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14 August 2004
Excavation at Shamal tomb to resume in November

Excavation at the Shamal tomb, the largest grave of the Umm Al Nar period to have been discovered so far in the United Arab Emirates, will resume after a seven-year hiatus in November. A senior official from the Ras Al Khaimah museums and antiques department said the tomb was discovered in 1997.
     The middle of the third millennium BCE saw the rise of the Umm Al Nar period (2600-2000 BCE), the most important period in the development of civilisation in the UAE. Evidence suggests that flourishing trade in copper with Mesopotamia and the Indus valley made this a wealthy area of the UAE in that period. Mesopotamian sources refer to it as as the Land of Magan.
     The Umm Al Nar period is known for its circular tombs. The tomb at Shamal has outer walls of smooth ashlars (facing stones), while the vault inside is divided into several chambers. These were used for collective burial, probably for groups of people such as a large family, who would use them for generations. In some cases, archaeologists have found the remains of more than 100 people buried in one Umm Al Nar tomb.
     The two largest graves have been found in Shamal. The first one was excavated by a German team from the University of Goettingen. The other tomb - where excavation is scheduled to begin after Eid Al Fitr - is the largest of that period in the Arabian peninsula. One of its facing stones in the tomb bears a carved footprint. It is the first carved Umm Al Nar facing stone found in the northern part of the UAE. Another tomb was found by the British team in Wadi Munaie, south of the emirate, officials said.
     In 1998, excavations revealed a large stone alignment with tombs of the Umm Al Nar period in Asimah close to Masafi. A vital assemblage of bronze implements was discovered there, including a bronze goblet, socketed spear-heads and dagger blades.
     The tomb that is about to be excavated is about 4,200 years old and huge efforts were made to build these structures. They were not built for the burial of one person but were used for communal interment. Initial excavations at the Shamal tomb suggest it was probably used by a family or a tribe for more than 100 years. The excavations revealed a complex arrangement in the interior, which was divided into twelve compartments. The tomb had at least three entrances, one for each unit, but they are no longer preserved.

Source: Gulf News (9 August 2004)

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