New evidence of ancient boat mooring sites

Muawia E. Ibrahim
Filed on January 16, 2005

ABU DHABI Archeologists in Abu Dhabi have found new evidence for ancient boat mooring sites on Marawah island which presumably date back to the Later Islamic Period.

The sites, to be protected within the Marawah Marine Protected Area, are intimately connected with the maritime heritage of the UAE and pearling and pre-oil era, archaeologists said.

The structures were discovered recently by Nasser Al Shaiba, a researcher at the Marine Environment Research Centre (MERC), part of the Environmental research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA), in Abu Dhabi and in a later stage by Dr Mark Beech Senior, Resident Archaeologist, Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS).

Details of this archaeological finding have been published in a joint paper by the two experts in the latest issue of Tribulus, the bi-annual journal of the Emirates Natural History Group.

The island of Marawah lies about 100km to the west of the city of Abu Dhabi. The structure of the island is formed from relic Pleistocene limestone platforms linked by Holocene sand and beach deposits and intervening patches of sabkha.

ADIAS carried out a preliminary survey of the archaeological sites on the island in 1992. This identified a total of 13 major sites ranging in date from the Late tone Age to Late Islamic period. More recent surveys during the late 1990's and since 2000 have added more sites to this total.

"Very few archaeological sites are known in the intertidal sites zone along the coastline of Abu Dhabi. The rapid pace of development of the coastal zone, accompanies by such activities as dredging, reclamation, landfill and new construction, means that sites where they do exist are often under threat. Many sites may have been lost as the original course of the coastline has been dramatically altered, especially during the past 10 years or so," the paper said. It said that such sites should be protected as they form an important link with the past heritage of the UAE when the pearl trade formed the basis of the pre-oil economy. "The coastal communities of the UAE have always had a close connection with the sea and it would be a pity if all traces of these structures were to disappear," the paper noted.

Although these new sites, standing separately some distance from the modern shoreline, between 120-250 metres out from the modern day high tide mark, should be safe for the foreseeable future, this sadly may not be the case for similar sites elsewhere," warned the archaeological experts.

All three sites have a common feature in that the longer walls are generally oriented North-East, South-West and are located to the NW side of the complex. This suggests that the walls may have been deliberately constructed at this angle to provide shelter from the prevailing wind direction from the NW. The walls of these structures are quite solidly built. It seems likely that they have been mooring sites for small traditional boats.

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