UAE: Excavations continue at Umm Al Quwain's ancient monastery, pearl town

Last year, excavation in the northern part of the settlement uncovered many pottery vessels dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries AD

By Wam

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Photos: Tourism and Archaeology Department in Umm Al Quwain
Photos: Tourism and Archaeology Department in Umm Al Quwain

Published: Mon 6 May 2024, 5:57 PM

The Department of Tourism and Archaeology of Umm Al Quwain has continued its archaeological activities at the site of Siniya Island for the fourth consecutive season, in collaboration with a number of local and international partners.

The excavation works covered both sites of Siniya Monastery and the Pearling town, aiming to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and archaeological history and to contribute to the preservation of the region's identity.


Commenting on this year's excavation season, Rania Hussein Kannouma, Acting Director of the Department of Archaeological and Heritage at the Department of Tourism and Archaeology, said that the work this season lasted for 9 weeks.

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It started since January and is continuing until March at both sites – during which a large number of stone houses clustered around narrow alleys were discovered, illustrating that Siniya Island had an authentic architectural history over various time periods.

She affirmed the Department of Tourism and Archaeology's commitment to continuing archaeological excavation work to further understand the genuine civilisational elements of the island, alongside the ongoing process of preserving and maintaining these archaeological buildings to ensure their sustainability.

Dr Michele Degli Esposti, Head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Umm Al Qaiwain and researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences, explained that there is a chronological sequence for the Pearling town based on the archaeological finds discovered at the site.

Last year, in 2023, excavation in the northern part of the settlement uncovered many pottery vessels dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries AD. This year, in 2024, excavation in the southern area suggests that its history may date back to the 4th century, and as excavation and research continue at the site, the results indicate an even earlier timeline for the city.

Prof Robert Hoyland from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, stated, "Many large jars imported from Mesopotamia were found at the site. Two of these jars bore Aramaic letters in a form used between the 1st and the 4th century AD."

Historical evidence suggests that the Pearling town was a focal point for residents at the time, succeeding the archaeological site of (ed-Dur) as the leading and flourishing city in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The city attracted a group of monks known as the Nestorian monks, who established a Christian monastery sometime between the end of the 6th century AD and the beginning of the 7th century AD.

Commenting on these indications, Prof Timothy Power from UAE University explained, "Archaeologists believe that the inhabitants of the Pearling town on Siniya Island migrated from the island in the 6th or 7th century AD. After that, 'Julfar' in Ras Al Khaimah emerged as a major city on the Gulf coast of the Emirates."

The discovery of the Siniya Monastery site by the Department of Tourism and Archaeology's team proves that Siniya Island was a meeting point for civilisations and a global connection point. The site of the Pearling town holds invaluable archaeological wealth in its historical and economic dimensions.

The Department of Tourism and Archaeology pays significant attention to implementing all strategies and activities related to archaeology, in order to preserve the historical heritage of the emirate and take necessary measures to protect the sites and archaeological finds.

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