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Thu 25 May 2017 01:58 PM

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Excavations reveal UAE's Bronze Age trading importance

Archaeologists uncover evidence of a 4,000-year-old trading post on Sir Bani Yas island off Abu Dhabi’s coast

Excavations reveal UAE's Bronze Age trading importance
(Photo: state news agency WAM)

Excavations by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) archaeologists have revealed evidence of a 4,000-year-old trading post on Sir Bani Yas island off Abu Dhabi’s coast.

The excavations focused on a stone-constructed building at a site on the island’s south-west coast, state news agency WAM reported.

Inside the building a number of fragmentary large jars were found, which were made in Bahrain around 4,000 years ago and belong to a time when the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, and south Asia were engaged in intensive maritime trade with the jars transported through the Arabian Gulf by ship, it said.

Although fragments of pottery like these have been found before in the UAE, this is the first time that several complete examples have been discovered.

Analysis of the artefacts is just beginning, but preliminary results indicate that pottery from Pakistan was also found. Bronze tools are also present, attesting to the important role that the UAE played in the export of copper to its Bronze Age neighbours. Along with the bronze tools is a well-preserved fish hook, WAM added.

One of the most remarkable finds was a stamp seal, probably made from steatite. This is an example of a famous ‘Dilmun Stamp Seal’. Dilmun was the ancient name for Bahrain and adjoining regions, and merchants used these stamps to authorise shipments of goods around the Arabian Gulf.

TCA Abu Dhabi archaeologist Abdulla Khalfan Al Kaabi said: "The moment when we discovered the Dilmun Stamp Seal was very special. We immediately realised the important implications of this find. Holding this in our hands for the first time since a Bronze Age merchant had used it almost 4,000 years ago was a magical moment."

The seal appears to show an animal and a human figure under the moon. The meaning of the seal is still a mystery but research is ongoing.

Together, the artefacts and the building indicate that Sir Bani Yas held an important position in Bronze Age maritime trade.

Why Sir Bani Yas was particularly important in this trade is still being investigated, but there is a long history of occupation on the island, made possible, in part, by the presence of fresh water.

The finds from the excavation came from just one building and surface remains indicate that several other buildings may be located at the same site.

TCA Abu Dhabi archaeologists will present their results at an international conference at the British Museum this July.