7. Conclusions

The addition of c.1200 prehistoric shell midden sites on the west coast of the southern Red Sea and c.3000 on the east coast is a significant contribution to the archaeological record in the region. Although many of these sites will need ground-truthing, they demonstrate that the potential for prehistoric archaeology in the region is high, building on work previously undertaken.

We conclude that sea journeys were both feasible and undertaken from at least 6500 cal BP. We also conclude that crossings of the Red Sea were possible and likely undertaken, but cannot yet prove this with direct evidence in this study. We further conclude that the time depth of sea travel may go back to earlier periods of sea level, when coastal sites could have existed but are now hidden, evidence for which is being sought as part of the DISPERSE Project. This article raises questions for the future about the frequency and regularity of sea crossings.

The methodologies employed on the Farasan Islands to locate shell midden sites have been shown to work in some areas of the mainland (Meredith-Williams et al. 2014). Although the methods may not be as conclusive in every setting, it is likely that they could be successfully adapted (such as through high-resolution false colour image manipulation) and employed in other arid and semi-arid coastal areas, particularly around the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere in the world.

This research demonstrates that there is strong archaeological potential in the southern Red Sea, and that there is a significant prehistoric coastal archaeology element that demands future investigation.