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11 May 2012
Neolithic burial discovered in Qatar

In a major development for the archaeological excavations across Qatar, an unmarked grave has been discovered at Wadi Debayan, one of the earliest Neolithic-Chalcolithic sites in the Gulf. The exploration of the site is  part of the Remote Sensing and Qatar National Historical Environment Record (QNHER) Project. "We have come across one burial, probably a full skeleton and though we cannot say that we have a cemetery there, it is a fair possibility," project co-director Richard Cuttler said.
     QNHER is being developed as part of the Remote Sensing Project, a joint initiative between the Qatar Museums Authority under the guidance of Faisal al-Naimi (head of antiquities), and the University of Birmingham, where Cuttler is a research fellow. "The grave was a very surprising find that came out of one of the several test pits. We have seen some pieces of the tibia, one of the two leg bones, which shows the skeleton is in a crouched position typical of Neolithic burials" he explained.
     "The bone fragments are very fragile and we need to sit back and think how to go about this. We also need to consult some osteologists and get more information," Cuttler said. "The only other site I can think in the Gulf similar to this is the one at Jebel Al Buhais in Sharjah, the UAE, and there they had Neolithic cemeteries with no markers on the surface," the expert recalled.
     Wadi Debayan, one of the earliest Neolithic-Chalcolithic sites in the Gulf, has beneath its surface some of the earliest known structures in Qatar. The fact that the site had human inhabitation as early as 7,500 years ago was proved scientifically during summer last year when samples from one of the post holes were radio carbon dated. "When we first found the site, we thought well may be we have just got a flint scatter here, but when we began excavation we found lots of fire pits and many, many post holes", explained al-Naimi, also a co-director of the project.
     Evidence so far indicates that Wadi Debayan had about 3,000 years of occupation. It may not be the same people or continuous occupation. "The very interesting thing here is an absence of clues on the surface that would indicate the presence of archaeology. It looks like a flat desert terrain, but literally below the surface is evidence for Neolithic occupation" said al-Naimi. "However, the landscape does have clues that we can now use to help find similar sites in the future," he added.

Edited from Gulf Times (5 May 2012)

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