1 July 2004
Remains of oldest inhabitant of Abu Dhabi found
Remains of the earliest-known inhabitant of Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) have been found on the western island of Marawah by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, as part of their spring excavation season. The excavations were carried out at the site of a 7,000 year old village which has the best-preserved and most-sophisticated stone buildings of Neolithic date that are known anywhere in Eastern Arabia. Radiocarbon dates from the building, analysed last year, suggests that the upper layers date to between 6,500 to 7.000 years ago, indicating that the original construction may have been earlier.
Directed by Dr Mark Beech, ADIAS Senior Resident Archaeologist, the excavations took place over a five-week period in March and early April. The work on the site, named MR-11, focused on the detailed excavation of a building that was first identified during earlier ADIAS fieldwork. This building was built in at least three phases, and contains at least four rooms, one of which has now been completely excavated. Around 4.6 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, the room had well-built walls that were constructed using a double-skin method, large stones first being placed as inner and outer layers, and smaller stones then being used to fill the cavity. Although known from the Bronze Age, which began a couple of thousand years later, this method had not previously been identified on Neolithic sites in Eastern Arabia. Adjacent are at least three more rooms, yet to be fully examined.
The human skeleton, whose sex is yet to be determined, was laid on a stone platform that had been built just inside the room, next to the southern doorway. This indicates that it must have been placed there after the original domestic use of the building had ended, since anyone entering from the room to the south would have trod on it. The skeleton had been disturbed, perhaps because of the collapse of the stonewalls and roof of the structure, with its feet being found some 2.5 metres away from most of the rest of the body.
Close by were fragments of a decorated pot, which resembles pottery from the Neolithic Ubaid civilisation in southern Mesopotamia, but the decorations are of a type not previously found in Eastern Arabia. The pot, which is the most complete of its type and age ever found in the UAE, is also probably 6,500-7,000 years old, and provides evidence that the Neolithic inhabitants of Marawah were trading by sea with southern Mesopotamia.
Also found during the excavation were fragments of plaster vessels, some of which were painted. Such vessels have also been discovered on another Neolithic site on Dalma, but are otherwise unknown anywhere else in the Arabian Gulf. A small collection of flint tools was also found, as well as over 100 beads, fish, dugong and turtle bones and bones of sheep or goat. Of particular interest were two beautiful and delicate buttons made from pearl oyster shells.
Source: Khaleej Times (30 June 2004)