Coastlines, submerged landscapes, and human evolution: The Red Sea Basin and the Farasan Islands

Geoff N. Bailey, Nic C. Flemming, Geoffrey C.P. King, Kurt Lambeck, Garry Momber, Lawrence J. Moran, Abdullah Al-Sharekh, Claudio Vita-Finzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


We examine some long-standing assumptions about the early use of coastlines and marine resources and their contribution to the pattern of early human dispersal, and focus on the southern Red Sea Basin and the proposed southern corridor of movement between Africa and Arabia across the Bab al-Mandab Straits. We reconstruct relative sea levels in light of isostatic and tectonic effects, and evaluate their paleogeographical impact on the distribution of resources and human movement. We conclude that the crossing of the Bab al-Mandab posed little significant or long-lasting physical or climatic barrier to human transit during the Pleistocene and that the emerged continental shelf during periods of low sea level enhanced the possibilities for human settlement and dispersal around the coastlines of the Arabian Peninsula. We emphasize the paleogeographical and paleoenvironmental significance of Pleistocene sea-level change and its relationship with changes in paleoclimate, and identify the exploration of the submerged continental shelf as a high priority for future research. We conclude with a brief description of our strategy for underwater work in the Farasan Islands and our preliminary results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-160
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Paleoclimate
  • Sea-level change
  • Shell mounds
  • Tectonics
  • Underwater archaeology


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