Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Arabian Hoard Volume 51 Number 4, July/August 1998
by Spencer P.M. Harrington

[image] Gold pendant depicting goats or mouflon (Courtesy Daniel T. Potts) [LARGER IMAGE]

A lavish collection of grave goods found in a tomb in the United Arab Emirates attests the cosmopolitan tastes of the wealthy in southeastern Arabia 4,000 years ago. The circular burial measures nearly 20 feet in diameter and dates to 2000 B.C., says Daniel T. Potts, who excavated it with a University of Sydney team. Located at Tell Abraq in the emirate of Sharjah, the tomb is estimated to have held the remains of 300 to 400 people and was built of locally available beach-rock and limestone ashlars typical of the so-called Umm an-Nar culture that flourished in what is today Oman and the Emirates (see "Digging in the Land of Magan," May/June 1997).

More than 60 complete ceramic vessels were recovered, including pieces from southern Mesopotamia, southern Iran, and Bactria (Afghanistan). A dozen ivory combs, some still adhering to the backs of skulls, were decorated with patterns of double-dotted circles, a motif known on ivory combs from the Indus Valley civilization. Four metal pendants depicting animals are of especially fine workmanship. Alabaster bowls, more than a dozen steatite vessels, and fragments of ostrich eggshell containers were also found.

The human remains from half of the tomb consisted of at least 155 skeletons; the tomb's other half is expected to yield an equal number. Scholars hope to gain information about Bronze Age diseases and whether these people were an elite.

© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America