Look: 1,300-year-old settlement discovered in UAE; believed to be oldest pearling town in Arabian Gulf

It appears to have had hundreds of houses, with a population of several thousand people


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Photos by Shihab
Photos by Shihab

Published: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 11:54 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Mar 2023, 9:49 PM

A settlement nearly 1,300 years old has been unearthed in Siniya Island by the Department of Tourism and Archaeology in Umm Al Quwain, in collaboration with their local and international partners.

This makes the settlement the oldest pearling town in the Arabian Gulf, and can be found near the ancient Christian monastery that was discovered last year. Archaeologists believe that the monks of the monastery may have made their home next to the thriving pearling settlement.

“This is a discovery of major significance for the history of Umm Al Quwain, the United Arab Emirates, and the wider Arabian Gulf,” said Sheikh Majid bin Saud Al Mualla, Chairman of the Department of Tourism and Archaeology, Umm Al Quwain.

“Pearling has been an essential part of our livelihood and heritage for over seven thousand years, and some of the earliest known evidence of pearling comes from Neolithic graves in Umm Al Quwain,” added Al Mualla.

At an area of approximately 12 hectares, the settlement is one of the largest of its kind found in the country. The town appears to have had hundreds of houses with a population of several thousands.

Excavations on the island have revealed large buildings with courtyards and compact small double-roomed houses, which those who discovered it say housed richer merchants and poorer fishermen. The houses were built from rock and lime, with the roof likely made from palm trunks brought from the mainland.

“Now, for the first time, we have the opportunity to study a pearling town from over 1,300 years ago. Studies of this settlement will help us understand more about our ancestors and their way of life,” said Al Mualla.

The excavations were carried out with the support of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Youth, UAE University, the Italian Archaeological Mission in Umm Al Quwain, and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.


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