Piles of animal dung reveal the location of an ancient Arabian oasis

Two rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis syriaca)

The piles of faeces made by rock hyraxes hold clues to our own past

Natalia Kuzmina / Alamy

Fossilised piles of faeces, called middens, have revealed that a desert valley in Yemen was once a tropical oasis, which may have lasted in the dry region because of human land management practices.

Today, Wadi Sana is a dry, rocky desert. We knew that between 11,000 and 5000 years ago, the Arabian peninsula and Sahara desert were wetter than they are now, and some lake-bed deposits suggested that grasslands and trees may have grown elsewhere in the interior …

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