The Red Sea, Coastal Landscapes, and Hominin Dispersals

Geoff Bailey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The Red Sea has typically been viewed as a barrier to early human movement between Africa and Asia over the past 5 million years, and one that could be circumvented only through narrow exit points at either end, vulnerable to blockage by physical or climatic barriers (Fig. 1). It is one of several significant obstacles cutting across ‘savannahstan’ (Dennell and Roebroeks, 2005), a broad swathe of herbivore-rich savannah and grassy plains that began to extend over a vast area stretching from West Africa to China with climatic cooling from at least 2.5 Ma, and a key macro-environmental context for early hominin dispersal1. However, this concept of the Red Sea Basin as a barrier should not obscure the fact that its coastal regions also hold considerable potential attractions for early human settlement, especially under climatic conditions wetter than today, including a complex tectonic and volcanic topography not unlike that of the African Rift, capable of providing localized fertility for plant and animal life, tactical opportunities for pursuit of herbivores and protection from predators (King and Bailey, 2006), along with inshore and intertidal marine resources.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia
Subtitle of host publicationPaleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics
EditorsMichael D. Petraglia, Jeffrey I. Rose
Place of PublicationDordrecht; Heidelberg; London; New York
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789048127191
ISBN (Print)9789048127184
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
ISSN (Print)1877-9077


  • Bab al Mandab
  • Coasts
  • Farasan Islands
  • Marine Resources
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleoenvironment
  • Red Sea


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