New archaeological excavations on Marawah Island have uncovered the earliest known inhabitants of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi providing a unique insight into life during the Late Stone Age in Abu Dhabi’s western region.
A programme of archaeological surveys carried out by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) since 2012 has identified more than 20 major sites on the island, ranging in date from the Late Stone Age period (around 7,500 years ago) to the recent historical period, with two Late Stone Age villages discovered at the western end of Marawah Island, comprising a series of occupation mounds.
More than two hundred flint arrowheads were collected from the surface of the sites, known as MR1 and MR11, whilst further excavations at MR11 have revealed a very interesting stone building rich in finds.
Mohammed Amer Al Neyadi, Director of the Historic Environment department at TCA Abu Dhabi, said: “The latest results from our excavations at the Late Stone Age village at MR11 on Marawah Island have produced outstanding results. We now have a clear idea of the plan and form of a 7,500 year old house, which is one of the earliest known examples of stone built architecture in the Gulf region.
“One of the most important finds was the discovery of a human skeleton. This partial skeleton was inserted into one of the already semi-collapsed rooms of the house, indicating that the structure had originally been used as a house for the living, and then later as a ‘house for the dead’. This burial, found within the central room, was placed in a crouched position on its side with its head oriented towards the east. This form of burial is typical of other known Late Stone Age burials, such as those known from Jebel Buhais in Sharjah emirate, replicas of which can be seen in the Sharjah Archaeology Museum,” added Al Neyadi.
Marawah Island is located around 100km to the west of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and is home to important marine and coastal ecosystems.
Dr Mark Beech, Head of Coastal Heritage and Palaeontology at TCA Abu Dhabi, and director of the archaeological project on Marawah Island, said: “The latest phase of our work on Marawah Island has concentrated on the investigation of the earliest known settlements in Abu Dhabi, namely the Late Stone Age settlements at MR1 and MR11. In 2014 we carried out geophysical surveys of both sites, both magnetometry and ground penetrating radar being used to assess the sub-surface remains. These surveys help us to target potentially interesting structures at the site. Excavations at the MR11 site began in earnest in 2015 and were completed in February 2016 as we concluded our latest field season of work.”
Other finds discovered within the house include beautiful shell and stone beads, as well as a number of interesting stone tools. A large flint spear was found, which may have been used for hunting dugongs or turtles.