All posts by beech

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

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

The future asks questions…

A tale of nature, history and evolution…

It’s time to tell the greatest story…

على مدار 13.8 مليار سنة، شهد الكون نمواً، وفي مساحاته الشاسعة ظهرت عجائب الحياة. حان الوقت لنشارككم أعظم القصص.

For 13.8 billion years the universe has been growing. From vast expanses emerged the wonders of life. It’s time to tell the greatest story.



New Abu Dhabi Archaeological Discoveries reveal 8,500 Year Old Buildings


The Abu Dhabi Government Media Office released the following news story on 17 February 2022:

Building structures unearthed off the coast of UAE capital by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi push back date of such remains in the UAE and region by 500 years.

New evidence from Ghagha Island indicates that the islands of Abu Dhabi were a focal point for human innovation and settlement during the Neolithic period.

Archaeologists from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) have unearthed evidence of the earliest known buildings in the UAE and the broader region dating back more than 8,500 years — at least 500 years earlier than previously thought.

The discovery on the island of Ghagha, west of Abu Dhabi city, revealed stone structures offering further compelling history of the UAE.

The DCT Abu Dhabi archaeologists have been conducting scientific analysis of the artefacts since the structures and accompanying objects were unearthed. The most extraordinary discovery was revealed by carbon-14 analysis of charcoal fragments, which indicates the structures are at least 8,500 years old – breaking the previous record for the earliest known structures built in the UAE, which were discovered on Marawah Island.

It was previously thought that long-distance maritime trade routes, which developed during the Neolithic period, were the catalyst for settlements in the area, but the latest discoveries prove that Neolithic settlements existed prior to the onset of trade, which means it was local economic and environmental conditions that led to the first settled life in what is now the United Arab Emirates. Rather than being arid and inhospitable, the islands were in a sense a ‘Fertile Coast’. This evidence recasts Abu Dhabi’s islands within the cultural history of the broader region.

HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “These archaeological finds have shown that people were settling and building homes here 8,500 years ago. The discoveries on Ghagha island highlight that the characteristics of innovation, sustainability and resilience have been part of the DNA of the inhabitants of this region for thousands of years. The finds reinforce an appreciation of history, as well as the deep cultural connections between the people of the UAE and the sea. We are also reminded that there is still much to discover across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and that it is vitally important we continue working to discover, preserve and protect our invaluable heritage for current and future generations to learn more about our ancestral past.”

Until the excavations of Ghagha, the earliest known structures in the United Arab Emirates were found on the island of Marawah, also off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Taken with the evidence from Marawah, the new evidence from Ghagha indicates that the islands of Abu Dhabi were a focal point for human innovation and settlement during the Neolithic period – a time of fundamental change throughout much of the world.

The structures that have been uncovered are simple round rooms, the walls of which are made from stone and preserved to nearly one metre in height. The rooms were likely houses for a small community who may have lived on the island year-round. Hundreds of artefacts were found in the rooms, including finely worked stone arrowheads that would have been used for hunting. It is likely that the community would also have used the rich resources of the sea. How long the settlement existed is unknown, but after it was abandoned, it apparently remained an important part of the cultural landscape, as nearly 5,000 years ago a person was buried in the ruins of the structures. It is one of the few burials from this period known on the Abu Dhabi islands.

The discoveries on Ghagha Island come as part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s emirate-wide archaeological programme, in line with the organisation’s mandate to preserve, protect and promote the ancient history and cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi. The emirate contains some of the most prized and unique cultural and historical attractions and finds in the region and internationally. In addition to the discoveries on Ghagha and Marawah islands, these include the remains of an ancient monastery on Sir Bani Yas island, as well as the UNESCO-inscribed Cultural Site of Al Ain, comprising a series of oases, historic monuments, archaeological sites and natural areas, which has featured on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List since 2011.

Abu Dhabi’s archaeological treasures also include Miocene Trackways (footprints of a herd of an extinct form of ancient elephant) which date to 6-8 million years ago; a 3,000 year old falaj in Al Ain (which indicates the earliest known widespread use of this irrigation technology in the world); stone tools dating to over 300,000 years ago, which were found in surveys around Jebel Hafit (indicating that the UAE was an important pathway for the dispersal of humans across the globe); and a well preserved Iron Age fortress dating to 3,000 years ago, which was discovered during excavations at Al Ain’s Hili 14 archaeological site. A series of late pre-Islamic tombs have also been found in various locations in Al Ain.

The story was carried in a number of newspapers in the UAE including Al Ittihad, Al Khaleej, The National, Gulf News and Khaleej Times, as well as in international press such as CNN, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom. and Saudi Gazette.

New article published on Intensive Exploitation of Marine Crabs and Sea Urchins during the middle Holocene in the eastern Arabian peninsula

New article just published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology:

Kevin Lidour, Philippe Béarez, Mark Beech, Vincent Charpentier & Sophie Méry. 2021. Intensive exploitation of marine crabs and sea urchins during the middle holocene in the eastern Arabian peninsula offers new perspectives on ancient maritime adaptations, The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology – DOI: 10.1080/15564894.2021.1962437

Maritime adaptation is a key component of the Neolithization process in Eastern Arabia. It is expressed by the development of diversified fishing techniques, the exploitation of hard marine animal materials (e.g., seashells, shark teeth, stingray’s barbs, etc.) for both tools and personal adornments production, advanced seafaring, and colonization of offshore islands. Although a diet based mainly on the consumption of marine fish and mollusks, the importance of other seafood has been greatly underestimated in previous zooarchaeological studies. Large quantities of marine crabs (NISP = 10,619) and sea urchins (NISP = 2454) have been retrieved from newly excavated Neolithic sites in the United Arab Emirates. These data highlight local developments of interest for specific seafood and their intensive exploitation over several centuries of human occupation. This study focuses on methods for identifying the main edible marine crab and sea urchin species retrieved from archaeological sites in Eastern Arabia. Results from the Neolithic sites of Delma Island and the Umm al-Quwain lagoon are discussed.


Paper to be presented at 54th Seminar for Arabian Studies 2021

The 54th Seminar for Arabian Studies organized by the International Association for the Study of Arabia (IASA), will take place online over the weekends of 2nd – 4th and 9th – 11th July 2021 in collaboration with and supported by Casa Árabe, Cordoba. To attend the 54th Seminar for Arabian Studies and for more information please click here.

The following paper is to be presented by our Marawah excavation team at the 54th Seminar for Arabian Studies 2021 on Friday 2 July 2021 from 13:40-14:05 pm (GMT).

Neolithic settlement patterns and subsistence strategies on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi emirate, United Arab Emirates

by: Mark Jonathan Beech, Noura Hamad Al Hameli, Richard Cuttler, Kevin Lidour, Howell Roberts, Remy Crassard, Nurcan Yalman, and Talfan Davies.


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 organisation of settlements. MR11 comprises a group of 7 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 about 8,000-years-ago to 6,500-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 different 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 to the other areas.


Beech M., R. Cuttler, D. Moscrop, H. Kallweit & J. Martin. 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.

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

New paper published – More on the identification of fish bones from southeast Arabia

A new paper has just been published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology:

Yeomans, L. and Beech, M.J. 2021. More on the identification of fish bones from southeast Arabia. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 2021: 1-12.

Identification of fish bones from archeological sites in southeast Arabia requires access to an extensive reference collection. This is often not possible, and repeated use of these resources when they are available ultimately damages bones. This paper provides a platform from which high‐resolution images of 60 species of marine fishes from southeast Arabia can be downloaded, aiding identification and providing illustrations that other researchers can modify to produce graphics to highlight taphonomic modification to bones or illustrate measurements taken.

This is a follow up article to the previously published paper:

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

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 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.]

New publication about lithics from Delma Island

Just co-authored a new article:

Kallweit, H. and M.J. Beech. 2020. Some remarks on the lithic assemblage from a coastal Ubaid-related settlement site on Delma Island, Abu Dhabi emirate, United Arab Emirates. Pages 121-135, in:  K. Bretzke, R. Crassard and Y.H. Hilbert (eds), Stone Tools of Prehistoric Arabia – Papers from the Special Session of the Seminar for Arabian Studies held in July 2019 in Leiden. Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies Volume 50. Oxford: Archaeopress.

To order this publication from Archaeopress click here.


The Neolithic Ubaid-related settlement site on Dalma island was first discovered in 1992 by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS). Ubaid pottery sherds, lithics, marine shells, and fish bones were observed on the ground surface within the walled compound of the former Women’s Association, as well as external to the compound within the traffic island located on its northern side. Excavations subsequently took place directed by ADIAS team members, Elizabeth Shepherd-Popescu and Katelin Flavin (1994–1995), and by Mark J. Beech and Joseph Elders (1998). Excavations were renewed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) directed by Mark J. Beech (2014–2016). These excavations revealed that the settlement had up to 1.7 m of stratigraphic deposits below the modern-day ground surface. Traces of circular house structures were identified in the form of post-holes. Radiocarbon dating demonstrates that the site was occupied from the late sixth to the mid-fifth millennium BC. To date a total of more than 35,000 lithics have been retrieved from the site. During fieldwork carried out in 1998, Mark J. Beech and Jakub Czastka from the ADIAS team discovered that there was a raw flint source on the north-west coast of Delma Island. Unfortunately, this particular outcrop is no longer accessible due to subsequent construction activities, although some samples of the flint were collected from it. It is pale grey-brown to pale blue in colour with small sparkly inclusions and a thick bright white coloured cortex. Analysis of the lithic assemblage from the excavations suggests that the vast majority of final tools and even the management of rejects and production waste are believed to be of local origin. Only an extremely small number of imported final products were noted. The assemblage is marked by a low variety of tool types, with an emphasis on attrition tools in the form of wedges. Drills and perforating tools are common but less frequent. There was a limited quantity of arrowheads and large projectile points.

Keywords: lithics, flint source, Ubaid, settlement, Abu Dhabi.


Hudayriyat Heritage Trail opens to the public

The Hudayriyat Heritage Trail opened to the public on the 10th November 2020.

The Hudayriyat Heritage Trail has been established to protect the important archaeological remains discovered on the island.

The shell middens provide direct evidence of the activities of pearl fishermen who previously lived there.

The remains of dugongs and sharks demonstrate the importance of marine resources for the community living on Hudayriyat.

An archaeological experience with a twist, the Hudayriyat Heritage Trail is a winding stretch of beautiful pathways and raised tidal boardwalks. It offers visitors the chance to stroll down a timeline of local history and learn all about the curious and intriguing facts of the recent and distant past. The trail includes a range of contemporary sculptures, alongside viewing platforms overlooking the Arabian Gulf.

The trail combines historical artworks such as oysters, pearls, and pottery, burnt shark and dugong bones, along with historical fishing nets. Along the route are a number of educational nodes where families can learn about how the local Bedouins lived and adapted to the environment many years before modern technology.

Download the Hudayriyat Heritage Trail Official Brochure by clicking here.

Visit the Hudayriyat Heritage Trail Instagram page.

Visit the Hudayriyat Heritage Trail Facebook page.

See VisitAbuDhabi’s video about Hudayriyat Island.
See a video on YouTube about Hudayriyat Island.