Recently, the Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology announced on Monday, March 20 that a thriving 1300-year-old settlement was unearthed at a digging site on Al Sinniyah Island, this year. The settlement area features hundreds of houses and it’s expected 7,000 people must have lived there. Here’s more about this finding!
A 1300-Year-Old Pearling Town Unearthed On Al Sinniyah Island
This is a huge discovery as it stands close to the ancient monastery found last year on Al Sinniyah Island. Archaeologists now believe that monks probably made their home next to this major pearling settlement. The evidence shows that oil traders had a harsh way of life and how early they divulged in global trade networks. However, one is led to wonder why would the monks settle so close to this erstwhile settlement, something that even researchers are pondering upon.
It’s no secret that pearling has been an essential part of the livelihood in the region for over 7000 years. As it happens, this is a landmark discovery because while there is knowledge of existing pearling towns in the Arabian Gulf, this is the first time a site has been investigated, documented, and excavated. It is believed that the reason why the settlement site remains preserved was that the inhabitants of this town left the island and it was never reoccupied.
According to The National News, as the archaeologists went digging through the layers, they found palatial dwellings surrounded by small houses. While they believe that the former belonged to wealthy merchants and elite members, the latter were houses of poor fishermen. Moreover, the houses here seem to have been built from local beach rock while the roof is thought to have been made from palm trunks.
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This Is A 12-Hectare Settlement
As it happens, several pearls were found along with a pearl diver’s weight, which is a device worn by divers allowing them to sink. Not to mention, this is the oldest well-dated instance found in the UAE so far. Talking about the palatial dwellings, they have large courtyards and supplies to keep up with the trade. This discovery is hardly surprising as the Gulf was known for producing some of the world’s most prized pearls. However, it was a tough life for divers as they often risked death with every expedition.
As such, a huge mound of open and discarded oyster shells was also found on a peninsula opposite the town. This seems to have been its industrial waste. Did you know the site has been dated from the late sixth to mid-eighth century? Yes, it’s also worth mentioning that this is a 12-hectare town. This is now believed to be one of the largest surviving organised settlements! In fact, these are even comparable to the urban core of medieval Julfar in Ras Al Khaimah.
While there is more work expected at the site, this is certainly a landmark discovery for the region. One can only expect all the findings that are yet to be unearthed!
Cover Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons (All images are for representative purposes only)