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3.12 - Arabia

from VII. - Western and Central Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2014

Lloyd Weeks
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Colin Renfrew
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Arabia covers an area in excess of 2.5 million sq km. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, on the south by the Arabian Sea and on the east by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Arabia’s northern boundary is less clear-cut, its arid landscape merging into the Mesopotamian alluvium and the Syrian Desert. This chapter focuses exclusively upon the prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula, that is, the modern countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Yemen, in the period from the Early Holocene to the 1st millennium bce.

Geography and Climate

The Arabian Peninsula displays significant geographical variability that was fundamental to prehistoric human settlement in the region. The peninsula contains a number of highland areas, including the Western Escarpment or ‘Asir Mountains running parallel to the Red Sea coast of Arabia and their continuation – the Yemen Highlands – which reach elevations in excess of 3600 masl and are cut by valleys draining to the southern and western coasts of Yemen and to the interior desert of the Ramlat as-Sab’atayn. In Southeast Arabia, the 600 km-long arc of the Al-Hajjar Mountains reaches 2980 masl at the Jebel Akhdar. Away from the mountainous highlands, the interior of Arabia is characterised by a series of major deserts which cover roughly one-third of the peninsula, including the stony Harra and the sandy Great Nafud deserts in the north and the great sand sea of the Rub’ al-Khali in the south. The general aridity of the region is reflected in the fact that modern Arabia has no permanent lakes or rivers. Modern rainfall varies substantially with topography and latitude.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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  • Arabia
  • Edited by Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge, Paul Bahn
  • Book: The Cambridge World Prehistory
  • Online publication: 05 August 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHO9781139017831.097
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  • Arabia
  • Edited by Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge, Paul Bahn
  • Book: The Cambridge World Prehistory
  • Online publication: 05 August 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHO9781139017831.097
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  • Arabia
  • Edited by Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge, Paul Bahn
  • Book: The Cambridge World Prehistory
  • Online publication: 05 August 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHO9781139017831.097
Available formats
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