Qatar: Archaeologists are using geophysical data to create three-dimensional images of former landscapes in the Middle East (ME). Out at sea they take core samples from the sea bed. Carbon dating can be obtained, and pollen counts give clues as to what plants were flourishing in the region many thousands of years ago, which is an indication of climate. This mass of information from both sea and land will all form part of the Qatar National Historic Environment Record.
Qatar is pioneering this kind of advanced research and when it is complete every archaeological and cultural site, both on land and under water, will be recorded. Even the maskar, the traditional stone fish traps found all around the coastline, are meticulously photographed and mapped. This is vital, when the country is developing so rapidly and new buildings and infrastructure, especially along the coast, will obliterate many ancient sites. In this way every site can be researched and recorded before the area is developed, according to Dr Richard Cuttler, Director of a team of archaeologists from the University of Birmingham, UK, now working with the Qatar Museums Authority on a project using remote sensing (RS) data.
This project aims to demonstrate how much the middle region has changed since early man first came into the area, and its impact on human life. Cuttler said that the changes in sea level and the impact that this has had on human occupation patterns only began to be understood around a century ago, when Clement Reid, a British geologist and paleobotanist, discovered submerged forests under the North Sea. In 1930 a harpoon was dredged up by a trawler which proved to be 14,000 years old, indicating that land that now lies deep under the ocean had once been dry terrain.
Here in the Gulf region, at the time of the last Ice Age so much water was locked up in the ice sheets that what is now the peninsula of Qatar was part of a vast plain stretching to Iran, broken by two large fresh-water lakes known as the central and western basins. The plain was watered by ancient rivers whose courses have been mapped by the team using remote sensing equipment. Around 12,000 years ago it is thought that the central basin flooded with sea water, followed a couple of thousand years later by the western basin, and what we now know as the Arabian Gulf was formed, said Dr Cuttler.