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Oldest pearl town of the Persian Gulf found on an United Arab Emirates island


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Archaeologists stated Monday they’ve discovered the oldest pearling city within the Persian Gulf on an island off one of many northern sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates.

Artifacts discovered on this city on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain, probably as soon as house to 1000’s of individuals and lots of of houses, date way back to the area’s pre-Islamic historical past within the late sixth century. Whereas older pearling cities have been talked about in historic texts, this represents the primary time archaeologists say they’ve bodily discovered one from this historical period throughout the nations of the Persian Gulf.

“That is the oldest instance of that type of very particularly Khaleeji pearling city,” stated Timothy Energy, an affiliate professor of archaeology on the United Arab Emirates College, utilizing a phrase which means “Gulf” in Arabic. “It’s the non secular ancestor of cities like Dubai.”


The pearling city sits on Siniyah Island, which shields the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain, an emirate some 30 miles northeast of Dubai alongside the coast of the Persian Gulf. The island, whose title means “flashing lights” probably as a result of impact of the white-hot solar overhead, already has seen archaeologists uncover an historical Christian monastery relationship again as many as 1,400 years.

The city sits instantly south of that monastery on one of many curling fingers of the island and stretches throughout some 143,500 sq. yards. There, archaeologists discovered a wide range of houses fabricated from seashore rock and lime mortar, starting from cramped quarters to extra sprawling houses with courtyards, suggesting a social stratification, Energy stated. The positioning additionally bears indicators of year-round habitation, in contrast to different pearling operations run in seasonal spots within the area.

People look at ruins on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain, United Arab Emirates, on March 20, 2023. Archeologists said Monday that they have found the oldest pearling town in the Persian Gulf on the island.

Individuals take a look at ruins on Siniyah Island in Umm al-Quwain, United Arab Emirates, on March 20, 2023. Archeologists stated Monday that they’ve discovered the oldest pearling city within the Persian Gulf on the island. (by way of AP)

“The homes are crammed in there, cheek by jowl,” he added. “The important thing factor there may be permanence. Individuals are residing there all 12 months round.”

Within the houses, archaeologists have found free pearls and diving weights, which the free divers used to rapidly drop right down to the seabed whereas relying solely on their held breath.

The city predates the rise of Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula, making its residents probably Christians. Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born round 570 and died in 632 after conquering Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia.


Umm al-Quwain’s Division of Tourism and Archaeology, UAE College, the Italian Archaeological Mission within the emirate and the Institute for the Examine of the Historic World at New York College all took half within the excavation. Umm al-Quwain, the least-populated emirate within the UAE, plans to construct a customer’s middle on the web site.

At the moment, the world close to the marshland is extra identified for the low-cost liquor retailer on the emirate’s Barracuda Seaside Resort. In latest months, authorities have demolished a hulking, Soviet-era cargo airplane linked to a Russian gunrunner referred to as the “Service provider of Loss of life” because it builds a bridge to Siniyah Island for a $675 million actual property improvement. Authorities hope that improvement, in addition to different constructing, will develop the emirate’s economic system.

Nevertheless, even this historical web site bears classes for the Emirates.


The story of pearling, which quickly collapsed after World Conflict I with the introduction of synthetic pearls and the Nice Melancholy, holds specific significance within the historical past of the UAE — significantly because it faces a looming reckoning with one other extractive trade. Whereas crude oil gross sales constructed the nation after its formation in 1971, the Emirates should confront its fossil gas legacy and probably plan for a carbon-neutral future because it hosts the United Nations COP28 local weather talks later this 12 months.

These looking out the positioning discovered a dumpsite close by crammed with the detritus of discarded oyster shells. Individuals strolling throughout the island can really feel these stays crunching beneath their ft in areas as effectively.

“You solely discover one pearl in each 10,000 oyster shells. You must discover and discard 1000’s and 1000’s of oyster shells to seek out one,” Energy stated. “The waste, the commercial waste of the pearling trade, was colossal. You’re coping with hundreds of thousands, hundreds of thousands of oyster shells discarded.”


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