Hunter gatherers of the “empty quarter of the early Holocene” to the last Neolithic societies chronology of the late prehistory of south eastern Arabia (8000–3100 BC)

The data from recent excavations in the Oman peninsula, especially in the Ja’alan and the Jebel Qara (Sultanate of Oman) enable us better to refine certain cultural entities and to define new ones, to help determine the chronology of a part of the

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   Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies  38 (2008): 59–82 Introduction In a seminal article published in 1992, Margaret Uerpmann laid the basis for the chronology of the late prehistory of the Oman peninsula (1992). Fifteen years later, most of these questions remain with us. The identication of the hunter-gatherer societies of the beginning of the early Holocene, the role of autochthonous cultures in the appearance of the rst producer societies, and the inuence of the PPNB of the Levant in the emergence of the Neolithic in the Oman peninsula are indeed themes that remain crucial for research. The Saruq facies identied by M. Uerpmann has included up to the present all Neolithic cultures with developed lithic industries in the Oman peninsula (Uerpmann M 1992; Uerpmann & Uerpmann 2003: 142–162). The aim of this article is to take up the question of these bifacial industries, in order to present two different techno-facies based on controlled stratigraphic data: the Habarut facies (6500–4500 BC), which is followed by the Suwayh facies (4500–3800/3700). The presence of other categories of artefacts besides these two lithic facies demonstrates that two cultural entities can be dened.The data from recent excavations between the Gulf and the Arabian Sea are still rare for these periods: along the Gulf (Dalma, Marawah, Akab), inland within the UAE (Buhais, Jebel Faya) and in the Sultanate of Oman, especially in the Ja’alan and the Jebel Qara (Dhofar). However, they enable us better to rene certain cultural entities and to dene new ones, to help determine the chronology of a part of the late prehistory of south-eastern Arabia. The Ja’alan: twenty years of looking for stratigraphy The Ja’alan is the eastern extremity of the Arab world and covers about 3000 km 2 . Commencing in 1985, archaeological research has concentrated on the early Bronze Age (Hat and Umm an Nar periods) in this region and between Ra’s al-Jins and Ra’s al-Hadd. From the beginning of the project, a survey centred on Hunter-gatherers of the “empty quarter of the early Holocene” to the last  Neolithic societies: chronology of the late prehistory of south-eastern Arabia (8000–3100 BC) V INCENT  C HARPENTIER  Summary The data from recent excavations in the Oman peninsula, especially in the Ja’alan and the Jebel Qara (Sultanate of Oman) enable us better to rene certain cultural entities and to dene new ones, to help determine the chronology of a part of the late prehistory of south-eastern Arabia. To begin with, the “empty quarter of the early Holocene”   is half full:   “Fasad facies” characterizes one of the earliest Holocene hunter-gatherers occupation in Oman (8000–7500 BC). Today we possess data from several stratied sites, enabling denition of two quite distinct Neolithic techno-facies, which appear in succession: the trihedral points facies (Habarut facies) between 6500 and 4500 BC, and the facies of the points with diamond-shaped section (Suwayh facies) between 4500 and about 3800–3700 BC. Keywords : prehistory, early and middle Holocene, Neolithic, chronology, Arabia, Oman peninsula.  Vincent Charpentier  60 F IGURE  1 . Prehistoric sites in the Ja’alan.   Hunter-gatherers of the “empty quarter of the early Holocene” to the last Neolithic societies  61 the environment and the resources of past populations enabled identication of the rst Neolithic int-knapping workshops on the Jebel Saffan (Charpentier 1986; 1988). Considered to be a zone of intensive study, this  province was surveyed several times, intensively on its coast (Biagi 1988 a ; 1988 b ; 1994; Biagi & Maggi 1990; Charpentier 1986; 1988; 2001; Usai 2000), but less so in the interior, or for specic reasons (research on tethering stones, for example) (Edens 1988 a ; Cavallari 2004). Some experiments with intra-site spatial analysis and exhaustive collecting were carried out in parallel, but sometimes without sufciently taking into account the strong deation which affects most of the surface sites, and therefore having implications for understanding their chronology (Gzeis, Ra’s Wudayyah WD-10) (Giraud et al  . 2005; Putzolu 1999).At the heart of the project, the search for stratied  Neolithic settlements was a major consideration. This was not easy, and the thin Neolithic levels of Ra’s al-Jins RJ-2 (4990±100 BP, 4430±60 BP) long remained the only elements of this period available to researchers. The rst excavations at Suwayh SWY-2, the test trenches at SWY-3 and SWY-10, and at Ra’s al-Hadd HD-2 and 5, the excavations at HD-6 (Period I), and nally those at Ra’s al-Khabbah KHB-1, provide us today with quality documentation for the fourth millennium (Fig. 1). However, the earlier periods remain to be discovered. Between Ra’s al-Khabbah and the Wahiba Sands, the Pleistocene valleys of coastal erosion were repeatedly invaded by marine transgressions of the Holocene: the early human occupations are today submerged (Berger et al  . 2005; Cremaschi 2001; Lézine et al  . 2002). Thus, the shores of the Ja’alan are not propitious for understanding occupation during the Pleistocene or the early Holocene. The test trench at Suwayh 11, then the excavation of the Suwayh SWY-1 settlement during three campaigns, have nevertheless brought to light the earliest stratied human occupation in the Ja’alan (middle of the sixth millennium BC), and enable us to push back the chronology of this region more than two millennia. Today four lithic facies pre-dating the Bronze Age are now identiable in this region. The “empty quarter of the early Holocene” is henceforth half full! ”Fasad”: a group of early Holocene hunters (8000–7500 BC) The “Fasad facies”, with an industry having points of the same name, characterizes the earliest human occupation found today in the Ja’alan. Eight sites from this period have been discovered: Ra’s al-Jins RJ-37, 36, 44, 65, 85, Ra’s Wudayyah WD-58, Ra’s al-Khabbah KHB-1, and Al-Haddah BJD-1 (Charpentier 1991; 1996; Charpentier, Cremaschi & Demnard 1997; Usai 2000). These settlements are situated in various environments: the top of a knoll (RJ-37), the foot of a jebel (RJ-44), terraces overlooking the sea (RJ-65, 84, KHB-1), or next to a spring (BJD-1). In spite of several test trenches at Ra’s al-Jins (RJ-37) and Al-Haddah (BJD-1), and to a lesser extent at Ra’s al-Khabbah (KHB-1), none of these sites have produced stratied levels. This is also true for all the open-air sites known for this period in Arabia. Since the early Holocene, they have been subjected to strong deation by wind or violent erosion by streaming water. There should nonetheless be deposits buried under thick accumulations of alluvia, which remain to be identied. In 1996, Mauro Cremaschi and I had the project of seeking these deposits along the fringes of the Wahiba Sands and on the piedmont of the inland jebels. Engaged in other  programmes (Suwayh, Khor Rhori), we were not able to carry out this research in the Ja’alan, but M. Cremaschi has discovered levels of this type in the rock shelters of Wadi Genikermat, in the Jebel Qara (Cremaschi &  Negrino 2002; 2005). The lithic assemblage The elements characteristic of this assemblage are  projectile points made on blanks of akes that are thin or sometimes thick; blade products are rarer. The tang is generally fashioned by bifacial retouch, sometimes simply direct or inverse, rarely alternately. The distal extremity of these points is naturally sharp and not retouched, although some are sometimes reworked  by a series of short marginal retouching (Charpentier 1991; 1996). With more than sixty points, the series from al-Haddah is one of the most important in Oman (Fig. 2). Aside from the variety of materials in which they were made, the diversity of forms of the blanks is very surprising: ake with central vein, blade ake but also blade product with three faces, reminiscent of the WashΚah technique dened by R. Crassard and P. Bodu in Yemen (2004), without however strictly belonging to this technique. Except for these “Fasad points” — it is not known whether they were used with a bow — our knowledge of the lithic assemblage was almost nil a short time ago. The industries from the levels of rock shelters KR213 and KR108 of the Jebel Qara (Dhofar) enable us to comprehend them. Blade debitage is not totally absent from the  Vincent Charpentier  62 F IGURE  2 . Fasad points. Bandar al-Jadidah/Al-Haddah BJD-1 (c. 8000–7500 BC). (Drawings by G. Devilder).   Hunter-gatherers of the “empty quarter of the early Holocene” to the last Neolithic societies  63 assemblage, and several blade akes are blanks for tools (Cremaschi & Negrino 2002: g. 5/1–3, 10–12). For Fabio Negrino, the tanged points made on thick akes, from KR213 and KR108, are related to the “Fasad  points” (Cremaschi & Negrino 2002: g. 5/4, 8/3), which I can conrm. Those on blade akes appear to be even more characteristic (2002: KR213 g. 5/2; KR108 g. 8/3; KR98 g. 8/1; KR96 g. 8/2; KR143 g. 8/10). Side-scrapers, notches, and denticulation produced by direct-scaled retouch dominate the tools. A backed point on a burin spall is present, a type of object also found at al-Haddah (Charpentier, Cremaschi & Demnard 1997). There are no drills in the assemblage. Chronology Only a few rare datings at Wadi Wuttaya and Zebrit (9280 ± 210 BP) have recently provided evidence of human presence in Arabia for this period, to the point that M. Uerpmann has evoked an “empty quarter of the early Holocene” (Amirkhanov 1996; Uerpmann M 1992; Zarins 2001). Up to the present, the chronology of the lithic facies of Fasad was based on conjectures, a date in the seventh–sixth millennia often being proposed (e.g. Charpentier, Cremaschi & Demnard 1997; Usai 2000). A single dating, based on shell material from Ra’s al-Jins RJ-37, has provided a date of 6070 ± 70 (4479–4211 2 sigma) which I judged ten years ago to be too late to characterize this facies (see below) (Charpentier 1996). Today, datings from the rock shelters of KR108 (8750 ± 50 yr BP; 7910–7690 cal. BC) and KR213 (8720 ± 60 yr BP; 7740–7590 cal. BC) (Cremaschi & Negrino 2002) enable the attribution of the Fasad facies to the rst half of the eighth millennium, a period of high precipitation on the southern fringe of Jebel al-Qara, which  can be correlated with the south-west monsoon record (2002: 330). The trihedral points facies (6500–4500 BC) A new chrono-cultural entity developed between the seventh and the fth millennia over the whole of Oman and the UAE, a part of Yemen and Saudi Arabia (Charpentier 2004; Crassard 2007). Its lithic industry is  particularly characterized by projectile points that are not  bifacial but trifacial: “the trihedral points” (Charpentier 2004). This Neolithic facies is not however the oldest, as certain earlier Yemeni sites have produced industries of  Neolithic character (Khuzmum, HDOR 538 & 561, etc.) (Crassard 2007). Nearly 100 sites corresponding to this group have been identied in the Arabian Peninsula. Since their recent inventory (Charpentier 2004), a few new surface deposits have been discovered in the UAE and in Oman,  including Marawah 11 in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Jebel Faya in the Emirate of Sharjah (Beech et al  . 2005: g. 5; Uerpmann H-P et al  . 2007), al-Thabiti in the oasis of Ibra (Schreiber 2005: 265, g. 14), but also sites around Qalat (M. Tosi, personal communication), in the Wahiba Sands at al-Hadd (ALHD-1), and at Maysar (M4T23). (1) In the Ja’alan, besides Khor al-Hajar (KHJ-1) and Suwayh 1, two surface sites have produced this type of point: Ra’s Wudayyah (WD-10) and Jebel Abiyad (2) (Charpentier 1991; Charpentier & Inizan 2002).In the Sultanate of Oman, only the sites of Wadi Wutayya, Khor al-Hajar, Suwayh 1 and 11 have stratied levels for this period, while Marawah MR.1 and MR.11 are the only stratied sites with trihedral points in the UAE (Beech et al  . 2005; Charpentier 2001; 2004; Charpentier et al  . 2000; Uerpmann M 1992; Uerpmann & Uerpmann 2003: 142–162). The sequence of Suwayh 1 is at the present time the most developed and serves here as a reference for dening this lithic facies in Oman (Fig. 3). The bifacial and trifacial industry The majority of the points of Period 1 of Suwayh 1 are trihedral (Fig. 4/1–8), sometimes “uted” (Charpentier & Inizan 2002; Charpentier 2004). Other points which are pressure-retouched but bifacial are present but fewer in the assemblage: foliated bifacial point with biconvex section, rare barbed and tanged points (Fig. 4/9–13). Bifacial pieces with parallel edges are associated with this complex (Fig. 4/19).Many piercing tools are associated with these  pressure-retouched tools, such as rare points with backed edge (Fig. 4/14), drills on bladelets (Fig. 4/15–17), as well as tools on micro-lithic akes, especially side-scrapers. Tools made from nodules are characteristic of this period. Pebbles are worked by scalariform bifacial retouch, leaving at one extremity a point or a beak of polygonal section (Fig. 4/18). Chronology The chronology of this facies has recently been claried (Charpentier 2004; Crassard 2007). It would cover two millennia, as it emerges very early in certain sites of the ДaΡramawt, Manayzah in particular, at about
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