7,000-year-old housing units found in Marawah Island

Filed on January 5, 2004

ABU DHABI - A block of stone houses dating back to 7,000 years have been found on Abu Dhabi's Western island of Marawah, it was announced on Sunday by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS).

The houses are the oldest of their type ever discovered in the country.

The discovery was made by a team from the ADIAS, working in association with the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA, who are responsible for management of the island's wildlife and environment as part of the Marawah Marine Protected Area, MMPA.

Work at a site known as MR-11 was started in spring 2003 ADIAS examined a group of stone mounds, and uncovered three buildings.

One of these structures was fully excavated and revealed a well-constructed house with stonewalls still surviving to a height of almost a metre in some places.

During the excavations, a fine flint spear and arrowhead were found, as well as a fragment of a stone pestle, probably used for grinding food items.

Samples of ash from the floors of the buildings were sent to the Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre at the University of Glasgow in Britain, for radiocarbon dating. The results received by ADIAS, proved that the buildings were in use between 6,500 and 7,000

The importance of Abu Dhabi's islands during the Late Stone Age is also underlined by the results of ADIAS excavations on the island of Dalma in 1993-4 and 1998. These uncovered traces of circular buildings constructed with supporting timber posts.

Analysis of the pottery and radiocarbon dates from these, and other, sites have shown that around 7000 years ago, there was extensive settlement on the offshore islands. The people of the time were also trading by sea with Mesopotamia (Iraq), the beginning of the UAE's well-established tradition of maritime trade.

Research by Dr. Mark Beech, the ADIAS Senior Resident Archaeologist, has shown that these early inhabitants of the UAE had domestic animals like sheep and goats, but also supplemented their diet by hunting gazelles and exploiting rich marine resources available offshore.

Besides catching a wide range of fish, they also caught dolphins, dugong and turtle and ate shellfish - including the pearl oyster.

The pearl trade of the Southern Gulf probably began around this time.

Evidence from Dalma suggests that the people at that time also began exploiting the date palm for the very first time. Charred date stones found at the Dalma excavation represent the earliest evidence for the consumption of dates in the Arabian peninsula.

"We are delighted by these finds in Marawah," ADIAS Executive Director, Peter Hellyer, said. "The island has one of the most diverse groups of archaeological sites anywhere in the country, ranging from the Late Stone Age to the Late Islamic period, covering the country's history from the very earliest settlement. It is, therefore, appropriate that Marawah is now fully protected as part of the ERWDA-managed Marawah Marine Protected Area," he said.

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