Nic Flemming (L), Abdullah Alsharekh (Front R) & Geoff Bailey (R) with Saudi Aramco staff, Dharran, 2005
DISPERSE is an Advanced Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) for a 5-year programme of research (2011-2016) involving collaboration between Geoff Bailey at the University of York and Geoffrey King at the Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris.
The project will develop systematic methods for reconstructing landscapes associated with active tectonics and sea level change and assess their impact on patterns of human evolution and dispersal. The research will focus on the western Arabian escarpment and the now-submerged territory of the southern Red Sea, including use of remote sensing techniques and field survey on land and underwater, and will also draw on comparative data from adjacent regions in Africa and the Near East. Other collaborators include specialists from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, the Institut de Physique du Globe Paris, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research Athens, and King Saud University Riyadh.
Our overall working hypothesis is that conditions of geological instability, despite the potentially destructive risks associated with them, have played a powerful and dynamic role in the development of human society, exercising selection pressures in favour of the early human evolutionary trajectory, and creating potentially attractive conditions for human settlement and dispersal.
Team members Robyn Inglis and Matt Meredith-Williams feature on the Archaeology Department's slot on Radio York Drive Time today at 1600. They will be talking about their research on the DISPERSE Project and how it links into the underwater work.
The DISPERSE team will be heading back to Saudi Arabia at the end of May for 2 weeks of fieldwork. There will be two components of this work, with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research ship Aegeo, to map the underwater landscape around the Farasan Islands. Nik Hausmann will also be heading to the Farasan to continue his research into shell seasonality.
The shell mounds of the Farasan Islands are amongst the most numerous in the world. These sites date to the mid-Holocene (around 5000BP), an interesting period in this part of the world. Better understanding these sites will help inform on what to look for and where to look for earlier evidence of coastal exploitation.
For preliminary results and dating please see the following papers, more in preparation:
Demarchi, B., Williams, M.G.M, Milner, N., Russell, N., Bailey, B., Penkman, K. (2010) Amino acid racemisation dating of marine shells: a mound of possibilities. Quaternary International.
Williams, M.G.M. (2010) Shell mounds of the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 40
The target of underwater work is the submerged landscape around the Farasan Islands, off the coast of Jizan. At present only clow resoution data on the bathymetry exists; the Aegeo cruise will use sonar and seismic surveys to map and interpret this landscape, taking sediment cores in areas of interest.
A combination of shallow and deep water diving are used to investigate promsing targets for evidence of prehistoric landscape use.
Winder, I.C., King, G.C.P., Deves, M. and Bailey, G.N. In Press. Complex topography and human evolution: the missing link. Antiquity.
Bailey, G.N., Meredith-Williams, M.G., Alsharekh, A.M. In Press. Shell mounds of the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia. In G. Bailey, K. Hardy, A. Camara (Eds) Shell Energy: Mollusc Shells as Coastal Resources. Oxford, OxBow.
Bailey, G., King, G., DEVÈS, M., Hausmann, N. B. M. J., Inglis, R. H., Meredith-Williams, M. G., Momber, G. L., Winder, I. C., Alsharekh, A. & Sakellariou, D. 2012. DISPERSE: Dynamic Landscapes, Coastal Environments and Human Dispersals. Antiquity Project Gallery 334
Bailey, G.N. 2012. Dynamic landscapes and human evolution: the last frontier of archaeological discovery. Science and Technology II: 1–2. PanEuropean Networks.