Survey in the Mundafan palaeolake basin revealed, for the first time, Middle Palaeolithic occupations. Recovery of Middle Palaeolithic assemblages corresponds with recent environmental and geoarchaeological studies that indicate at least three lacustrine wet phases in MIS 5 . The main diagnostic lithic technology observed is the preferential Levallois reduction method, which is also present at the Jubbah palaeolake during MIS 5 (JQ-1, JSM-1 and JKF-1 sites: , ) and at the Jebel Faya rock shelter at the transition between MIS 6–5e (Assemblage C: ). This technology is absent in MIS 3 in southwest Yemen (SD1, SD2 and AS1 sites: , ). Earlier dating for preferential Levallois in Arabia, in MIS 7, is possible, but still insufficiently represented owing to small sample size at the Jubbah palaeolake (JQ-1: ). Other preferential Levallois methods have been observed in Dhofar, including in the Nubian Complex, dated to at least ca. 106 ka , in Hadramawt and the southern fringe of the Rub’ al-Khali, Oman , and in central Saudi Arabia at Al-Kharj . Nubian Complex technology has not yet been identified at Mundafan. We associate the Levallois component in Mundafan with the wet pluvials of MIS 5, most probably during the wetter events of MIS 5e (ca. 125 ka), MIS 5c (ca. 100 ka) and MIS 5a (80 ka), when conditions were more favorable for hominin dispersals. The Middle Palaeolithic evidence thus provides empirical support for Rosenberg and colleagues assertion  that the dispersal of hominins into the Rub’ al-Khali occurred during ameliorated periods, and perhaps supports their claim for the expansion of Homo sapiens into this marginal environment.PLoS ONE 8(7): e69665. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069665
Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic Occupations around Mundafan Palaeolake, Saudi Arabia: Implications for Climate Change and Human Dispersals
Rémy Crassard et al.
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.