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At the Lake Edge: The Final Pleistocene in the Azraq Oasis

12th June 2008

Tobias Richter, Institute of Archaeology, UCL


Lecture abstract

Since 2005 excavations sponsored by the Palestine Exploration Fund have been carried out at the early Epipalaeolithic site of ‘Ayn Qasiyah in the Azraq Oasis of eastern Jordan by a team from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. Situated at the edge of a former final Pleistocene lake, research at Ayn Qasiyah has begun to provide crucial information on the use of the oasis during the Last Glacial Maximum and the settlement pattern of Epipalaeolithic groups in the Azraq Basin. Until recently the Azraq Oasis was a unique micro-environment that provided a rich locus of variable resources to human populations. A series of copious springs fed an extensive marsh- and wetland that provided an exceptional habitat for a diverse community of migratory birds and other wildlife. The combination of the abundant availability of water, plant and animal resources in one key location at the heart of a 12,000 square kilometer arid landscape represented a crucial focal point for human communities throughout the Epipalaeolithic. Previous research throughout the Azraq Basin has shown that the Epipalaeolithic witnessed an intensive occupation of the basin, exhibited by the mega-sites of Kharaneh IV and Wadi el-Jilat 6. Our new research at ‘Ayn Qasiyah helps to further expand our understanding of the overall settlement pattern in the Azraq Basin and provides some insights into the kinds of social interaction between the various communities using this area throughout the final Pleistocene.

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