Important new fossils found in Abu Dhabi

Filed on January 23, 2010

ABU DHABI - The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) announced the discovery of new fossils in the Al Gharbia (Western Region), following recent archaeological expeditions in the area.

The fossils included two complete large skulls belonging to crocodiles that had inhabited the river area some eight million years ago.

The findings came about due to technical cooperation between the Department of Historic Environment at ADACH and the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University in the United States of America.

Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazroui, Director General of ADACH, explained that these excavations took up about three weeks of field work (from December 28, 2009 to January 16, 2010) and included a working group composed of nine members from the Department of Historic Environment, led by Dr Mark Beech.

These excavations took place in addition to the work of a team of fossil specialists that consisted of Dr. Faysal Bibi from the University of Poitiers in France, Professor Andrew Hill of Yale University, and Dr. Matthew Schuster from University of Poitiers.

The team sought to gain a greater understanding of this ancient environment, where evidence of fossil white ants has been discovered for the first time.

Mazroui noted that the team is also working on a project which aims to prepare a comprehensive map of fossils in Abu Dhabi. The majority of these sites are found along Al Gharbia.

It is a matter of great importance that the necessary protection is provided in order to preserve these geological layers deposited from the late Miocene era. They represent the only examples of these layers which have kept their original form in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula territory.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Amer Al Neyadi, Director of the Department of Historic Environment at ADACH, said that vigorous efforts are underway to protect and preserve these sites and to safeguard the fossils from various threats thanks to the combined efforts of the Al Gharbia Municipality and the Urban Planning Council.

Neyadi explained that the discovery of these fossils is very important at local, regional and global levels because they are the only examples of their kind in the region. He added that the erection of protective fencing around the sites has been completed, all as part of ADACH’s strategy to preserve important archaeological areas in Abu Dhabi.

Also participating in these works was Dr. Olga Otero from the University of Poitiers, who inspected fish fossils, and found, within a very short period of time, types of fossil that were not previously known to science.

Also on the team is Professor Brian Gratz, from the Western University School of Health Sciences in the United States of America. He continued his research examining the fossils of small rodents and discovered more interesting examples of the species of mice that carried the name of the same area: Abudhabia baynunensis.

It should be noted that more sites were discovered, all belonging to a period between six to eight million years ago, containing high-quality fossils from the many types of animal that lived at that time, including elephants, hippopotamuses, antelopes, giraffes, monkeys, rodents, large and small carnivores, ostriches, turtles, crocodiles and fish.

Although there is evidence that the desert conditions that existed then are similar to now, these creatures were sustained with life by a great river, as well as the thriving vegetation found in large trees.

These animals are similar to those known in East Africa during the same period of time, corresponding to some European and Asian species of that same era.

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