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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Earliest village discovered on Abu Dhabi island is evidence of an 8,000-year-old Gulf superhighway

Experts believe trading settlement on the island of Marawah was the first of its kind in what is now the UAE

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

Archaeologists have found the remains of an 8,000-year-old village that is believed to have been home to the UAE's earliest settlers.

The landmark discovery on Marawah Island is evidence of the first houses built when people ceased to be nomads and settled as a community.

The find has turned ideas of how people first lived in the area on their head and given a remarkable insight into how they may have lived.

Experts from the Department of Culture of Tourism - Abu Dhabi say that settled communities existed during a time when previously it was thought only nomads roamed.

Up to ten well preserved dwellings, the first of their kind, have been discovered on the island, located about 30 kilometres off the coast near Mirfah.

The evidence discovered has allowed experts to begin a digital reconstruction of the village, which they believe was occupied for several hundred years.

View of the 7000 year old house on the island of Marawah. Remarkable discoveries by archaeologists from Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) at ancient sites on the island of Marawah and in Baynunah have revealed new information on Abu Dhabi's earliest inhabitants, evidencing a rich history stretching back over 7,000 years.
The remains of homes on Marawah. Courtesy Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

New radiocarbon dates show the community dates from a period known as the New Stone Age or nearly 8,000 years ago.

The houses consist of living rooms and outdoor spaces used to prepare food and keep animals. Each is very similar in design and construction.

“Although finds from this time have been discovered elsewhere in the UAE, until now no architecture had been found," the culture department said.

It means that Marawah could have been where people first settled in one place to build structures, abandoning a nomadic life that centered around their flocks of sheep and goats.

In other parts of the Middle East, this has been linked to the development of agriculture, a process sometimes called the Neolithic Revolution.

“At Marawah it is believed an entirely novel process led to the construction of the village,” said DTC Abu Dhabi.

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Rather than growing crops, the inhabitants of Marawah settled down to exploit the resources of the Arabian Gulf, experts believe.

They saw the sea as a rich source of food even in difficult times, but also for economic opportunities, developing the Arabian Gulf as an ancient “superhighway, to connect them to neighbours and eventually developing sophisticated ship technology to conduct trade and business.

The village can be seen as the first example of modern towns and cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai that later developed along the coast.

One example of this trade with Marawah is currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi in the shape of a complete imported ceramic vessel.

Vase with geometric motifs imported from Mesopotamia United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Marawah Island About 5500 BCE Painted terracotta Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi
The Marawah vase was found earlier and can be seen on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi

The importance of this trade has been revealed by the treasure trove of artifacts discovered at the site. One ceramic vessel found at Marawah, now on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi, is the earliest example of a complete imported trade vessel so far found in the UAE.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said the work of archaeologists “is allowing us to deep-dive into the Emirate’s history, piecing together an intriguing and extraordinary story of the earliest known inhabitants of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

“As we continue to invest in these archeological excavations, we will no doubt further understand our ancestors and our land, and share these findings with the world,” he said.