Excavations on the island of Ghagha, located off the west coast of Abu Dhabi city, have unearthed stone structures dating back more than 8,500 years, the earliest ever discovered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with a plethora of lithic evidence and a later Neolithic burial.
A research team from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) carried out the investigations as part of an Emirate-wide archaeological programme.
The buildings appear to have comprised simple circular rooms of stone walls preserved to nearly one metre in height, within which hundreds of stone artefacts, including finely worked arrowheads likely used for hunting, were unearthed. It is believed the rooms were used year-round as dwellings.
Radiocarbon dating of charcoal fragments indicates the structures date back to at least 6500 BC. Before this investigation, the earliest-known structures in the UAE were identified on Marawah, another of Abu Dhabi’s islands.
It was thought that settlements arose in the region during the Neolithic in response to the development of long-distance maritime trade routes. However, these latest discoveries offer evidence that favourable economic and environmental conditions encouraged settlement on the islands prior to the onset of trade.
The structures on Ghagha Island also yielded the remains of a 5,000-year-old human burial. It represents one of the few Neolithic burials ever uncovered on Abu Dhabi’s islands and suggests the ruins may have remained a site of cultural and ritual significance following its abandonment.
HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said the finds remind us that ‘there is still much to discover across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and that it is vitally important we continue working to discover, preserve and protect our invaluable heritage for current and future generations to learn more about our ancestral past.’
Abu Dhabi is home to many other remarkable archaeological treasures, including the tracks of a herd of an extinct elephant species, dated to c.6-8 million years ago, as well as a series of pre-Islamic tombs located in the city of Al Ain.