First Published: 2011-01-26


The Dawn of history exhibition to revel Abu Dhabis ancient past


Al Mazrouei: Danish archeologist discoveries shaded light for the first time on the Arabian Peninsula civilizations.


Middle East Online

'We are very proud to present the archaeological heritage of the UAE to the local, Arabic and international public'

ABU DHABI The excavations of the Danish archeologist in 1959-1961 provided the first glimpse of a time 4,000-5,000 years ago when this part of the Arabian Peninsula was at the centre of a vibrant, rich culture that managed the production and distribution of vast amounts of copper to the ancient world, said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Advisor for Culture and Heritage in the Court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Director General of ADACH.

Al Mazrouei was speaking in a press conference held yesterday in the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi on ADACH upcoming exhibition The Dawn of History: Revealing the Ancient Past of Abu Dhabi that will start on 2nd February, 2011 until May 2nd near Al Jahili fort in Al Ain.

The exhibition is a jointly produced by ADACH and Moesgård Museum in Denmark and supported by The Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation in Abu Dhabi.

The press conference was attended by Dr Sami El-Masri , Deputy Director-General for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Director of Strategic Planning and Development at ADACH, Mohammed Al Nayadi Director of Historical Environment at ADACH, Dr Walid Yassin, Archeology manager at ADACH and researchers media representatives.

Al Mazrouei said We are very proud to present the archaeological heritage of the UAE to the local, Arabic and international public. We will display some of the most important archaeological collections in the region, and we hope that this exhibition will demonstrate the importance of international cultural cooperation

In support of the Authority's strategy to protect and maintain our rich archaeological sources, ADACH will organize an international conference on archaeology in the UAE. Local and international experts will participate in this event to be held in Al Ain City on 30 and 31 March 2011, according to Al Mazrouei.

Also he reveled that ADACH is working on a comprehensive project which aims to prepare maps showing the locations of sites where fossilized animal remains have been found in Abu Dhabi. Most of these sites are located along Al Gharbia (the Western Region).

We also intend to intensify our efforts to document the archaeological sites that are scattered throughout large areas of Abu Dhabi, in order to determine different locations of interest and record them in a comprehensive database he added.

Poul Hoiness Danish Ambassador to UAE said Archeologists from Denmark have played a crucial role in uncovering the rich historical past of the UAE. More than 50 years ago they carried out the very first archaeological expeditions to the Arab Gulf countries. They discovered an ancient, long forgotten civilization, which played a crucial role in the region and beyond. These archeological pioneers proved that more than 4.000 years ago, the lands along the Gulf were a hub of commerce and a fulcrum of dialogue between civilizations. The Danish Archeologists were privileged: They enjoyed the strong and active support of late Sheikh Zayed, other members of the ruling family, and of the local authorities.

The Moesgård Museum had explored the archaeology and traditional cultures of the Gulf countries for almost 60 years in cooperation with the local authorities, underscoring the importance of highlighting the UAE civilisation which is highlighted in this exhibition.

In 2013, Moesgård Museum will open a grand new exhibition building with an entire section dedicated to the early history and culture of the Arabian Gulf.

The history of excavations made in Abu Dhabi by a team of 34 Danish archaeologists led by P.V. Glob and T.G. Bibby dates back to 1958 when they were invited to search for long vanished civilizations in the emirate, whose society had been deeply traditional back then. In the 1950s and 1960s, all finds were shipped to the museum in Århus to be conserved, recorded and studied. They were then returned to Abu Dhabi after the opening of the National Museum in Al-Ain in 1971.

Since the start of excavations at Umm Al Nar, it was revealed that this small island played a big role in the cultural interaction between the ancient civilizations of the Near East. The island also provided these civilizations with a means of communication. On the island, which contained the remains of buildings and houses dating back to the third millennium BC, a large cemetery of more than fifty tombs was discovered. They were built in the form of great monuments, and these beautiful geometric designs have put the site amongst the ranks of some of the most celebrated and developed funerary architecture in the ancient world, that has been recognised throughout the ages.

The Al Ain National Museum is hosting this exhibition, whose design was inspired by the round shape of the large Hilli cemetery. On display are 147 artefacts and an array of other traditional pieces.

The exhibition includes a rich educational program for students and guide tours for visitors in English and Arabic.

Umm an-Nar settlement

The excavations at Umm an-Nar reveals a completely new civilization dating back to about 2400 B.C. Many traces of copper production and manufacturing were found.

The merchants of Umm an-Nar lived and traded in a well-organized world with several internationally recognized systems of weights and measures, including the Mesopotamian system. The trading colony was in close contact with the farming communities.

The people of Umm an-Nar lived a good life from hunting and fishing. They were hard workers as many bones show indications of hard labour in the form of muscle traces, fractures and wear, as would be expected in sailors and fishermen.

In 1958, Professor Glob first found tools made of flint in Umm an-Nar. Other Stone Age sites were later located at Jebel Hafit, Hili and Qarn Bint Saud. These rare finds are estimated to be five to eight thousand years old. They are some of the oldest traces of humans in Abu Dhabi.

The Hafit graves

In 1970, Karen Frifelt discovered that the pots in these graves were 5,000 years old and that they came from ancient Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. The discovery was a proof of long-distance links between Abu Dhabi and the ancient cities of Mesopotamia at this very early time.

There was also proof that trepanation was practised at this early time. Similar trepanation procedures are known from India and Pakistan in the same period, indicating that ideas were exchanged in addition to goods.

Hili Grand Tomb

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God bless his soul, then Governor of the Eastern Region, directed the Danish archaeologists to this monument in 1962. The size and the quality of the architecture and the excellent stone masonry make this the most magnificent burial in the Umm an-Nar culture. It is almost 4,500 years old. The monument has become an icon in Gulf prehistory and a symbol of Abu Dhabis archaeology and heritage.

Hili Tower

It was from The Hili Tower that defence of this important oasis settlement was organized. In Mesopotamia, this land was called Magan, a country rich in copper and timber, hard stone and semi-precious stones.

Around the tower the excavators found pottery similar to that from the Hili Grand Tomb. This showed that the people buried in the tomb were the same ones who had built the tower.

Qarn bint SaudIn February 1970, the Danish team made an excursion to this rock and found it covered with stone graves. One of these yielded rich finds from the Iron Age.

In Rumaileh, a small excavation in 1968 indicated the presence of a settlement with remains of well preserved houses and pottery dating to the Iron Age, 900-600 BC.

Archaeologists Michael Beck and Bo Madsen came across the remains of another Iron Age settlement west of the rock of Qarn Bint Saud. Al-Ain museum later excavated this important site, where a 3,000-year-old subterranean irrigation channel, a falaj, was also found.


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