Date of Graduation

12-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Jesse Casana

Committee Member

Marvin Kay

Second Committee Member

Kenneth L. Kvamme

Keywords

Social sciences; Earth sciences; Archaeology; Ground-penetrating radar; Human ecodynamics; Kuwait; Oasis; Persian Gulf; Remote sensing; United Arab Emirates

Abstract

Archaeological investigations in the Emirate of Dubai, UAE conducted by the Dubai Department of Archaeology and the University of Arkansas demonstrate that the desert inland of the Oman Peninsula was occupied not only during the Arabian Neolithic (8000-4400 BC), when the region experienced a moist period referred to as the Holocene Climatic Optimum (HCO), but also during the more arid millennia following the decline of the HCO into the Christian Era. During this period, desert settlement clustered near a band of oases, in contrast to the more widespread spatial distribution of remains of nomadic pastoralists from the Neolithic. Excavations at al- Ashoosh and Saruq al-Hadid, two sites at the southern end of the Emirate of Dubai, coupled with analysis of dune accumulation at Saruq al-Hadid through ground-penetrating radar, and a regional analysis of groundwater availability based on satellite imagery, reveal the varied landscapes that made desert settlement possible and provide a chronology of inland settlement and landscape transformation for a time and place that was not well documented before this study. Evidence presented in this dissertation suggests that these inland oases were dynamic environments that influenced patterns of desert settlement and land use, and in turn were shaped by the varied activities of prehistoric people. Periodic occupation at both sites began with seasonal encampments during a third millennium pluvial and resumed during arid phases in the second and first millennia. Late occupation was likely supported by shallow groundwater that was fed by orographic rainfall in the Oman Mountains, rather than by precipitation on the desert plain. Occupation during the first millennium BC was distinct from earlier periods in that is showed clear integration into a regional political and economic network, first in its incarnation as a cultic site in the Iron Age II period (900-600BC), and following that as a center for metal working at the end of the first millennium. A hiatus in settlement at Saruq al-Hadid following the Iron Age II period and roughly coincident with the Iron Age III (600-300 BC) is marked by significant dune accumulation. The question remains whether this period of active sediment redeposition was a local or regional phenomenon, but the case is made here that it was a regional change triggered by the destabilization of sand dunes as natural vegetative cover was removed by growing herds of grazing animals and an expansion of agriculture in the Iron Age II period. These findings fill gaps in the histories of climate and settlement of southeast Arabia and more broadly, help to move us closer to understanding the complex exchanges between changes in climate, landscapes, and human activities in arid regions through time and worldwide.

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