Kira Raith

Thesis title: Quaternary climate change and landscape evolution of Southeast Arabia

Start year: 2017


Supervisor(s): Professor Adrian Parker, Dr Ash Parton, Dr Gareth Preston

Research topic

Influence of climate change on early human dispersal is the subject of high academic interest. My PhD project investigates the palaeoenvironmental and hydrological change along two major Wadi systems (Wadi Dhaid and Wadi Iddayyah) in the northern United Arab Emirates (UAE). These wadis connect the well-stratified archaeological site Jebel Faya, near the Oman Mountains, which covers a period of ca. 125 ka, with archaeological sites at the Arabian Gulf. Therefore, the wadis are potentially important migration routes.

Selected stratified sedimentary sequences of alluvial, fluvial and lacustrine deposits will be identified, logged and sampled along the wadis for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and dating in the laboratory. The sedimentological and geochemical methods will include particle size analysis, x-ray fluorescence, mineral magnetic susceptibility, sediment bulk density and moisture content as well as loss on ignition. The palaeoecology will be investigated by analysing the phytolith and fossil record and by environmental DNA (eDNA) analyses. This will determine the type of vegetation and organisms present and thereby help to differentiate between short-lived precipitation events and prolonged wet phases. Moreover, hydrological models will be generated using remote sensing data (eg. ALOS, Sentinel) and ArcGIS to identify the different catchment areas feeding into both wadis and their watersheds.

Previous palaeoenvironmental work in the region recognised several episodes of lake formation during the Late Pleistocene, corresponding with phases of increased precipitation and early human occupation at Jebel Faya. My project will develop an independent chronological framework to correlate the different sections identified in the field through radiocarbon and optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating.

Finally, the new data will be linked and compared with the existing literature to contribute to our understand of climate change and landscape response in the low latitudes. Based on the resulting palaeoenvironmental framework, the regions long term record of human occupation will be assessed.


Palaeoenvironmental change, Wadi systems, Sedimentology, Geochemistry, GIS, OSL, Arabia, Human dispersal

General research interests

Geoarchaeology, Geomorphology, Geochronology, Quaternary

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences


  • Dähling, K., Preston, G., Parton, A., Richard, M., Mueller, D., Preusser, F., Parker, A. (2019): Reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions for human dispersal in the United Arab Emirates – First results from Wadi Iddayyah and Wadi Dhaid, International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Congress 25-31.07.2019, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Dähling, K., Mueller, D., Parton, A., Preston, G., Preusser, F., Parker, A. (2018): Reconstructing past fluvial dynamics in the United Arab Emirates – First results from Wadi Iddayyah, German Luminescence and Electron Spin Resonance Conference (DLED) 23.11 – 25.11.2018, Beatenberg, Switzerland
  • Dähling K. (2016): Correlation of Geoarchives of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites – a case study of the Levant. Inside – Outside Integrating Cave and Open-Air Archives, 06 – 09.04.2016 Cologne, Germany.
  • Dähling, K., Wessel, V. (2014): Slot pits in the Rhineland. Annual Conference AK Geoarchäologie and AG Paläopedologie, 29 – 31.05.2014 Aachen, Germany.

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • MSc Quaternary Science and Geoarchaeology, University of Cologne, Germany (2017)
  • BSc Geology, Bonn University, Germany (2015)
  • BA History (Major), Politics and Society (Minor), Bonn University, Germany (2012)

Scholarships and prizes

  • QRA INQUA Congress Travel Grant (2019)
  • QRA Radiocarbon Dating Short Course Bursary (2019)
  • QRA New Research Workers’ Award (2018)
  • BFSA Main Research Grant (2018)
  • Ruggles-Gates Fund for Biological Anthropology (2018)
  • Full-time Departmental Research Studentship, School of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University (2017-2020)
  • Full Scholarship University of Cologne (2015-2017)

Other experience and professional activities

Student assistant

  • 2014 – 2015 Student assistant at the Cologne Luminescence Laboratory (CLL), Institute of Geography, University of Cologne
  • 2010 – 2012 Student assistant at the Department of Rhenish Regional History, Institute of History, University Bonn


  • 2017 – Archaeologicial Excavation Jordan, Institute of Prehistory and Early history, University of Cologne
  • 2015 – Archaeologicial Excavation Spieka-Knill, Niedersächsisches Institut für historische Küstenforschung/ Lower Saxony Institute for Historical Coastal Research
  • 2013 – Internship at Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR) - Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege/Regional authority Rhineland - office for preservation and care of field monuments, department of geoarchaeology
  • 2005 – Internship at Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR) - Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege/ Regional authority Rhineland - office for preservation and care of field monuments, department of archaeological prospection Field Campaigns and Excursions: Germany, Spain, Iceland, Italy, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Morocco, Belgium, Jordan, United Arabic Emirates, Malta