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.


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