F Rosa Rubicondior: Creationism in Crisis - How People Lived In Caves in Arabia Before, During And After Creationism's Mythical Genocidal Flood

Thursday 18 April 2024

Creationism in Crisis - How People Lived In Caves in Arabia Before, During And After Creationism's Mythical Genocidal Flood

The entrance to Umm Jirsan Cave.
Credit: Green Arabia Project
First evidence of human occupation in lava tube cave in Saudi Arabia – Griffith News

In a stunning, if incidental and unintentional, rebuttal of creationist mythology, a team of palaeontologists led by scientists from Grifith University' Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE), have uncovered evidence of human occupation of caves in Saudia Arabia about 10,000 - 3,500 years ago.

This, of course, as any creationist will pretend isn’t significant, means that humans were living in these caves from before 'Creation Week' right through the mythical global genocidal flood, and beyond, and were completely undisturbed by any of it.

What information do you have on the Umm Jirsan archaeological site in Arabia? Umm Jirsan is an archaeological site located in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This site is significant for its Neolithic-era remains, which provide insights into the prehistoric human occupation of the region.

Here's some general information about Umm Jirsan:
  1. Location: Umm Jirsan is situated in the central part of Saudi Arabia, in the Najd region. It lies approximately 100 kilometers southeast of Riyadh, the capital city.
  2. Age: The site dates back to the Neolithic period, which spans roughly from around 10,000 to 4,500 years ago. This era marks a crucial period in human history characterized by the transition from hunting and gathering to farming and settlement.
  3. Excavations: Archaeological excavations at Umm Jirsan have revealed evidence of ancient human habitation, including structures, artifacts, and burials. These excavations have provided valuable insights into the lifeways, technologies, and social organization of Neolithic societies in the Arabian Peninsula.
  4. Artifacts: Among the artifacts discovered at Umm Jirsan are pottery fragments, stone tools, and animal bones. These artifacts offer clues about the daily activities, subsistence strategies, and material culture of the people who inhabited the site.
  5. Importance: Umm Jirsan is significant for understanding the early history of human settlement in Arabia and the broader region. The site contributes to our knowledge of the Neolithic period and the processes of cultural development, adaptation, and interaction during this time.
  6. Research: Ongoing research and analysis continue to shed light on Umm Jirsan and its significance within the context of prehistoric archaeology in Arabia. Researchers use various scientific methods, such as radiocarbon dating and spatial analysis, to interpret the archaeological data and reconstruct the past.
Overall, Umm Jirsan stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Arabian Peninsula and the deep history of human occupation in the region. It also shows the importance of the Arabian Peninsula as a staging post in the migration of modern hominins out of Africa and into Eurasia and beyond.
These findings are the result of the first systematic analysis of the evidence to be found in the system of caves of volcanic origin known as lava tubes at Umm Jirsan, as described in the team's open access paper in PLOS ONE and in a Griffith University news release:
Recent strides in interdisciplinary archaeological research in Arabia have unveiled new insights into the evolution and historical development of regional human populations, as well as the dynamic patterns of cultural change, migration, and adaptation to environmental fluctuations.

Despite the challenges posed by limited preservation of archaeological assemblages and organic remains in arid environments, these discoveries are reshaping our understanding of the region’s rich cultural heritage.

The excavation at Umm Jirsan.
Credit: Green Arabia Project

One such breakthrough led by Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE), in collaboration with international partners, comes from the exploration of underground settings, including caves and lava tubes, which have remained largely untapped reservoirs of archaeological abundance in Arabia.

Through meticulous excavation and analysis, researchers have uncovered a wealth of evidence at Umm Jirsan, spanning from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age periods (~10,000-3,500 years ago).

Our findings at Umm Jirsan provide a rare glimpse into the lives of ancient peoples in Arabia, revealing repeated phases of human occupation and shedding light on the pastoralist activities that once thrived in this landscape. This site likely served as a crucial waypoint along pastoral routes, linking key oases and facilitating cultural exchange and trade.

Dr Mathew Stewart, co-senior author
Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution
Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
Rock art and faunal records attest to the pastoralist use of the lava tube and surrounding areas, painting a vivid picture of ancient lifeways.

Depictions of cattle, sheep, goat and dogs corroborate the prehistoric livestock practices and herd composition of the region.

Isotopic analysis of animal remains indicates that livestock primarily grazed on wild grasses and shrubs, while humans maintained a diet rich in protein, with a notable increase in the consumption of C3 plants over time, suggesting the emergence of oasis agriculture.

The striking entrance to Umm Jirsan Cave.
Credit: Green Arabia Project

While underground localities are globally significant in archaeology and Quaternary science, our research represents the first comprehensive study of its kind in Saudi Arabia. These findings underscore the immense potential for interdisciplinary investigations in caves and lava tubes, offering a unique window into Arabia’s ancient past.

Professor Michael Petraglia, co-senior author Director, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution
Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
The research at Umm Jirsan underscores the importance of collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to archaeological inquiry and highlights the significance of Arabia’s archaeological heritage on the global stage.

Researchers involved in this study work in close partnership with the Heritage Commission, Saudi Ministry of Culture, and the Saudi Geological Survey. Additional partners include King Saud University and key institutions in the UK, the USA, and Germany.

The study ‘First evidence for human occupation of a lava tube in Arabia: the archaeology of Umm Jirsan Cave and its surroundings, northern Saudi Arabia’ has been published in PLOS ONE.
For more detail and background, see the abstract and introduction to the team's open access paper:

Recent advances in interdisciplinary archaeological research in Arabia have focused on the evolution and historical development of regional human populations as well as the diverse patterns of cultural change, migration, and adaptations to environmental fluctuations. Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of cultural developments such as the emergence and lifeways of Neolithic groups has been hindered by the limited preservation of stratified archaeological assemblages and organic remains, a common challenge in arid environments. Underground settings like caves and lava tubes, which are prevalent in Arabia but which have seen limited scientific exploration, offer promising opportunities for addressing these issues. Here, we report on an archaeological excavation and a related survey at and around Umm Jirsan lava tube in the Harrat Khaybar, north-western Saudi Arabia. Our results reveal repeated phases of human occupation of the site ranging from at least the Neolithic through to the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age. Pastoralist use of the lava tube and surrounding landscape is attested in rock art and faunal records, suggesting that Umm Jirsan was situated along a pastoral route linking key oases. Isotopic data indicates that herbivores primarily grazed on wild grasses and shrubs rather than being provided with fodder, while humans had a diet consistently high in protein but with increasing consumption of C3 plants through-time, perhaps related to the emergence of oasis agriculture. While underground and naturally sheltered localities are globally prominent in archaeology and Quaternary science, our work represents the first such combined records for Saudi Arabia and highlight the potential for interdisciplinary studies in caves and lava tubes.


Fig 6. Species identifiable in the rock art of Umm Jirsan.
(A) sheep (Panel 8); (B) goat and two stick figures with tools on their belts (Panel 8); (C) long-horned cattle (Panel 6), photo enhanced using the ybk setting on DStretch; (D) ibex with ribbed horns and coat markings (Panel 4). Bottom: tracings of examples A-D.
Fig 7. Rock art recorded at Umm Jirsan.
Top left: Panel 8, showing a mixed herd of sheep and goats as well as an ibex and several human figures. Bottom left: Photo of Panel 8 modified using the ybk setting on DStretch. Two engravings of dogs are shown in the inset and indicated with a circle on the panel. Both dogs are extremely simplified but show the characteristic curled up tail. Top right: close up of Panel 9, highlighting the difference in rock varnish, likely caused by water running down the rock face. Bottom right: close up of Panel 9 enhanced using the ybk setting on DStretch.

Intensified field research in northern Arabia over the last decade has highlighted the richness and diversity of the region’s archaeological and palaeontological records. Human occupation in northern Arabia during the Pleistocene was sporadic and seemingly linked to periods of improved climate, though by the Holocene people were able to more consistently settle the region through dry intervals [1, 2]. The proliferation of archaeological sites in the Holocene has been interpreted as reflecting population growth in the region, spurred by the onset of the Holocene Humid Period (HHP) at around 10,600 years before present (BP). This was followed by the introduction of domestic livestock, and later by the development of water-harnessing technologies (e.g., wells, dams) and oasis agriculture in the Bronze Age, when arid conditions returned [2]. Many of the features that define the Neolithic elsewhere, such as sedentism, pottery, and agriculture, are notably absent from northern Arabia until the Bronze Age. As such, we follow previous works [3] in classifying the ‘pre-Neolithic’ as the period preceding the introduction of livestock (before ca. 8,000 years BP) but for which there are apparent cultural links to Neolithic groups in the Levant, and the subsequent ‘Neolithic’ as the period following the introduction of livestock (after ca. 8,000 years BP) and characterized by highly mobile herders that retain hunting in their cultural subsistence practices.

Evidence for pre-Neolithic occupation is recorded in the rock art of northern Arabia. This includes hunting scenes superimposed by depictions of livestock herds, as well as reference to the HHP in the depiction of fauna (e.g., lesser kudu, African wild ass) that today do not inhabit true deserts [46]. Pre-Neolithic artefacts have also been recovered, though such findings are restricted to just a handful of sites. In the Jubbah Basin, lithics with similarities to the Levantine Geometic Kebaran were found deposited on sediments dated to ca. 12,250 years BP at Al-Rabyah [7]. However, detailed geochronological analysis suggests that this may reflect a minimum age [8], with similar assemblages in the Levant dating to ca. 18,000–16,250 years BP [9]. Assemblages with similarities to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN; dated to ca. 12,175–8,450 years BP in the Levant) have been documented at Jebel Qattar 101 [10] and Jebel Oraf [11] with finds at the former putatively associated with an adjacent palaeolake dated to 8,978–7,900 years BP. Just south of the Nefud Desert at the recently discovered site of Sahout, a backed bladelet of a type common in the Levantine Natufian (where this period dates to ca. 14,900–11,750 years BP), albeit also known from the PPNA (ca. 12,175–11,000 years BP), was found [12]. The presence of archaeological deposits at the site dating to the Neolithic, but also to earlier periods (ca. 13,400–8,800 years BP), and their association with large naturalistic camel engravings, supports earlier hypotheses that this rock art tradition may pre-date the Neolithic [12].

Neolithic occupations in northern Arabia are better represented. This includes a rich rock art record in which the herding of cattle and caprids is commonly depicted [4, 13]. Hearth sites are also a common feature of the early Neolithic landscape of northern Arabia, often occurring in high numbers alongside ancient lake deposits. For example, at Jebel Oraf, 170 hearths have been documented, the majority of which date to roughly between 7,300 and 7,000 cal. years BP, but also extending up until the recent period, indicating a recurrent and long-term use of the basin [3]. At Alshabah in the western Nefud Desert, 125 hearths were documented, with the dating of three of these producing ages between ca. 7,300 and 6,500 cal. years BP [14]. The abundant rock art, hearth deposits, and associated wild (e.g., gazelle, ostrich) and domesticated faunal remains (e.g., cattle, caprids) suggest that regions like the Jubbah and Alshabah basins were important foci in the landscape for early pastoralists and their herds.

More recently, efforts to document, excavate, and date the plethora of megalithic stone structures that can be found scattered across the deserts have revealed that these too formed part of the pre-Neolithic, Neolithic, and later period landscapes of northern Arabia [1522]. Of these, the famous hunting mega-traps—commonly known as ‘desert kites’—may be the oldest, as suggested by recent work in southern Jordan indicating their construction by as early as ca. 10,000 years BP [2325]. Although very few of these structures have been directly dated, it appears that they may have been built and in use for millennia [26, 27], including into historic times, as implied in early ethnographic accounts that recall gazelle hunts in Jordan and Syria seemingly employing such structures [26, 28, 29].

The next oldest structures appear to be the circular dwellings with upright stones and the large rectangular structures called ‘mustatils’, both dating from around 7,200 years BP [16, 17, 20]. The latter appears to have had a ritualistic purpose, as suggested by the intentional placement of selected wild and domestic animal remains—namely bucrania—as well as orthostats and small fires within the structure’s chambers [17, 30]. More than their ritual purpose, it has been suggested that mustatils were important for maintaining socio-economic and cultural links between families and the wider community through activities such as feasting, as well as having functioned as territorial markers [21].

Another impressive feature of the region are the ‘funerary avenues’ which comprise long-distance pathways flanked by pendant-shaped structures that radiate out from major oases, and which may date from as early as ca. 5,600 years BP [31]. The fact that these ‘avenues’ link together major water sources, while the earlier mustatils are often oriented towards water, suggests that these stone structures may have played an important role in pastoralist social, economic, and cultural lifeways over millennia. In addition to these, a variety of other structures such as trapezoidal platforms [19] and thousands of burial cairns have also been documented [16, 32].

Taken together, these findings have highlighted the dynamism of the Holocene—and possibly terminal Pleistocene—archaeological record of northern Arabia. Despite these efforts, however, the exact timing and nature of the various occupations in northern Arabia, and their connections with groups in the nearby Levant, remain poorly understood. A principal reason for this relates to the poor preservation of organic remains (e.g., bone, pollen, phytoliths) in arid environments [33, 34]. This is well illustrated at the Oraf 2 hearth site, where of the >1800 bone fragments less than 1% were identifiable to a taxon [3], and where almost no macrobotanical remains were recovered despite strong use-wear evidence for the on-site processing of plant remains [33]. Wind erosion, heat exposure, and high amplitude temperature fluctuations all serve to degrade and fragment bones and other organic remains in Arabia [34]. Such processes are even problematic for remains interred within structures. However, some recent excavations have uncovered exceptionally well-preserved faunal remains due to their positioning under rocky outcrops that serve to protect the remains from the elements [17, 30].

To that end, our fieldwork was redirected to investigate caves and other underground settings where organic remains have a better chance of survival. Despite long-standing explorations of caves and lava tubes in northern Arabia [3538], often for their potential as tourism show caves, none have been subjected to systematic archaeological survey or investigation. Here, we report our work on the Umm Jirsan lava tube (25.5888 N, 39.7570 E; WGS84), approximately 125 km north of Medina. Umm Jirsan Cave represents both one of the first documented underground archaeological sites in the interior of Arabia and one of the few sites in Saudi Arabia that has been dated to the early to mid-Holocene (Figs 1 and 2).
Fig 1. Map of northern Arabia and key sites. (A) Map showing the location of Umm Jirsan and key sites mentioned in the text, as well as the range of mustatils and desert kites [16, 17, 20, 24, 27, 39] and (B) pendant tombs (black lines and dots) in the Harrat Khaybar [31]. (C) Location of newly identified archaeological sites are shown in the inset: (A) stone structures (25.6087 N, 39.7502 E, 25.6020 N, 39.7289 E, and 25.5728 N, 39.7330 E); (B) ‘bow-tie’ shaped structure (25.6091 N, 39.7470 E); (C) lava tube collapse with rock art (25.5879 N, 39.7702 E); and (D) Umm Jirsan D area. Made with Copernicus COP-DEM 30 m and “Sentinel-2 cloudless—https://s2maps.edu by EOX IT Services GmBH (contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020)”, under CC BY 4.0.

Fig 2. Photographs of the Umm Jirsan Cave and interior sections of the lava tube. Top left, looking out of entrance to Umm Jirsan (Trench 1 just out of view on right). Top right, inside lava tube beyond Trench 1. Middle left, another example of a lava tube near Umm Jirsan. Middle right, Jebel Abyad area with obsidian clasts and lithics, beneath obsidian outcrops. Bottom, simple plan of the Umm Jirsan lava tube system with red star indicating the location of the Trench 1 excavation [modified from 40].

Harrat Khaybar and Umm Jirsan Cave

Umm Jirsan is located in the Harrat Khaybar, a volcanic area comprised of harrats (singular: harra [حَرَّة], Arabic plural: harrat) in north-western Saudi Arabia. Early work by Gilmore and colleagues [41, p. 13] reported archaeology ranging from the Lower Palaeolithic through to the Neolithic, the latter including “tabular flint scrapers, blades, bifacial retouch, ground stone, trianguloids… and “T” shaped notched tools.” More recently, aerial and remote sensing work has documented hundreds of Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic structures [22, 42, 43]. This work has demonstrated the rich archaeological record of the area. However, with only limited excavations and absolute dating, it has remained challenging to build a detailed view on human prehistory in the area.

Annually the area receives little rainfall (<100 mm), soil cover is sparse, and vegetation consists mostly of xeromorphic dwarf shrublands [44]. Despite the limited rainfall, the harrats often have well-developed wadi systems that feed into major oases, promoting aquifer recharge and the activation of springs [18]. During the more humid periods of the Pleistocene and Holocene, depressions bordering the lava fields would have boasted freshwater ponds and lakes, generating wetlands along these drainage courses that would have promoted vegetation growth, increased biodiversity, and facilitated human and animal movements [45].

Umm Jirsan is currently the longest reported lava tube in Arabia in terms of the horizontal length of passages, at 1481 metres (m), and has a typical passage height of 8–12 m and maximum passage width of 45 m [36]. The lava tube consists of three segments separated by two large collapses. Previously, entry into the cave was rather difficult, but in 2017 a wall was built by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage around the main collapse entrance and a large staircase inserted. From this collapse, the huge western entrance leads to a large passage, at the end of which the passage rises and then soon becomes blocked with boulders.

Here, and elsewhere throughout Umm Jirsan, massive caches of bone can be found, and we previously reported on the excavation of one such cache located in the back chamber of Area A (Fig 2) [40]. Taphonomic and ethological analysis revealed that the Area A bone assemblage is the product of striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) bone accumulating and denning behaviours. The material is exceptionally well-preserved and preliminary radiocarbon dating revealed that the fossils date as far back as 7,000 cal. years BP. From the excavation, remains of microfauna (e.g., lizards, birds, hare, rock hyrax), carnivores (e.g., wolf, hyena), various ungulates (e.g., gazelle, caprid, cattle, camel, and equids), and two human cranial fragments were recovered, the latter likely resulting from striped hyena’s ability to loot human grave sites. In addition to these two specimens, seven human cranial fragments were recovered from elsewhere in Umm Jirsan: four from the Area A front chamber; one from nearby Trench 1 in Area C; and another further along the eastern passage between Area C and Area D (Fig 2) [see 40].

The eastern passage from the main collapse entrance is also very large, around ten metres high and 30 metres wide. Various circular stone structures—as well as apparent rectangular structures and a stone wall found elsewhere at Umm Jirsan—attest to human use of the lava tube at some point in the past (S9 Fig in S1 File) [36]. Here, we report on a second excavation undertaken in the eastern passage of the lava tube, supplemented with the discovery of lithic artefacts and rock art in the surrounding region, as well as isotopic data obtained from human and faunal remains recovered from throughout Umm Jirsan.

The fact that these early modern humans lived in these caves in the Arabian Peninsula from before creationism’s alleged 'Creation Week', through their mythical genocidal flood and continued living there up to the time when creationism's myths were being made up, as though nothing untoward had happened, should be enough to convince honest creationists that there is something wrong with their mythology. The problem was that the people who made up the myths knew nothing of the people and what they were doing about 750 miles to the south-east, so they don't get a mention in any of the stories.

However, it's part of the creationist cult that no evidence, no matter how compelling, will induce them to even consider being wrong, let alone change their minds, so the task now is to find a way to dismiss the evidence.

Fortunately for creationists, they are well rehearsed in that task, having been trained in it by the frauds who lead the cult, so should have a pre-prepared list of fallacies, false claims and lies they can draw on.

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