The multi-disciplinary search for underwater archaeology in the southern Red Sea

Garry Momber, Dimitris Sakellariou, Grigoris Rousakis, Geoff Bailey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


During the height of the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, the sea-level was 120-130 m lower, making movement out of Africa into Arabia relatively easy. The Hanish Sill at the southern end of the Red Sea would only have been a few metres deep, less than 10 km wide and interspersed with small islands. Extensive evidence of archaeological artefacts dating to the Middle Palaeolithic has been found on the southern Arabian Peninsula demonstrating an earlier hominin presence. These movements might well have been facilitated by former periods of low sea level, as for the last million years or so, sea levels have averaged 40–60 m lower than today. These were times when larges areas of continental shelf around the Farasan Islands would have been exposed as a terrestrial landscape, providing a coastal environment that would have been attractive for animals and humans. This paper looks at a series of fieldwork projects that have helped characterise the submerged landscape and assess the potential for human occupation of the drowned lands around the Farasan Islands. Significant submerged wave-cut notches, platforms and lacustrine features were recorded, evidence for tectonic realignments was identified and areas with the potential for human occupation were investigated. The fieldwork has provided new information on the nature of the drowned landscape, characterised potential sites of human occupation and identified the challenges that need to be addressed by archaeologists as the investigations continue.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeological Setting, Palaeoenvironment and Archaeology of the Red Sea
EditorsNajeeb Rasul, Stewart Ian
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319994086
ISBN (Print)9783319994079
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2019
EventSaudi Geological Survey Red Sea Workshop - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Duration: 14 Feb 201617 Feb 2016


WorkshopSaudi Geological Survey Red Sea Workshop
Country/TerritorySaudi Arabia


  • Maritime archaeology
  • Submerged cultural landscapes
  • Farasan Islands
  • Shell middens
  • Palaeolithic
  • Diving
  • Geophysical survey

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