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Posted On: 28 July 2009 10:37 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Archaeological digs uncover Qatar’s past

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Growing interest in the archaeology of Qatar has resulted in a substantial number of new sites being discovered and significantly more archaeological research in the region. This was apparent when an exceptional session on the archaeology of Qatar was held at the British Museum, London, as part of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 2009, recently. The session on July 24 included lectures by representatives from universities and academic institutions on recent research and excavations conducted as part of an initiative by the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). Excavation carried out at Umm Al Maa, some 80km north-west of Doha. While there have been occasional lectures about archaeological sites in Qatar before at the British Museum, this was the first special session to focus entirely on the archaeology of Qatar. There has been a notable increase in the amount of archaeological field work being conducted in Qatar covering the ancient to the Islamic periods. The research is bringing important new information to light. In October last year, Qatar had become the first country in the region to implement the Global Imagery System for archeological studies as part of a research by QMA and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. This research, involving the use of remote sensors and geospatial modelling to reconstruct the former onshore and offshore landscape environments in Qatar, was the main feature of the session. Through this research Qatar aims to develop a world-class Qatar National Historic Environment Record (a record of all archaeological sites) as a major step to guiding future research across a range of disciplines. The research is leading to the discovery of significant numbers of new archaeological sites as per the reports at British Museum. Once done, the record could also revamp the whole history of the nation written so far. “This forms part of the core for our long term strategy for the protection of our historic environment” said Sheikh Hassan Al Thani, Vice Chairman, QMA. “The establishment of Qatar National Historic Environment Record provides an educational tool that assists planning decisions and will affect how the historic resource is managed for future generations.” The session also included lectures about sites dating from the Prehistoric to the late Islamic periods. Moesgaard Museum, Denmark presented the results of excavations at Ras Aburuk and what are thought to be some of the earliest stone tools found in Qatar or indeed the Arabian Peninsula. Session highlights included work by a German team that excavated part of a vast prehistoric cairn field of Umm Al Maa, some 80km north-west of Doha, thought to date between 100 BC and 100AD. On behalf of Qatar Museums Authority started excavation in February 2008 and two campaigns of excavations were conducted since then. The second half of the session featured talks about the Islamic period archaeology of Qatar. Excavations and the study of ceramics from the 9th century Abbasid Village of Murwab was described by a French team that have been examining the chronological development and function of different areas of the settlement. The segment also featured the results of important excavations at the Islamic fortress at Qal’at Ruwayda by a team from the University of Wales. Al Ruwayda site is particularly extensive, and covers an area of more than two kilometers. This is coastal site of particular interest for other archaeologists that are excavating maritime sites around the Gulf. Preliminary findings indicate that the main site was inhabited from the medieval to the early modern period. Excavation concentrated on the most visible feature of the site, which is a fortress divided into four separate courtyards. The principal aim of the 2009 excavation was to identify the building sequence of the fort and also get some idea of its foundation date. The final lecture was from a team from Copenhagen University who are excavating two areas within the extensive, walled city of Al Zubarah. An exploratory programme of archaeological survey work, excavations and environmental studies was undertaken from January to May this year. The extraordinary complexity of the natural and human environment encountered through this work is being revealed, and suggests that in the future many more rewarding outcomes can be expected in the study of Qatari archaeology, history and heritage. “This event offers the opportunity to raise awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage in Qatar and the recent developments in conservation and protection,” said Abdulla Al Najjar, CEO, QMA. The Seminar for Arabian Studies is the only international forum which 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. Since its first meeting in October 1968, each year the seminar series is attended by archaeological academics, students and special interest groups from around the world. The written versions of the lectures will be printed in the proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. This is an academic journal published every summer and features important archaeological research from across the Arabian Peninsula.