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Abu Dhabi archaeological discoveries reveal 8,500-year-old buildings

Archaeologists from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) have unearthed Abu Dhabi archaeological discoveries at the earliest known buildings in the United Arab Emirates and the broader region dating back more than 8,500 years—at least 500 years earlier than previously thought.

The discovery happened on the island of Ghagha, west of Abu Dhabi city.

Ghagha Island – New Abu Dhabi archaeological discoveries reveal 8,500-year-old buildings.

The DCT Abu Dhabi archaeologists conducted scientific analysis of the artifacts since the structures and accompanying objects were unearthed. A discovery revealed by Carbon-14 analysis of charcoal fragments indicates the structures are at least 8,500 years old, which is earlier than the previously known structures built in the UAE, which were discovered on Marawah Island.

Abu Dhabi archaeological discoveries reveal fertile coast

It was previously thought that long-distance maritime trade routes, which developed during the Neolithic period, were the catalyst for settlements in the area, but the latest discoveries prove that Neolithic settlements existed prior to the onset of trade, which means it was local economic and environmental conditions that led to the first settled life in what is now the United Arab Emirates.

Rather than being arid and inhospitable, the islands were in a sense a “Fertile Coast. This evidence recasts Abu Dhabi’s islands within the cultural history of the broader region.

“These archaeological finds have shown that people were settling and building homes here 8,500 years ago. The discoveries on Ghagha island highlight that the characteristics of innovation, sustainability, and resilience have been part of the DNA of the inhabitants of this region for thousands of years. The finds reinforce an appreciation of history, as well as the deep cultural connections between the people of the UAE and the sea. We are also reminded that there is still much to discover across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and that it is vitally important we continue working to discover, preserve and protect our invaluable heritage for current and future generations to learn more about our ancestral past,” said HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.”

New evidence shows islands of Abu Dhabi as focal point

Until the excavations of Ghagha, the earliest known structures in the UAE were found on the island of Marawah, also off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Taken with the evidence from Marawah, the new evidence from Ghagha indicates that the islands of Abu Dhabi were a focal point for human innovation and settlement during the Neolithic period–a time of fundamental change throughout much of the world.

Archaeological discoveries – Photo provided by Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

The structures that have been uncovered are simple round rooms, the walls of which are made from stone and preserved to nearly one meter in height. The rooms were likely houses for a small community that may have lived on the island year-round.

Hundreds of artifacts were found in the rooms, including finely worked stone arrowheads that would have been used for hunting. It is likely that the community would also have used the rich resources of the sea. How long the settlement existed is unknown, but after it was abandoned, it apparently remained an important part of the cultural landscape, as nearly 5,000 years ago a person was buried in the ruins of the structures. It is one of the few burials from this period known on the Abu Dhabi islands.

The discoveries on Ghagha Island come as part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s emirate-wide archaeological program, in line with the organization’s mandate to preserve, protect and promote the ancient history and cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi. The emirate contains some of the most prized and unique cultural and historical attractions and finds in the region and internationally. In addition to the discoveries on Ghagha and Marawah islands, these include the remains of an ancient monastery on Sir Bani Yas island, as well as the UNESCO-inscribed Cultural Site of Al Ain, comprising a series of oases, historic monuments, archaeological sites, and natural areas, which has featured on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List since 2011.

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