First Published: 2011-04-17


ADACH publishes monographic book on Umm an-Nar


'Archaeology of Umm an-Nar Island 1959-2009' discusses sites dating back to third millennium BC.


Middle East Online

By Dr Walid Yasin Al Tikriti

ABU DHABI – The Historic Environment Department of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage has published a monographic book that summaries and discusses the current state of the sites on the Umm an-Nar Island, which must have lived at least three centuries (2600-2300 BC).

The book entitled “Archaeology of Umm an-Nar Island 1959-2009” is written by Dr Walid Yasin Al Tikriti, head of the archaeology at ADACH.

The Umm an-Nar culture, as indicated from inland 3rd millennium BC, covers no more than seven centuries (2700-2000 BC). The book gives a comprehensive overview of this small island located on the southeast of the much larger island Abu Dhabi and it is one of the 200 islands that dominates the coast of Abu Dhabi.

With figures and sketches, the book follows the history of investigations on the site, as the first archaeological excavations in Abu Dhabi began at Umm an-Nar in 1959, twelve years before the foundation of the United Arab Emirates. Seven tombs out of fifty and three areas at the ruins of the ancient settlement were examined by the Danish Archaeological Expedition. During their first visit they identified a few exposed shaped stones fitted together at some of the stone mounds. The following year (February 1959) the first excavations started at one of the mounds on the plateau, now called Tomb I. Two more seasons (1960 and 1961) were carried out digging more tombs, while the last three seasons (1962/1963, 1964 and 1965) were allocated to examine the settlement.

The Danish excavations on Umm an-Nar halted in 1965 but were resumed in 1975 by an archaeological team from Iraq. During the Iraqi excavations which lasted one season, five tombs were excavated and a small section of the village was examined. To meet the requirements of the writer’s Ph.D thesis and to answer some of the pending questions, the author carried out limited excavations at the settlement, uncovering a number of rooms in the space between the Danish and Iraqi excavations. And between 1970 and 1972 an Iraqi restoration team headed by Shah Al Siwani, former member of the Antiquities Director in Baghdad, restored and /or reconstructed the Danish excavated tombs.

The United Arab Emirates and southeast Arabia in general remained archeologically speaking terra incognita until fifty years ago. Explorations in grater Arabia started in the nineteenth century when European travelers first became involved in the region. While archeological investigations in the Bahrain go back to the nineteenth century, and to the first half of the twentieth century in Eastern Arabia, Abu Dhabi remained unexplored until recent times. Indeed, nothing was known about the archaeology of Southeast Arabia which includes the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman before the investigations of the Danish expedition which worked at Umm an-Nar in the late 1950s.

The Danish explorations were extended to cover the interior of Abu Dhabi in the early 1960’s. These explorations which were followed by investigations by local teams, together with those carried out since 1973 by other foreign expeditions in the UAE and Oman, from the present framework for the archaeology of the region. These investigations have reveled archaeological remains of different periods, interrupted by inevitable gaps which result from the nature of the archaeological sites themselves. These Southeast Arabian sites are concentrated in the oases, coastal areas and in the wadis along the obvious trade routes.

The most ancient period represented so far in Abu Dhabi Emirate is the Middle Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) which has been recently identified at Jebel Barakah in the western region. The first diagnostic stone artifacts discovered there by the author in 2006 indicate that the site belongs to the early phase of that period (150000-20000 years ago). Nothing has been discovered so far from the long gap between that remote period and the Neolithic (New Stone Age) which stated around eight thousand years ago. By the end of the fourth millennium BC, a few centuries after the invention of first writing in Mesopotamis, the Bronze Age started in Abu Dhabi and the whole of Southeast Arabia. This age covers the whole of the third and most of the second millennium BC and divided into three main phases (Early, Middle and Late). The early phase is represented by hundreds of beehive stone tombs yielding pottery vessels of Mesopotamian origin. The middle phase comprises two cultures (Umm an-Nar and Wadi Suq Cultures)

The Wadi Suq Culture (2000-1600 BC) which inherited the sophisticated culture of Umm an-Nar witnessed a decline, while the poorly represented last phase of the Bronze Age (1600-1300 BC) has only been vaguely identified in a small number of settlements. This last phase of the Bronze Age was followed by a boom when the underground irrigation system (the falaj) was introduced during the Iron Age (1300-300 BC) by the local communities.

The book is available in English and is being sold in main UAE libraries and bookshops.


Al-Nusra Front frees Lebanese hostages in swap deal

US over-reliance on Kurds in anti-ISIS fight carries many risks

Yemen President reshuffles cabinet ‘to smooth differences’ with PM

Tunisia shortens curfew imposed in capital

Despite huge global pressure, labour exploitation continues in Qatar

Syrians reach deal for exit of rebels from last Homs district

Israeli advert accused of racism

Shelling from Yemen kills another Saudi border guard

Qaeda warns Saudi Arabia against executing jihadists

Iran denies any links to alleged terror plot in Kenya

German cabinet approves assistance to fight ISIS

Britain looks poised to join Syria air strikes

Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'