Qatar: Evidence of the Palaeolithic Earliest People Revealed

Review by George Nash.

The visible prehistoric sites of the Arabian Peninsula are all too clear to see, with burial-ritual and settlement sites of the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and, in particular, Iron Age providing the most obvious presence. Less visible are those sites that date from earlier times. Recent fieldwork in the eastern part of neighbouring UAE has identified Palaeolithic flint tools that are similar in context to those found in Qatar. This material, along with evidence of personal adornment, has been found on relic land surfaces that were once occupied by hunter-gatherer communities of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic (an expanse of time covering at least 70,000 years). Much of the evidence of early modern human occupation in Qatar is distributed around its eastern and western coasts and within the southern area of the interior. It is more than probable that similarly dated material is present in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

This book is divided into English and Arabic sections, and is organised into a series of accessible chapters that provide the reader with an excellent introduction to the early prehistoric of the Qatar Peninsula and the neighbouring desert lands of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The opening chapters capture the politics, intrigue, and development of prehistoric studies in Qatar, which arguably starts with a Danish expedition in 1956 by the famous bog- body archaeologist P V Glob and his associate T G Bibby. A later expedition by Danish archaeologists in 1964 was the first to identify evidence of Palaeolithic occupation.

Following the Danish research and a series of French expeditions in Qatar, and an unfortunate hiatus in research that was to last for the next 30 years, Scott-Jackson and her team began to target undeveloped areas of Qatar in order to cement a plausible narrative for the early prehistory of the Qatar Peninsula, using a variety of hard-science archaeological techniques. These new investigations resulted in the discovery of many new sites, especially within the southern part of the country. The methodologies used by Scott-Jackson’s team also provided an essential palaeoenvironmental record, which reveals that the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula during Palaeolithic times was a far more green and lush environment than at present.

Scott-Jackson’s book provides the reader with an accessible and essential account of a little-known period of prehistory within a part of the world where current research is trying to establish the so-called ‘southern route’ that was taken by modern humans, some time before 40,000 years ago. The book, bilingual in format and lavishly illustrated, will be an invaluable introduction to scholars and interested readers alike. I will go as far as to say that this book will be an ideal introduction to any university course dealing with world prehistory and the movement of modern humans.

Qatar: Evidence of the Palaeolithic Earliest People Revealed, Julie Scott-Jackson, Archaeopress, £45 ISBN 978-1803270500.