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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

UAE’s first village speaks to the country's rich past

The excavation on Marawah island reveals a sophisticated early society

A hypothetical computer reconstruction of Marawah 8,000 years ago. Courtesy Image Nation - Abu Dhabi
A hypothetical computer reconstruction of Marawah 8,000 years ago. Courtesy Image Nation - Abu Dhabi

After archaeologists discovered the UAE’s oldest mosque last September in Al Ain, artefacts dating back 8,000 years have now been excavated just 160 kilometres west of the capital, attesting to the nation’s rich past. The archaeological finds on Marawah Island – unearthed by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) – reveal the UAE’s earliest Stone Age village. And while the site may have first been found in the 1990s, only now do we fully understand the extraordinary sophistication of this Neolithic settlement.

The excavations have given us a window onto what life was like for Abu Dhabi’s earliest inhabitants. At that time, the territory was greener and cooler, home to a sedentary civilisation that built permanent stone houses and herded sheep and goats. The remains include flint arrowheads, pearl oyster shell buttons and, impressively, early art in the form of fragments of decorated plaster. The sophistication of these items point to a refined culture on the island 8,000 years ago. Dr Mark Beech, one of the archaeologists on the site, explained that the Neolithic villagers managed to adapt by shaping their environment to their advantage. “They built their houses at the highest point to catch the breeze,” he said. The adaptation and resourcefulness of that early community is also evidenced in their trade links, which spanned the region, making the UAE a locus of contact between east and west.

These discoveries are not just fascinating. They are immensely valuable and DCT’s archaeological drive is part of a broader mission to find, protect and promote heritage sites that speak to the history of the land on which we now stand. As Mohamed Al Mubarak, DCT chairman, said, these findings “can inform future generations”. As Sheikh Zayed said, to succeed in the future, we must understand our past. These extraordinary relics remind us that the UAE, a relatively young country famed for its cutting-edge technology and modernity, is rooted in ancient history. And unsurprisingly, its people have been open to the world since the dawn of time.

Updated: April 2, 2019 06:26 PM

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