'Gulf Oasis' likely supported significant populations, as it was fertile.
Dubai - Many archaeological treasures are likely to be buried off the UAE coast, says geoscientist.
The waters of the Arabian Gulf are likely to cover a trove of archaeological treasures, buried due to a flood thousands of years ago.
But discovering more clues about the ancient inhabitants of the UAE is difficult and requires ample funds for underwater exploration, according to author and geoscientist David Millar.
Millar, a Briton who now resides in Canada, lived in the UAE for 10 years while working in the oil industry. During this time, he developed a passion for the ancient history of the UAE. His book, Beyond Dubai: Seeking Lost Cities in the Emirates, was published in August 2014.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, Millar noted that prior to arriving in the country he had no idea how rich the history of the area was in terms of archaeology.
"I didn't realise the UAE had any interesting history whatsoever to be honest," he said. "I assumed most of the country was just a featureless desert, and that the only bits that were inhabited were Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"The big surprise for me really was to discover that there is a lot more out there. It's not just sand dunes. There are lots of forts and habitation and history."
Scientists and historians believe that there are likely many more ancient archaeological treasures left to be uncovered in the waters off the UAE's coast, which was once a fertile landmass before being flooded approximately 8,000 years ago.
Millar - who holds a PhD in glaciology - explained that during the last Ice Age, the entire Gulf would have been dry.
"When you have an Ice Age, the ice sheets trap an awful lot of water, so the global sea level falls, a lot. In the last Ice Age it fell about 400 feet," he said. "To put that in perspective, the average depth of the Arabian Gulf is about 80 or 100 feet ... the entire Gulf would have been dry land."
A 2010 study published in Current Anthropology journal noted that "Gulf Oasis" likely supported significant populations, as it was fertile and well watered by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun and Wadi Batin rivers. Millar noted that early humans coming out of Africa would have found a hospitable environment in the Gulf.
"When they came out of Africa, they would have come across the southern coast of Yemen and Oman ... up to where the UAE is," he said. "Then they would have entered a dried Arabian Gulf valley ... that would have been a very good place for people to settle. There's every indication that people lived there for quite a long time."
Given the conditions of the region at the time, Millar believes that ample evidence of human habitation exists on the seabed.
"Logically, you would expect to find remains such as stone houses, villages, that sort of thing," he said. "These people were hunter-gatherers, so they wouldn't have been building huge ... cities, but there's a good chance you'd find some stone dwellings."
Millar noted, however, that discovering these artifacts would be extremely difficult.
"The problem of course is that it's very silted up, so whatever is there may be 20 or 30 feet deep in mud and quite hard to find," he said. "It's extremely difficult. If you're diving, the water in the Gulf is fairly disturbed, you can't see very far, and if you start trying to excavate you'll stir everything up. It's very slow work. It's not like driving around the desert to see if you can find something."
Some researchers believe that the populations displaced by the flooding of the Gulf Oasis went on to settle what are now coastal areas of the UAE and other countries in the region. Evidence - from pottery shards, for example - suggests that populations arose around that time that had no relation to previous settlers.
"It seems a fairly strong hypothesis that if there is no other place that they could have come from - and you know there would have been a valley there - then it's likely they would have come from there," he said.
Millar pointed out that finding funding for underwater archaeology is very difficult. At the moment, very few archaeologists are exploring waters off the UAE.
"Most of the archaeology in the UAE is usually a partnership between some American or European university and a UAE institution," he said. "If they're going to allocate a million (dirhams) to do some archaeology in the Gulf, they're far more likely to find some results if they're looking on land. It's much cheaper to operate and they can have more people looking around for longer."