All posts by beech

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

International Museum Day

Celebrate International Museum Day by finding out about Abu Dhabi’s existing and planned Museums.

Abu Dhabi museums are windows to our past, present, and future. Embark on a journey of discovery, appreciation, and inspiration. On #InternationalMuseumDay, let’s celebrate the power of museums to connect us across time and borders!#DCTAbuDhabi #AbuDhabiCulture

New article published in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy

A new article has just been published in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy:

Kevin Lidour, Mark J. Beech, Daniel Eddisford, Carl S. Phillips, Christoph Schwall and Sabah A. Jasim. 2023. A Bronze to Iron Age fishing economy at Kalbāʾ 4 (Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates). Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. DOI: 10.1111/aae.12227

This paper represents a study of archaeological fish remains retrieved from the excavations conducted by C. S. Phillips between 1993 and 2001 at Kalbāʾ 4 (Emirate of Sharjah, UAE). Kalbāʾ 4 is a major coastal site that was continuously occupied from the Umm an‐Nar period to the Iron Age (c. 2700–600 BCE). The site is of particular interest regarding monumental architecture, pottery studies and exchange networks across Arabia and its neighbouring regions from the Bronze Age onwards. A corpus of about 5500 fish remains provides information on fishing economies during the entire occupation of the site. Data regarding fish complement results previously obtained from the study of other fauna including marine molluscs, sea turtles, terrestrial and marine mammals. They allow us to document a fishing‐based economy at Kalbāʾ 4. The results highlight the exploitation of a quite limited range of fish taxa associated mostly with reef areas (groupers, trevallies, snappers, spangled emperors, King soldierbreams), brackish waters (mullets) and the open sea (scombrids). The techniques seem to have mainly involved the use of baited lines from boats, fishing nets and possibly cage traps. The discussion includes comparisons with the other main fish studies conducted for the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in Eastern Arabia.

Bronze Age, fishing, Gulf of Oman, Iron Age, Kalbāʾ, zooarchaeology


Top Cited Article 2021-2022

My co-authored article in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology is one of the most cited references during the period between 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022. Here are the details:

Lisa Yeomans and Mark Jonathan Beech. 2000. An aid to the identification of fish bones from southeast Arabia: The influence of reference collections on taxonomic diversity. 2020. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 31(1): 3-17.

[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.]


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. Although 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.

Advances in UAE Archaeology Conference 2022


The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi cordially invites you to the  2022 edition of the Archaeology Conference, under the theme “Advances in UAE Archaeology”.
During the conference, you will get the chance to hear about recent research and results of excavations in the United Arab Emirates as well as about the preservation of heritage. The conference will also touch upon the role of museums in reinforcing heritage and promoting the United Arab Emirates history to the world.

For details of the Conference Programme click here

Dates: December 12-13, 2022
Time: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Hilton Abu Dhabi, Yas Island.

Together with the Zayed National Museum, the Historic Environment Department at the Department of Culture and Tourism organised “The Archaeology Conference 2022”, under the theme “Advances in UAE Archaeology”. The event saw leading Emirati, regional and international experts present their research and discuss the latest discoveries and preservation work, shedding light on the heritage of the UAE and the region across historical eras.

click here for a short video of the highlights (via the DCT LinkedIn website). You can also watch all the presentations given at the conference via the DCT Abu Dhabi Culture YouTube channel:

Day 1 – The Archaeology Conference – Monday 12 December 2022

Day 2 – The Archaeology Conference – Tuesday 13 December 2022


Attended Fifth Anniversary of Louvre Abu Dhabi Gala Dinner

I attended the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Fifth Anniversary Gala Dinner on Monday 14th November 2022. It was a fantastic evening featuring speeches by His Excellency Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, and Chairman of Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Her Excellency Rima Abdul Malak, Minister of Culture, France.

The Gala Dinner was prepared by the French chef, Pierre Gagnaire TT, Fouquet’s Abu Dhabi. The dessert called ‘Reminiscence’ was made by the Emirati pastry chef, Sahar Parham Al Awadhi, and was amazing. It was described as “Served on a bed of cracked rice phitni scented with rose and cardamom. Yuzu and rose compressed pear surrounded by opalys chocolate puffed rice, served with ginger and pear gelato under a rice milk veil”!

Musical entertainment was provided by the Emirati singer, Rashed Al Nuaimi. The artist Jenny Holzer created a large-scale light projection entitled “Birthday”, featuring extraordinary words by poets, artists and others from the region and beyond. The texts contemplated the mystery, struggle, intensity, and joy inherent to stories of creation across time and space while evoking contemporary themes from the Middle East’s blossoming art scene.

Attended ICOM 2022 in Prague, Czech Republic

I was part of the delegation from the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi attending the ICOM 2022 Congress held in Prague, Czech Republic from 20-28 August 2022. The theme of the congress was “The Power of Museums”, which discussed the following themes:

– Purpose: Museums and Civil Society
– Sustainability: Museums and Resilience
– Vision: Museums and Leadership
– Delivery: Museums and New Technologies

I attended the special sessions organised by ICOM NATHIST,  the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History of the International Council of Museums. This brought together museum curators and experts from natural history museums from all around the world. The principle event was an offsite meeting held at the National Museum in Prague on Thursday 25th August 2022. There were a series of papers presented about the Nagoya Protocol and concerning Meteorite legislation in different countries.

Programme details

Offsite meeting held at the National Museum Prague on 25th August 2022 (pdf)

Following the offsite meeting the ICOM NATHIST group then visited the Natural History Museum storage outside Prague located at Horní Počernice, where we visited the Palaeontology and Rocks/Minerals archive storage facilities.

New paper published about Marawah Island excavation in PSAS 51 (2022)

New paper published in  Vol. 51 (2022): Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies Volume 51 2022: Papers from the fifty-fourth meeting of the Seminar for Arabian Studies held virtually on 2–4 and 9–11 July 2021. This is about our archaeological excavations at site MR11 on Marawah Island:

Beech, M. J., Al Hameli, N. H., Cuttler, R., Lidour, K., Roberts, H., Crassard, R., Yalman, N., & Davies, T. (2022). Neolithic settlement patterns and subsistence strategies on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies51, 7–24. Retrieved from

Neolithic, Settlement, Architecture, Subsistence, Arabian Gulf

Recent work has revealed that there are three major Neolithic settlements present on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi, known as MR1, MR2.5, and MR11. Excavations at the settlement of MR11 are radically changing our ideas of Neolithic architecture, in particular the spatial organization of settlements. MR11 comprises a group of seven mounds (Areas A to G), the first of which (Area A) was subject to excavation in 2003 and 2004 (Beech et al. 2005). Work has continued every year since 2014 on Areas A, B, C, and F. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal fragments have demonstrated that this settlement was occupied from c.8000 to 6500 years ago (Beech et al. 2019). The excavation of each of these areas revealed different forms of architecture. It is now clear that a part of the tripartite house in Area A post-dates an earlier building. Areas B and C comprise a series of differently shaped rooms and paved areas with multiple entrances. Preliminary excavations on Area F indicate the presence of a multi-celled structure that is very different in character from the other areas. Some of the key finds from the excavations are discussed, including lithics, plaster vessels, fish bones, marine shells, mineralized date stones, and radiocarbon dates.

Two papers presented at Seminar for Arabian Studies 2022 in Berlin

Our team presented the results of our recent archaeological excavations on Ghagha Island and Jubail Island at the 55th Seminar for Arabian Studies, organised by the International Association for the Study of Arabia (IASA), held at the Humboldt University of Berlin from 5-7 August 2022.

My colleague, Noura Hamad Al Hameli, presented the paper on behalf of our team.

New light on the Neolithic Fertile Coast: Recent excavations on Ghagha Island (Abu Dhabi Emirate, UAE) and the emergence of domestic architecture in ancient Arabia.

Noura Hamad Al Hameli, DCT Abu Dhabi
Richard Cuttler, DCT Abu Dhabi
Mark Jonathan Beech, DCT Abu Dhabi
Ahmed Abdalla Elfaki, DCT Abu Dhabi
Peter Magee, DCT Abu Dhabi

Keywords: Neolithic, stone architecture, fertile coast, Arabian Gulf, Bronze Age burial

Ghagha island is located at the westernmost extent of Abu Dhabi emirate, approximately 1km from the UAE mainland. Survey and excavation by the Department of Culture and Tourism: Abu Dhabi, has identified two previously unknown Neolithic sites on the island (GHG0014 and GHG0063). GHG0014 comprises a cluster of stone-built rooms, preserved to nearly one metre in height. GHG0063 is still under excavation but comprises ash lenses and stone features. Finds from both sites include bifacial barbed and tanged arrowheads, plaster vessels fragments and other stone implements.

Radiocarbon dates from GHG0014 indicates that it was occupied by 6500 BCE. This is considerably earlier than any known domestic architecture in the region. A single assay from GHG0063 is in broad agreement with this chronology.

In this paper we explore the implications of these discoveries for Neolithic coastal life in the Arabian Gulf, especially in light of our growing understanding in the Flandrian Transgression. In addition, we position these discoveries against the normative framework which sees trade with Ubaid period Mesopotamia as a catalyst for economic change. Lastly, we explore how both sites, in combination with the discoveries from Marawah island, can disarticulate the linear narrative of the Neolithic Revolution in the ancient Near East.


Beech M.J., Al Hameli N.H., Cuttler R.T., Lidour K., Roberts H., Crassard R., Yalman N. & Davies T.  2022 . Neolithic settlement patterns and subsistence strategies on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 51: 7-24.

Beech M.J., Cuttler R.T.H., Al Kaabi A.K., El Faki A.A., Martin J., Al Hameli N.H., Roberts H.M. & Crassard R. 2019. Excavations 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 31(1): 19-31.

Beech M., Cuttler R., Moscrop D., Kallweit H. & Martin J. 2005. New evidence for the Neolithic settlement of Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 35: 37-56.

Aurore Lambert and Corentin Biets from Eveha presented a paper on the recent archaeological excavations on Jubail Island on behalf of Eveha International and the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT):

Short-term coastal occupation on Jubail Island : Modern Lime Kilns and Marine Resource exploitation for artisanal activities (Abu Dhabi Emirate, UAE)

Aurore Lambert, Eveha/AMU, CNRS, EFS, ADES, France
Corentin Biets, Eveha International/IPH, France
Mark Jonathan Beech, DCT Abu Dhabi
Richard Cuttler, DCT Abu Dhabi
Peter Magee, DCT Abu Dhabi

Keywords: Lime kiln, Artisanal production, Marine resources, Iron Age, Islamic period


As part of Jubail Island’s development process, an archaeological intervention was undertaken by Eveha International. The scientific goals were to identify and characterize archaeological settlements. Previous surveys by a team from the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) identified the potential for prehistoric and recent Islamic occupation.

The excavation revealed an Islamic lime production site from the 19th century. This included pits and kilns in two areas, that used corals and shells as raw material. No permanent settlements have been recorded and artifacts are few. The island’s mangroves and marine resources were extensively exploited. Production seems to have been opportunistic, intermittent, cooperative and on an artisanal scale. An Iron Age lime production site was also detected dating to around 1300 BC. As with other sites over the Abu Dhabi islands, the architecture of these fire places spans over a long period of time.

This excavation sheds light on a form of artisanal production that remains scarcely studied, and is part of a much larger occupation of the island that merits further investigation. They provide a valuable understanding of the island activities and resource exploitation in the recent Islamic period, alongside the contemporary evolution of coastal occupation in the area.


Garfi, S. 1996. Excavations on Balghelam Island – a preliminary report. Tribulus (Journal of the Emirates Natural History Group) 6.2: 5-10.

Hellyer, P. 2002. Newly-discovered Coastal and Island Archaeological Sites in North East Abu Dhabi. Tribulus (Journal of the Emirates Natural History Group) 12.2: 5-11.

King, G.R.D. 1998. Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey: Season I – An Archaeological Survey of Sir Bani Yas, Dalma and Marawah: Season One. Trident Press: London.

New book published – Sands of Time: Ancient Life in the Late Miocene of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Today we published our new book on the Late Miocene fossils of Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region. This represents work carried out over more than 10 years and special thanks go to my co-editors Fysaal BeebeeBrian Kraatz and the late Andrew Hill. Thanks also go to all the authors contributing to this volume (including Ray BernorMarilyn FoxIlaria MazziniJohannes MüllerBill SandersJohn Stewart and many others).

Faysal Bibi, Brian Kraatz, Mark Jonathan Beech and Andrew Hill (editors.). 2022. Sands of Time: Ancient Life in the Late Miocene of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Springer – Vertebrate Palaeobiology and Palaeanthropology Series (series editors Eric Sargis and Eric Delson). Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

358 pages
ISBN-10: 303083882X

ISBN-13: 978-3030838829


This monograph presents the results of over 10 years of paleontological and geological survey in the Baynunah Formation of the United Arab Emirates. Exposed widely in western Abu Dhabi Emirate, the Baynunah Formation and its fossils provide the only record of terrestrial environments and evolution in the Arabian Peninsula during the late Miocene epoch (12-5 Ma).

This volume describes new fossils collected since 2002, presented systematically by taxon, and including mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates, as well as fossil trackways. The discoveries are framed within the results of new geological, geochemical, and geochrononological analyses, providing an updated and synthetic view of the age, environments, and biogeographic relationships of this important fossil assemblage.