Marawah dig re­veals ‘house for the dead’

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists on is­land off coast of Abu Dhabi un­earth 7,500-year-old re­mains

The National - News - - Up Front - Naser Al Wasmi nal­[email protected]­

ABU DHABI // The skeleton of one of Abu Dhabi’s ear­li­est in­hab­i­tants has been un­cov­ered on Marawah Is­land in what his­to­ri­ans be­lieve was a “house for the dead”.

An ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig on the Western Re­gion is­land, about 100 kilo­me­tres west of Abu Dhabi city, also re­vealed the first use of stone-built ar­chi­tec­ture in the Ara­bian Gulf, dat­ing back 7,500 years, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cul­ture Au­thor­ity (TCA) said yes­ter­day.

“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’,” said Mo­hammed Al Neyadi, di­rec­tor of the TCA his­toric en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment.

This form of hu­man preser­va­tion is typ­i­cal of other Late Stone Age buri­als, such as those from Jebel Buhais in Shar­jah.

Ab­dulla Al Kaabi, a coastal her­itage ar­chae­ol­o­gist, was re­spon- sible for the ini­tial dis­cov­ery and ex­ca­va­tion of the skeleton.

“I had to clean very care­fully around the hu­man bones as they were ex­tremely frag­ile af­ter be­ing in the ground for more than 7,000 years. We had to treat the bones with Par­aloid B72, a spe­cial con­sol­i­dant, to strengthen them be­fore we were able to lift them,” said Mr Al Kaabi.

The skeleton, he said, was found in a crouched po­si­tion on its side with its head fac­ing east.

Find­ings from the ex­ca­vated Stone Age vil­lages, known as MR I and MR II, gave in­sight into the life­styles of an­ces­tral Arabs in the Late Stone Age, at a time when the re­gion’s en­vi­ron­ment was wet­ter and more con­ducive to life. The digs pro­vided a first glimpse into life dur­ing the Late Stone Age in the Western Re­gion, said Dr Mark Beech, di­rec­tor of the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal pro­ject on Marawah Is­land.

The cli­mate was bet­ter then than it is to­day, Dr Beech said. More rain­fall meant a greener land­scape and more trees.

“Dur­ing this time, there were fresh­wa­ter lakes and more to hunt,” he said.

The civil­i­sa­tion from which th­ese vil­lages were built, he said, was­not prim­i­tive by any means. The ex­ca­va­tions showed signs that they were de­vel­oped enough to have live­stock and a more seden­tary life­style.

Us­ing the lat­est tech­nol­ogy was key in un­earthing find­ings about the civil­i­sa­tions that oc­cu­pied the re­gion thou­sands of years ago, Dr Beech 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,” he said.

Per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing tools found in­clude a large flint spear, which ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­lieve may have been used for hunt­ing dugongs or tur­tles.

The skele­tal re­mains will be ex­am­ined by ex­perts to de­ter­mine more about the peo­ple.

Other finds dis­cov­ered in the house in­clude shell and stone beads, stone tools and more than 200 flint ar­row­heads.

“There’s still a lot to be dis­cov­ered. This is prob­a­bly only about 5 per cent of the whole vil­lage,” said Dr Beech.

“This is a spec­tac­u­lar dis­cov­ery. There is noth­ing like it in the Gulf re­gion, and it’s been very well pre­served.”

Cour­tesy Abu Dhabi TCA

Ab­dulla Al Kaabi, above, who dis­cov­ered the re­mains, at work on site on Marawah. Pro­ject di­rec­tor Dr Mark Beech, right, makes notes as a col­league cleans and pre­serves finds at vil­lage MR II. Dr Beech said the dig shines light into life in the Western...

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