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EcoAlert: Satellite Images Reveal an Ancient Network of Rivers in Arabian Desert



Satellite images have revealed that a network of ancient rivers once flowed  through the sands of the Arabian Desert, leading scientists to believe that the region experienced wetter periods in the past.
The images are the starting point for a major potentially ground-breaking research project led by the University of Oxford into human evolutionary heritage. The research team will look at how long-term climate change affected early humans and animals who settled or passed through and what responses determined whether they were able to survive or died out.

Until now this part of the world has been largely ignored by scholars despite its critical location as a bridge between Africa and Eurasia. In a project funded by the ERC (European Research Council), a multidisciplinary team of researchers will study the effects of environmental change in the Arabian Peninsula over the last two million years. The systematic study of the Pleistocene to Holocene periods will be unique in its length and level of detail.

Over the course of five years the researchers will study the landscape features and excavate sites of likely archaeological interest, using the network of water courses as a map. They will use the latest dating techniques to pinpoint the ages of fossils of animals, plants and different stone tool technologies and compare the similarities and differences displayed in the region’s rock art.

The team's main focus will be the Arabian Desert, but the work will also cover the wider Peninsula. One key question they will attempt to answer is when the first early modern humans are likely to have first arrived in the Arabian Peninsula from Africa and perhaps surrounding regions. They will also look for evidence that suggests how early modern humans were able to survive, or not, in arid and extreme conditions.



Project leader Professor Michael Petraglia, Co-Director of the Centre for Asian Archaeology at Oxford University's School of Archaeology, said: 'From NASA images (above) taken of the Arabian Desert we can see physical landscape features that are visible from space that denote a whole network of former river valleys and lake basins. These lines and dips in the sand provide us with a map of the region upon which we will focus our research activity. The presence of water is an accurate indicator of where early humans and animals migrated to or settled.

'The Arabian Peninsula has a wealth of archaeological sites and spectacular deposits of former rivers and lakes. Yet despite its significance as a bridge between two continents, surprisingly very little is known about its early prehistory. This project draws on many disciplines: the sum of which should reveal a hitherto untold but very important story about the effect of climate change on early humans.'

The researchers will identify key excavation sites, including sites where work has already been done, and where stone tools and the fossils of animals, such as wild cattle, have been found. The researchers will also conduct field studies in former lake basins, where fossils of fish of up to a metre long were discovered.

A variety of dating techniques will be used by the researchers to pinpoint the ages of fossils and stone tools to set out the chronologies of archaeological sites. Dating work on animal and faunal fossils could provide new information about possible food sources of early humans, as well as the timing of environmental changes.

The project will examine marine cores, caves, existing wide water wells and quarry pits to view the stratigraphy. They will also examine deposits between 30 to 60 metres deep to measure the effects of environmental change, observing any changes from plant fossils and rocks and strata indicating when the climate was wetter or drier.

The scientists will extract the DNA of animals derived from the Arabian Peninsula. The DNA acts as a molecular clock which can tell the researchers more about that animal's most recent common ancestor and when it is likely to have arrived. They will examine the DNA of a number of species from museum collections, such as ostrich, oryx, ibex, hyena, and honey badger to establish their origin, their demographic histories, and likely dispersal patterns.

The Daily Galaxy via  Oxford University


Why is the picture that is key to this article so small?

"... leading scientists to believe that the region experienced wetter periods in the past..."

You mean, kinda like a world-wide flood? Maybe there IS evidence out there [that they choose to ignore and cover up].

It did not say a flood, because there wasn't evidence of a flood. River valleys and lake basins would not be consistent with a massive flood.
Plus this is science, not science fiction.

It does help explain, though, the deep water erosion marks on the sphinx at Gizeh that Egyptologists try to pretend don't exist, but which according to some Egyptian texts, are much older than supposed. We have much yet to learn about humanity's real past, and will, if we can get past the reluctance of Egyptologists and archaeologists to admit that maybe they are wrong.

To All Flood Theorists:

All the Egyptologists I've read or heard speak on the sphinx agree that the erosion on the sphinx are the result of several thousand years of both sand erosion and water erosion (it does rain there occasionally). The thing is made of limestone, which isn't exactly resistant to erosion, particularly from water (unlike granite, limestone dissolves in water). I've never heard a respected Egyptologist deny the existence of water erosion on the sphinx. Crank theorists who ignore the bleedingly obvious (i.e. there is erosion on the spinx) don't count as Egyptologists, no matter what they print on their business cards.

Sorry, but evidence of "more water" somewhere is not evidence of a world-wide flood. Science has found evidence of world-wide events before (ever heard of the K-T boundary?) but there is absolutely no evidence for a world-wide flood. Frankly there isn't enough water on the earth to make that happen, even if all the polar ice were to melt.

A much more likely source of the worldwide flood myths are the flooding of the Black Sea, which seems to have happened around 5500 years ago. It's still being debated, but at least there is some evidence to support the theory, which is better than the zero evidence of Noah and his two-by-two animals (hello, inbreeding - any cattle farmer can tell you that one male and one female are not a sufficient base of breeding stock).

Extraordinary claims (e.g. world-wide flood) requires extraordinary evidence. This isn't even circumstantial evidence of a world-wide flood. And there are enough devout followers of the world's religions toiling in geology (and other physical sciences) to quash the idea of some great conspiracy to suppress "the truth" about religion.

@Derick: You're a man after my own heart.

Be careful Derick, she judges on grammar. ;)

Smartypants, where have you been? I've missed you!

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