x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

French team finds ancient sanctuary in Umm al Quwain

French archaeologists collaborating with the Umm al Quwain Museum have discovered the oldest known ritual sanctuary in Arabia, dating between 3500 and 3200BC on Akab Island.

French archaeologists collaborating with the Umm al Quwain Museum have discovered the oldest known ritual sanctuary in Arabia, dating between 3500 and 3200BC on Akab Island. The researchers excavated dugong bone mounds 50km north of Dubai. The remains of at least 40 dugongs were in a "purposeful arrangement" in rows at the ceremonial site, according to the French Institut National de Recherches Archeologiques Preventives.

Within a 26-square-kilometre area, the team found 1,862 archaeological remains, including beads made from shell, tools and the bones of gazelle, sheep and goats. "We can deduce that the Akab monument, with its preconceived organisation and construction that was meant to last, was a sanctuary," the archaeologists said. "Was it exclusively dedicated to rites related to the dugong or with sea hunting/fishing in general? We have no elements to respond to this question."

Akab Island was a fishing village more than 6,500 years ago. Dugong are now a protected species in the UAE. For centuries, the "sea cows" were hunted for meat and oil. The findings were published in the international archaeological journal Antiquity. mkwong@thenational.ae