First Published: 2011-11-01


Exploring Coastal Heritage of Dalma Island


Work on Dalma involves geophysical investigations to create maps of subsurface structures, archaeological features, coastal surveys of UAEs island.


Middle East Online

Important discoveries

ABU DHABI - The Historic Environment Department of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) began October a project to explore the coastal heritage of Dalma Island in Al Gharbia (Western Region) in cooperation with a team from the Maritime Archaeology Stewardship Trust (MAST) at the University of Southampton.

The project is part of the role played by ADACH in preserving tangible and intangible heritage to increase awareness, dissemination and promotion of local culture.

The work on Dalma involved geophysical investigations to create maps of subsurface structures and archaeological features, as well as coastal surveys of the island.

The project is part of a larger project which is concerned with the UAEs coastal heritage. It is aimed mainly at developing public awareness of its conservation and preservation, characterizing historic waterfronts and comparing a number of settlements of the Islamic era within the UAE. The project involves a significant coordination and cooperation with the Directorate of Heritage in Sharjah, said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Director General of ADACH.

The geophysical survey identified remains of buildings beneath local farms and others near the Al Muraykhi House which form part of the old market. Evidence of large buildings in the area of the cemetery to the northwest of the historic settlement of Dalma may relate to pottery from the Middle Islamic era (1000-1250 AD) and the Late Islamic I era (1500-1800 AD) which was noted here during previous surveys.

At the Ubaid site on the island, which radiocarbon dates have shown was occupied from 5500-4500 BC and which originally lay at the southern end of the island before its modern extension, the geophysical surveys revealed the presence of pits and postholes representing an extension of the important Neolithic site discovered there previously. During the survey a flint arrowhead was also found, probably the best example yet recovered from the Ubaid site

Mohammed Amer Al Neyadi, Director of the Historic Environment Department of ADACH, added that the information gathered during the survey was intended to provide a wider historical and archaeological picture of Dalma island. Interviews conducted with residents of the island like Mr Jumaa al Qubaisi added to this picture by providing more details of the old town and its buildings before their demolition in the 1960s.

The coastal surveys also documented historic fish traps, known locally as al-hadra or al-miskar, along the west coast of the island. These traps were probably contemporary with the historic buildings of the town and were intended to harvest fish trapped by the receding tide. In recent years they have been gradually buried by movements of sand caused by changes to the coastline of the island. The recent survey has enabled the location of these significant indicators of the past cultural and economic activities of the island to be recorded, an important step towards their future safeguarding and protection.


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