The Project

— Funded by the German Research Council (DFG) —

The Arabian Peninsula experienced tremendous climatic and landscape changes during the late Quaternary. Climate archives, such as palaeo-lakes and speleothems, indicate an early Holocene humid period and gradual aridisation since then, leading to today’s hyperarid conditions in major parts of Arabia. Whereas plenty of local records are available for the southern peninsula, evidence from its northern part is scarce and not many details regarding the onset of wet conditions and their impact on the physical landscape and cultural developments are known. This project aims at exploring the unique geoarchive of the palaeo-lake or sabkha, respectively, at Tayma (NW Saudi Arabia) in detail, which has already proven its excellent
suitability. It is closely connected to the archaeological excavation at Tayma jointly conducted by Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Saudi Arabia, and the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI).

Tayma Übersicht
Satellite image of the oasis of Tayma showing the sites of shoreline deposits (TAY 11/177, 7/181, and 180), the mastercores, and the core transect crossing the oasis and the sabkha (map based on Google Earth [Digital Globe, 2011]).
A high-resolution multi-proxy record of climate-, landscape-, and settlement-related parameters will be generated, including microfacies distribution, carbonate (Ca, Mg, Sr), carbon (total C [TC], total inorganic C [TIC], total organic C [TOC]), stable isotopes (d13C, d15N, d18O), indicative element content (micro-XRF), magnetic susceptibility, mineralogy (XRD), macrofauna (gastropod shells, barnacles), ostracods (diversity/abundance, valve-based isotopic composition, trace metal/Ca ratios, valve/carapace ratio, juvenile/adult ratio, dissolution features, sieve-pore analysis, noding, valve size distribution), foraminifers (diversity/abundance, test malformation),
diatoms (diversity/abundance, diatom concentration, isotopic composition, planktic/benthic ratio), gyrogonites, lipid biomarkers, pollen and anthracological remains. This record, together with a robust AMS-14C- and OSL-based chronology, mapped geomorphic features of former lake level stands and the extensive archaeological record generated by a long-term excavation project at Tayma, will provide answers to a wide spectrum of burning research questions regarding landscape changes on a local and (supra-)regional scale, the source of additional early Holocene moisture, regional environmental response to rapid climate changes, and the influence
on climatic and environmental changes on settlement patterns, socio-technological evolution, and economic practices.

Fototafel shoreline deposit mit
A) Synoptic view of the sabkha floor and the position of the uppermost early Holocene shoreline deposit, where it is wedged into the incised escarpment of dark Ordovician shale. B) Lateral boundary of the shale and the Holocene shoreline deposit at site TAY 7/181 (Fig. 1). C) Profile TAY 11/177 almost entirely consisting of laminated gastropod shells and barnacles. D) Barnacles in living position indicating that the deposit is not reworked. E) Close-up of the barnacle and shell hash.

The project is divided into three work packages (WP):

  • WP A – Biogeochemistry and sedimentology
  • WP B – Micropalaeontology (excl. palynology)
  • WP C – Geochronology, palynology and geoarchaeological synthesis
Work flow of the project CLEAR. Affiliations: GFZ = Helmholtz Centre Potsdam; FUB = Freie Universität Berlin; MPI = Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena; FSU = Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena; UC = Universität zu Köln; TUB = Technische Universität Braunschweig; DAI = Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.



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