Archaeologists found the oldest known pearling town in the United Arab Emirates, Phys reported on Monday.
The town likely dates back to the late 6th century CE, and while texts have mentioned older pearling towns, this is the oldest physical town to be discovered by archaeologists.
"This is the oldest example of that kind of very specifically Khaleeji pearling town," Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University told Phys, using a word that means "Gulf" in Arabic. "It's the spiritual ancestor of towns like Dubai."
"It's the spiritual ancestor of towns like Dubai."Prof. Timothy Power
Khaleeji pearling town
The town was discovered on Siniyah Island where a Christian church was discovered that dated back at least 1,400 years. The homes were made of beach rock and seemed to have been lived in all year round, unlike other pearling towns where residents only lived in specific seasons.
"The houses are crammed in there, cheek by jowl," Power told Phys. "The key thing there is permanence. People are living there all year around."
Archaeologists found pearls in the homes as well as equipment used to dive down to find oysters.
"You only find one pearl in every 10,000 oyster shells. You have to find and discard thousands and thousands of oyster shells to find one," Power said. "The waste, the industrial waste of the pearling industry, was colossal. You're dealing with millions, millions of oyster shells discarded."
The excavation was conducted by Umm al-Quwain's Department of Tourism and Archaeology, UAE University, the Italian Archaeological Mission in the emirate and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.