The first ever exhibition giving an insight into life in Abu Dhabi between six and eight million years ago has been unveiled to the public, just as more archaeological discoveries were announced on Saturday.

By Tim Newbold

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Published: Mon 28 Nov 2005, 1:48 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:09 PM

'Abu Dhabi — 8 million years ago' was officially launched at the Environment Agency (EAD) yesterday morning. The display shows fossil remains from animals which used to bestride the lands which now make up Abu Dhabi.

Fossils of the ancestors of today's animals, ranging from elephants, gazelles, giraffes and crocodiles to ostriches, horses and turtles, have been uncovered over the last fifteen to twenty years. They hail from the Late Miocene period which was characterised by the appearance of grazing mammals. The remains were discovered in what was once a large river system that ran from the Arabian interior to what is now north-west of Abu Dhabi.

Spanning up to hundreds of meters in width and only three meters deep, trees, grass and shrubs probably lay next to the river banks, with more open vegetation located further away, resembling modern-day African savannas.

On show are fossils from a primitive elephant species called 'Stegotetrabelodon syrticus', which was larger than today's elephant and had four tusks, with two upper ones and two shorter lower ones. A fossil elephant tusk which, at 2.5 meters long, was found by Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) near Ruwais three years ago, can be seen.

There is also an almost entire skull, jaws and leg bone of another elephant, discovered by members of the Natural History Museum of London at Shuweihat in the early 1990s. A model elephant is also featured in the display after over a year of work by taxidermists. Other fossils for public viewing include crocodiles, hippopotamuses, hyaenas, saber-toothed cats and freshwater turtles.

Peter Hellyer, ADIAS Executive Director, said: "We thought it was time to put some of the more remarkable fossils on display. This exhibition is to begin to introduce something of this country's and Abu Dhabi's heritage. This is not all we have found. We have over 10,000 fossils. There is a lot more which is suitable for display."

Hellyer added that it would be impossible to protect the whole area where fossils have been found as it is around 200 kms long but ADIAS and the EDA are working with the relevant authorities to preserve and protect certain areas.

Meanwhile, he also revealed yesterday that digging at nine sites on Friday, November 25 uncovered fossil tree roots up to 10 metres in length from the same period. He said that the ADIAS had never found anything in such a good state of preservation. The discovery was made around 30 kms inland from the coast near the village of Bida Al Mutawaa.

The public can visit the exhibition at the EAD, located off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street behind the Corniche, free-of-charge.

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