Ḥarrat al-Shām
Black Desert
Black Desert locator map.svg
Location within the Levant of the wider volcanic province it is part of
Part ofSyrian Desert
Offshore water bodies
GeologyBasaltic volcanic field
AgeOligocene, Neogene, Quaternary
Volcanic fieldHarrat Ash Shaam Volcanic Province (HASV)
The Harrat near Jawa in eastern Jordan
The Harrat near Jawa in eastern Jordan

The Ḥarrat al-Shām (Arabic: حَرَّة ٱلشَّام),[1][nb 1] also known as the Black Desert,[2] is a region of rocky, basaltic desert straddling southern Syria and the northern Arabian Peninsula. It covers an area of some 40,000 km2 (15,000 sq mi)[citation needed] in the modern-day Syrian Arab Republic, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Vegetation is characteristically open acacia shrubland with patches of juniper at higher altitudes[3]

The Harrat has been occupied by humans since at least the Late Epipalaeolithic period (c. 12,500–9500 BCE).[4] One of the earliest known sites is Shubayqa 1 (occupied c. 12,600–10,000 BCE),[4][5] where archaeologists have discovered the remains of the oldest known bread.[6]


Harrah region from the Space Shuttle
Harrah region from the Space Shuttle

The Harrat comprises volcanic fields formed by tectonic activity from the Oligocene through to the Quaternary period.[7] It is the largest of several volcanic fields on the Arabian Plate,[8] containing more than 800 volcanic cones and around 140 dikes.[7] Activity began during the Miocene; a younger eruptive stage, at the SE end of the volcanic field, occurred during the late-Pleistocene and Holocene.[9] It is known to have erupted in historic times.[10][11]

The Jabal al-Druze, al-Safa and Dirat al-Tulul volcanic fields, among others, form the northern and Syrian part of the harrat. The Saudi Arabian portion of the Harrat Ash Shamah volcanic field extends across a 210 km (130 mi)-long, roughly 75 km (47 mi)-wide NW-SE-trending area on the NE flanks of the Sirhan Valley and reaches its 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) high point at Jabal Al-Amud. It is in the Tabuk Region of northwest Saudi Arabia.[12][13] and is one of a series of Quaternary volcanic fields paralleling the Red Sea coast.

Archaeological sites


See also


  1. ^ Variously transcribed as the harra, Ḥarrat ash-Shāmah (حَرَّة ٱلشَّامَة) or Ḥarrate-Shāmah (حَرَّةِ شَامَة).[citation needed]


  1. ^ Ibrahim, K. (1993), The geological framework for the Harrat Ash-Shaam Basaltic Super-Group and its volcanotectonic evolution, Jordan: Bulletin 24, Geological Mapping Division, Natural Resources Authority
  2. ^ Betts, Alison (1982). "A Natufian site in the Black Desert, Eastern Jordan". Paléorient. 8 (2): 79–82. doi:10.3406/paleo.1982.4322. ISSN 0153-9345.
  3. ^ S.A. Ghazanfar, Vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula (Springer Science & Business Media, 1998) p 272.
  4. ^ a b Richter, Tobias (2017). "Natufian and early Neolithic in the Black Desert". In Enzel, Yehouda; Bar-Yosef, Ofer (eds.). Quaternary of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 715–722. ISBN 978-1-107-09046-0.
  5. ^ Richter, Tobias; Arranz-Otaegui, Amaia; Yeomans, Lisa; Boaretto, Elisabetta (5 December 2017). "High Resolution AMS Dates from Shubayqa 1, northeast Jordan Reveal Complex Origins of Late Epipalaeolithic Natufian in the Levant". Scientific Reports. 7 (1): 17025. Bibcode:2017NatSR...717025R. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-17096-5. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5717003. PMID 29208998.
  6. ^ Arranz-Otaegui, Amaia; Carretero, Lara Gonzalez; Ramsey, Monica N.; Fuller, Dorian Q.; Richter, Tobias (31 July 2018). "Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115 (31): 7925–7930. doi:10.1073/pnas.1801071115. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6077754. PMID 30012614.
  7. ^ a b Al Kwatli, Mohamad Amer; Gillot, Pierre Yves; Lefèvre, Jean Claude; Hildenbrand, Anthony (2015-09-01). "Morpho-structural analysis of Harrat Al Sham volcanic field Arabian plate (Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia): methodology and application". Arabian Journal of Geosciences. 8 (9): 6867–6880. doi:10.1007/s12517-014-1731-1. ISSN 1866-7538. S2CID 129569824.
  8. ^ Krienitz, M.-S.; Haase, K. M.; Mezger, K.; Shaikh-Mashail, M. A. (2007-08-01). "Magma Genesis and Mantle Dynamics at the Harrat Ash Shamah Volcanic Field (Southern Syria)". Journal of Petrology. 48 (8): 1513–1542. doi:10.1093/petrology/egm028. ISSN 0022-3530.
  9. ^ H. Stewart Edgell, Arabian Deserts: Nature, Origin and Evolution (Springer Science & Business Media, 21Jul.,2006 ) p329-330
  10. ^ Geological Survey Professional Paper. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1989. p. 153.
  11. ^ Peter Vincent, Saudi Arabia: An Environmental Overview (CRC Press, 2008) p22.
  12. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989) pA152
  13. ^ Geological Survey Professional Paper, Volume 560, Part 1 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989)

Further reading