All posts by beech

Head of Archaeology: Al Dhafra & Abu Dhabi, Historic Environment Department, Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi)

New paper published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology

New paper published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology:

Yeomans, L. and M.J. Beech. 2020. An aid to the identification of fish bones from southeast Arabia: The influence of reference collections on taxonomic diversity. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2920

The Supporting Information can be downloaded here. This includes 60 higher resolution versions of the illustrations of fish bones featured in the paper, as well as lists providing details of the size of the reference fish and the location of the reference specimen, a summary of published data of teleost fish bones from archaeological sites in SE Arabia, as well as a list of resources useful for identifying fish bones from south-east Arabia.

Keywords:

Identification, Ichthyofauna, southeast Arabia, Osteology, Taxonomic diversity, Reference collections

Abstract:

Identification of fish bones from archaeological sites in southeast Arabia is challenging because of high taxonomic diversity, comparatively few reference collections with a wide range of species, as well as access to these resources. This paper provides illustrations of bones from many common taxonomic groups of fish from the southeast Arabia including several species of fish identified in very few assemblages, probably because of the lack of comparative reference material. This is a guide to aid other analysts in the identification process. We also consider the effect of reference collection size on the taxonomic diversity of analysed fish bone assemblages and conclude that research would benefit by the publication of further identification guides. Ideally these should include differences between closely related species, as this has a significant impact on the taxonomic diversity of archaeo‐ichthyological assemblages. Whilst many papers are devoted to the influence of sample size, recovery method or recording protocols on the taxonomic diversity of faunal assemblages, a similar discussion on the effect of the reference collection used is often overlooked.

 

New paper published in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

This paper has just been published:

Lidour, K. and M.J. Beech. 2020. The diet of osprey Pandion haliaetus on Marawah Island (Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates) and its implications for the study of archaeological assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Volume 33, October 2020, 102532. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2020.102532

Highlights:

  • Ospreys are reported to build nests and to perch on archaeological sites.
  • The impact of ospreys on archaeological fish bone assemblages is assessed.
  • Almost 2000 modern prey remains have been collected close to osprey’s perches.
  • The taphonomic signature of the osprey has been described.
  • Ospreys are not accumulation agents at archaeological sites on Marawah Island.

Abstract:

The Osprey Pandion haliaetus is one of the most widely distributed raptor species in the world, present on all continents except Antarctica. Since its diet is mainly based on fish, this raptor is typically encountered close both to marine and fresh waters. Ospreys are well represented in the Arabian Peninsula where remote islands are the location for some of their key breeding sites. On Marawah Island (Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), ospreys have been reported to build nests on top of abandoned man-made structures, including archaeological sites. The discovery of fish remains associated with numerous bird bones and eggshell fragments in archaeological deposits raises the question of the potential contamination of ancient faunal accumulations by birds of prey. To date, the possible impact of ospreys on zooarchaeological assemblages has been little considered and the taphonomic signature of this fish-eating raptor has never been described. However, ospreys are effective competitors to traditional and small-scale fisheries and should be considered as potential accumulators of fish remains on archaeological sites located close to water bodies. Indeed, zooarchaeological analyses demonstrate that fish had always played a major role in the daily subsistence of the ancient inhabitants of Marawah Island since the first traces of occupation dating back some 8000 years. The present study will enable researchers working in the region as well as in other geographical area to determine if ospreys are accumulation agents for fish remains on archaeological sites.

The present diet assessment of ospreys allows us to specify the taphonomic signature of this raptor: targeted species are mainly medium to large-sized fish swimming just beneath the surface (e.g. needlefish and queenfish) and slow benthic fish occurring in shallow waters such as tripodfish, emperors, and groupers. Bone accumulations are almost entirely composed of skull elements, indicating specific discarding behaviours. Certain traces left on jaw bones, in particular maxillae, can also help to differentiate osprey accumulations from archaeological ones.

 

New article published in Ethnozootechnie

Ethnozootechnie no.106 2019

A new article has just been published by the Society for Ethnozootechnics about our work on the Baynunah camel site.

This was a paper presented at a conference organised by the Society of Ethnozootechnie, held at the Institut du Monde Arabe, in Paris, on the 6th June 2019, organised by Bernard Denis and Jean-Pierre Digard.

The paper has now been published in Volume 106 of their journal, Ethnozootechnie. Here are the details:

Beech, M.J., M. Mashkour and T. O’Connor. 2019. Chasse néolithique de dromadaires dans la péninsule Arabique. Nouvelles recherches archéologiques aux Émirats Arabes Unis sur le “Baynunah camel site”. Ethnozootechnie 106: 13-19.

To download this article please click here click here ==>

For details of the other papers in the same volume click here ==>

 

The History of Emirates TV programme (International version) – now online

The History of Emirates TV programme (International version) is now available by live streaming. Narrated by Jeremy Irons, the fascinating 3-part series reveals how new archaeological discoveries are only now revealing the true extent of this land’s ancient wonders and its 125,000-year heritage from the earliest human presence in the region to the national union in 1971. Utilizing the latest cutting-edge technology — from CGI to LiDar scanning and 360 degree camera work — interwoven with never-before-seen archival footage, it is a ground-breaking series that profiles the very foundations of the country’s civilizations. You can watch this via:  https://historyoftheemirates.com/en/the-series-2?fbclid=IwAR3M7RbY0lsQs1KsDc_LOhFMLhKDs3bJy20vJuUDN5lp0DjgwhWnwz3cO9Q

The History of the Emirates TV programme (UAE version) – now online

The History of the Emirates TV programme (UAE version) is now available by live streaming. This fascinating 5-part series reveals how new archaeological discoveries are only now revealing the true extent of this land’s ancient wonders and its 125,000-year heritage from the earliest human presence in the region to the national union in 1971. Utilizing the latest cutting-edge technology — from CGI to LiDar scanning and 360 degree camera work — interwoven with never-before-seen archival footage, it is a ground-breaking series that profiles the very foundations of the country’s civilizations. The Five episodes are entitled: History of the Emirates: Society, Innovation, Trade, Belief and Unity. You can watch this via: https://www.awaan.ae/show/212123/History-of-the-Emirates?fbclid=IwAR12Osvh2z2CXvcGeQXxsBCuVsRq4toGyxu68dTt5_VMV4fZERX_-V7IGwQ

History of the Emirates Series Broadcasting Nov 24-28 2019

Image Nation Abu Dhabi are pleased to announce that the landmark documentary series History of the Emirates will be airing on all National Broadcasters in the United Arab Emirates from November 24th – 28th every evening from 9pm. 

Please find below details of the series – including broadcasters and episode synopsis. 

Social Handles:

https://www.facebook.com/Historyofemirates

https://www.instagram.com/historyofemirates/

https://twitter.com/HOTEseries

Official Hashtags:

تاريخ_الإمارات#

#HistoryoftheEmirates

#HOTE


 

New article published on Marawah excavations

A new article has just been published providing an update on our archaeological excavations at the MR11 site on Marawah Island:

Beech, M.J.,  R.T.H. Cuttler, A.K. Al Kaabi, A.A. El Faki, J. Martin, N. H. Al Hameli, H.M. Roberts, P. Spencer, D. Tomasi, O. Brunet and R. Crassard. 2019. Excavations at MR11 on Marawah Island (Abu Dhabi, UAE): new insight into the architecture and planning of Arabian Neolithic settlements and early evidence for pearling.  Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 2019. Article doi.org/10.1111/aae.12148

Abstract:
In 1992, an archaeological survey of Marawah Island conducted by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey identified two significant Neolithic settlements known as MR1 and MR11. Both sites are constructed on prominent rocky platforms located towards the western end of the island. In 2000 and 2003, small‐scale excavations took place at MR11, with the first full excavation taking place in 2004. Excavations continued at MR11 between 2014 up to 2019. Radiocarbon dating demonstrates that the site was occupied between the earliest part of the sixth millennium to the mid‐fifth millennium BC. Three areas have been so far examined. Area A—a tripartite house (2004 and 2014–2017 excavation seasons); Area B—a partial structure (in 2003 and 2017–2018); and Area C—a series of at least five rooms (in 2017–2019). The results provide a valuable new insight into the architecture and planning of Arabian Neolithic settlements in the region, as well as the earliest known evidence for pearling.

KEYWORDS
Neolithic settlement, paved hall, pearls, sixth–fifth millennium BC, stone architecture, tripartite house


The ‘Abu Dhabi Pearl’ was discovered in Room 5 of Area C at the MR11 site on Marawah island.

The Abu Dhabi Pearl: Explore an almost 8,000-year-old treasure, with a Talk, Film and VR Experience (@ Louvre Abu Dhabi, 26 November 2019)

The Abu Dhabi Pearl: Explore an almost 8,000-year-old treasure, with a Talk, Film and VR Experience

With Dr Mark Jonathan Beech, Head of Archaeology – Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi

Tuesday 26 November 2019 – 6pm – Free admission

While excavating a stone-age village on the island of Marawah in the Western Region of the UAE, archaeologists discovered a nearly 8,000-year-old pearl, believed to be the earliest known evidence for pearling ever discovered.

Dr Mark Beech, Head of Archaeology for Al Dhafra & Abu Dhabi, Department of Culture and Tourism, will discuss the discovery of the pearl and the important history of pearling in the UAE.

To register for the talk please click here

About Dr Mark Jonathan Beech BSc. (Hons), M.A., PhD.

Dr Mark Jonathan Beech has a Bachelor of Sciences honours degree in Archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (1982-1985), a Master’s degree in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield (1986-1987), and a Phd in Archaeology from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York (1998-2001). Dr Beech has been involved in archaeological research in the UAE for the past 25 years, being Senior Resident Archaeologist for the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey from 1994-2006, then Cultural Landscapes Manager at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage from 2006-2012 and then Head of Coastal Heritage and Palaeontology at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority from 2012-2017. Since 2018 he is Head of Archaeology for the Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi Capital Area regions in the Historic Environment Department at the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi).

 

World’s oldest natural pearl found in Abu Dhabi

Read the story of how the World’s oldest natural pearl was found in Abu Dhabi in this article in The National newspaper, 20 October 2019.

See this video interview with Abdulla Khalfan Al Kaabi about the discovery of the Abu Dhabi Pearl on Marawah Island

The 8,000-year-old pearl was found on Marawah Island, and using radiocarbon dating, archaeologists from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi)  deduced that the pearl dates from 5,800 to 5,600 BCE.

Archaeologists believe the discovery proves pearls were used in the UAE nearly 8,000 years ago and it represents the earliest known evidence for pearling yet discovered anywhere in the world.

It follows a string of discoveries on Marawah over the past few years that have revealed evidence of a sophisticated Stone Age settlement.

The pearl will now go on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi as part of the ‘10,000 Years of Luxury’ exhibition that opens on October 30. The pearl will eventually be housed at Zayed National Museum, which is being built on Saadiyat Island.

“The Abu Dhabi pearl is a stunning find, testimony to the ancient origins of our engagement with the sea,” said Mohamed 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.

“Marawah Island is one of our most valuable archaeological sites and excavations continue in the hope of discovering even more evidence of how our ancestors lived, worked and thrived.”

Before this discovery, the earliest known pearl in the UAE was uncovered at a Neolithic site in Umm Al Quwain and was believed to be 7,500 years old. Ancient pearls from the same time have also been found at a Neolithic cemetery close to Jebel Buhais in Sharjah. Radiocarbon dating indicates however that the Abu Dhabi pearl is older than both these.

Experts have suggested that ancient pearls were possibly traded with Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) in exchange for highly-decorated ceramics and other goods. Pearls were also likely worn as jewellery.

Evidence for ancient settlements on Marawah was first discovered in 1992. But archaeological excavations undertaken by DCT over the past few years have shown how a vibrant and sophisticated settlement thrived there about 8,000 years ago. Significant finds have included an imported ceramic vase, flint arrowheads and shell beads. Painted plaster vessel fragments were also discovered and represent the earliest known decorative art yet discovered in the UAE.

A major new season of archaeological excavations on Marawah Island is planned for 2020.

 

New article published on Neolithic fishing on Marawah Island

I have just co-authored a new publication on the Neolithic fisheries of Marawah Island. Please go ahead and read:

Lidour, K. and M.J. Beech. 2019. At the dawn of Arabian fisheries. Fishing activities of the inhabitants of the Neolithic tripartite house of Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi Emirate (United Arab Emirates). Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 2019:00:1-11. Article doi: 10.1111/aae.12134

Summary

This paper presents the results of a study of nearly 8000 fish bones from MR11 Area A, a Neolithic stone‐built house located on Marawah Island, United Arab Emirates. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the site was inhabited from the first half of the 6th to the mid‐5th millennium BC, making it one of the oldest Neolithic occupation sites in the whole of the Arabian Gulf. Initial excavations between 2003 and 2004 revealed a single room and then more recent excavations in 2016–2017 uncovered two adjacent structures which proved to be a tripartite house. Examination of the fish remains from this particular site allows both a spatial and diachronic analysis. Archaeo‐ichthyological studies can determine the role of fisheries within the subsistence strategies of past societies and the fishing techniques they adopted. This study provides important evidence regarding coastal and island lifestyle during the Neolithic. It outlines the predominance of small coastal fish such as grunts, emperors, and seabreams in the faunal assemblage. It thus suggests that fishing was essentially carried out in the surrounding shallow waters where soft‐bottoms and seagrass meadows predominate. Non‐selective fishing techniques probably involved the use of small‐mesh devices such as beach seines and coastal barrier traps.

Keywords:  Ancient fishing, Arabian Gulf, archaeo‐ichthyology, Eastern Arabia, Marawah, Neolithic