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First evidence for human occupation of a lava tube in Arabia: The archaeology of Umm Jirsan Cave and its surroundings, northern Saudi Arabia

Stewart, Mathew; Andrieux, Eric; Blinkhorn, James; Guagnin, Maria; Fernandes, Ricardo; Vanwezer, Nils; Hatton, Amy; Alqahtani, Mesfer; Zalmout, Iyad; Clark-Wilson, Richard; Al-Mufarreh, Yahya S. A.; Al-Shanti, Mahmoud; Zahrani, Badr; Al Omari, Abdulaziz; Al-Jibreen, Faisal; Alsharekh, Abdullah M.; Scerri, Eleanor M. L.; Boivin, Nicole; Petraglia, Michael D.; Groucutt, Huw S.

First evidence for human occupation of a lava tube in Arabia: The archaeology of Umm Jirsan Cave and its surroundings, northern Saudi Arabia Thumbnail


Authors

Mathew Stewart

James Blinkhorn

Maria Guagnin

Ricardo Fernandes

Nils Vanwezer

Amy Hatton

Mesfer Alqahtani

Iyad Zalmout

Richard Clark-Wilson

Yahya S. A. Al-Mufarreh

Mahmoud Al-Shanti

Badr Zahrani

Abdulaziz Al Omari

Faisal Al-Jibreen

Abdullah M. Alsharekh

Eleanor M. L. Scerri

Nicole Boivin

Michael D. Petraglia

Huw S. Groucutt



Contributors

Ran Barkai
Editor

Abstract

Recent advances in interdisciplinary archaeological research in Arabia have focused on the evolution and historical development of regional human populations as well as the diverse patterns of cultural change, migration, and adaptations to environmental fluctuations. Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of cultural developments such as the emergence and lifeways of Neolithic groups has been hindered by the limited preservation of stratified archaeological assemblages and organic remains, a common challenge in arid environments. Underground settings like caves and lava tubes, which are prevalent in Arabia but which have seen limited scientific exploration, offer promising opportunities for addressing these issues. Here, we report on an archaeological excavation and a related survey at and around Umm Jirsan lava tube in the Harrat Khaybar, north-western Saudi Arabia. Our results reveal repeated phases of human occupation of the site ranging from at least the Neolithic through to the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age. Pastoralist use of the lava tube and surrounding landscape is attested in rock art and faunal records, suggesting that Umm Jirsan was situated along a pastoral route linking key oases. Isotopic data indicates that herbivores primarily grazed on wild grasses and shrubs rather than being provided with fodder, while humans had a diet consistently high in protein but with increasing consumption of C3 plants through-time, perhaps related to the emergence of oasis agriculture. While underground and naturally sheltered localities are globally prominent in archaeology and Quaternary science, our work represents the first such combined records for Saudi Arabia and highlight the potential for interdisciplinary studies in caves and lava tubes.

Citation

Stewart, M., Andrieux, E., Blinkhorn, J., Guagnin, M., Fernandes, R., Vanwezer, N., …Groucutt, H. S. (in press). First evidence for human occupation of a lava tube in Arabia: The archaeology of Umm Jirsan Cave and its surroundings, northern Saudi Arabia. PLoS ONE, 19(4), Article e0299292. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299292

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 8, 2024
Online Publication Date Apr 17, 2024
Deposit Date Apr 24, 2024
Publicly Available Date Apr 24, 2024
Journal PLOS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 4
Article Number e0299292
DOI https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299292
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/2392448

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