Middle to Late Quaternary palaeolandscapes of the central Azraq Basin, Jordan: Deciphering discontinuous records of human-environment dynamics at the arid margin of the Levant

Publication Name

Quaternary International


The Azraq oasis in the Eastern Desert of Jordan has produced considerable stone artefacts attributed to the early Palaeolithic, yet relatively few data are available regarding the chronology and palaeoenvironmental contexts of the remains. In this study, we present stratigraphic, sedimentological, and micropalaeontological analyses of the Late Acheulean site SM1 located within the former Shishan Marsh, which we combine with geochronological and sedimentological data from 13 neighbouring geological exposures to reconstruct landscape evolution at the western margin of the Shishan Marsh. We then discuss the Late Quaternary palaeolandscapes of the Greater Azraq Oasis Area over the past c. 350 ka. Our work demonstrates that the central Azraq Basin experienced three local wetting-drying cycles since the late Middle Pleistocene that would have dramatically shifted the quantity and distribution of freshwater resources, ranging from expansive wetland landscapes to desert refugia characterised by isolated spring pools—changes that would have significantly impacted the mobility decisions and settlement patterns of Palaeolithic inhabitants. Our study highlights that developing long-term records of human-environment dynamics in arid environments requires a mosaic approach to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction that is nested within a well-developed understanding of landscape evolution.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft



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