Paper No. 81-8
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM-3:30 PM
SHUTTLE IMAGING RADAR SCENES OF THE LEGENDARY ARABIAN LOST CITY OF UBAR AND THE REALITY OF UBAR
EDGELL, H. Stewart, Professor & Consultant, 8 Barkly Crescent, Forrest, Canberra, ACT 2603 Australia, sedgell@msn.com.au.

The explorer Bertram Thomas was the first westerner to cross the 600,000 km2 Rub’ al Khali Desert in 1930-31, being shown wide tracks between dunes in its southern part by accompanying Bedouin. They declared ‘There is the road to Ubar. It was a great city, rich in treasure with date gardens and a fort of red silver [?Gold]. It now lies buried beneath the sands of the Ramlat Shu’ait,’ (northwestern Dhofar). Thomas’s published remarks (1931-32) led to search for Ubar by Philby (1933-34), Phillips (1953-55) and Clapp, Fiennes, Hedges and Zarins (1990-96), even though Thomas (1933) denied Ubar was a ‘Lost City.’ In 1992, Clapp and Hedges claimed discovery of Ubar in a newspaper article, stating “Researchers found the city by tracing ancient desert roads detected in pictures taken by spacecraft, including radar and optical cameras carried by Challenger in 1984, said Ronald Blom, a geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.” Books about Ubar followed, by Fiennes (1992) and Clapp (1998), NASA interpreted Landsat MSS, 1984 Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR-B), and1994 (SIR-C) imagery, issuing four misleading web-based articles on Ubar (1994-98). NASA’s radar images are excellent, but the depicted location in a small, karst sinkhole at Shisur in the stony desert (Najd) of southern Oman (central Dhofar) is 130 km southeast of the tracks originally observed by Thomas and 175 km southeast of Ramlat Shu’ait. Shisur sinkhole exposes the Middle Eocene Dammam limestone aquifer and has numerous tracks leading to this isolated waterhole, clearly indicated on NASA images. No evidence exists that Shisur was once a city called Ubar, although it was probably a caravanserai on an overland frankincense trade route. Arab historians wrote that Ubar, or Wabar, was a wide land in southern Arabia inhabited by ancient, pre-Islamic, non-Arab speaking people.

2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)
Session No. 81
Archaeological Geology
Colorado Convention Center: A205
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Monday, October 28, 2002
 

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