Working with the Saudi Geological Survey

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Paul Breeze (left) and Dr Huw Groucutt prepare for a flight over remote parts of the Nefud in the Saudi Geological Survey helicopter

Collaboration between the Palaeodeserts Project and the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) continued on the field trip to the Nefud desert of northern Saudi Arabia in January 2016, with SGS kindly offering the use of their helicopter to survey some of the remotest parts of the Nefud.

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Aerial view of the Nefud showing a major lake sediment outcrop testifying to much wetter episodes in the past

Access to parts of the desert which can only easily be reached by air gave us unprecedented access to palaeolakes (ancient lakes) deep in the desert, which were magnets for animals and early humans.

We are employing a variety of scientific techniques to date these lake sediments and are examining the archaeology and fossils that highlight the former exploitation of the lakes by prehistoric populations and animals. Analysis of these remote sites will provide important new information on climate change, the variety of ancient animals living in Arabia, how the environments and occupation of the Nefud have changed over prehistory, and the movement of early humans out of Africa.