Bulletin 40 - March 1990: Archaeology Recorder's Report for 1989

Archaeology Recorder's Report for 1989

As usual, the past year has seen considerable activity in the sphere of archaeological excavation in the United Arab Emirates, with work under way in each of the seven emirates except Dubai, and with paleontology work in both Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.

The Group itself has not been involved directly in any excavations, but members played a useful role in the paleontology work in Abu Dhabi's Western Region last January, and have also helped in the identification of a possible new Hellenistic site near Kalba. There have been several articles of an archaeological nature in the Newsletter and the Bulletin. Occasional trips to 'Site One' on the Al Ain Road have continued to yield pottery as the sands uncover them, though nothing of great importance has been found - or at least reported.

The April multi-disciplinary trip to Qarnein Island located a number of coarse potsherds and a probably grave, all of which are likely to be of Islamic date.

The UAE has benefited greatly in recent years from a growth of interest in European and other universities in the archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula. As a result, there are more teams now active in the Emirates than ever before. Members might like to note that a number of the teams are willing to receive people wishing to work with them for a day or two - an invitation that we hope will be taken up during 1990.

In Ras al Khaimah, teams from London and Japan have been active at the site at Julfar. Professor Geoffrey King, from London, is to give the Group a lecture in February, while we hope to organize a guided tour of the site in late January. Also working in Ras al Khaimah has been a team from the University of Edinburgh, at Wadi Qawr near Hatta, and in the northern mountains, while a West German team has continued work in the Shimal area. Work has also been undertaken in Wadi Asimah.

Last spring, a Group weekend trip to Ras al Khaimah included a tour of the fine National Museum there, to be repeated in January 1990, and a trip to the Shimal sites. We are grateful to Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr al Qassimi, deputy Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, and to Jax Laxman, who works at the museum, for facilitating these visits.

In Umm al Qawain, there has been the usual activity at the Parthian site at Al Door, with teams from Lyons in France, Edinburgh, Ghent in Belgium, and Copenhagen. Discoveries during the year, some of which have been reported in the Newsletter and the Bulletin, as well as in the local English language press, have included four altars (sacrificial?) just outside the temple discovered by the Ghent team in late 1988.

The Copenhagen team also carried out a preliminary examination of the mound at Tel Abraq, discovering remains of a settlement that was probably in continuous occupation from around 3000BC to 500BC. The site is being investigated further this winter, and is likely to prove one of the most important ever found in the Emirates.

In Ajman, archaeological work got under way again last month after a gap of several years with a survey undertaken by the Ghent team to study the coastal area and the inland enclaves of Masfut and Manama. The Emirate's National Museum was opened last month.

In Sharjah, work on sites in the Mileiha area continued under the guidance of the Lyons team while the local Department of Antiquities has been encouraging nationals in the area to report any finds. So far, only a few ancient pots and potsherds have been handed in, but the importance of this campaign should be recognized. A lot of artifacts have been discovered in the UAE over the years that have simply disappeared into private hands without scientists being able to examine either the artifacts or the sties where they were found.

A survey has also been undertaken of Sarah's East Coast enclaves, particularly in the Kalba/Khor Kalba area where a number of tombs, probably dating back to the Iron Age, have been discovered. The Group's November Fujairah weekend visited one area near Kalba to make a collection of the pottery scattered on the surface. As reported in the December Newsletter, some of the sherds may be of Hellenistic date. Further examinations will be undertaken.

In Fujairah, the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad completed its excavation of the major Bithna tomb at the beginning of the year and carried out further survey work in the Bithna area and in nearby wadis in November and December, discovering more tombs and a settlement site. The team leader, Pierre Carboud, gave us a brief summary of his work at the November Fujairah weekend.

Our sometime speaker, Dr. Walid Yasin al Tikriti of the Department of Antiquities and Tourism in Al Ain, was planning a rescue excavation of some small tombs in Qidfa at the end of the year.

In Abu Dhabi Emirate, Dr. al Tikriti has been active, as usual, in and around Al Ain. Of particular interest to Group members, however, was the joint expedition he undertook in January with the head of the Paleontology Laboratory of the British Museum (Natural History), Peter Whybrow, to search for fossils in the Western Region. Again, there was substantial coverage in the local press and in the Newsletter. We are pleased to report that one of their major finds - remains of the first fossil carnivore ever to be found in Arabia - was located at a site to which they were led by a small party of Group members who had previously reconnoitered the area.

The team returned in December to carry out a preliminary survey of parts of Fujairah and then moved back to the Jebel Dhanna area to continue their survey from the beginning of the year.

Peter Hellyer


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