Almost 65 years since the first archaeological excavations in Abu Dhabi, new findings highlight the emirate’s role in regional and global trade and the resilience and innovation of regional Bronze Age societies.
Recent excavations made on Sas Al Nakhl Island, known locally as Umm an-Nar, include bitumen matched to sources in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) used to waterproof pottery as well as a clay-lined storage pit. One fragment has the impression of wood and two pieces of rope and was likely part of a Bronze Age boat.
Umm an-Nar is known for its monumental Bronze Age cemeteries. These new findings suggest that it was also a thriving port of significant international importance, from approximately 2800-2200 BCE, trading with Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan and India).
30,000 exceptionally well-preserved bones reveal new insights into a Bronze Age diet of fish, seabirds and dugongs (sea cows). Bones of large animals found concentrated around a large, circular fireplace suggest communal or ceremonial activities. Some of the bones have been worked into objects such as a spatula and spindles.
A recurring theme in excavations in Abu Dhabi are ancient civilisations’ careful and innovative use of natural resources – such as copper, pearls, plaster and fresh water – to facilitate international trade, sustain communities and establish prosperity. Archaeologists believe that Bronze Age discoveries made in the emirate are just a fraction of what is yet to be uncovered from the Umm an-Nar Bronze Age culture (2700-2000 BCE).
H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Department of Culture & Tourism Abu Dhabi, said: “Our Founding Father Sheikh Zayed was instrumental in driving understanding of Abu Dhabi’s history through his passion for the land and people of the United Arab Emirates. DCT Abu Dhabi’s ambitious archaeology program is a commitment to perpetuate that legacy to discover, preserve, and educate about our country’s past.”
Discoveries made by the Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi archaeology team are changing global perspectives of the region, from Bronze Age burial chambers to complex underground irrigation systems. There are currently seven live excavation sites across Abu Dhabi including Al Ain, Sas Al Nakhl, Ghagha Island and Delma Island, where sites from more than 8,500 years ago are being explored. Many findings will be seen in the forthcoming Zayed National Museum.