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2017-09-14 16:32:37   •   ID: 1659

Crossing to Arabia: Bifacial MSA-Foliates from Central Yemen

Figure 1
The logical passage from Africa to Eurasia by Homo sapiens is either the “Levantine corridor” along the Mediterranean sea or the narrow crossing between Yemen and Djibouti, called the Bab al- Mandeb Strait (the “Arabian corridor”).

During the last years, similarities between the MSA record in East Africa / Egypt and in Arabia are used to reconstruct "Out of Africa" events via the "Arabian corridor". The degree to which lithic artifacts can actually help in tracing migrations in general – and early dispersal of modern humans from Africa to Eurasia in particular – is an open debate.

Recent studies emphasize that a major problem facing such approaches is the fact that similarities in material culture between different areas can arise by three principle pathways: convergence (independent invention; similar local adaptations), diffusion (movement of ideas and objects; cultural exchange) or dispersal (movement of people).

Small bifacial foliates with flat, invasive retouch are a common thread throughout the East African Middle Stone Age. From a technical point of view, these industries use discoid-, Levallois-, and occasionally Nubian-Levallois core methods

Surf the Blog for East Africa: here 1135 , here: 2021 , here 1613 , here: 1668 and here 1018 .

There are several lines of evidence, that Homo Sapiens may have crossed the Bab al- Mandeb Strait during OIS5/6 and 3.

  • mtDNA study of haplogroup M indicates that the Arabian Corridor may have served as the primary route of dispersal out of Africa during OIS 6.


  • Archaeological investigation at Asfet, along the southern edge of the Gulf of Zula (Red Sea coast of Eritrea) has recorded a surface MSA assemblage. It shows prepared core and blade technologies, the production of points (triangular, perforators and small bifaces) and various retouched tools mainly on local raw material sources, displaying a high degree of similarity with both East African and Arabian MSA sites .


  • Recently Bir Khasfa, a surface scatter of stone artifacts on the Nejd Plateau in Oman has been described, perfectly fitting into the “Out of Africa by the Arabian corridor” hypothesis. Most of the artefacts found are bifacial foliates and preforms. Bifacial preforms are also present at Jabal Ardif, 100 km southwest of Bir Khasfa. Recently an even more “archaic” Paleolithic toolkit at the Jebel Faya archaeological site in the United Arab Emirates was published and dated to 100- 125 k.a BP.


  • Rose et al. report the discovery of a buried site and more than 100 new surface scatters in the Dhofar region of Oman belonging to the late Nubian Complex. Two optically stimulated luminescence age estimates from the open-air site of Aybut Al Auwal place the Nubian Complex in Dhofar at  ca. 106,000 years ago, providing archaeological evidence for the presence of a distinct northeast African Middle Stone Age technocomplex in southern Arabia sometime in the first half of Marine Isotope Stage 5.

  • The discovery of Nubian technology at the Al-Kharj 22 site in central Arabia was reported. The discovery of this site increases the complexity of the Arabian MSA record and suggests new dynamics of population movements between the southern and central regions of the Peninsula


  • Finally the MIS 5c assemblages at Katoati represent in the Thar Desert is the earliest securely dated Middle Palaeolithic occupation of South Asia. It seems to be possible, that the Nubian core technology is an indicator of the human exodus out of Africa.


  • The bifacial Foliates shown here were found with other artifacts during a geological prospection in central Yemen (GPS coordinates upon request) and have their exact counterparts at Gadometta, Site ETH-72-8 B (Wendorf and Schild 1974).

    These findings may further substantiate the Arabian corridor hypothesis by spatial bridging the MSA at the Horn of Africa and the MSA with foliates in Oman.