By Bernd Debusmann Jr
The pearl is evidence that pearls were used in the UAE as far back as 8,000 years ago
The oldest natural pearl ever found has been discovered by the archaeologists in Abu Dhabi working at a Neolithic site on Marawah Island.
The ‘Abu Dhabi Pearl’ was found in layers that were radiocarbon dates to 5,800 to 5,600 BCE.
According to the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, the discovery is proof that pearls and oysters were already in use in the UAE approximately 8,000 years ago, and represent the earliest known evidence for pearling discovered anywhere in the world.
The artefact will feature in the upcoming “10,000 Years of Luxury” exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi, where it will be displayed to the public for the first time. The event begins runs from October 30 to February 2020.
“The Abu Dhabi Pearl is a stunning find, testimony to the ancient origins of our engagement with the sea,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi. “The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory.”
Before the discovery of the Abu Dhabi Pearl, the earliest known pearl in the UAE came from a Neolithic site in Umm Al Quwain. Ancient pearls have also been discovered at a Neolithic cemetery near Jebel Buhais in Sharjah.
The site on Marawah Island was first discovered during a survey carried out in 1992. Excavations since then have uncovered an imported ceramic vase from Mesopotamia, flint arrowheads and shell and stone beads.
It has previously been suggested that the ancient pearls were possibly traded with Mesopotamia in exchange for ceramics and other goods. The find at Jebel Buhais also suggested that pearls were also worn as jewellery by the ancient population.
In the 16th century, Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi – who travelled extensively in the area – identified the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a known source for pearls.