Pre-Islamic Civilizations in the United Arab Emirates and Ras Al Khaimah

All of the regions of the United Arab Emirates have a rich history that stretches into the early days of humankind. Ras al Khaimah is no different than the rest of the federation in this way. A multitude of ancient sites have been discovered there that date back to the age of the development of writing in Mesopotamia.

Many of the ancient peoples that dwelt in modern day UAE built stone and mud-brick structures that have survived to this day. By looking at the archaeological evidence chronologically, we can get an idea of their rich history and the influence that Sumerian culture played on their development.

Jebel Hafit

Jebel Hafit, or Jabel Hafeet, is a mountain in the eastern region of the United Arab Emirates. Part of the mountain is actually inside the Omani border, but the summit itself is located inside Abu Dhabi. The area has been the focus of much archaeology, and the value of the finds is so high that in 1993 the area was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The earliest known evidence of civilization in the United Arab Emirates region comes from stone tombs thought to be at least 5,000 years old scattered around the mountain. There are around 500 stone tombs build with stacked natural rocks near the Omani border on the east side of Al Ain.

These tombs show evidence of use throughout the Bronze Age, and soapstone vessels, beads, and even bronze objects have been unearthed here. It is thought that several oases provided water sources agriculture here, and may have even served for use for Stone Age peoples.

The agriculture was primarily wheat and corn. The Jebel Hafit settlers are thought to have had a very large scale farming area as well as an extensive copper mining venture.

Umm al-Nar

The Umm al-Nar culture established their presence in the area known today as the United Arab Emirates. The name of the culture derives from the island of the same name, Umm al-Nar, and is located off the west coast of the UAE, adjacent to Abu Dhabi. This was the first site found, which is why the culture now bears the name.

An intriguing part of the tale of the Umm al-Nar is that they were known to the people of Mesopotamia, and in fact were in contact with the Sumerians. Pottery and jewelry have been found at archaeological sites that are of Mesopotamian origin.

If you look at a map of the region, you may think that the physical separation of the ancient Sumerians and the Umm al-Nar people wasn’t that great, but realize that this was around 3000 BCE. These Bronze Age cultures were using clay tools and lived in mud-brick and stone hovels; they weren’t travelling between each other’s settlements quickly.

Archaeological expeditions at the Umm al-Nar sites discovered a house that had seven rooms. Within, pottery, bones of cattle and fish were found, as well as copper tools. The people of this period were clearly dependent on fishing. This represents the pinnacle of civilization in the Bronze age, and identifies the trade between Mesopotamia at the time.

Wadi Suq

The last defined phase of Bronze Age settlement in the United Arab Emirates is that of the Wadi Suq. This period is named after an area between Oman’s coastline and Al Ain, and is marked by a drier, less hospitable climate than that of previous ages.

Many sites have been discovered that are attributed to this time period. Significant discoveries include the varying tomb architecture, spear heads, pots, and gold and silver ornaments. It also seems that around this time, copper trade with Mesopotamia halted and a backwards progression of civilization ensued.

Out of the Bronze Age

Although the area became desertous and trade with modern day Iraq had halted, the civilization snapped back and began to flourish. Pottery was still being made, as well as tombs and buildings. This time was also the apex of copper production in the area.

It seems that such a rich history of agriculture, care for the dead, and trading was always a theme throughout the early days of settlement in the region. The sites left by the people that exist today have an obvious influence on modern inhabitants, and they are proud of the heritage.