Human Ecodynamics at Three Prehistoric Sites in the Arabian Desert, UAE

In my dissertation work supported supported by the NSF, I show that a climatic shift toward hyper-aridity in the second and first millennia BC in southeast Arabia triggered adaptive changes in local societies’ engagement with desert landscapes rather than wholesale abandonment of the region. To do so I analyzed data from archaeological excavations and ground-based and satellite remote sensing in the region surrounding three sites in the UAE. This research was broken into three phases.

GPR of the central dune at Saruq al-Hadid

GPR Survey of Saruq al-Hadid
A GPR survey of Saruq al-Hadid produced an exceptionally clear map of the interior of the site where patterns of dune bedding, major phases of dune emplacement, cultural phases, and even the positions of individual artifacts could be seen. These data were key in understanding the major changes in the local environment between the third and first millennia BC. Read more about the results and interpretation of data from the GPR survey at Saruq al-Hadid in Archaeological Prospection.

Chronologies of Environmental Change and Settlement

Radiometric dates from sediments and organic materials recovered through excavations helped to anchor major dune emplacement episodes in the regional chronology of environmental change. Cultural materials helped to understand the archaeological phasing and determine how land-use in the region changed drastically over time. Read more about the results of excavations and the sequences of landscape change and settlement in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.


Desert Inland Environments of the Mid Holocene
Surface emissivitiy as mapped from the MODIS Terra sensor reveals where shallow aquifers are most likely to have breached the surface to support oases in the past. A comparison of these patterns with fluctuations in the Persian Gulf sea level from the third to first millennia BC, the geology of the region, and the chronology of settlement as determined in the studies above provides a clear picture of how the landscapes in the region changed during the Holocene. This specific phase of my research is being prepared for publication in a major archaeological journal.