4th Annual Symposium on Recent Archaeological Discoveries in the Emirates

Organised by the Zayed Center for Heritage and History, Al Ain

Wednesday 29th - Thursday 30th March 2006

Location: Mercure Hotel, Jebel Hafit, Al Ain


  1. To examine the results of archaeological and palaeontological excavations and studies in the United Arab Emirates and to place these within a context of interaction with other cultures in the region.
  2. To promote a wider knowledge and awareness of the archaeology and palaeontology of the UAE.
  3. To facilitate the development of exchanges of information between all scholars and researchers concerned with studies of the archaeology and palaeontology of the Emirates.
  4. To encourage the participation of international institutions in research in the UAE.
  5. To encourage greater participation in the studies of the UAE's archaeology palaeontology, heritage and history.

Further information:

Dr. Hasan M. Al-Naboodah
Zayed Center for Heritage and History
P.O. Box 23888
Al Ain
United Arab Emirates
Tel (office): +971 (0)3 7615166
Mobile: +971 (0)50 6422492
Fax : +971 (0)3 7615177
Email: naboodah@uaeu.ac.ae

Email: zc4hh@zayedcenter.org.ae
Web: www.zayedcenter.org.ae



4.30-5.30 p.m.: Registration of Participants in the Mercure Hotel, Jebel Hafit, Al Ain.


Session Chairman: Peter Hellyer (ADIAS/Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Authority)

5.30 pm: Welcome address by Dr. Hassan M. Al-Naboodah, (Director, Zayed Center for Heritage and History)

5.40 pm: Umm al-Ishtan and Bida al-Mutawa: new Late Miocene fossil sites in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate by: Dr. Mark Beech (ADIAS/ADCHA), Dr. John Stewart, (University College, London) and Dr. Heiko Kallweit (ADIAS/ADCHA).

On the instructions of HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a short visit was paid to the Umm al-Ishtan area of Western Abu Dhabi, south-west of Bida al-Mutawaa, on 25th November 2005, to investigate reports made to President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of fossil bones having been found in the area. Hamed Majid Al-Mansouri, a desert ranger from the camp at Umm al-Ishtan, escorted an ADIAS team comprising Dr Mark Beech and Peter Hellyer on an initial reconnaissance of the area. A total of 8 localities with fossils were recorded. Two main areas with fossil tree roots were identified, as well as a third area rich in proboscidean fossils.
Following the receipt of support from the Abu Dhabi Refining Company, TAKREER, a team from ADIAS, including Drs. Mark Beech, John Stewart and Heiko Kallweit, undertook an assessment and excavation of the newly discovered fossil sites at Umm al-Ishtan between 28th January – 2nd February 2006. The main fossil tree root site now has a protective fence around it. No further action was taken on this site. The decision was made, however, to excavate the important proboscidean fossils. This was because they were already partly exposed and likely to suffer further damage with prolonged exposure. A radius and femur were successfully recovered, as well as fragments of a pelvis from a proboscidean. Appropriate conservation measures were taken to ensure the protection of these important fossil specimens as they were lifted and transported to Abu Dhabi. Additional fossil specimens discovered during the excavation, in addition to the elephant remains, included freshwater catfish spines and cranial bones, crocodile teeth, turtle carapace fragments, ostrich eggshell and other mammalian fragments. The stratigraphic context of the new discoveries will be discussed. Whilst it seems likely that the age of the site is probably Late Miocene, like the material previously known from the region, no definitive indication of such was found.
Finally, a brief mention will be made of a newly discovered fossil trackway site located just 2km south-west of Bida Al-Mutawaa. Hamed Majid Al-Mansouri showed us the location. An arc-shaped exposure of limestone close to a modern goat farm had traces of hundreds of footprints in it. A series of clear tracks could be seen criss-crossing the outcrop. The size and shape of these appears to be very similar to the two already known proboscidean trackway sites from Mleisa, just south of the Baynunah forest plantation area in the Western Region.

6.10 pm: Abrupt Holocene Climate Change from Southeast Arabia and the Nature of Cultural Transitions in the Gulf Archaeological Record by: Adrian G. Parker (Oxford Brookes University), Gareth W. Preston, Helen Walkington & Martin J. Hoson

The southeastern Arabian Gulf has been a focal point for human settlement since ~8,000 cal yr BP. Geomorphological and palaeoecological analyses along with archaeological survey work are integrated to provide a framework of environmental change for the Late Glacial and early-mid Holocene periods.
Against this background the record of Neolithic and Bronze Age human activities and environments in southeastern Arabia is made. During the Late glacial and earliest Holocene (12 000 - 9 000 cal. BP) intense aeolian activity and dune emplacement occurred. The early to mid-Holocene moist phase (8 500-6 000 cal. BP) was a phase of wetter conditions with wadi flow, the development of lakes and the dunes stabilised with C3 savanna grassland.
During this period Neolithic herding and exploitation of marine resources occurred. From 5 500 cal BP, during the Bronze Age, the climate became drier, with low lake levels, sparser C4 grassland and dune re-activation. A number of abrupt, prolonged drought event occurred which correspond with a number of cultural transition boundaries. The implication of these climatic events are explored.

6.40 pm: Ortho-Photography and Archaeological Information Systems as tools for the excavator: The example of Al-Buhais 85 - Johannes Schmitt and Adelina Uerpmann (Tubingen)

During the last thirty years the potential of data processing has increased exponentially. The power of computing doubles every two years, and the development of advanced software is directly linked to it. In the last few years a growing number of computer programs has appeared which are also very useful in the context of archaeology. Growing expectations with regard to documentation quality - and restricted availability of work-force and time - have made it increasingly important to process excavation data in a form, which is readily accessible for analysis and publication right at the end of an excavation campaign.
This contribution will demonstrate the potential of Ortho-Photography in connection with an Archaeological Information System (AIS) based on the example of the Iron Age graveyard BHS 85 at the southern end of Jebel al-Buhais (Sharjah). Skeletons, which were discovered in situ during the excavations directed by Aissa Abbas of the Sharjah Directorate of Antiquities in 2004 and 2005, were excavated, documented and analysed by the authors in the context of a Joint Project between the Sharjah Directorate of Antiquities and the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology of Tübingen University (Germany). The authors used an Archaeological Information System (AIS) based on ArcView ® – a software for geographical information systems (GIS) – in combination with Ortho-Photography in order to document the site and to optimise analytical output. Compared to conventional archaeological documentation with drawings, this recording is much faster and includes the possibility of recording excavation progress. This last feature is of particular importance in the case of burials, where knowledge about the exact position of body-parts and grave-goods is crucial for successful interpretation of burial customs and stratigraphic succession.

7.10 – 7.45 pm: Coffee Break


Session Chairman: Drew Gardner (Zayed University)

7.45 pm: Prehistoric News from Sharjah Emirate - Hans-Peter Uerpmann (University of Tubingen), Margarethe Uerpmann (Tubingen), Sabah A. Jasim (Sharjah Directorate of Archaeology), Marc Händel (Tubingen) & Johannes Schmitt (Tubingen)

The Joint Prehistoric Project of the Directorate of Antiquities of the Department of Culture and Information of the Government of Sharjah and the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology of Tübingen University (Germany) has resumed its research in the Jebel Faya area in the interior of Sharjah Emirate at a number of sites near the northern end of the mountain.
Among a number of newly discovered sites found during the explorations by the team of the Directorate of Antiquities there is another Neolithic burial site with similarities to al-Buhais 18. This is part of a complex of flint mining sites in the area which was already recognised as such by the French surveys. One of the little caves in the mining area contains a Neolithic living floor with a fire place and an interesting scatter of flint objects.
The site FAY-NE 1, under excavation since 2003, has yielded a stratigraphic sequence with Iron Age in the upper 20cm, slight evidence for the Bronze Age below it, and Neolithic artefacts in a depth between about 40 and 70 cm. A deep sounding at this site has now reached a depth of over 2 m, which were sterile below the Neolithic level, except for 5 clearly anthropogenic flakes at a depth of c. 170-180 cm, indicating occasional human presence in the area probably during the Upper Pleistocene. Continued searches for Palaeolithic artefacts have revealed a certain pattern for their occurrence on particular surfaces. In addition to findings from the ongoing excavations, the lecture will also present some results of the lab-work between the seasons.

8.15 pm: Investigating the Desert Neolithic: a report on the 3rd season of archaeological survey and excavations at Umm az-Zamul, Abu Dhabi Emirate - Dr. Heiko Kallweit (ADIAS/ADCHA), Richard Cuttler (Birmingham University), Dr. Mark Beech (ADIAS/ADCHA) and Dr. Walid Yasin al-Tikriti (Department of Antiquities and Tourism, Al Ain / ADCHA).

The recent investigation of two sites located in the Umm az-Zamul region in the south eastern desert of Abu Dhabi emirate, UAE, provides important new information concerning the Neolithic period in south-eastern Arabia.
A third season of fieldwork was carried out in a joint project by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) and the Department of Antiquities and Tourism in Abu Dhabi's Eastern Region (both now part of the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Agency).
The controlled pick-up of lithics and mapping was completed for the Khor al-Manahil area. Almost 3,000 individually collected fragments of flint and stone artefacts and their spatial data were recorded. New features identified included a series of enigmatic burnt mounds.

Work also continued on the series of sites previously identified in the Kharimat Khor al-Manahil area. Excavations on the “building structure” at site KHM0046 revealed a subterranean construction with a stone cist at the bottom. A detailed record of the spread of the collapsed stone slabs around the preserved super-structure displays an almost squared space. This is altogether an unusual result, representing a unique type of construction so far not recorded in the UAE. Two shell beads, found on the surface close to the structure resemble types well known from the Neolithic cemetery of Jebel al-Buhais 18, located in Sharjah emirate in the UAE.

8.45 pm: Synthesis of the eighth season of excavations at Hili N, Al Ain - Dr. Sophie Mery, (CNRS, Paris), Dr. Walid Yasin al-Tikriti, (Department of Antiquities and Tourism, Al Ain / ADCHA) and Dr. Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento (CNRS).

This paper will present results of an investigation of the deepest inhumation layers at the Umm al-Nar period pit-grave, Hili N, in the Hili Archaeological Park in Al Ain. This investigation has been undertaken by a joint team comprised of the French Archaeological Mission in the United Arab Emirates and the Department of Antiquities and Tourism in Al Ain.
The types of funerary deposits identified during the latest season of work at the site, the eighth, will be discussed and will be compared with the results from previously-excavated levels in the grave.

9.15 pm: End of Session

9.30 pm: Buffet Dinner (hosted by Zayed Centre for Heritage and History)



Session Chairman: Zaki Nusseibah (Deputy Chairman, Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Authority)

9.30 am: Archaeological survey and excavations on Sadiyat island, Abu Dhabi Emirate: 2005 and 2006 seasons - Dr. Heiko Kallweit, (ADIAS/ADCHA), Richard Cuttler (Birmingham University) and Dr. Mark Beech (ADIAS/ADCHA)

Sadiyat island, also known as Jazirat Sadiyat or Jazirat As Sadiyat, is situated immediately to the northeast of Abu Dhabi Island, from which it is separated by a creek of 1 – 3 km in width. Roughly triangular shaped in its main, southern, part, the northern part consists of a peninsula nearly 3 kilometres long, and about half a kilometre in width, pointing north-northeast.
The Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, was commissioned by Dome International to carry out an archaeological baseline study of the island of Sadiyat, north-east of the island-city of Abu Dhabi. This initial baseline study was carried out by the first author between 14-16 June 2005.
A second phase of fieldwork took place on Sadiyat between 19-24 January 2006, carried out by an ADIAS team, with the support of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, ADTA. This concentrated on two areas deemed in the initial baseline study to be of National and Regional Importance: Area A, a rocky outcrop located in the middle of sabkha towards the north-east coastline, and Area B, an area located along the south-eastern coast of the island.
This article presents the details of two phases of archaeological fieldwork on these two important areas (Area A and Area B). It highlights the results of recent mapping and surveying, and test trenches, to investigate the nature of sedimentation on the island.
Area A is a quite small defined area only extending for about 160 metres from east to west and 30 metres wide at its maximum point from north to south. It produced a serious of smaller sized features, such as hearths, a shell midden and stone structures.
The series of archaeological sites in area B located adjacent to the south-east coastline of the island, cover an area of more than one square kilometre. A variety of sites have been discovered here ranging from hearths to shell middens, pottery scatters and stone structures. Finds collected from the surface survey of these sites include pottery, flints and marine mollusca. The majority of the finds consist of potsherds of mostly Late Islamic date. A total of 2608 potsherds, weighing 21.36 kilograms were collected from these new sites. Although only a small number of flint flakes and tools were discovered, these provide strong evidence for Neolithic occupation of the island.
Radiocarbon dates, obtained from ash samples collected from the hearths, may provide us with a more detailed chronology of human occupation on the island in the near future.

10.00 am: The Archaeological Landscape of Dhayah, Recent Observations and Surveys - Christian Velde, Imke Moellering & Ahmed Hilal (National Museum of Ra's al-Khaimah)

The bay of Dhayah forms a unique landscape, enclosed by mountains on three sides and bordering the sea on the fourth. It offers a perfect cross-section through the varied landscapes of northern Ras al-Khaimah, including the sea, mangroves, palm gardens, gravel fans and mountains. Well known for its historical fort (18th/19th century) and well-preserved Wadi Suq tombs (2000-1600 BC), recent surveys have now revealed more traces of occupation, ranging from prehistoric Hafit tombs (3200-2500 BC) to late Islamic settlements. With their help we can now complete a new chronology of the history of Dhayah bay.

10.30 am: Some thoughts on the Islamic Archaeology of the Al-Ain / Buraimi Oasis based on aerial photographs - Andrew Peterson (Emirates University)

This paper will examine the evidence for settlement in the al-Ain/Buraimi oasis during the Islamic period. Whilst the pre-historic archaeology of al-Ain has been very thoroughly investigated, we know relatively little of the area during the Islamic period (since 640 CE) and what we do know is fairly fragmentary. The aim of this paper is to draw together evidence from a variety of sources to try to understand the urban settlement of this oasis and to suggest directions for future research.
By integrating evidence from both sides of the UAE / Oman border, it should be possible to get a better idea of settlement in the area as a whole. The principal forms of evidence used will be aerial photographs, standing buildings, surface surveys and excavations. Aerial photographs taken during the 1970s show the oasis before the rapid development of the present day conurbation and consequently contain useful information about the topography of the area, in particular buried archaeological features. The historic standing buildings in the oasis consist mostly forts (most of which have been restored) which formed the nuclei of settlements and may thus help us understand the pattern of occupation. Surface surveys give some indication of the chronology and extent of occupation and may be useful for locating sites for further investigation. A number of excavations have been carried out giving an indication of a developed urban society although further excavations will be required before we can begin to develop a model for urban development in the oasis.

11.00 am: Tales from the old guards: Bithnah Fort, Fujairah, U.A.E. - Michele C Ziolkowski & Abdullah S. al-Sharqi (Fujairah)

The following study aims to highlight the historical site of Bithnah fort, located in the emirate of Fujairah. The fort is situated in the Wadi Ham, which was one of the main access routes from the interior to the East Coast of the U.A.E. It is within close proximity to a number of earlier sites, dating from the second millennium BC to the late pre-Islamic period. Historical, archaeological and ethnographic information will be used in order to place the fort within a cultural and temporal context.
Historical references include comments and descriptions by Ibn Ruzaiq (trans. G.P. Badger) and J.G. Lorimer. Archaeological and ethnographic information will be utilised in order to form an understanding of the fort architecture and its immediate surroundings. This will encompass a review of building materials and construction techniques used on the fort. The fort plan will be discussed, and attention paid to structures which are no longer visible due to collapse. Use of space within the fort, including room units and various features, will also be examined. Finally, recommendations will be put forward for further work at the site, such as the collection of more ethnographic information, which would complement excavation at the site and a sympathetic restoration.

11.30 am: Discussion

11.45 am: Closing Remarks by Dr. Hassan M. Al-Naboodah (Zayed Centre for Heritage and History)

12.00: End of Symposium

12.30 pm: Lunch hosted by Zayed Centre for Heritage and History