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10 February 2017
Rare Stone Age house found in Abu Dhabi

Archaeologists have revealed the discovery of a 7,500-year-old, well-preserved three-room house on Marawah Island, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, at what was once one of the region's largest Stone Age settlements.
     Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, says: "These important discoveries signify Abu Dhabi's advanced construction methods from the Neolithic and the influential role it had in early long-distance maritime trade."
     Abdulla Al Kaabi, coastal heritage archaeologist, says: "This style of architecture is unique for this period and has never been found before in the region."
     Doctor Mark Beech, head of coastal heritage and palaeontology, says: "It's a stunning find because there are no parallels to it anywhere else in the Gulf coast region. You can see the back yard and small walls projecting out, which is where the cooking was carried out, just like traditional Arabian houses. We knew it was a Stone Age site but did not expect it to be so well preserved."
     The walls of the home are up to 70 centimetres thick, and would have had corbelled roofs - a dome shape made by placing stones on top of each other in narrowing courses.
     The site was excavated at the smallest of seven mounds on the island. Archaeologists predict that a complete Stone Age village could be unearthed.
     Artefacts found on the island reveal that the people herded sheep and goats, and used stone tools to hunt and butcher other animals, such as gazelle. Small beads made from shell and a small shark's tooth were also found, with holes very carefully drilled through them. One of their most significant finds was a decorated ceramic jar from Iraq - the earliest evidence of sea trade during that period, when the climate was quite different to now, with freshwater lakes and more vegetation.
     Dr Beech reveals that: "The recent excavations have clarified a lot of questions we had about this period. It tells us about life in the Stone Age and that people had domestic animals, but they also relied a lot on marine life. It also shows that they had a varied diet and were involved in long-distance trade, as we see with the pottery."
     Excavations on the island will continue for many years. Marawah Island is a marine protected site and not open to the public.
     A different side of ancient life in the emirate has been revealed by excavations at Baynunah, about 50 kilometres southwest of the island, on the mainland. The desert surface of that site is littered with bones of wild camels hunted and killed 6,500 years ago - the earliest evidence in the Middle East for the mass killing of wild camels. Research is being conducted on the near-complete skeletons that will allow experts to discover more about their biology.

Edited from The National (1 February 2017)

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