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Abu Dhabi Discovery Volume 57 Number 5, September/October 2004

(©Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey) [LARGER IMAGE]

A pottery vessel discovered at the oldest, best-preserved Neolithic village in eastern Arabia may be evidence of early trade across the Persian Gulf between southern Mesopotamia and an island community off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Found on the island of Marawah near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, the 7,000-year-old pottery vessel has a pale-green surface and is painted with black geometric lines and chevrons--characteristics of pottery from Tell Al-Ubaid in southern Iraq, the heart of Mesopotamia. The design is also similar to that found on pottery made in the Susiana region of southern Iran during the fifth millennium B.C. Archaeologists suggest the presence of the pottery indicates trade at a surprisingly early time between peoples on the gulf.

The vessel was discovered in the remains of a four-room building erected in phases between 7000 and 6500 B.C. So far, archaeologists have only excavated one of the rooms, in which they have also unearthed the oldest human remains ever found in the region. The person had been buried just inside the threshhold, making it likely the building hadn't been in regular use by the time of the burial--anyone entering would have literally tripped over the remains. In fact, at one point someone may indeed have stumbled over them--the bones were damaged and scattered, the feet found several yards away from the rest of the body. Among the most beautiful artifacts found so far, according to the archaeologists, were delicate buttons made of pearl oyster shells.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America