Bulletin 27 - November 1985: Gulf Archaeology News



Gulf Archaeology News

Over the past two decades or more, each of the Gulf countries has conducted a series of archaeological investigations within its territory, and many important sites have been surveyed and excavated. While much of the earlier information was available only in specialised journals abroad, public interest has more recently led to an increasing number of general articles in the local media, particularly the press. As more data becomes available, so the archaeological background is now being seen in its wider context of trade and cultural links throughout the Gulf and beyond to Asia. In the UAE the Khaleej Times (KT) and magazines such as Focus (F) have led the way in disseminating information to an increasingly interested public, and the following is a brief summary of some recent events.

Most of the interest and work has centred on pre-Islamic times, as the rapid rise of urbanism has made rescue archaeology an urgent necessity in all Gulf countries. Not that Islamic times have been ignored, as witnessed by Dubai's efforts to preserve a representative portion of its late nineteenth century creek-side architecture. Work on a long term plan to excavate selected burial mounds in Bahrain was accelerated earlier this year when new sites were revealed in the path of the Causeway approach road on the island. A race against time ensued with Tunisian and Jordanian archaeologists digging a prehistoric settlement at Saar, which included two temples, one dated to 2000 BC (the local Bronze Age and Bahrain's late Dilmun period) and the other to the Hellenistic period around 330 BC. The Dilmun temple has plastered walls and opens on to a courtyard with a double row of columns. The settlement is divided by a seven metre wide road running up to one of the temples. Several of the associated small one and two-roomed buildings contained craft tools, while rounded stone seals typical of the Dilmun period were also uncovered. Work has resumed for the 1985/86 winter digging season, and further bulletins are anticipated in the press.

Meanwhile, Indian archaeologists, also working on Bahraini burial mounds last season, discovered several button-type and circular seals similar to those previously found at Lothal and Dwarka in India. Steatite and shell seal designs also confirm the link, which dates to between 4000 and 2000 BC, when Dilmun was flourishing. The association of Gulf sites with Mohenjo Daro in the Indus Valley is also well documented. One particular seal depicts a bull, a peacock and four letters of the Indus script. Carnelian beads uncovered in some of the tombs are of the type found in the Sanrashtra-Kutch region of Gujarat State, and in all likelihood originated from there. (KT 5/5/85, 19/5/85, 12/6/85, 23/8/85)

The 1984/85 season was also an important one in the UAE. A major surface survey turned up pre-historic sites in several parts of Sharjah Emirate according to a report by a French team, which in previous years had worked in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Radio-carbon dating of fossils of animal bones and sea shells found in Gulf Coast settlements revealed a date of 3905 BC. Stone and flint implements were discovered in the centre of the Emirate, around Dhaid and Mileiha and represent the local neolithic. Dates of two artefacts from Dibba, on the east coast, were given as 3535 and 1475 BC. Many of the flint items found matched closely the appearance and style of artefacts found near Al-Khoar in Qatar, at Al Hawia in Oman and at selected sites in eastern Saudi Arabia. The team will return to further explore Sharjah sites possibly predating the Neolithic. (KT 12/8 Last season also saw a team of German workers in Ras al Khaimah, where they surveyed a second millennium BC settlement near Shimal. So far three tombs have been excavated there, the second one displaying a structure typical of the period -- an elongated rectangle with rounded ends and double side walls. Skeletons were found in two of the tombs along with beads, pottery and arrow and spear heads. The third grave was divided into two chambers, and was 22 metres long. Pearl shells littered the area. (KT 20/3/85)

Interest has also been revived in the so-called remains of the Queen of Sheba's palace above the modern village of Zubba (Sheba) al-Jadeed also near Shimal. The site is a natural fortification on a low promontory facing west, and some of the crumbling walls and a roofed cistern are still plainly visible. It is most unlikely that this site was in fact ever visited by the celebrated queen of legend. Successive issues of Focus in July and August 1985 highlighted the archaeology of Rumeilah and Mileiha/Ad-Door respectively. Rumeilah lies between Al Ain's northerly suburbs of Hili and Qattarah. A combined French/Al Ain team excavated an area of 800 in length, uncovering buildings, ovens and a mass of pottery in successive seasons up till 1984. There is evidence of a basic open falaj system, and all the evidence points to a second millennium BC site. Metal artefacts included triangular blades and copper spear heads. Instead of the large communal tombs of the local Bronze Age, there are single graves. It would also appear from the evidence that this Rumeilah period was succeeded by a decline and then an economic move away from sedentary agriculture towards nomadism. (F no.3)

Although Mileiha (south of Dhaid) and Ad-Door (north of Umm al Qawain) have not been resurveyed in recent years, they were the subject of an article in August's Focus, which summarised their archaeology and linkec them to other Hellenistic sites of the third and second centuries BC in the Gulf, as at Failaka in Kuwait.

A full page article in the Khaleej Times of 20/9/85 reviewed the current state of knowledge of the local Bronze Age in the Gulf. UAE sites were highlighted. The article begins with a resume of the protoneolithic and ends with the local Iron Age. Although no new information is given, and many facts omitted, the article does at least link the known chronology of the last 6000 years for the benefit of the general reader.

 


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