The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) encompasses an
area of more than 80,000 square kilometers and has a long coastline occupying
most of the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf, as well as a stretch of
coastline extending along the Gulf of Oman. The land of the U.A.E. especially the
desert part of it, extends deep inland and reaches the north-eastern fringes of
the so-called Empty Quarter or Rub AI-Khali. The interior part, which consists
of series of oases formed as a result of alluvial soils from the Al Hajar
Mountains, enjoys a higher level of ground water and fertile soil that helped in
the establishment of ancient cultures. Despite the present dry climate there is
evidence that the U.A.E. and the whole of Arabia enjoyed a better climate in the
past. Palaeontological evidence from the Western region of Abu Dhabi Emirate,
where fossilized bones of elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos,
turtles and other mammals, belonging to the Upper Miocene (6-8 million years
ago), as well as the discovery of traces of ancient rivers, indicate that the
landscape of Abu Dhabi was quite different in the past prior to the arrival of
early human populations.
The first data on the archaeology and ancient
history of the U.A.E. came from the investigations of a Danish team on the island
of Umm an-Nar in 1959. The Danish team which was at that time carrying out
archaeological excavations in other parts of the Gulf extended their
investigations to the eastern region of Abu Dhabi. Since then, local, Arab and
foreign teams have carried out work in different areas in the UAE, adding to the
list of known archaeological sites and improving our knowledge of previously
The Stone Age
Until comparatively recently very little was
known about the Stone Age in the U.A.E. During the past few years more information
has been gathered concerning the Neolithic (Late Stone Age). The most recent
explorations carried out in the interior of the Emirate of Sharjah, however,
have revealed an interesting collection of stone tools that may have been used
by man during the Middle Paleolithic (Middle Old Stone Age), i.e. tens of
thousands years ago. The collection of tools which have been discovered in the
Jebel Faya area are still under study and may provide other significant
information about this early period.
In contrast to the sparse information available
concerning the Middle Paleolithic, the Neolithic period in the U.A.E. is very well
documented. During the Neolithic, the climate was wetter than today and as a
result a number of settlements have been discovered in several places along the
coastline of the Emirates as well as in the interior. Around these settlements,
which mostly were semi-permanent or seasonal, the ancient communities practiced
their daily life. On the islands and close to the coasts they were largely
fishermen and hunters, only small scale husbandry being carried out, whereas
inland they mostly practiced a nomadic lifestyle with their domestic herds. The
remains left behind of these communities, which lived on some of the islands of
Abu Dhabi as well as in the interior oases, are stone tools dominated by
arrowheads, scrapers, knives and borers. Amongst the significant finds are large
quantities of beads and other decorative items made of stone, shell and pearl.
Radiocarbon dating from Marawah in Abu Dhabi
shows that the island was inhabited by the mid sixth millennium BC. A structure
representing the earliest architectural evidence from the Emirates has been
uncovered. This date, as well as other archaeological finds from the site
including a remarkably complete Ubaid pottery vessel, indicates that the
Emirates have at least seven thousand five hundred years of history.
At Dalma island, where a Neolithic settlement
(late 6th to early 5th mill. BC) was discovered, a number of postholes were
unearthed indicating that people were living in houses built of palm fronds.
Houses like these were still in use some decades ago. Discoveries made at Dalma
include stone artefacts and beads in addition to fragments of Ubaid pottery
imported from Mesopotamia some seven thousand years ago.
Another important Neolithic site is Buhais 18 in
Sharjah, located in the interior between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
At this site a large cemetery and traces of a settlement have been excavated.
According to the excavators, the inhabitants of the site are thought to have
been mobile herders who used this particular spot as a central place for their
activities during the springtime. The most prominent objects discovered with the
dead of the Buhais cemetery are necklaces, pendants and different types of
beads. The site yielded the largest known collection of beads made of perforated
pearls. Animal bones and stone artifacts were also discovered in the settlement
area of the site.
At Umm Al Quwain an interesting site was
discovered and partly excavated on the island of Akab, opposite the building of
the Diwan. This site yielded a large quantity of dugong (sea cow) bones that
lead the excavators to interpret the site as being a butchery site for this
marine animal. Tubular beads and other decorative objects, as well as flint
objects dating to the fifth and possibly fourth millennium BC, were discovered.
Stone Age sites have also been recorded near Al
Hamra Island to the south of Ras Al Khaimah. Potsherds of Al Ubaid type pottery
and stone artifacts as well as beads and net weights were discovered at several
different localities. The most common type of Neolithic sites however is shell
middens. These are located along the coastline which extends for about 600
kilometers between Ras Al Khaimah and Sila. Mounds like these, though on a
smaller scale, are also known along the UAE stretch of coastline on the Gulf of
Oman, e.g. at Khatm Milaha, Kalba, Qurayyah, Uqqa and Dibba. Other Neolithic
sites on the Arabian Gulf coastline include Hamriyah in Sharjah and Al Medar in
Umm Al Quwain. Recent work has identified a number of important Neolithic sites
in the area of Umm al Zumul in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Here dozens of
localities have yielded large quantities of stone artifacts. Architectural
evidence has also been discovered at one of these sites.
Hafit Period (3200-2700 BC)
The end of the Late Stone Age or Neolithic
period in the Emirates is marked by the beginning of the Bronze Age during the
very late fourth millennium BC. This period known as the Hafit Period is named
after Jebel Hafit, located in the eastern region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, where
more than 500 stone cairns were discovered. Excavations of these cairns started
in 1962 by the Danish expedition, who found that these cairns were above ground
tombs each with a single chamber. Further excavations carried out by teams from
the Department of Antiquities in Al Ain as well as the French expedition
demonstrated that these tombs are all quite similar. Each consists of a single
round or oval chamber built of locally mined stones. Unfortunately, due to later
disturbance only a few finds were retrieved from the excavation of these tombs.
Nevertheless, a small amount of pottery was discovered within the tombs, mostly
vessels imported from Mesopotamia some 5000 years ago. Some of these vessels are
decorated with geometrical and floral designs and belong to the pottery type
known as Jemdet Nasri, named after the type site of Jemdet Nasr, which is
located near to Babylon in modern day Iraq. The tombs also yielded a collection
of beads of Mesopotamian origin. In addition to Hafit tombs, similar stone
cairns have also been discovered at Bida Bint Saud and on the ridges located to
the east of Hili across the border in the Sultanate of Oman.
Outside the eastern region of Abu Dhabi tombs
presumably of the same date have been discovered in the area between Wum and
Dhanha just to the west of Dibba in Fujairah Emirate. Although none of these
tombs have been excavated their architecture and location suggest a similar
date, this however would have to be confirmed by future excavations. In Ras Al
Khaimah similar cairns have been recently discovered on mountain ridges near
Khatt and Qarn al Harf. A small number of similar tombs were excavated at Jebel
Al Umailih to the south of Mleiha in Sharjah Emirate. Some of the stone cairns
located at the slopes of Jebel Buhais and Jebel Faya in Sharjah are claimed to
also be of a similar date.
It should be noted that the architecture of
Hafit tombs is a local feature, while most of the objects discovered within the
tombs are of Mesopotamian origin indicating the presence of long distance trade.
Settlement sites associated to Hafit tombs have not yet been discovered.
Umm an Nar Period (2700-2000 BC)
This period which covers almost three quarters
of the third millennium BC (2700-2000 BC) is named after the Island of Umm an
Nar, a small island located near Abu Dhabi. Excavations on the island were
started by a Danish team in 1959, further archaeological investigations being
subsequently carried out by Iraqi and local teams. Since this earlier work, the
term Umm an Nari has been used to describe the culture of the community which
lived during this period. In spite of other sites of similar date being
identified since these earlier discoveries, the island of Umm an Nar remains the
most important and interesting focal site of a culture which thrived in the
region around 45 centuries ago. Today, the term is widely used by Gulf
archaeologists to describe not only the culture identified at the island itself
but also the other cultures discovered elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf which have
The archaeological area of the island of Umm an
Nar consists of a settlement site and a cemetery of 50 above ground tombs. These
tombs are different in shape and can be classified into three different types:
1- Multi-chamber circular tombs built of dressed stones.
2- Multi-chamber circular tombs built of rough stones.
3- Single chamber tombs built of rough stones.
Tombs from the Umm an Nar period are known in
many places in the U.A.E., such as at Hili (AI Ain), Mleiha and Buhais (Sharjah),
Shimal, Munaie and Asimah (Ras Al Khaimah), Mowaihat (Ajman), Sufouh and Hatta
(Dubai). Amongst these, the Hili tombs remain the most elaborate and largest
Bronze Age complex in the region.
Settlement sites belonging to the same period
have been discovered in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, namely the
sites of Hili 1, 8 and 10. A settlement comprising a large round building with
thick stone wall was discovered at al Bidya village north of Fujairah. Another
larger tower was partly excavated at Tell Abraq, a site located on the border
between Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. A similar tower building of the same date was
discovered and excavated at Kalba on the East Coast. Seasonal sites from the Umm
an Nar period have also been discovered in several parts of the UAE; of
particular note is the one on Ghanadah Island northeast of Abu Dhabi. The latter
was the first site from the Umm an Nar period to have been discovered outside
the axis of Umm an Nar – Hili.
At Hili, the occupation of the Umm an Nar period
community lasted at least one thousand years with- out interruption. The people
were farmers and traders and they were also engaged in the copper industry.
Groundwater was high at that time and due to the availability of clay they built
their houses of sun-dried mud bricks, unlike their burials which were built of
hard stones. The most well known tomb of the period is the Hili Grand Tomb, the
one standing in the middle of Hili Archaeological Park. It is around 12 meters
in diameter and is built of colossal stones mined from a near-by mountain ridge.
Originally, it was around 4 meters or so in height with two entrances, each
decorated with drawings carved on the rocks besides the entrances. Close to Hili
Grand Tomb there is another tomb designated as Tomb N. Unlike the other circular
tombs this burial is subterranean and was built just outside Tomb E, an
above-ground tomb. It was in actual fact built only 2 feet away from the ring
wall of Tomb E. From the architectural point of view, Tomb N is very simple but
it is very rich in finds, as hundreds of pottery vessels were uncovered together
with a number of stone vessels and a large collection of beads. Tomb N has been
dated to the last two centuries of the 3rd millennium BC. According to the
osteological evidence more than 600 dead were buried in this grave. Adult males
and female as well as children of different ages were buried together. Tomb N is
of great significance amongst Umm an Nar period burials and the site only has
one parallel in the al Mowaihat region in Ajman. At Mowaihat a circular
above-ground tomb and an adjacent subterranean burial were excavated by the
Department of Antiquities in Al Ain in 1986 when no Umm an Nar tombs were known
outside of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Apart from the tombs located inside the Hili
Archaeological Park there are further examples of Umm an Nar tombs built
outside, between and on the edge of their settlements, which cover quite an
extensive area. The extensive presence of tombs and settlements belonging to the
Umm an Nar culture in the Eastern region of Abu Dhabi indicates that the region
played a major role in communications between the coast and the interior. High
groundwater level, good soil and the need for copper mining in the adjacent Oman
had helped the establishment of permanent settlements. The distribution of these
settlements in the interior and along the coastal areas led to an interaction
within the different communities of the U.A.E. and with the other civilizations at
the time such as Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.
Wadi Suq Period
The culture of the communities that lived in the
U.A.E. and Oman between 2000 and 1300 BC is known among archaeologists as the Wadi
Suq Culture. It takes its name from Wadi Suq, which is located west of Sohar in
the Sultanate of Oman, where the first evidence of this culture was discovered.
Though mostly plundered, large groups of graves yielding various types of stone
vessels and some pottery were discovered on the ridges overlooking the wadi by
the Danes. These graves were dated according to their contents to the first half
of the 2nd millennium BC. People of the U AE and Oman stopped building elaborate
circular tombs that was a tradition during the Umm an Nar period. During the
Wadi Suq period, the circular tombs were replaced by mainly narrow and long
graves without interior divisions and usually accessed by an entrance built into
one of the two long walls. In the U.A.E. this 2nd millennium culture is represented
in a number of settlements and graves. The first site of this period to be
discovered is a grave, which is around 14 meters long, unearthed at Qattara in
the city of Al Ain in 1973. Some of the sugar lump outer facing stones of the
Umm an Nar tombs were randomly re-used in this grave. Excavations at the tomb
led to the discovery of large quantities of objects including stone vessels, a
few pottery vessels and large collections of bronze weapons and beads. The most
interesting objects discovered are pendants made of electrum (mixture of gold
and silver) in the shape of animals. Similar pendants were found in other graves
of the period at Bidya and Dhaya. It should be also noted that the Shimal
complex in Ras Al Khaimah is the most important site of the culture as it has
several graves and the remains of a settlement of the same date.
The Wadi Suq period in the U.A.E., which used to be
considered as a gap in the history of Southeast Arabia, has revealed itself
through a number of sites discovered during the last two decades. For instance,
three smaller graves dating to the same period were discovered at Hili North.
Earlier a large cemetery of both Wadi Suq and Iron Age graves was discovered at
Al Qusais in Dubai. These graves in addition to the 2nd mill BC pottery known
from the same area indicate that a settlement site must have existed in the
vicinity of the cemetery.
In addition to the above-mentioned sites there
are others in Ras Al Khaimah, such as those of Ghalila, Dhaya, Shimal and Qarn
al Harf. Along the East Coast some Wadi Suq graves have been discovered at Al
Bidya, Sharm and Dibba. Site 1 at Bidya is of special interest as it is the
longest grave ever to be discovered in the UAE (30m long). It had a concealed
narrow chamber that was built underneath the floor pavement. Unfortunately, most
of these graves suffered heavy disturbance, nevertheless, the excavators managed
to identify the remains of 140 dead from one of the Shimal graves.
It should be noted that apart from the long
graves there are several other types of Wadi Suq burials. Among several others
there is a type which is built in a shape of horseshoe with an entrance on the
curved side. Graves like these are known at Wadi Al Qawr, Qidfa, Muraished and
Buhais. The latter revealed large number of Wadi Suq graves containing pottery
and stone vessels together with many other objects. We should also mention that
2nd millennium BC graves are also known from Kalba together with fortifications
of the same date added to the Umm an Nar settlement site mentioned earlier.
Another type of Wadi Suq graves are T -shaped burials. One was excavated at
Dhaya by a German team and another example at Bithna by a Swiss team.
The explorations carried out at Khor Fakkan by
Sharjah museum led to the discovery of a number of I graves and houses on the
mountain ridge overlooking the harbor. The inhabitants of this site seem to have
been predominantly fishermen.
The Wadi Suq graves discovered in Asimah,
together with more ancient graves from the Umm an Nar period provides further
evidence that the area was continuously inhabited for many centuries.
Generally speaking, despite the sparse number of
settlements known from the Wadi Suq period, which some scholars attribute to
factors such as climatic change and/or other economic reasons, the number of
graves discovered indicates that fairly large groups of people were living along
the coasts, in the wadis and in the oases, especially in the Northern Emirates.
Archaeological sites belonging to the Iron Age
covering a period between 1300 and 300 BC have been found all over the regions
in the United Arab Emirates. It seems that the existence of quite large villages
from the Iron Age, especially along the western foothills of the Al Hajar
Mountains, is owed to the introduction of the falaj. This kind of irrigation
system have been attested at Hili through the excavations at Hili 15 and
considered the most ancient known in the world so far. Unlike what was thought
about its origin, the excavators believe that this system, which consists of
underground channels tap- ping water from quite a distance, was originally
introduced into this part of Arabia and spread out into Iran. According to the
new discoveries made at several Iron Age sites that were irrigated by aflaj, the
Iranian origin of the system has been recently disputed.
On the basis of the Archaeological
investigations and research carried out in the region, the Iron Age can be
divided into three Periods:
Period I (1300-100 BC).
Period II (1100-600 BC).
Period III (600-300 BC).
Rumaila in the City of Al Ain is the most
ancient village from the Iron Age although most of its upper buildings belong to
the second period. Like most of the other Iron Age sites, the houses at Rumaila
were covered with drifted sand and protected shortly after it was abandoned.
There is evidence that in addition to cultivation the inhabitants of this
village were also engaged in the copper industry. Iron objects discovered here
Hili 2 is another substantial village from the
Iron Age where several houses built of sun dried mud bricks were uncovered. Some
walls were found preserved up to the roof level. Large number of storage jars of
different size was found inside these houses and out. At Bida bint Saud to the
north of Hili another Iron Age site with a cemetery built on top of an outcrop
was first excavated. A near-by public building and an adjacent falaj from the
same date have also been investigated.
Muwaileh in Sharjah is another important site
from the Iron Age. Several units including a public building mostly destroyed by
fire were discovered. At the latter, a large collection of iron, though mostly
scraps were discovered. A portion of large storage jars bearing three signs of
South Arabian writing is of much interest.
At Thuqaiba in Al Madam where the plain is
similar to that of Hili traces of Iron Age villages were also discovered. An
ancient falaj which might be of similar date was partly excavated.
One of the architectural features during the
Iron Age Period is the establishment of forts which controlled the wadis in
the mountainous areas. Among these forts: Husn Wadi Madhab, Awhala, Bithna and Wadi Al Qawr.
It should be noted that the recent discoveries
at Bithna in Fujairah brought to light a sanctuary with a large number of
incense burners and pottery vessels decorated with snakes. This collection of
complete and fragmented vessels is the largest ever discovered after that
uncovered at the Mound of Serpents at al Qusais.
This refers to the period that witnessed the
assimilation of Western Greek Civilization into Eastern Civilization, a
development which coincided with the conquest of the Middle East by Alexander
the Great towards the end of the 4th century B.C. The successors of Alexander
the Great had failed to extend their power and domination to the Arabian
Peninsula. A number of important sites are however known from this civilization
in the U.A.E, such as Mleiha and ed-Dur. There are also archaeological remains
from the same period known from Dibba AI-Husn as well as elsewhere in the V.A.E.
This is probably because the successors of Alexander the Great preserved their
domination over the sea trade routes to India until the 2nd century B.C. before
they were expelled by the founder of the Parthian Empire at about 140 B.C.
This site is located about 50 km east of
Sharjah, and is a large settlement that depended economically on agriculture and
trade. Evidence suggests that it was occupied from the 3rd century B.C. until
around the 3rd century A.D., spanning two phases: before and after the birth of
Christ. It is to this latter second phase that the site of ed-Dur belongs. The
excavations carried out at Mleiha have revealed the existence of a large
settlement comprising houses, workshops and memorial burials. One of the most
notable discoveries of this site is a large multi-roomed building (measuring 55
x 50 m) referred to as AI-Husn, which was probably an administrative centre. An
important discovery relating to this building is one side of a coin-minting
mould, which provides clear evidence that the minting of coins was practiced at
Mleiha traded with the Greeks, a fact
demonstrated by the existence of amphora jars and handles which still carry the
mark of their makers. These have been identified as belonging to the island of
Rhodes in the east of the Mediterranean Sea dating to the beginning of the 2nd
century B.C. This provides the first proof of the practice and exchange of trade
between the present UAE region and the Greek world via Mesopotamia and Syria.
One of the other important discoveries made at Mleiha by the local excavation
team in 1994 was a cemetery consisting of 26 graves, of which 12 were reserved
for burying camels. In one of the graves the two skeletons of a camel and a
horse were found. It appears that the horse was buried with all of its
gold-studded harnesses. Several other tombs previously excavated by the Iraqi
and French missions have also yielded a number of different objects.
Amongst the other archaeological discoveries
made at Mleiha are a small number of very important inscriptions of South
Arabian origin. The discovery of other Aramaic writing dating back to the 2nd
century B.C. points to the building of a memorial burial ground at Muki. Based
on this evidence, it is possible that the Mleiha area was already known by that
name at that time.
In the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain there is a large
settlement site located on its coastline. This site was partly excavated by the
Iraqi Archaeological Mission in 1974 for the duration of one season. European
missions from Belgium, Denmark, Britain and France have also carried out
excavations there for some years starting from 1987. It is now clear that this
was the largest settlement on the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf
representing the second phase of the Hellenistic Period in the U.A.E. Excavations
here led to the discovery of a square fort, houses and a large number of graves,
all built of locally mined stone. One of the most important features of this
site is the temple which was discovered by the Belgium team. Outside the temple
three alters and a stone carrying Aramaic writing were discovered. Although the
writing is difficult to decipher, it was possible to identify the solar deity
Shams (Shamash) on it.
Dibba Al Husn Site
The Department of Antiquities in Sharjah has
recently discovered a burial at Dibba Al-Husn, located on the East Coast of the
Emirate. The archaeological finds coming from this burial, as well as, those
discovered at various sites on the east coast, testify to the existence of a
civilization which dates back to the Hellenistic Period. Many objects of glazed
pottery, imported glass utensils, jewelry and two nicely decorated combs made of
ivory all dating to the 1st Century AD were discovered in this burial. The
decorations on the comb represent human and floral motifs.
It is worth mentioning that large collections of
finds belonging to the Hellenistic Period were also discovered in older burials
dating to the Wadi Suq and Iron Age periods. These old burials, discovered in
different parts of the U.A.E, had been reused during the above-mentioned
periods. Regarding the size of the Hellenistic objects discovered the Fujairah
group is considered to be the largest. The burials at Bidya, Dibba, Bithna, and
Husn al Madhab also yielded very interesting collections. This is in addition to
the burials of Shimal, Asimah, Wadi Al-Maneei in Ras Al-Khaimah as well as Khor
Fakkan and Kalba in Sharjah.
Not much is known about the period following the
Hellenistic age or that preceding the advent of Islam. With the exception of the
site of Kush in the Shimal area of Ras Al-Khaimah, where the British mission
carried out some excavations, there is scarcity of remains belonging to the
Sasanian Period. The Sasanian finds discovered largely consist of glazed pottery
which seems to be mainly restricted to the coastal areas of the Northern
Emirates. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the Kush site includes
buildings erected around the 6th Century AD. It is known that the region
witnessed dangerous events during the century that followed.
It is a known fact that the people of the U.A.E.
and Oman were amongst the first converts to Islam at an early stage and that
their conversion was voluntary. Despite the absence of archaeological sites
dating back to the first era of Islam, information is recorded in the writings
of historians about the town of Dibba, north of Fujairah, which witnessed some
of the battles of the apostasy war in the aftermath of the death of the Prophet
(May peace and the blessing of Allah be upon him). Archaeological evidence
indicates that the site of Kush has remains belonging to the beginning of Islam
in the U .A.E, and the excavators considered it to be the actual site of the
famous historical town of Julfar.
The remains of the Jumeira site in Dubai and its
architectural traces indicate a substantial role for this site during the first
phase of Islam. It represents the remains of an Islamic town with a large
population from the Abbasid, or probably the Umayyad Period, which controlled
trade routes at the time.
Although no permanent settlements from the
beginning of Islam have been so far discovered within the Eastern Region of Abu
Dhabi Emirate, the discovery of a Falaj from that period, together with an
adjacent Mosque dating to a later phase of that Falaj is of some significance.
This can be interpreted as evidence that a settlement site from the end of the
Umayyad Period or the beginning of the Abbasid State was in existence near that
place and depended on it for its water supply.
One of the other important Islamic sites in the
U.A.E. is the settlement of Julfar in Ras Al Khaimah. This was widely known for
its commercial and trading reputation at the beginning of the 14th century AD.
The first archaeological excavations at the site were undertaken by the Iraqi
Archaeological Mission in 1973. Sites were excavated at both Al-Darbahania and
Al-Mataf, both parts of old Julfar. Later on, missions from Japan, Britain,
France and Germany discovered further remains, the oldest of which dated back to
the 13th century AD. One of the most notable of these discoveries were a group
of mosques built one over the other in view of the need for renewal and
re-building. Ancient Julfar (which dates back to the first phase of Islam) was
recently determined by another British team to have been located at the site of
Kush in the Shimal area. This was after it was proved that Hulayla Island, near
Rams to the north of Ras Al-Khaimah, was not the original site of ancient Julfar
as was previously thought. It is to be remembered that Julfar was the hometown
of Ahmed Bin Majid, the sailor, and the well-known poet Ahmed Bin Dhahir. The
Portuguese, in the writing of the sailor Duarte Barbosa, had described in 1517
the people of Julfar as being wealthy, great sailors, wholesale traders and that
its gulf had a plentiful supply of fish and large and small pearls. Excavations
in the ruins of ancient Julfar led to the discovery of many fragments of
porcelain and celadon imported from China and other parts of East Asia, which
proves the existence of extensive maritime trade.
The period stretching from the 14th to the 16th
century AD is characterized by the existence of many sites where the discovery
of complete and fragmented pottery vessels makes it possible to determine their
date. During the 17th and 18th centuries a new architectural style appeared
which became popular until recent decades. This period is known as that of the
Late Islamic, and during this time fortified buildings were scattered in the
mountainous area of the U .A.E, especially in places previously used as military
posts. Two examples will suffice. The first is Awhala Fort in Fujairah, and the
second is a fort (or castle) at Rafaq in the Wadi Al-Qawr in the southern part
of the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah. In these two areas fragments of pottery dating
to the Late Islamic Period were discovered, and it transpires that both these
sites were built on the ruins of more ancient castles dating back to the Iron
The remains of an Islamic village were excavated
at Qidfa in 1975 by an Iraqi team, who dated it to the 16th century AD. In
addition to this Late Islamic settlement, several Islamic villages are known
scattered throughout the Emirate of Fujairah.
The U.A.E has a large number of forts and
towers built during the last few centuries of a type which is widely known
throughout Southeast Arabia. One of these forts is Dhaya, located to the north
of Ras Al- Khaimah, which the British attacked in 1820. Other forts are found in
Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai and Al Ain. The emirate of Fujairah is
particularly rich in forts and castles; one of the most famous is Fujairah Fort,
in the middle of old Fujairah village. This large fort is characterized by its
unique architecture, and it has been dated as belonging to the middle of the
16th century. Other similar buildings in Fujairah emirate include Al-Bithna
Fort, Awhala Fort, Al-Hayl Castle, Masafi Castle and Dibba Castle. This is in
addition to the remains of the castle believed to be part of the fort built by
the Portuguese in the village of Al-Bidya.
The coastal towns of Khor Fakkan and Kalba
located in Sharjah Emirate on the East coast of the U .A.E. are known from a
number of ancient sources times. Archaeological surveys and excavations
demonstrate that these towns date back to the 11th century AD and that they
continued to prosper during the 15th century AD. It should be pointed out here
that the recent discovery of Chinese pottery pieces dating back to the 13th
century AD from the town of Dibba Al-Husn in Sharjah Emirate is of some note.
One of the important Islamic monuments in the U.A.E. is the Al-Bidya mosque, the oldest of all mosques currently in use in the
country. It is characterized by its architectural plan and four domes.
Radiocarbon dating has established that the construction of Al-Bidya mosque took
place during the 16th century AD. Other ancient mosques were also discovered at
Julfar by the British mission, as earlier indicated, the oldest of which
belonged to the 8th century after Hijra (14th century AD). These mosques were
built on top of each other, an indication of a long and continued use of this
area for that purpose. Another archaeological mosque in the U.A.E is the one
located next to the early Islamic falaj in Al Ain, which was discovered in the
middle of the city, as previously mentioned.