How did our ancestors survive? These amazing new findings are surprising

The latest archaeological finds reveal how Abu Dhabi’s early settlers displayed inventiveness and resilience to cope with changing times
Baynunah-camel-skeleton-Abdulla-Khalfan-Al-Kaabi-and-team-excavate

Recent archaeological discoveries are shedding more light on the ingenuity of Abu Dhabi’s early inhabitants dating back to around 7,500 years ago.

As part of continuing excavation projects by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the latest finds at sites on Marawah and Baynunah islands in the Western Region throw light on the creative hunting methods of ancient settlers.

The use of radiocarbon dating has shown the village on Marawah dates to the Neolithic period with a style of architecture never seen before in the region.

A vast collection of artefacts unearthed shows that people herded goats and sheep and were dependent on sea resources for food as evidenced by the abundant presence of fish, dugong, turtle and dolphin bones.

Even more intriguing is the theory that there was more rainfall during the period before severe climate change led to an exodus of people as land conditions turned suddenly arid.

In contrast, the Baynunah site unveiled many bone fragments of the prehistoric wild camel from 6,500 years ago.

Studies reveal that hunters would bait the camels to walk into the soft, wet ground where they became trapped.

“Hunting these large wild animals must have been a serious challenge, so slowing them down gave the hunters their best opportunity to kill and harvest more camels,” explained TCA’s coastal heritage archaeologist Ahmed Abdalla Elhag Elfaki.

Baynunah-camel-site-plaster jacketing-a-camel-skeleton

“The discovery of a flint arrowhead inside the rib cage of one of the wild camels shows the tools used for hunting the animals and how they were hunted.”

Camel meat would become a significant source of sustenance for the community as other food sources dwindled due to the changing weather conditions.

The discovery clearly indicated the mass killing of wild camels here compared to the rest of the region. But it also paved the way for the early domestication of camels, as we know today. This is consistent with the previous belief that camel domestication started in southeastern Arabia.

The bone samples will be studied further as scientists aim to learn more about the biology of the long-extinct species.

Since 2012, TCA’s archaeological projects have resulted in the discovery of more than a dozen sites of interest beginning from the Late Stone Age era, with villages providing a broad picture of Abu Dhabi’s unrecorded past.

Last year, a human skeleton was discovered. Other interesting finds included stone beads and tools presumably used for the hunting of animals, while a decorated ceramic jar from Iraq verified the existence of maritime trading.

Discoveries also revealed finds from the Bronze and Iron Ages, and early Islamic periods. Notable finds include a dry-stone walled mosque, an Islamic cemetery, boathouse, a village mosque and traditional water wells.

Speaking about the discoveries, TCA Abu Dhabi chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, said: “The expertise of our team of archaeologists allows us to build a narrative of the Emirate’s development and history, piecing together an intriguing and intricate story of the earliest known inhabitants of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

“We are encouraged to assign more excavation works, and our aim is to conduct extensive studies to further understand our ancestors and our land, and our mission is to share these findings with the world.”

WORDS Ferdinand Godinez
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