Sharjah (UAE) : Archaeology
Stories of yore on view
Evidence of an ancient culture in the Arabian Peninsula that dates back to over 120,000 years of human migration has found its way from Sharjah’s 18 archaeological excavation sites to the emirate’s Archaeology Museum. The collections in this museum cover the history of Sharjah since 7000 years ago till the advent of Islam in the 7th century AD. All artifacts uncovered in the emirate by different archaeological missions or by locals demonstrate its glorious past.
Several unique artifacts rewrite world history. Among them is the remains of the head of a stone axe, discovered in Al Faya Mountain in Sharjah dating back to more than 120,000 years. This artifact has changed scientists’ understanding of the modern history of human migration from Africa to the world through the Arabian Peninsula.
Ivory combs, discovered in Tell Abraq’s site in Sharjah dating back to more than 4000 years come next. The combs, which are decorated with circles, were buried with their owners to indicate their value to them. It is believed that this ivory belongs to the Indian Subcontinent, which indicates the marine activity of the people of Sharjah in the ancient times. A 3000-year-old saddled camel figurine made of burnt clay was found in Muweilah’s site. It is considered an evidence of the domestication of the camel in the Iron Age.
A Greek Imvora jar and a collection of Greek jar handles were found in Malieha (50km east of Sharjah city). Finding this jar indicates the relations people from Malieha had with some Greek cities and islands in the Mediterranean Sea upon the prosperity of Malieha colony in the period between 250 BC and 300 AD.
The horse head, which is one of the most important objects in the museum, alongside its gold disc bridle, indicates wealth and high status buried with the horse’s owner. The almost 2000-year-old bridle was displayed last year in an exhibition on the sidelines of the Kentuky Derby.
The first Sharjah Archaeology Museum was built in 1993 to give the people the opportunity to learn more about the ancient history of their emirate. But, His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, is always striving for the better that led to the construction of the new Sharjah Archaeology Museum.
Nasir Al Darmaki, curator, said the new museum is equipped with the latest international technology and is ahead of other museums at that time and a unique one in the Arab world for its organisation and displays.
The new museum, inaugurated by Shaikh Sultan in 1997, aims to shed the light on the unknown historical period, from the first sign of human existence in Sharjah until the Islamic influence started.
He said the archaeological excavations in Sharjah started in the early 1990s with both local and foreign missions doing them either singly or together and, sometimes, helped increase the artefact collections in the Directorate of Archaeology stores. The officials were then constantly occupied with finding a place to showcase the artifacts to visitors. Some of the artifacts were exhibited in the Al Ain National Museum earlier.
From the 18 archaeological sites, archeologists made the following findings: evidence of copper products from local ore in Wadi-a-Hilu; important settlements from nearly 2000 years before the early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age (3000-300BC) in Kalba; rock carvings found in Wadi Shi; 34 graves and settlements dating back to over 3000 years in Khor Fakkan; a large subterranean collective tomb of around 100BC-200AD with many Roman and Parthian artifacts found in Dibba Al-Hisn; 700 years of important settlement occupied from about 300BC to 300AD with remains of houses, tombs, a well and a fort uncovered in Mkiha; 50,000 years old evidence of human occupation in Jebel Faya; pre-historic graces dating back to 3000BC in Jebel Al-Emalah; burial site of 1,000 individuals during 5000BC in Jebel Al-Buhais; an area of widespread Iron Age occupation found in Al-Madom; an Iron Age agricultural community in Al Theqaibah; a large settlement occupied almost 2000 years back with a collective Bronze Age tomb in Tell Abraq; shell middens left by coastal food gatherers dating to 4500-500BC in Al-Hamriyah; a large Iron Age settlement in Muweilah; site of a modern city centre where stone flakes and beads found in Al Manakh and Al-Yarmouk; one of UAE’s largest foreshore islands previously inhabited by merchants and fishermen in Sir Abu Nu’air; and the Stone Age Ubaid pottery exported to Iraq discovered in Abu Shagara.
Darmaki said that people from East Asia, particularly from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong form the majority of visitors to the museum. Students from public and private schools from Sharjah and the other emirates come next, then the Arab and foreign families living in the UAE and from Arab countries, mainly Oman and Saudi Arabia.
“The museum witnessed an increase in the number of local visitors, who are eager to learn more about its collections, in the last three years. Developed guiding methods have led to a regular increase in the number of visitors during the last few years. The marketing done by Sharjah Museums Department also played a key role in promoting the museum. We have monthly educational and school workshops, scientific conferences and cultural forums related to archaeology and museums and their roles in the present,” he said.
The museum strives to increase the number of its yearly visitors through marketing, increasing the social activities and educational workshops, and adding new subjects which are both educational and entertaining to the workshops aimed for various segments of the society.
It also aims to promote its scientific status as a leading institute in the UAE by presenting introductory lectures and symposiums about Archaeology in Sharjah and the UAE.