All posts by beech

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

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.

Be the first to meet ‘Stan’ the T.rex at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi Exhibition


You don’t have to wait!

You don’t have to wait until 2025 to meet ‘Stan’ the T.Rex at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi and some of the world’s most precious natural wonders like the 7-billion-year-old Murchison Meteorite. They will be displayed at Manarat Al Saadiyat from 6 April to 12 May 2022. #AbuDhabiCulture |


Monocle on Culture – Podcast interview with HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak

Listen to this podcast interview with His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, where he discussed the forthcoming institutions being established on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. This includes the  Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi (NHMAD).

A special edition of the show marking its partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism. Robert Bound is joined by the chairman of the department, who explains his conviction that culture is at the heart of any progressive society. At this moment of reckoning in the world of so-called ‘big culture’, the ability to build new museums with fresh thinking is an opportunity not to be missed. The chairman explains why the wealth of forthcoming institutions at Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island could grasp that chance.


Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed launches Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi project


ABU DHABI, 23rd March, 2022 (WAM) — H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, Member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, today launched the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi project.

The new museum, which will be the largest of its kind in the region, will take visitors on a 13.8 billion-year journey through time and space, and include a thought-provoking perspective into a sustainable future for planet Earth.

The museum, currently under construction and due to be completed at the end of 2025, will be located in the emirate’s Saadiyat Cultural District, which is establishing itself as one of the world’s leading cultural centres.

A highlight of the new museum’s collection will be the world-famous ‘Stan’, a remarkable, mostly complete 39-foot-long (11.7 metres) Tyrannosaurus rex, which is one of the best preserved and most studied fossils of this iconic predator from the Late Cretaceous Period. Known by scientists around the world, years of scientific studies of ‘Stan’ have furthered our knowledge of countless aspects of T. rex. Now that ‘Stan’ has a new home at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, this 67-million-year-old dinosaur will be made available for scientific research, and will continue to contribute to education and research globally.

‘Stan’ will be joined by an extraordinary Murchison Meteorite specimen, which famously crash-landed in Australia more than 40 years ago and has since revealed to scientists new information about the early solar system. Containing a huge range of organic ‘stardust’ compounds as well as pre-solar grains which formed over 7 billion years ago – long before our current solar system existed – the meteorite provides ancient insight into the very building blocks of life.

The museum’s collection will feature numerous significant artefacts as part of its curatorial vision, as well as fascinating experiences being created by a dedicated team in Abu Dhabi, supported by strategic partnerships with world leading scholars and natural history experts.

Conceived and developed by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) in partnership with Miral, Abu Dhabi’s leading creator of destinations and experiences, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will be a scientific research and teaching institution and an educational resource for learning about the evolving story of our planet, aiming to ignite a life-long passion for the natural world in visitors of all ages.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said that nurturing awareness of how we are impacting the planet has never been more important.

“Natural history has a new home in Abu Dhabi. A new museum which tells the story of our universe through some of the most incredible natural wonders known to mankind. These are awe-inspiring gifts from nature that we are proud to share with the world – unlocking millions of years of knowledge to not only advance scientific discovery but to inspire our children to protect our planet’s future.

“As we nurture a new generation of global advocates that are incredibly curious and passionate about natural history, we are fulfilling our vision to enrich lives and make Abu Dhabi the place for research, collaboration and discovery,” he said The museum will join the diverse cultural institutions and museums in the Saadiyat Cultural District, which include Louvre Abu Dhabi and the upcoming Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, as part of Abu Dhabi’s strategy to position the emirate as a centre for culture, arts and creativity.

With a focus on immersive displays, curated collections with exceptional specimens, and innovative, interactive mediations, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi galleries will take visitors on a journey back to the very beginning of time, narrating the evolution of our universe, the Earth’s formation, and the history of life on our planet – as well as providing a glimpse into our possible future.

In addition to global natural history, the museum will for the first time present the history of life on Earth through an Arabian lens, where local natural assets of fauna, flora and the geological history of the region will be part of the visitor journey.

It will join a global community of natural history museums committed to public education and to the development and sharing of scientific research. Within the museum, the innovative scientific research facility will undertake studies in areas including zoology, palaeontology, marine biology, molecular research (aDNA and proteomics), and earth sciences. The primary aim will be to advance knowledge and increase understanding of our past, but also to create a think tank for future innovation and emerging technologies.

Covering an area of more than 35,000 sqm, lead architects Mecanoo designed the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi to resonate with natural rock formations, reflecting the museum’s goal of improving understanding of and engagement with the natural world. Every element of the design uses geometry as an overriding theme, with pentagonal shapes resembling cellular structures. Also playing an important role in the design are water and vegetation, potent symbols of life in the desert. In addition to the gallery display areas, the museum will include temporary exhibition spaces for special events and theatre facilities. Enabling and marine works have commenced on the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi construction site.

The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will offer employment opportunities in the emirate and on the wider national and regional levels, with curators set to be appointed to cover the full spectrum of natural sciences. In addition, it aims to attract and develop young talent as part of Abu Dhabi’s drive to accelerate the culture and creative industries.

The Saadiyat Cultural District is already home to Louvre Abu Dhabi, the globally celebrated universal museum designed by Pritzker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvel, and Manarat Al Saadiyat, a cultural centre that contributes to the region’s vibrant arts scene with internationally relevant exhibitions and events, workshops and creative programming.

The Saadiyat Cultural District will soon also include the Zayed National Museum, the national museum of the UAE; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, focusing on global Modern and Contemporary art; and the Abrahamic Family House, which will comprise three religious spaces in one place – a mosque, a synagogue and a church – to inspire and nurture acceptance and peaceful coexistence among people of all faiths.

WAM/Lina Ibrahim/Amjad Saleh