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Mammoths as rock art and an Arabian Gulf hypothesis

14 February 2011

National Geographic News February 10th, 2011, has a story on the discovery of rock art in Utah that depicts a mammoth (see www.stonepages.com/news/archives/004237.html ). The engraving was found on a cliff face and appears to have been carefully rendered – it showed the perfect mammoth domed head, long tusks and long trunk. In England the periodic digging out of mammoth tusks in the 17th and 18th centuries led antiquarians to explain them as the teeth of giants – getting the idea of giants from the Bible. Native Americans, on the other hand, thought they were the molars of animals that burrowed under the ground – as they were invariably found sticking out of the earth. In the engraving, as it was so accurate, we can safely assumed that mammoths were part of the fauna in North America when it was executed.

The Arabian Gulf was the cradle of civilisation, it is being alleged by an archaeologist at Birmingham University – but quite what he thinks civilisation was in the context of this claim is less certain. Dr Jeffrey Rose says the Straits of Hormuz, at the head of the Gulf, held back the waters of the ocean – and when it was breached, at around 6000BC, water gushed over a waterfall, or series of waterfalls, as a result of rising sea levels (that had been interminably creaping up on the Straits of Hormuz for the previous 10 or 12 thousand years). However, later he says the sea bed was in the Pleistocene and early Holocene a fertile plain with lakes and rivers, including the Euphrates and Tigris, joined together, that emptied into the ocean at … the Straits of Hormuz. Now, the contradiction is obvious but I'm sure the mistake is in the transmission by the news agency – but it does illustrate a possible misconception. Did the Arabian Gulf fill up with water as a result of rising sea levels as a result of melting ice sheets, or was there an adjustment in the geoid as a result of a change in the axis of rotation, causing sea levels very rapidly to find new parameters. We know that the plain was flooded around 6000BC – at the same time the North Sea basin was flooded and a large land mass in SE Asia was swampled, the islands of Indonesia representing the highest ground of the former extensive continental shelf system. At the same time the east coast of South America was suddenly elevated – including Lake Titicaca, which had been a coastal lagoon. None of this is mentioned by National Geographic – and that is to be expected. Dr Rose however thinks that what is now the sea bed of the Gulf may once have harboured a thriving human community – with direct links to the Out of Africa paradigm. Perhaps it did but why should it have been the cradle of civilisation? (see www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=415779&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16

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