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Title: Hominin dispersals and the middle palaeolithic of Arabia
Author: Groucutt, Huw S.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis tests models on the dispersal of hominin populations in the Upper Pleistocene, specifically in relation to the Arabian Peninsula. It does so by conducting a quantified comparison of lithic assemblages from northeast Africa and southwest Asia. Lithic data from new excavations at the Jubbah Palaeolake in northern Saudi Arabia is compared to assemblages from Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Oman and other localities in Saudi Arabia. This is the first detailed inter-regional study of this area for Marine Isotope Stages 5 to 3, a critical spatial and temporal context in debates on both early modern human and Neanderthal demography and dispersal. The spatial and temporal character of the rich Arabian archaeological record correlate with emerging evidence for environmental change in Arabia; in particular the repeated dating of archaeological contexts to periods of climatic amelioration suggests that demographic growth was associated with periods of increased precipitation. The various factors influencing lithic variability and the methodologies by which they can be elucidated are reviewed. In particular this highlights the need for quantified and comparative analyses. A variety of analytical approaches are applied in this thesis, including the use of Correspondence and Principal Components Analyses to develop a nuanced view of lithic variability. Variability in cores is shown to largely reflect the related factors of size and reduction intensity. With analyses of debitage and retouched lithics a broadly similar picture emerges: assemblages which are heavily reduced have small cores and blanks and higher levels of retouch, and elements of shape variation also change in relation to reduction intensity. Elements of residual variability may reflect cultural differences. While it is felt that the evidence presented broadly orientates the Upper Pleistocene Middle Palaeolithic of Arabia to dispersals from Africa, this suggestion is subsumed with a problematization of using lithic evidence to understand dispersals. Aside from the need for further dated archaeological material from Arabia and surrounding countries, lithic analyses need to more thoroughly consider factors such as reduction intensity if we are to make robust inferences on population dispersals.
Supervisor: Petraglia, Michael D. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; archaeology ; middle palaeolithic ; hominin ; dispersal ; lithics