Tayma Workshop 2015

The Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) holds its 2015 workshop gathering the latest results of multidisciplinary research on the oasis of Tayma. On Friday, 03 July 2015, the Tayma community will meet at the Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology, Freie Universität Berlin, to exchange and discuss the state of knowledge in regional pre-historical settlements, archaeozoology, palaeoanthropology, hydrology, water management as well as all aspects of palaeoenvironment covered by the CLEAR project. On Monday, 06 July 2015, archaeological data from the excavations at Tayma will be presented and discussed. The workshop is open for everyone interested in the topics.

Early Holocene spread of grasslands in NW Arabia

CLEAR project members Michèle Dinies and colleagues just published an exciting palynological dataset from the Tayma palaeo-lake in the journal Quaternary International. They found goosefoot-dominated desert vegetation at the onset of the Holocene, which was quickly replaced by grasslands between 9000 and 8000 BP and, again, more xerophytic dwarf shrublands. This brief grassland period must have had significant impacts on nomadic herders. The geoarchive shows excellent Holocene pollen preservation, which, so far, is rare on the Arabian Peninsula. The pollen-based 14C data also led to a revision of the palaeo-lake’s age model indicating that the Holocene wet phase marked bythe shoreline highstand and the grassland expansion apparently occurred more than 1000 years later than suggested in previous publications.

Full Reference:

Dinies, M., Plessen, B., Neef, R., Kürschner, H., 2015. When the desert was green: Grassland expansion during the early Holocene in northwestern Arabia. Quaternary International, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.03.007.

Wetlands or lakes on the Arabian Peninsula?

A recent paper by Yehouda Enzel and colleagues published in Global and Planetary Change presents a new perspective on several Holocene lacustrine deposits on the Arabian Peninsula (API). During the last years and decades several groups reconstructed lakes filling morphological depressions of various extent during early to mid-Holocene times. Most of them are located on the southern API, where a northward shift of the ITCZ was postulated to have enabled the Indian Ocean Summer Monsoon to penetrate the Arabian landmass further than today. Some – including Tayma – were identified on the northern API, where enhanced Mediterranean winter rains or the North African summer monsoon may have provided additional rainfall (see growing body of literature on empirical evidence as well as the paper of Richard Jennings and colleagues for new model simulations). Enzel and colleagues reinterpret a wide spectrum of field evidence and conclude that all these basins were only occupied by marsh environments and that, due to extreme evaporation rates, higher rainfall amounts during early-mid-Holocene were not sufficient to create prennial lakes. They suggest that the ITCZ never significantly shifted during the Holocene and that mostly the North African summer monsoon provided a surplus in moisture. This paper definitely fuels a vivid, ongoing discussion on the magnitude of environmental changes on the Holocene API and corresponding human response, which the CLEAR Project is keen to contribute as well!


Enzel, Y., Kushnir, Y., Quade, J., 2015. The middle Holocene climatic records from Arabia: Reassessing lacustrine environments, shift of ITCZ in Arabian Sea, and impacts of the southwest Indian and African monsoons. Global and Planetary Change 129, 69-91. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2015.03.004.

Jennings, R.P., Singarayer, J., Stone, E.J., Krebs-Kanzow, U., Khon, V., Nisancioglu, K.H., Pfeiffer, M., Zhang, X., Parker, A., Parton, A., Groucutt, H.S., White, T.S., Drake, N.A., Petraglia, M.D., 2015. The greening of Arabia: Multiple opportunities for human occupation of the Arabian Peninsula during the Late Pleistocene inferred from an ensemble of climate model simulations. Quaternary International, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.01.006.



After a successful kick-off event at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (GFZ) on 15 and 16 Jan 2015, the CLEAR project is taking up momentum. Things were settled for the further multi-proxy exploration of the palaeo-lake site of Tayma in northern Saudi Arabia. The funding period (Feb 2015 to Jan 2018) has just started, the field season late in 2015 is about to be planned, and the last sediment cores from previous campaigns are leaving their fridges and will be opened in the weeks to come.