet another evidence for an early migration out-of-Africa via Arabia

Jeffrey Rose and colleagues gift us with a beautifully written and delightfully detailed open access study on a culture of the Middle Paleolithic of Arabia: the Nubian techno-complex of Dhofar: 
I strongly recommend reading this paper in full: it really deserves your attention.
The Nubian Complex: extension and origins
The Nubian techno-complex is a facies of the pan-African Middle Stone Age macro-culture (MSA for short), which is roughly equivalent in timeline to the Middle Paleolithic of Europe (and, as techno-culture, to Mousterian in this other context). A facies that is mostly concentrated in North Sudan and Upper Egypt (with the occasional Ethiopian site) and, now we get to know, in Dhofar (Oman).

Fig. 1 Nubian Complex occurrences
In Africa:

Late Nubian Complex assemblages have been found in stratigraphic succession overlying early Nubian Complex horizons at Sodmein Cave [11] and Taramsa Hill 1 [21] in Egypt; in both cases separated by a chronological hiatus. The early Nubian Complex roughly corresponds to early MIS 5, while numerical ages for the late Nubian Complex in northeast Africa fall in the latter half of MIS 5.

In Arabia:

For the time being, the apparent distribution of Nubian Levallois technology in Arabia is limited to the Nejd plateau and, perhaps, Hadramaut valley (Fig. 1). Archaeological surveys in central/northern Oman have not produced any evidence of Nubian Complex occupation [66], [68], nor have Nubian Complex occurrences yet been found in eastern [22], [69][71], central, or northern Arabia [72][74].

Fig. 10 Dhofar Nubian Complex’ points
Note that the authors’ concept of Nedj plateau does not correspond with that of Wikipedia, as they are obviously talking of the sites in highland Dhofar and not anywhere in Saudi Arabia (see map below).
The authors express their expectation that eventually other sites will be found within drainage systems along the western coast and hinterlands of central Arabia, linking Nubia with South Arabia. However it is also possible, I’d say, that the actual link is via the Horn of Africa, specially as Arabia has been quite extensively combed in recent years.
The Nubian techno-complex in Sudan appears to have evolved locally:

Taking into account its distinct, regionally-specific characteristics, Marks [2] notes that the Nubian Complex has no exogenous source and, therefore, probably derives from a local Nilotic tradition rooted in the late Middle Pleistocene (~200–128 ka). This supposition is supported by the early Nubian Complex assemblage at Sai Island, northern Sudan, which overlies a Lupemban occupation layer dated to between ~180 and 150 ka.

The oldest known Lupemban culture is dated to c. 300 Ka ago in Kenya and Tanzania.
The authors reject the presence of Nubian Complex tools claimed in the past for the Levant (Levantine Mousterian) and Persian Gulf (Jebel Barakah).
Previously to this work:

The first hint of the Nubian Complex extending into southern Arabia was documented by Inizan and Ortlieb [31], who illustrate three cores from Wadi Muqqah in western Hadramaut, Yemen, with Nubian Type 1 and Type 2 technological features. More recently, Crassard [32] presents a handful of Levallois point cores exhibiting Nubian Type 1 preparation from Wadi Wa’shah, central Hadramaut, Yemen.

Time frame and ecology: the wet MIS 5
The chronological reference of Marine Isotope Stage 5, time frame of  the Nubian Complex, corresponds to a warm period between c. 130 and 74 thousand years ago, and corresponds very roughly with the Abbassia Pluvial, when the arid region of the Sahara and Arabia was quite more welcoming. 
Fig. 3 Dhofar ecological zones and place names mentioned in text.
MIS 5 is divided in the following substages (figures are Ka ago and may vary a bit depending on source):
  • MIS 5a – 84.74 (wet)
  • MIS 5b – 92.84 (?)
  • MIS 5c – 105.92 (wet)
  • MIS 5d – 115.105 (?)
  • MIS 5e – 130.115 (very wet and warm: Eemian interglacial)
MIS 5 was followed by MIS 4, a cold and dry period triggered by the Toba caldera explosion (supervolcano).
In what regards to Dhofar:
… the monsoon increased in intensity during three intervals within MIS 5. Among these humid episodes, the last interglacial (sub-stage 5e; 128–120 ka) appears to represent the most significant wet phase within the entire Late Pleistocene, with rainfall surpassing all subsequent pluvials [42], [43]. Later, less substantial humid episodes associated with sub-stages 5c (110–100 ka) and 5a (90–74 ka) are also attested to in the palaeoenvironmental record. Uncertainties remain concerning the extent to which the climate deteriorated in the intervening sub-stages 5d (120–110 ka) and 5b (100–90 ka).
The increased humidity provided water security to all the region and is also correlated with plant and animal migration from Africa, what the authors think should almost forcibly make humans participant in this overall biological outpouring. 
Out of Africa: the alternative routes
Dhofar mountains in monsoon season

The authors discard the Levantine route because of the techno-cultural isolation of the Shkul-Qafzeh group.

They acknowledge the conceptual debt to population genetics for unveiling the probable Arabian route Out of Africa, with particular mention to Behar 2008, who points to the possibility (that I have re-elaborated myself on my own means but on his data) of mtDNA L3’4’6 (and I’d say also L0) having left very indicative remnants in Arabia Peninsula. However they make unnecessary conceptual contortions in order to adapt archaeological knowledge to the molecular clock pseudo-science when it must be the other way around, if anything. No need.
In any case, and this is very important, they describe two different cultural groups in interglacial Arabia:

… we surmise that at least two technologically (hence culturally) differentiated groups were present at this time: Nubian Levallois in southern Arabia and centripetal preferential Levallois with bifacial tools in northern/eastern Arabia.

They also suggest that, after the arid MIS 4 parenthesis, South Arabia experienced another mildly wet period with the MIS 3 (since c. 60 Ka ago), which would have enabled:

… north-south demographic exchange between ~60–50 ka. South Arabian populations may have spread to the north at this time, taking with them a Nubian-derived Levallois technology based on elongated point production struck from bidirectional Levallois cores, which is notably the hallmark of the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Levant [105], [106].

But the whole Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea area, not to mention East Asia, remains to be fit in (archaeologically speaking) if we are to understand this period’s colonization of West Asia from the East (according to the genetic data).
See also:
In this blog:
In external sites:

Update (Jan 11): I have received a copy of a related paper dealing with the relations of Hadramaut tools in the context of global Levallois technique. It is however too technical and inconclusive for me to discuss separately. Yet I do not see it being published anywhere online (PPV or open source or whatever), so I am just uploading it online (for a year) so you can download and read it yourself:

Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Middle Paleolithic, out of Africa, Sudan


On the seemingly ancient L(xM,N) lineages of Arabia

Mehri boy

One of those never ending discussions I have with some readers who dislike the coastal migration model is about my apparent finding, based on Behar 2008, that some L(xM,N) lineages in the Arabian Peninsula are maybe extremely old there. Admittedly I have all kind of doubts but these are of different nature than those of my usual opponent, Terry T. 

While my reserves are about the size of samples, specially in Africa and the depth of lineage description, Terry argues that these lineages appear to be younger in Arabia than those arrived from South Asia, notably R0a (R0a1 actually in this area).
The lineages I feel most confident, after due revision, to represent an ancient flow out of Africa across the Red Sea at nearly the same time as the flow that seeded Eurasia with modern humankind (lineages M and N) are L0a1b2, L0f2a, L6, L4b1 and L3e2b2 (in red below).
In the following scheme the “>” signs represent one coding region mutation each (using PhyloTree, build 12). Count begins at the MRCA of all humans, “mtDNA Eve”.  Purple color used to mark x10 CR mutations from MRCA for easier count.

                          >>L0a1b2 (Arabia Pen.)
                             >>>>L0f2a (Oman)
                  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>L6 (Yemen)
                        ·······> L4b1 (infinite line, Yemen)

                           >L3e2b2 (Oman, Egypt)
                               >>H (for reference only)

The blue clades are not necessarily only found in Arabia but they are common enough to help us discern the matter and, in any case, did not coalesce before the backflow from Southern Asia took place, maybe c. 48,000 years ago.
What can we discern? That at least two of the suspect lineages appear to be older than any backflow from Asia, which could not have happened before the 30th C.R. mutational step. These two lineages (L0a1b2 and L3e2b2) coalesced, it seems, at the 28th mutational step and are therefore of the same estimated age as N, the ancestor of R0a, which probably lived in SE Asia. 
L0f2a also coalesced before R0a1 (1 mutational step earlier).  L6 however appears younger but it is the best researched case of all these lineages, with the haplotype structure pointing to a coalescence in Yemen (and later migration to Semitic Ethiopia). So what it lacks in age, it has in certainty.
My only claim is that these lineages may be remnants of a once maybe steady flow across the Red Sea into Arabia Peninsula (evidence for the Fertile Crescent seems weaker), survivors of bottlenecks produced by periods of aridity and the backflow from South Asia and further North in the West Asian region.
There may be more, looking at Amero 2007 there is a clear diversity of L(xM,N) lineages in the area but no academic effort has been made to discern which of these L(xM,N) lineages might be specific of Arabia (or North Africa also) with deep local roots. In general the assumption has been that they are recent historical arrivals but that assumption probably does not hold. L(xM,N) lineages in Yemen (the most fertile part of Arabia) are as much as 37%.
Another complaint by Terry is that there is not much L3 in the region, what makes these lineages less likely (??) to be part of an Out-of-Africa migration led precisely by L3 subclades (M and N). I have admittedly not found too many specific L3 sublineages that can be claimed to be part of such old OoA flow into Arabia but the possibility remains as L3 makes up 11% of Yemeni mtDNA pool and L3d is surprisingly common (4%, more than in Ethiopia), hinting at the possibility of finding other Arabian-specific lineages within this clade.
The full development of this line of research obviously beats my means, as I only work with data mined by academic researchers. I can just hope that someone finds this preliminary exploration interesting and develops it further in the future. 

Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Arabia, Middle Paleolithic, mtDNA, navigation, out of Africa


Echoes from the Past (Nov 11)

There is a lot of stuff accumulating in the to do folder again. I am sure that you will find most or at least some of it interesting.
People who can only read in English may want to consider now subscribing to Pileta de Prehistoria. Until recently most of the materials were in Spanish and largely home-made but since a few days ago, they are compiling a lot of Prehistory-related news, most of them in English. Part of my queue has to do with this change in content.
Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic
Laetoli ash walkers may have been unrelated among them: the various individuals of Australopithecus afarensis who walked on volcanic ash at Laetoli some 3.6 million years ago did so in different occasions and may therefore not have been relatives ··> Live Science.
A researcher questions whether Idaltu (Herto man, reconstruction at right) was actually a Homo sapiens. I think that the questioning is very weak, with key vault-height measures that rather make Idaltu outstanding within H. sapiens range rather than approaching Kabwe (H. rhodesiensis), which had a low vault. However the paper has a long list of anthropometric data on various H. sapiens specimens (all West Eurasian ones, except Idaltu) and said H. rhodesiensis which may be of interest for readers, so worth mentioning anyhow ··> Kyle D. Lubsen’s PDF at the Journal of Contemporary Anthropology, Neanderfollia[cat].

(Note: nearly all you need to know about anthropometry seems to be in this nice site).

Human bones found in Okinawa dated to c. 24,000 years ago (oldest occupation known to date) ··> M24, ABC[es].
Painted stones discovered in Hohler Fels (Swabian Jura, Germany).  The style of the stones, dated to c. 15,000 years ago resembles that of SW Europe. However no wall mural has yet been located in that region. It was experimentally demonstrated that the dots are not made with either brush or finger but with a wooden stamp ··> SD, Der Spiegel, Qué[es].

Hohler Fells painted stones
Spotted horses did exist in the Paleolithic, DNA suggests, emphasizing the realism of Magdalenian cave painters, which occasionally painted such kind of coats ··> M. Pruvost et al. at PNAS, Science, SD, Dienekes, Popular Archaeology, NYT.

The dots are not symbols but realistic depictions, it seems now

Download link for Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Werner Herzog’s documentary on Cave Chauvet (English with subtitles in Spanish).
Epipaleolithic findings in Rotterdam’s harbor. The expansion works for the largest port of Europe have located very small fragments of animal bone (some of which was burnt by human action) and flint stone. Not much but enough to demonstrate human presence in the Western Netherlands in that period, being the first known direct evidence of it ··> Dredging Today, Paleorama[es].

Neolithic & Metal Ages

Neolithic findings in Qatar are oldest known to date in the Emirate: some flint tools and Ubaid style pottery (proto-Sumerian) are complemented by animal remains of diverse significance: fish bones indicating what they captured at sea, shells used for decorative purposes (right) as well as for food, a dog’s canine and even the hearth and the hole for the main pillar of their probably sedentary residence have been found ··> Gulf Times.
No second chamber at Newgrange ··> The Meath Chronicle.
Archaeological findings in Inner Mongolia ··> Archaeology News Network (another site to follow apparently)
Humor (from Heritage in Action): Norwegian singer Vegard Ylvisåker made a freaky song on Stonehenge. While I don’t like the music, the lyrics have some great moments for laughs (in English with English subtitles, just in case):

There are also some awkward moments because any megalithomaniac worth that name knows that Stonehenge is not a henge (rondel) but a stone ring (cromlech) but well…


The Neanderthal genome goes open access… or something like that. Millán Mozota recommends this UC Santa Cruz page dedicated to allow anyone interested to access the Neanderthal genome in full detail. I can’t but agree: an important resource.
The Genographic Project claims that our species migrated from Africa to Asia via Arabia. Better late than never ··> Marta Melé et al. at MBE (pay per view), PR Newswire, Paleorama[es], La Vanguardia[es].
From Melé’s abstract:

We also observe that the patterns of recombinational diversity of these populations correlate with distance out of Africa if that distance is measured along a path crossing South Arabia. No such correlation is found through a Sinai route, suggesting that anatomically modern humans first left Africa through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait rather than through present Egypt.

The Genographic Project’s latest elaboration is coastal migration (finally!)
Successful pioneers get some selective advantage… or so it seems from a study of Quebecois surnames (which does not count the fallen) ··> C. Moreau et al at Science (pay per view), SD.

Psychological anthropology

Neanderthal brains were strikingly asymmetric. It is unclear why but their right hemisphere was hyper-developed, at least among those from El Sidrón (Asturias) ··> Sinc[es].
Does the origin of language lay in baby apes’ gestures? Not the first time I am told that language began with gestures but, specially if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, you may want to read this article at New Scientist.