ADIAS Occasional Newsletter - February 2002
(issue no. 2 of the 2001-2002 Season)



Phase Four of Jebel Dhanna sulphur mine study completed
ADIAS involved in Marawah Marine Protected Area planning
Dalma studies
Sites in Baynunah and Salabikh
ADIAS / UAE Offsets collaborate in preserving the UAE's heritage
More visitors for ADIAS website
Sir Bani Yas sites to feature in film for Danish TV
Thanks to Motivate Publishing
Fossil antelope from Rumaitha
Progress on database development
Publications and Papers




Phase Four of Jebel Dhanna  sulphur mine study completed


As regular readers of the Occasional Newsletter will know, a major complex of sulphur mines was discovered by ADIAS in 1998 at Jebel Dhanna, adjacent to the tank farm of the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, ADCO. ADIAS Resident Archaeologist Daniel Hull and  Field Archaeologist Stephen Rowland have recently completed a fourth and final season of investigation of the mines.

The mines are made up of at least 180 individual shafts or trenches, arranged in a series of 12 separate complexes. The majority of these shafts take the form of deep, almost circular, narrow holes, dug deep into the rock using a short-handled, metal implement. Many of these shafts go to 10 or 12 metres beneath the ground, with large numbers of them joining up below to form large, underground chambers with domed roofs, ledges, ventilation and light holes, and steps cut in to the rock to allow access from above. The fourth and final stage of the work involved  mapping the position of each of the 12 groups of mine shafts, as well as exploring areas previously not investigated, in the southern and eastern parts of the jebel. It is estimated that these shafts involved the excavation of over 1500 cubic metres of rock from the northern and western slopes of the jebel, for the purposes of removing veins of crystalline sulphur. In all, a total of over 90 tonnes of sulphur were mined during this process, although the final figure may be much higher.

Sulphur is a natural antiseptic, and can be used to cure a wide range of human and animal skin disorders, especially the life-threatening ulcers which camels sometimes suffered from in the past. Among other uses for sulphur is the manufacture of gunpowder, and it seems this was the main reason why so much mining took place at Jebel Dhanna. We are not yet  sure of the date of the mines. Scatters of pottery sherds suggest that they are between 100 and 400 years old, probably mainly at the earlier end of  the range. Charcoal from a number of small hearths around the mine shafts has now been sent, courtesy of British Petroleum (BP), to the Scottish Universities Research & Reactor Centre in Glasgow, UK, for radiocarbon dating analysis that should provide us with a better idea of the probable date. As well as the mine shafts, a series of  complex water catchment systems, similar to those discovered recently on the island of Futaisi, have also been examined by ADIAS at Jebel Dhanna, shedding light on the subsistence techniques of those working the mines.

The Jebel Dhanna work is part of a major programme of archaeological  survey conducted since 1998 throughout the ADCO (Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations) field areas. This research has involved work not only at Jebel Dhanna, but also at Dabb'iya, Rumaitha and Shanayel in North-East Abu Dhabi, the Asab, Sahil and Shah oilfields and adjacent areas, and the Bab and Bu Hasa fields. In each area, archaeological and/or  palaeontological sites were discovered, with around 125 so far identified. ADCO has provided generous backing for the programme, and continues to support our work, for which we are most grateful.




ADIAS involved in Marawah Marine Protected Area planning


The first Marine Protected Area, MPA, in Abu Dhabi was announced in early January. Covering a total of over 4,000 sq.km., it includes a stretch of the coastline west of Mirfa, the islands of Junana, Marawah, Liffiya, Bazm al Gharbi, Halat Hail and Bu Tini, and an extensive area of shallow water which is of proven international importance because of its seagrass beds and populations of dugongs and turtles. The formal designation of protection for the area, known as the Marawah Marine Protected Area, was the subject of an Emiri decree issued by Crown Prince HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, following a recommendation made by the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA.

As regular readers of the Occasional Newsletter will know, several of the islands in the MPA, in particular Marawah, have important archaeological sites, while the coastal area, which includes the outcrop of Ra's al-Aysh, not only has other archaeological sites, but also contains a number of significant sites for vertebrate fossils from the Late Miocene period, around 5 to 6 million years ago. As part of the planning for effective management of the MPA, a full study of the area is to be undertaken, including both the land and marine areas. In collaboration with ERWDA, managers of the MPA, ADIAS will be taking part in this study, helping to ensure that protection of the UAE's cultural,  as well as natural, heritage is an integral part of the management process. Evaluation of several other offshore areas with islands containing archaeological sites is now also under way, and may lead to the designation of further MPAs in the future.




Dalma studies


Following the Municipality trenching work on Dalma, which affected the important Late Stone Age settlement site in the island (reported briefly in the last Newsletter), a three-person team, of Dr. Mark Beech, our Environmental Archaeology specialist, Daniel Hull, our Resident Archaeologist, and Paula Wallace, Field Archaeologist, visited the island for a few days in December, to examine and to draw the 40 metre long trench through the site, which is over 2 metres deep. Although, naturally, we wish that the trench had not been dug, it has allowed ADIAS to gain further valuable information about the extent of the site, and also about the depth of the stratified deposits. These deposits, the remaining evidence of the ancient occupation, contain shells, potsherds and flint artefacts, and go deeper than we had originally realised. Study of the trench showed that the deposits extend some tens of centimetres below the level at which carbon samples were taken three years ago. These samples provided a date of around 5,000 BC, or perhaps a little earlier, so the lower levels are probably a little older still. Further work is clearly required!

A further visit, by Daniel Hull and Stephen Rowland, was made in early February, to examine some trenching in another part of the island. As a result of the visits, ADIAS has been able to establish good contacts with the contractors on Dalma for the Municipality. Having studied the trenching work, and also the future plans for trenching in the area, we have been able to provide extensive advice on where, and where NOT, to dig, while study of the trenches themselves have provided useful data. ADIAS and ERWDA have now jointly written to the contractors, the Municipality and other relevant bodies to provide data on sites and to give approval for the trenching work to continue, provided that certain guidelines are observed.




Sites in Baynunah and Salabikh


Following the conclusion of the recent work  at Jebel Dhanna, Dan Hull and Steve Rowland took the opportunity to venture into the deserts south of Ghiyathi. Last year Mubarak bin Rashid al Mansouri, Public Relations and Transport Co-ordinator for ADCO at Jebel Dhanna, had shown Hull and Rowland a number of sites of interest south-west of Ghiyathi. One of these was the spectacular fossilised mud plain at Mleisa, bearing footprints of an elephant-like creature probably of the Pleistocene (around 11,000 to 1.8 million years ago). This time, Mubarak and a number of his relatives took Dan and Steve into new terrain, showing them that many such fossilised mud plains exist within an arc of territory covering the 45 kilometres from Baynunah, south-west of Ghiyathi, to Salabikh to the east. Each has its own local name, and brief surveys of these plains have revealed two new sites of archaeological and palaeontological importance. The site of Umm al-Khaber, one kilometre east-north-east of Ghiyathi consists of spreads of ostrich eggshell lying on the surface of a fossilised mud plain. This complements reports of finds of whole ostrich shells in recent  years by Emiratis in the area immediately south of Ghiyathi, suggesting that the Arabian Ostrich Struthio camelus syriacus   was present in the area at some point from the Pleistocene period onwards. A similar site was found at Niqqa, 8.3 kilometres south-east of Umm al-Khaber. This again consisted of a perfectly preserved fossilised mud plain, bearing footprints as was the case at Mleisa. However, at Niqqa, rather than elephant prints, as at Mleisa, impressions of 3 prints left by a smaller, 5-toed foot, around 28 centimetres across, were discovered. The animal responsible has yet to be identified, and further study of these mud plains is clearly required. The Niqqa plain also produced a fine worked flint scraper, further evidence of a Late Stone Age presence in the area.




ADIAS / UAE Offsets collaborate in preserving the UAE's heritage


Important new archaeological discoveries have been made on the coastal plain of Fujairah and in southern Ra's al-Khaimah, not far from the village of Muna'i as a result of work being carried out by ADIAS in connection with the building of the new water pipeline from the Fujairah coastal town of Qidfa to Al Ain. The water pipeline, and an associated desalination plant are being constructed for the new Union Water and Electricity Company, UWEC, created last year under the aegis of the UAE Offsets Programme. In accordance with relevant federal and local environmental protection legislation, UOG requires that environmental studies and archaeological surveys are carried out as an integral part of all projects, in order  to identify and, where possible, to protect areas of environmental or archaeological sensitivity. As part of this process, ADIAS was commissioned to undertake an environmental and archaeological baseline study of the 180 km. pipeline route from Qidfa, around 20 km. north of Fujairah City, to Al Ain. During the survey, carried out by Peter Hellyer and Simon Aspinall,  over 20 previously unrecorded archaeological sites were identified. Of these, the most significant were in the southern part of Ra's al-Khaimah, near Manduk and Muna'i, and on the Fujairah coastal plain, at Qidfa itself and near the village of Qurrayah. Following the identification of the sites, UOG, ADIAS, and representatives of Technip, the pipeline contractors, and consultants worked together to agree on the necessary action to protect or investigate the sites. For those near Qurayyah and in the mountains, where a large copper-smelting complex dating back to the early and mid Islamic period was identified, it was decided to make minor amendments to the pipeline route and to fence the archaeological sites for investigation at a later date. The sites at Qidfa, however, lie close to the desalination plant and associated tank farm, and an alternative route for the pipeline did not exist. It was, therefore, decided that an urgent archaeological investigation be undertaken by ADIAS at Qidfa. The team, comprised of Dr. Geoffrey King, ADIAS Academic Director, and Michele Ziolkowski, of the University of Sydney, first surveyed the sites, to identify those which would be affected by the pipeline route. This was followed by a systematic collection of all pottery from the surface of the site. While much of it can be dated to the Late Islamic period (15th Century to 18th Century), some comes from the early and mid-Islamic periods (7th to 14th Century), and some is of Late pre-Islamic date (3rd to 7th Century AD). Some other pieces of pottery have not yet been definitely identified, but may be yet earlier. With the pottery collection complete, a limited excavation was then undertaken on the Qidfa plain, with the assistance of labourers obtained by the Fujairah Museum on the instructions of Supreme Council member and Ruler of Fujairah His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi. Sheikh Hamad also provided useful advice on the re-routing of the pipeline at Qurayyah, during a series of meetings with ADIAS staff. ADIAS is delighted to have been associated with the UAE Offsets Group on this project. It has added useful information to knowledge of the patterns of human settlement on the Fujairah coastal plain, while the copper smelting complex near Muna'i, not known until the pipeline survey was carried out, is believed by the Ra's al-Khaimah Department of Antiquities, to be the best preserved site of its kind anywhere in the UAE.



More visitors for ADIAS website

Figures compiled and analysed by our IT Manager, Dr. Mark Beech, show that the ADIAS website is gradually attracting more visitors, although there is a long way to go! For the first few weeks of January, there were an average of just over 20 visitors a day, with an average of 109 pages a day being accessed. The number of times people re-visit the site and the time they spend is gradually increasing, and January was the busiest month yet (followed by November 2001). Though the rise in traffic is welcome, we would obviously like more visitors, and Mark is now examining ways of putting more links on to the site, which has recently been updated with new images, press releases and other material. The site can be found at   www.adias-uae.com




Sir Bani Yas sites to feature in film for Danish TV


The pre-Christian monastic sites on the island of Sir Bani Yas are to feature soon in a film being made for Danish television about the island. An Arabic version may also be made for Arabic satellite stations. The film is being made by a team led by Danish resident Dr. Hussein Shehadeh, who visited Sir Bani Yas and Abu Dhabi in late January. While on the island, Dr. Shehadeh and his team filmed the main archaeological sites, as well as the wildlife and afforestation projects on the island. In Abu Dhabi, the TV team also made short interviews with ADIAS Academic Director Dr. Geoffrey King and Executive Director Peter Hellyer about the significance of the sites, and filmed some of the plaster artefacts recovered during the ADIAS excavations during the 1990s.




Thanks to Motivate Publishing


The study of archaeology these days is no longer, as it once was, just a search for the remains of buildings and tombs, and the recovery of items that can be put on display in museums and exhibitions. In the pursuit of information about the past, a whole range of scientific disciplines are now utilised, in the effort to collect as much data as possible about the way in which people lived. An important part of that process is the study of the diet, and the whole sub-discipline of environmental archaeology is now one of the key parts of any archaeological work. On the coast and islands of the UAE, past inhabitants depended, to a very large extent, on harvesting fish and molluscs, both for trade, and to eat, and the collection and identification of remains such as fish bones and shells can provide much information about the way they lived. The identification of the shells on archaeological sites can be a time-consuming process, for, besides common species such as Pinctada radiata, the pearl oyster, and Hexaplex kuesterianus and Terebralia palustris, commonly eaten, many other species may be present. Identification of the shells will now be made much easier for our team, thanks to the donation to ADIAS of the key book on the topic, but its publisher, Motivate. Shells of Eastern Arabia, by Donald Bosch and others, is the standard work on the topic, and will make an useful addition to our reference library. Motivate, who also published 'Filling In The Blanks' in 1998, an overview of the first few ADIAS seasons, have also donated some other books from their Arabian Heritage series dealing with wildlife and the environment. We are grateful for their support.




Fossil antelope from Rumaitha


During recent ADIAS survey work for the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, ADCO, in the Rumaitha area, c. 40 km. south-west of Abu Dhabi, fossil vertebrate remains were identified at and collected from the RM-7 site. Although small and not diagnostic, one of the fossils has now been identified by specialists at the Natural History Museum, London, as being a sesamoid/carpoid of an antelope species. Identification as to species is not possible, however. Three species of fossil antelope have previously been identified by Natural History Museum specialists in outcrops from Tarif westwards to Barakah, just beyond Jebel Dhanna. These outcrops have been dated to the Late Miocene period, 5 to 7 million years ago. Dating of the Rumaitha outcrop has not yet been undertaken, and it may possibly be from the Pliocene (younger than the Miocene). At present, according to Peter Whybrow, of the NHM, all that can be stated with confidence is that the RM-7 site is "a fossil locality with vertebrates of probably latest Neogene or earliest Quaternary age." The site is significantly further east that previously known Late Miocene localities with fossil vertebrates. Further research on the outcrops in the Rumaitha area is planned. Other palaeontological discoveries have taken place south of Jebel Dhanna, where in early February, Professor Drew Gardner of Zayed University found a number of fossil bones while undertaking fieldwork searching for lizards, his speciality. These have now been deposited with ADIAS for study, along with data on the precise location, with a GPS reading (absolutely essential not just for the database, but to be able to re-visit the site). We look forward to further collaboration with Professor Gardner, one of the leading specialists on the wildlife of the UAE and Oman.




Progress on database development


In association with the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA, work has been progressing satisfactorily over the last few months on the compilation of the ADIAS sites database. Housed on the ERWDA server, the database now contains summary data of nearly 1000 sites and sub-sites identified by ADIAS since it was established a decade ago, as well as a selection of a few hundred photographs and other material. The database is being linked to the Environmental Database for the whole of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, now being developed by ERWDA in association with other Government bodies and the oil industry.




Publications and Papers


The Proceedings of a conference held in January 2000 by ERWDA have now been published, and contain a paper dealing with ADIAS work. The conference was entitled 'The First International Symposium and Workshop on Arid Environments," and the ADIAS paper, by Peter Hellyer and Dr. Mark Beech focussed on the need for archaeology and cultural heritage to be taken into account when planning for conservation. Entitled: 'Protected Areas and Cultural Heritage: An Abu Dhabi Case Study,' the paper outlines the importance of archaeology as a feature of the environment and heritage of the coastal zone, and also discusses the value of information on past environments that can be obtained from archaeological work. Copies of the Proceedings can be obtained from ERWDA (tel: 02-6817171), while a copy of the ADIAS paper can be accessed on our website, www.adias-uae.com

Dr. Mark Beech presented a paper to the annual Seminar for Arabian Studies in Britain last July, which dealt in part with his study of environmental remains from ADIAS sites. Entitled In the land of the Ichthyophagi: Modelling fish exploitation in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman from the 5th millennium BC to the Late Islamic period, the paper summarised the results of the study of 23 archaeological fish bone assemblages from sites located in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, with a particular focus on the southern Gulf region and the present day coastline of the United Arab Emirates. Many of the assemblages came from sites identified by ADIAS, including sites on Dalma, Sir Bani Yas, Marawah and Balghelam. Various techniques were used to model the regional variability in archaeological fish bone assemblages, while Dr. Beech also discussed the significance of the overall results, as well as their importance for understanding prehistoric and historic subsistence strategies in SE Arabia.

The latest issue of Tribulus, the bi-annual journal of the Emirates Natural History Group (Vol. 11:2), has just been published. While this issue does not contain any papers related directly to the archaeology of Abu Dhabi, a study of the wind-tower houses of the UAE by Dr. Ron Hawker, of Zayed University, will be of interest to those wishing to know more about the country's traditional architecture. There is also a report on a Late Islamic hilltop fort at Qurayyah, in Fujairah, by Gareth Longden and Sal Garfi, both of whom have previously been associated with ADIAS, and a note co-authored by Dr. Mark Beech, of ADIAS, on the discovery of a large crab species on Ra's al-Khaimah that was formerly known only from archaeological sites. Other contributions deal with natural history, including papers on the Socotra Cormorant, the Little Owl, the Dhofar toad (in Musandam), and the diet of the dhub lizard. Copies of the issue can be obtained through the ADIAS Office.


More news soon!
 

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