Forgotten Islands of the Past: The Archaeology of the Northern Coast of the Arabian Sea

The author, who has been working in the larger region for decades exploring the long history of human habitation and industry going back tens of thousands of years, turns his attention to the geographic changes in the Indus delta region through the Bronze Age and what recent work shows us were the curious "islands" that once existed in lower Sindh (Dholavira, in Gujarat, is another example of such a later settlement). The discussion points to the continuous changes that befell the area, and their intersection with human activity.

Dr. Biagi's summary describes the project and questions succintly: "The Indus Delta plays an important role in the archaeology of the northern coast of the Arabian Sea. Little was known of this region until a few decades ago. The first surveys were carried out in the 1970s and were resumed by the present author in the 2010s. They have shown the great potential of the area for the interpretation of sea-level rise and its related human settlement between the beginning of the Holocene and the Hellenistic period. In this territory, several limestone terraces rise from the alluvial plain of the River Indus, which were islands in prehistoric and early historic times. Many archaeological artefacts, along with marine and mangrove shells, have been recovered from their surface and radiocarbon dated. These discoveries help us to follow the events that took place in the region in well-defined periods and interpret some aspects of the prehistoric coastal settlement in relation to the advance of the Indus Fan and the retreat of the Arabian Sea. The following questions are addressed in this paper: who settled these islands, when and why? During which prehistoric periods were mangrove and marine environments exploited? And what were the cultural characteristics of the communities that seasonally or permanently settled some of the present ‘rocky outcrops’?"

Another important contribution – based on recent research – to understanding the diverse, changing eco-systems in and around the ancient Indus civilization.

Image: Distribution map of the sites reported in this paper: as-Sabiyah (Kuwait) (n. 1), Ra’s Dah, Masirah (Oman) (n. 2), Kuria Muria Islands (Oman) (n. 3), Lake Siranda (Balochistan, Pakistan) (n. 4), Lower Sindh sites (n. 5), and Dholavira (Gujarat, India) (n. 6) (top).