6,000-year-old camels’ bones found in Gharbia

(By a staff reporter)
Filed on August 7, 2008

ABU DHABI - A team of archaeologists from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) has recently discovered the skeletons of at least 40 ancient wild camels in Al Gharbia, the western region of Abu Dhabi, a senior official said.

Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Director-General of ADACH, said yesterday that camel bones from the site showed that they all date to more than six thousand years ago. The discovery has a scientific significance worldwide.

An announcement concerning this discovery was made in late July at a seminar on Arabian Studies, an international gathering of archaeologists and heritage experts which is held annually at the British Museum in London.

The location is very important as the remains of a large number of camels were found there. So far work has concentrated on the collection of material from the site, and on the measurement of bones.

Preliminary analysis of the size of the camel bones suggests that two types of camels were present. Some of the camels were young adult animals of size comparable to the Bronze Age wild camel bones discovered previously at Umm An-Nar, but some older animals were extremely large.

Further work at the site is planned by the Historic Environment Department team at ADACH during the forthcoming winter season. This will concentrate on understanding the environmental context of the site, as well as on the further detailed analysis of the ancient camel bones.

"The camel skeletons discovered in the Baynunah region of Al Gharbia represent the largest sample of ancient wild camel bones so far discovered in Arabia," said Dr Mark Beech, Cultural Landscapes Manager in the Historic Environment Department at ADACH.

Traditionally it was believed that the camel was first domesticated during the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago, because of the abundance of camel bones found at sites such as Umm An-Nar. Recent work from sites such as Tell Abraq and Muweilah in the Sharjah emirate has demonstrated however that the camel was not domesticated until the Iron Age, some three thousand years ago.

"The new discovery of a large quantity of wild camel skeletons in Abu Dhabi's western region provides a fantastic opportunity to examine the history of the camel in Arabia," said Dr Beech.

The camel remains are located in a depression between sand dunes to the south of the Baynunah forest area. This was an area with ancient lakes between around 9,000 and 6,000 years ago, being a place where wild camels came to drink, he said.

The early people of Abu Dhabi would have hunted these animals, and we discover traces of flint arrowheads manufactured by these people, he added.

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