All posts by beech

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

History of the Emirates – due to be broadcast in November 2019

For the first time ever, the ancient history of the United Arab Emirates is depicted in this informative and entertaining five-part documentary series. Stretching back 125,000 years and culminating in the union in 1971, HISTORY OF THE EMIRATES profiles the ancient foundations of the modern country – exploring some of the region’s most historic sites, uncovering innovations that allowed its forefathers to thrive on the land, and revealing the latest archaeological discoveries.

Utilizing state-of-the-art CGI technology, 360-degree camerawork and incredible archeological footage, the series brings to life the UAE’s past unlike anything seen about the region.

HISTORY OF THE EMIRATES will remind local viewers of the enduring ties that exist between the country’s remarkable past and its amazing present, while revealing a completely unseen civilization to viewers new to the region.


53rd Seminar for Arabian Studies – University of Leiden – 11-13 July 2019

The 53rd Seminar for Arabian Studies, organised by the International Association for the Study of Arabia (IASA), will be held at in the Lipsius Building of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands from Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th July 2019.

Click here for details of the programme.

 The Seminar for Arabian Studies is the only international forum that meets annually for the presentation of the latest academic research in the humanities on the Arabian Peninsula from the earliest times to the present day or, in the case of political and social history, to the end of the Ottoman Empire (1922). The Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies are published the following year in time for the next Seminar.

A Special Session on the Stone Tools of Prehistoric Arabia will be held at the Seminar for Arabian Studies on Friday 12th July. Focusing on patterns and changes in stone tool assemblages from Arabian prehistory, this special session will bring together lithic experts working on the Arabian Palaeolithic to provide insights from deep-time evolution and experts working on Holocene lithic assemblages providing insights from high resolution records with more details available about palaeo-environmental and chronological contexts. In doing so, the session aims at compiling an overview of spatio-temporal patterns in lithic typo-technology in Arabia. From this foundation we hope to grasp and discuss the evolution of stone tools in Arabia, possible factors behind this process and their potential implications.

I will be co-presenting a paper in this Special Session on Stone Tools of Prehistoric Arabia with Heiko Kallweit entitled:

Lithics from Delma Island excavations – remarks on the lithic assemblage from a coastal Ubaid-related settlement site, 1992-2016


An important Neolithic Ubaid-related coastal settlement site (known by the site codes DA11, DA12 or DLM0019) was first discovered on Dalma Island, Abu Dhabi emirate, UAE, in 1992 by the former Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS). The site is located at what was originally the southern tip of the island. The site was first investigated between 1992-1994 (when surface collections and limited excavations were undertaken), and then in 1998 and 2015-2016 (when more substantial excavations took place). During the course of these field campaigns a total of about 35.000 lithics were retrieved from the site which are now catalogued and archived by the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi).

The Delma Neolithic site, now re-named by the DCT site code DLM0019, comprises stratified layers of occupational remains, which have been radiocarbon dated to the late 6th millennium to mid-5th millennium BC. A natural flint source has been identified on the north-west coast of the island during the early stages of investigation in the 1990s. This provides a comparably low quality, mostly nodular flint with inclusions, fractures and mostly a thick bright coloured cortex. Unfortunately, this source has now been consumed by modern construction activities on the island.

The bulk of the lithic production on Delma appears to be of local origin, as seen by the final products and rejects or production waste recorded at the site. There only appears to be a small number of imported final products.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan visits the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery

On the afternoon of Monday 17th June 2019 we had the honour of a visit to the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Rulers’s Representative in Al Dhafra, and his two sons, HH Sheikh Hazza bin Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Yas bin Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They were accompanied by Sultan Khalfan Al Rumaithi, Undersecretary of the Ruler’s Court in Al Dhafra, Ahmed Matar Al Dhaheri, Director of the Ruler’s Representative Office in Dhafrah Region and HE Mohammed Ali Al Shadi Al Mansouri, Director General of the Al Dhafra Municipality.  This visit was following the completion of conservation and enhancement work carried out at the site by the Department of Culture and Tourism.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan re-opens the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery

WAM Emirates News Agency – 13 June 2019

The Church and Monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island, the only early Christian site yet discovered in the UAE, has reopened its doors to visitors following the implementation of conservation measures and site enhancements by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

The inauguration ceremony for the site was conducted by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Tolerance. The event was attended by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, and Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, as well as conservators, archaeologists, heritage experts and clerics.

The Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery dates to the 7th and 8th centuries CE. It continued flourish well after Islam spread throughout the region.

The site was first discovered in 1992, during a survey undertaken with the permission of the late President Sheikh Zayed, when the remains of several buildings, along with pottery and plaster fragments, were found on the east of the island.

The next year, excavations were started by the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, Adias, established on the instructions of Sheikh Zayed and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Excavation of the site took place over several seasons, unveiling the eastern and northern quarters used by the monks, the surrounding wall, as well as the central building, shown by the discovery of fine plaster crosses to be a church.

Several courtyard-type houses were also excavated nearby, as well as a water cistern, all part of the monastic settlement.

Artefacts found at the site show how the inhabitants of the settlement used the sea, in addition to cattle, sheep and goats, as food sources, while glass vessels and pottery indicate that they traded widely across the Arabian Gulf and beyond.

“The Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery site received special attention from the founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, due to the great significance and value it holds as a historic part of the UAE’s cultural heritage,” Sheikh Nahyan said.

“The late Sheikh Zayed played a key role in supporting archaeological excavations, studies and research related to history and heritage. He welcomed archaeological expeditions in the emirate and established the Al Ain Museum to display the archaeological discoveries and artefacts from these missions and provide insight into the lifestyle of those communities residing in the region before us.”

He added: “The Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery sheds light on our cultural history, one that we can be proud of; its existence is proof of the longstanding values of tolerance and acceptance in our lands. This further emphasises the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration, as the site provides evidence of the UAE’s openness to other cultures. It is perfect timing that the inauguration of this landmark comes during the Year of Tolerance, which was marked this year by the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, to the UAE.”

Due to the great significance of the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery, plans to conserve the site were carried out with care soon after the first excavation ended, and in 2010 a shelter was installed over the church, while most of the monastery was reburied. Between 2015 and 2016, DCT Abu Dhabi completed its conservation programme for the site as part of a larger plan to manage the entire island. This plan provided a chance to gather data on the site and monitor its condition, as well as set policies to regulate any future excavations and research, restoration, management and conservation activities.

In 2018, DCT Abu Dhabi began the design and implementation of a new sheltering solution that would ensure optimum protection of the site’s archaeological remains from current environmental threats, minimise visual and physical impact on the archaeological remains, and enhance the visitor experience.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Sheltering archaeological sites is a complex undertaking that has great implications for their conservation, presentation, interpretation, and overall management. The new shelter over the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery is a state-of-the-art protective measure that demonstrates DCT Abu Dhabi’s expertise in the field of heritage conservation and its commitment to the long-term protection of archaeological sites.”

The shelter design is highly specialised and meant to be flexible and reversible, while effectively protecting against rain, heat, windblown sand and nesting birds. The structure integrates a water drainage system and an elevated pathway with interpretation points to enhance visitors’ appreciation and understanding of the site. The dynamic and modular shading structure was designed so that it can be expanded in the future if new discoveries are made, while minimising visual intrusion for visitors. The roofing membrane is made of PTFE, a highly durable and breathable material that provides natural lighting and air circulation. Artificial lighting was also installed to allow night tours of the site. Other site enhancements include a new access road made of environmentally-friendly stabilised soil and a new fence designed in harmony with the site’s context to prevent roaming wildlife and windblown sand.

With the inauguration of this new shelter, sections of the monastery never seen before will now be visible to the public. These remains, mostly of the northern dormitory, provide an understanding of daily life in the monastery. All the exposed archaeological remains were stabilised, repaired, and consolidated and an ongoing programme of monitoring has been initiated.

WAM Emirates News Agency – 13 June 2019

Archaeozoology of Southwest Asia and Adjacent Areas (ASWA) – Barcelona, Spain – 3-7 June 2019

Archaeozoology of Southwest Asia and Adjacent Areas (ASWA) – Barcelona, Spain – 3-7 June 2019.

The Archaeozoology of Southwest Asia and Adjacent Areas (ASWA[AA]) Working Group was formed during the 1990 ICAZ International Conference in Washington D.C. Its purpose is to promote communication between individuals working on faunal remains from sites in western Asia and adjacent areas (e.g., northeast Africa, eastern Europe, central Asia, and south Asia). It carries out its mandate by sponsoring biennial international conferences.

The 14th ASWA Working Group meeting will be held in Barcelona, Spain, from 3-7 June 2019. I will be co-authoring and presenting the following paper

Fishing strategies and adaptation to maritime environments during the Neolithic on Marawah Island, United Arab Emirates.

Kevin Lidour & Mark Jonathan Beech

Recent excavations conducted on Marawah Island (Abu Dhabi Emirate, UAE) have revealed a unique stone-built architectural complex (site MR11) which has been radiocarbon dated to between the early 6th millennium to mid-5th millennium BC. A preliminary study of the faunal assemblage has outlined an economy principally focused toward the exploitation of marine life, including the food consumption of seashells, fish, marine turtles and marine mammals such as dugongs and dolphins. The recent discovery of stone sinkers confirms the use of fishing nets by the ancient inhabitants of the site. The assemblage consists mostly of small coastal fish such as grunts (Haemulidae), seabreams (Sparidae), emperors (Lethrinidae), silversides (Atherinidae), anchovies (Engraulidae), as well as small sharks. These are all commonly associated with shallow seagrass bed environments which are suitable for the use of non-selective fishing techniques and small-mesh devices like barrier traps and beach seines. This paper discusses the fishing strategies and techniques during the Neolithic within the Arabian Gulf, both from an archaeo-ichthyological perspective, as well as the study of fishing equipment from sites located between Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Arabian Gulf, Neolithic Archaeology, Maritime economy, Ancient Fisheries, Fishing strategies


New article published on Neolithic fisheries of Delma Island

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

Lidour, K. and M.J. Beech. 2019. ‘The numerous islands of the Ichthyophagi’: Neolithic fisheries of Delma Island, Abu Dhabi Emirate (UAE). Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 49: 207-222.


This paper presents the results of a study of nearly 55,000 fish bones from the Neolithic settlement of Delma Island, Abu Dhabi Emirate (UAE). The analysis has outlined the predominance of small coastal taxa such as seabreams and needlefish in the bone assemblage, indicating the use of non-selective fishing techniques such as small seines or coastal barrier traps. The installation of baited cage traps in deeper reef areas is also suggested by the importance of large groupers. The exploitation of the open sea is likewise documented by the catch of many kawakawas (a regional tuna species) and large sharks. Pelagic schools were probably exploited with purse seines or drift nets since the first shell hooks only emerge from the mid-fifth millennium BC onwards in the northern UAE. Fishing expeditions in open sea, however, require the use of boats at Delma. As Delma (50 km offshore), in the Arabian Gulf, and Masirah Island (20 km offshore), in the Arabian Sea, were already occupied several thousand years ago, Neolithic seafarers from eastern Arabia were thus already capable of long-distance travel. Boating technology is now directly asserted by the discovery of bitumen-coated fragments at as-Sabiyah H3, Kuwait. At Delma, the discovery of Mesopotamian pottery sherds (ʿUbaid wares) and carbonized date stones raises the issue of regular contacts with continental groups. The present archaeo- ichthyological study provides the opportunity to document and discuss the singular features of subsistence strategies in an insular environment during the Neolithic.

Keywords: fishing, Neolithic, eastern Arabia, Arabian Gulf, archaeo-ichthyology

[you may order a copy of this particular issue of the journal by clicking here]


Press Release – New archaeological discoveries at Abu Dhabi’s earliest village

Today the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) issued a press release about the latest results from our excavations at the MR11 site on Marawah Island in Abu Dhabi emirate. Here are links to the original press releases in both arabic and english language:

WAM Emirates News Agency, 2 April 2019
Marawah Island uncovers Abu Dhabi history with new findings

WAM Emirates News Agency, 2 April 2019 (in arabic)
“السياحة والثقافة” تعثر على أدلة أثرية جديدة لأقدم مستوطنة في أبوظبي

A number of UAE newspapers then featured the news including Al Bayan, Al Ittihad, Al Khaleej, Emirat Al Youm, Gulf News, Gulf Today, Khaleej Times and The National, who included a gallery of related photographs:

The National, 2 April 2019
New archaeological discoveries at Abu Dhabi’s earliest village

Here are the eight photographs which were also issued along with the press release:

Aerial view of the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

From left to right: Peter Magee, HE Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Noura Al Hameli and Mark Jonathan Beech, examining Room 8 at the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

HE Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak and Mark Jonathan Beech, examining Room 6 at the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

Tariq Al Hammadi excavating on the southern side of the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement


Noura Al Hameli mapping with a DGPS on the northern side of the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

Flint trihedral point discovered at the  Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

Painted plaster vessel fragments recovered from the Area C mound at the MR11 Stone Age settlement

Lecture at Louvre Abu Dhabi – The Marawah Vase: Archaeological Discovery of the Gulf – 30 January 2019

Wednesday 30 January 2019, Louvre Abu Dhabi, 6:00-7:00 pm – Open to the Public
(with simultaneous translation to Arabic and French)

The Marawah Vase: Archaeological Discovery of the Gulf

As part of Roads of Arabia: Archeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, join us in a lecture with Dr Mark Beech, who will bring us on the journey of how the Marawah vase was unearthed in one of the oldest villages discovered in the United Arab Emirates. The vase was originally manufactured in Southern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and was traded down the Arabian Gulf. What was the vase used for? How did it arrive here? What was life like at that time in the region? Louvre Abu Dhabi hosts The Marawah Vase: Archaeological Discovery of the Arabian Gulf to discuss these interesting finds.

تزامناً مع معرض “طرق التجارة في الجزيرة العربية: روائع آثار المملكة العربية السعودية عبر العصور”، انضموا إلينا في جلسة حوارية مع الدكتور مارك بيش، الذي سيطلعنا على كيفية انتقال هذا الإناء الذي صُنع جنوب بلاد الرافدين، أي العراق حالياً، قبل 8000 سنة ليتم اكتشافه أخيراً في أقدم القرى في دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة.

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

Hosted by
Louvre Abu Dhabi

To reserve a ticket for the lecture visit:


Regional Workshop on Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region – 28-31 January 2019

I am participating in the Dhakira Center for Heritage Studies and New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, together with UNESCO and ICCROM-Athar (Sharjah) who are co-hosting a Regional Workshop on Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region from 28 to 31 January 2019.

The UNESCO ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Workshop on the Protection and Management of Maritime, Coastal and Underwater Cultural Heritage is taking place at the ICCROM-ATHAR Centre in Sharjah from 28-29 January, and then at NYUAD on Saadiyat Island from 30-31 January 2019.

Both Richard Cuttler and myself are participating in the Abu Dhabi segment of the workshop on Wednesday 30th January, which takes place at the NYUAD Conference Centre on Saadiyat Island. Our 15 minute talks are as follows:

Wednesday 30 January – NYUAD Conference Centre

Session 4 – Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Gulf
10:15-11:30 am
Moderator: Lucy Blue

  • Coastal Archaeological Sites in the Gulf, Mark Beech, Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism
  • Mapping Submerged Cultural Landscapes, Richard Cuttler, Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism

Session 5 – Sustainable and Inclusive Approaches for Underwater Cultural Heritage Management & Protection
12:00-13:30 pm
Moderator: Mark Beech

  • Developing an integrated policy for the maritime and coastal heritage of the UAE: a collaborative approach, Mark Beech, Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism

For more information visit:

For related information visit: