Publications by authors named "Paul S Breeze"

8 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Monumental landscapes of the Holocene humid period in Northern Arabia: The mustatil phenomenon.

Holocene 2020 Dec 17;30(12):1767-1779. Epub 2020 Aug 17.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Between 10 and six thousand years ago the Arabian Peninsula saw the most recent of the 'Green Arabia' periods, when increased rainfall transformed this generally arid region. The transition to the Neolithic in Arabia occurred during this period of climatic amelioration. Various forms of stone structures are abundant in northern Arabia, and it has been speculated that some of these dated to the Neolithic, but there has been little research on their character and chronology. Here we report a study of 104 'mustatil' stone structures from the southern margins of the Nefud Desert in northern Arabia. We provide the first chronometric age estimate for this type of structure - a radiocarbon date of ca. 5000 BC - and describe their landscape positions, architecture and associated material culture and faunal remains. The structure we have dated is the oldest large-scale stone structure known from the Arabian Peninsula. The mustatil phenomenon represents a remarkable development of monumental architecture, as hundreds of these structures were built in northwest Arabia. This 'monumental landscape' represents one of the earliest large-scale forms of monumental stone structure construction anywhere in the world. Further research is needed to understand the function of these structures, but we hypothesise that they were related to rituals in the context of the adoption of pastoralism and resulting territoriality in the challenging environments of northern Arabia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959683620950449DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7575307PMC
December 2020

Human footprints provide snapshot of last interglacial ecology in the Arabian interior.

Sci Adv 2020 Sep 18;6(38). Epub 2020 Sep 18.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, D-07743 Jena, Germany.

The nature of human dispersals out of Africa has remained elusive because of the poor resolution of paleoecological data in direct association with remains of the earliest non-African people. Here, we report hominin and non-hominin mammalian tracks from an ancient lake deposit in the Arabian Peninsula, dated within the last interglacial. The findings, it is argued, likely represent the oldest securely dated evidence for in Arabia. The paleoecological evidence indicates a well-watered semi-arid grassland setting during human movements into the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia. We conclude that visitation to the lake was transient, likely serving as a place to drink and to forage, and that late Pleistocene human and mammalian migrations and landscape use patterns in Arabia were inexorably linked.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aba8940DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7500939PMC
September 2020

Human responses to climate and ecosystem change in ancient Arabia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 04;117(15):8263-8270

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 07745 Jena, Germany.

Recent interdisciplinary archaeological and paleoenvironmental research in the Arabian peninsula is transforming our understanding of ancient human societies in their ecological contexts. Hypotheses about the cultural and demographic impacts of a series of droughts have primarily been developed from the environmental and archaeological records of southeastern Arabia. Here we examine these human-environment interactions by integrating ongoing research from northern Arabia. While droughts and extreme environmental variability in the Holocene had significant impacts on human societies, responses varied across space and time and included mobility at various scales, as well as diverse social, economic and cultural adaptations, such as the management of water resources, the introduction of pastoral lifeways, and the construction of diverse types of stone structures. The long-term story of human societies in Arabia is one of resilience in the face of climate change, yet future challenges include rising temperatures and flash flooding. The history of human responses to climatic and ecosystem changes in Arabia can provide important lessons for a planet facing catastrophic global warming and environmental change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1920211117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7165439PMC
April 2020

The expansion of later Acheulean hominins into the Arabian Peninsula.

Sci Rep 2018 11 29;8(1):17165. Epub 2018 Nov 29.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

The Acheulean is the longest lasting cultural-technological tradition in human evolutionary history. However, considerable gaps remain in understanding the chronology and geographical distribution of Acheulean hominins. We present the first chronometrically dated Acheulean site from the Arabian Peninsula, a vast and poorly known region that forms more than half of Southwest Asia. Results show that Acheulean hominin occupation expanded along hydrological networks into the heart of Arabia from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 7 until at least ~190 ka ̶ the youngest documented Acheulean in Southwest Asia. The site of Saffaqah features Acheulean technology, characterized by large flakes, handaxes and cleavers, similar to Acheulean assemblages in Africa. These findings reveal a climatically-mediated later Acheulean expansion into a poorly known region, amplifying the documented diversity of Middle Pleistocene hominin behaviour across the Old World and elaborating the terminal archaic landscape encountered by our species as they dispersed out of Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35242-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6265249PMC
November 2018

Acheulean technology and landscape use at Dawadmi, central Arabia.

PLoS One 2018 27;13(7):e0200497. Epub 2018 Jul 27.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Despite occupying a central geographic position, investigations of hominin populations in the Arabian Peninsula during the Lower Palaeolithic period are rare. The colonization of Eurasia below 55 degrees latitude indicates the success of the genus Homo in the Early and Middle Pleistocene, but the extent to which these hominins were capable of innovative and novel behavioural adaptations to engage with mid-latitude environments is unclear. Here we describe new field investigations at the Saffaqah locality (206-76) near Dawadmi, in central Arabia that aim to establish how hominins adapted to this region. The site is located in the interior of Arabia over 500 km from both the Red Sea and the Gulf, and at the headwaters of two major extinct river systems that were likely used by Acheulean hominins to cross the Peninsula. Saffaqah is one of the largest Acheulean sites in Arabia with nearly a million artefacts estimated to occur on the surface, and it is also the first to yield stratified deposits containing abundant artefacts. It is situated in the unusual setting of a dense and well-preserved landscape of Acheulean localities, with sites and isolated artefacts occurring regularly for tens of kilometres in every direction. We describe both previous and recent excavations at Saffaqah and its large lithic assemblage. We analyse thousands of artefacts from excavated and surface contexts, including giant andesite cores and flakes, smaller cores and retouched artefacts, as well as handaxes and cleavers. Technological assessment of stratified lithics and those from systematic survey, enable the reconstruction of stone tool life histories. The Acheulean hominins at Dawadmi were strong and skilful, with their adaptation evidently successful for some time. However, these biface-makers were also technologically conservative, and used least-effort strategies of resource procurement and tool transport. Ultimately, central Arabia was depopulated, likely in the face of environmental deterioration in the form of increasing aridity.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200497PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6063418PMC
January 2019

Homo sapiens in Arabia by 85,000 years ago.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 05 9;2(5):800-809. Epub 2018 Apr 9.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Understanding the timing and character of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa is critical for inferring the colonization and admixture processes that underpin global population history. It has been argued that dispersal out of Africa had an early phase, particularly ~130-90 thousand years ago (ka), that reached only the East Mediterranean Levant, and a later phase, ~60-50 ka, that extended across the diverse environments of Eurasia to Sahul. However, recent findings from East Asia and Sahul challenge this model. Here we show that H. sapiens was in the Arabian Peninsula before 85 ka. We describe the Al Wusta-1 (AW-1) intermediate phalanx from the site of Al Wusta in the Nefud desert, Saudi Arabia. AW-1 is the oldest directly dated fossil of our species outside Africa and the Levant. The palaeoenvironmental context of Al Wusta demonstrates that H. sapiens using Middle Palaeolithic stone tools dispersed into Arabia during a phase of increased precipitation driven by orbital forcing, in association with a primarily African fauna. A Bayesian model incorporating independent chronometric age estimates indicates a chronology for Al Wusta of ~95-86 ka, which we correlate with a humid episode in the later part of Marine Isotope Stage 5 known from various regional records. Al Wusta shows that early dispersals were more spatially and temporally extensive than previously thought. Early H. sapiens dispersals out of Africa were not limited to winter rainfall-fed Levantine Mediterranean woodlands immediately adjacent to Africa, but extended deep into the semi-arid grasslands of Arabia, facilitated by periods of enhanced monsoonal rainfall.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0518-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5935238PMC
May 2018

Rethinking the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa.

Evol Anthropol 2015 Jul-Aug;24(4):149-64

Current fossil, genetic, and archeological data indicate that Homo sapiens originated in Africa in the late Middle Pleistocene. By the end of the Late Pleistocene, our species was distributed across every continent except Antarctica, setting the foundations for the subsequent demographic and cultural changes of the Holocene. The intervening processes remain intensely debated and a key theme in hominin evolutionary studies. We review archeological, fossil, environmental, and genetic data to evaluate the current state of knowledge on the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa. The emerging picture of the dispersal process suggests dynamic behavioral variability, complex interactions between populations, and an intricate genetic and cultural legacy. This evolutionary and historical complexity challenges simple narratives and suggests that hybrid models and the testing of explicit hypotheses are required to understand the expansion of Homo sapiens into Eurasia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/evan.21455DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715448PMC
May 2016