Excavation unearths oldest archaeological site in UAE

Prerna Suri
Filed on February 8, 2005

DUBAI The oldest archaeological site in the UAE dating back to 7,000 years, has been discovered on the island of Marawah, located about 100km west of Abu Dhabi, according to Dr Mark Beech, Senior Resident Archaeologist for the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS).

Dr Beech disclosed the findings at a lecture organised by the Dubai Natural History Group which was attended by a large crowd.

The lecture covered important findings and discoveries by ADIAS during their excavation in 2004 including a skeleton of what is believed to be the earliest-known inhabitant of Abu Dhabi.

The excavations were carried out at the site of a 7,000 years old village in Marawah which has the best-preserved and most-sophisticated stone buildings of Neolithic date that are known anywhere in Eastern Arabia. Radiocarbon dates from the building, analysed last year, suggests that the upper layers inside date to between 6,500 to 7,000 years ago, indicating that the original construction may have been earlier.

"Work carried out in 2000 had initially suggested that a group of stone mounds located at the western end of the island, known as site MR11, was perhaps a church and Nestorian monastic complex," said Dr Beech.

"Excavations carried out at these sites in 2003 and 2004 subsequently proved that it was not a church or monastic complex but rather a series of major buildings forming an important Neolithic settlement. Radiocarbon dates as well as associated finds suggest that the settlement was established during the end of the first half of the sixth millennium BC, around 5700 cal BC making it the oldest site so far discovered in the UAE," he added.

Two of these structures have now been partly excavated revealing well-constructed buildings with stone walls still surviving to a height of almost a metre in some places.

"We also discovered traditional architecture dating to the pre-oil era such as wooden houses and fishermen boats which are very difficult to find these days. In addition, a dugong butchery middon which served as a source of food for inhabitants, dating since the past 200 year was also found," he said.

Dr Beech said that the discovery would underline the significance of Marawah as an area of importance for archaeologists in the region.

"The quite remarkable structures at site MR11 add to our growing knowledge of Neolithic building structures and settlements in SE Arabia," he said.

An almost complete pottery vessel of a type not previously found in South Eastern Arabia from the Neolithic Ubaid civilisation in southern Mesopotamia was also discovered on the island.

The pot, which is the most complete of its type and age ever found in the UAE, is also probably 6,500 to 7,000 years old, and provides evidence that the Neolithic inhabitants of Marawah were trading by sea with southern Mesopotamia.

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