Bulletin 36 - November 1988: Flint Finds from Jebel Mahijir, Abu Dhabi

Flint Finds from Jebel Mahijir, Abu Dhabi

by R.A.Western

Within the last 15 years or so a number of flint sites have been discovered in the UAE, at first in the Al Ain area, then in the Western Region (Giathy, Habshan, Al Liwa), and more recently in other Emirates. The hills north and eat of Al Ain remain a rich area for those interested in stone implements. Jebel Huwaya (Fossil Valley) is a well-known site and the source locality for Bergne and Copeland’s 1976 report Flint Artefacts from the Buraimi Area (Proc.Sem.Arab.STuds. 6, pp.40-61) Some details were given in ENHG Bulletin No. 6, Dec. 1978, pp.11-31). These hills contain not only flint debris from work sites but the source stone too in the form of smooth globular nodules covered with cortex. A nearby site is a Qarn bint Saud, just north of Al Ain.

In 1979-80 the rocky ridge at Jebel Mahijir, some 35 km north of Hili on the Al Ain-Dubai road, was investigated and a few small arrow-heads found along with scatters of flint flakes. It seemed very likely that the source stone was the Jebel itself as nodules were visible at several points, though not in the quantity found at Huwaya. In 1981 Serge Cleuziou, a French archaeologist working primarily at the local Bronze Age site of Hili, discovered a possible Paleolithic tool at Mahijir. This was investigated and reported on by a flint expert, Hans G. Gebel, in ENHG Bulletin No. 24, July 1984, pp.7-10. Subsequent surveys revealed a small area of flint debris lying just west of the southern end of the Jebel. Apart from flints, some beads and worked shell ornaments were found. Although the area is one of mobile dunes, the specific location of these artifacts never seems to alter appearance despite surrounding and encroaching sand which is also heaped up against the west flank of the hill, in places to the very summit of the north-south trending anticline. There are a very small, hardened clay pans in the vicinity where the odd pottery sherds have been found but these are of later date. Bergne and Copeland tentatively placed their Huwaya flints in the ‘post-Neolithic’, i.e. somewhere within the last 10,000 years.

Most of the finds from Mahijir are housed in the Natural History Museum of the Centre for Documentation and Research in Abu Dhabi. the Paleolithic cleaver, apparently much, much older than these, is stored in the Forhistorisk Museum, Moesgard/Arhus, in Denmark.

The flint type at Mahijir is similar or identical to that found at Huwaya. At Huwaya the implements fall into two broad categories, willow-leaf shapes and thinner, rougher pieces. Here, only one or two flat arrowheads have been found, suggesting a work site. These latter weapons have a distinct profile, being triangular in cross-section, with a tang and barbs. The pressure-flaking is very sophisticated. Mahijir has also turned up sufficient waste flakes to enable some minor reconstruction work to be carried out. Various nondescript tools suggest scrapers and burins, but no microliths. Some of the shells had been drilled and may have been used in necklaces. It is known that most of these shells are of recent marine origin (from the UAE or Oman coasts) and that a few are fossil shells from the Jebel itself.


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