The shell middens of the northern and western coasts of the Arabian Sea

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The shell middens of the northern and western coasts of the Arabian Sea

November 18 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm



The shell middens of the northern and western coasts of the Arabian Sea (Pakistan and Oman)

by Professor Paolo Biagi

The research carried out since the beginning of the 2000s in Sindh and Las Bela in Balochistan (Pakistan) have shown that shell middens do exist also along the northern coast of the Arabian Sea, a territory still nowadays very rich in fish resources. According to the classical authors, Las Bela was inhabited by groups of Oreitae fish-eaters, while Makran  was settled by tribes of Ichthyophagoi. The discoveries made from the 1980s onwards have greatly improved our knowledge of the prehistoric communities of fish-eaters who settled along the coasts of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabo/Persian Gulf between the Middle Holocene and the Bronze Age, at least as regards the Oman Peninsula and the United Arab Emirates. However, no tangible archaeological evidence of their presence had ever been reported from the northern coast of the Arabian Sea until the beginning of the 2000s, with the exception of those described from the coast of Makran. The first steps towards a wide scale interpretation of the problem were put forward ca a decade ago, following the discovery of the first shell middens on the shores of the Bay of Daun in Las Bela, followed by those around the dry basin of Lake Siranda. The first shell middens of the Oman Peninsula were discovered by chance on the cape of Ra’s al-Hamrā, Muscat, in 1970. The headland marks the southern end of the Batinah coast, a unique, highly productive marine ecosystem. Most of the Ra’s al-Hamrā middens were located on the flat limestone terrace that elongates south of the mouth of Wadi Aday whose freshwater supply favoured the formation of the Qurum mangrove swamp. This talk summarizes the data at our disposal regarding the peopling of the two coasts of the Arabian  Sea between the end of the 8th millennium BP and the Bronze Age, when a complex urban civilization made its appearance in the region. This overview discusses the problems regarding fishing during aceramic Neolithic and Bronze Age raised during almost fifty years of research, many of which are still partly unsolved. The project is Las Bela is still underway with the patronage and financial support of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI, Rome).

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The schedule for the evening if attending in person:

  • Refreshments for Fellows are served from 16.30 BST in the council room.
  • The meeting begins at 17.00 BST with the lecture starting at approximately 17.10 BST.
  • Lectures run for approximately 45min and are followed by a short Q&A.
  • Sherry is served in the Foyer following the lecture.

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  • The event will be live-streamed to YouTube here
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November 18
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
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020 7479 7080