Tel Abraq

This site lies between Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, it is one of the most ancient archaeological sites in the UAE. It refers to the third century BC Umm Al Nar period in Abu Dhabi. The site was firstly excavated by the Iraqi Expedition in 1973 in collaboration with the department of archaeology & Tourism in Al Ain. Later on, the Australian Expedition continued the excavation works under the direction of Dr. Dan Potts who discovered a circular building constructed from marine stones, he also found a collection of bronze and pottery objects. The discovery of the circular fortress shows the architectural development. "Ashash Attyor" is an other coastal, archaeological site which has been covered in this area.

Tel Al Abraq Seals

A Cylinder Seal From Square

The second cylinder presented here comes from the same area as most of the soft – stone and metal finds just described . The seal is made of faience . It is 4.1 cm long, and 1.2 cm in diameter . The scene depicted is composed of four elements, the whole of which is flanked above and below by a hatched border . The first element on the far right, is crudely incised are three areas separated by vertical line . The first of these has tow clearly visible '' suns'' while the next two each have a simple solar motif as well as several lines . Both the carving technique and the material of this seal recall the Middle Elamite corpus from Tchoga Zanbil . Specifically, there are parallels for the border the vegetal motif and the use of a sun with circular shape and individual rays . Acrude sun is also found on an undated seal from Susa while a comparable, stylized vegetal motif is attested in kassite glyptic . The recovery of this seal in an early Age context has important chronological implications. Boucharlat and Lombard ( n.d. ) have suggested that the beginnings of the Iron Age in the Oman peninsula be put at c. 1300 B.C . The iconography and style of this seal both suggest an affinity with Middle Elamite glyptic of the 14th – 13th cernturies B.C. the seal was found in our earlier Iron Age phase, its presence provides independent corroboration for the Boucharlat Lomberd chronology . Fur-there more, the seal was clearly associated with Iron Age ceramics, appoint that was not so clear in the case of the calcite cylinder seal discussed above, which came out of an Iran Age wall containing both Wadi suq and Iron Age pottery . The fact the our late Wadi suq pottery includes some pieces with parallels to Middle Elamite types, while our early Iron Age levels contain a Middle Elamite like seal, suggests that there is no appreciable gap in time between the end of the wadi suq period and the beginning of the Iron Age . This is a point which had previously been unclear in the chronology of south-eastern Arabia when we couple this observation with the evidence noted above for signs of an apparent transition between the Umm annar and wadi suq traditions, then the impression begins to grow of more stability and continuity in the culture history of the region between the late third and early first millennium B.C. Than had previously been the case . Both The hands and feet are shown as three-pointed claws. An object with one straight end (A sword or dagger?) is shown at the waist of the figure, while the head is a simple, unelaborated oval which joins the neck and torso. Both the figure’s stance and its claw-like hands and feet are reminiscent of depictions of the Babylonian illness-demoness Lamashtu, particularly as shown on so-called Lamashtu-amulets, small pendants with Lamashtu-depictions on one side destined to guard the wearer against the demoness263. The fact that these were particularly common during the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, and are thus roughly contemporary with the Tell Abraq find, can hardly be coincidental. The opposite side of TA 44 shows two diametrically opposed right feet. This seems to have been a particularly beloved motif in the region as a whole, for we find it on a Dilmun seal from Bahrain 264 and on a flat disc seal from period IVB at Tepe Yahya265. The same fantastic figure shown on TA 44 is also visible, if somewhat hidden between two trees and less clearly rendered, on one side of TA 439. This irregularly shaped pendant (2.8*2.1*0.4 cm)was found in 115/117 in the area outside of the Umm an-Nar tower. It is perforated near the top, and is slightly concave. Apart from the figure between the trees, the opposite side of the pendant is decorated with a simple, criss-crossing pattern of incised lines. A soft-stone pendant of roughly the same shape, if far cruder both in form and incising, is known from SH 102 at Shimal266. A third pendant, TA 483 has a more regular, generally rectangular shape (2.5*1.8*06 cm.) with a smooth groove along the upper edge. It was found to the north of the Wadi Suq enclosure well in square 120/137. Both sides are decorated with an irregular pattern of parallel and diagonal lines, one side notably more so than the other. In form, TA 483 is generally reminiscent of a soft-stone pendant found at Rumeilah in 1968 by K. Frifelt, although this was decorated on only one side with much more crudely incised lines267. In addition, an unperforated stone of roughly the same shape as TA 483 and with a similar pattern of incised design as that on the “simple” side of our object, is known from F3 on Failaka268. The forth and final pendant discovered during the 1990 season is TA 493 likewise from 120/137 (120.68/139.60, 6.88). This roughly oval faint, radiating lines on one side, and a much more deeply cut image of lines on the other. Although numerous interpretations of this scene have been suggested by members of the expedition, I am persuaded that it shows a boat with an open sail above a deep, curving keel. If this interpretation is correct, then TA 493 provides us with the first representation of an Iron Age sea-craft from the Oman peninsula. A unifacial, oval, soft-stone pendant of roughly the same shape is known from a Lizq-period (Iron Age) secondary burial (Nachbestattung 1) in Wadi Samad grave M 803. Finally, the handled jug fragment like its counterpart from Square O.5.33-513 clearly point to a date around the middle or even the second half of the first millennium B.C. To date, the only other assemblage in the region in which handled jugs are well-represented is that known as the Samad group near Maysar in Oman. The jugs found there,however,are obviously different, both in form and decoration.

Iron Age Soft-Stone Finds

Four soft-stone objects of Iron Age date were recovered in Square O. Locus 13, a patchy layer of decayed white plaster floor. The rectangular lid of a compartmented vessel with knob-like handle measures 9.7 *6.1 cm, and is generally reminiscent of a piece from a period II context at Rumeilah. A round lid with an elaborate knob handle (TA 20,Fig.141) measures 7.5 cm. in diameter. This piece lacks close comparanda, although a cruder variant of generally similar aspect was found in a grave excavated at Qarn Bint Saud. Finally we have a rectangular lid measuring 6.2 *3.8 cm. The lid bears the zig-zag pattern which is so well-known during the Iron Age in southeastern Arabia, but the rectangular shape and the peculiar handle are unparalleled . We turn to a compartmented vessel (TA 21) which measures 12.1 *7.9 xs 5.8 cm. While no published comparanda exist in the Oman peninsula, we do find an astonishingly similar piece amongst the material from grave 3 at al-Hajjar, on Bahrain . The only difference between the two pieces, which must almost certainly derive from the same workshop, is that the Bahrain exemplar is decorated with six rows of zig-zag lines in a herringbone pattern, while the Tell Abraq vessel has only four .

Iron Age Metal Find

Excavations in 1989 yielded two important Iron Age metal objects, to which we can add a third surface find. From the same context as the four soft-stone objects just described comes a well-preserved tin-bronze shaft-hole axe . The blade measures 12.8 cm, while the shaft is 6.4 cm. high, and 3.5 cm. in diameter . SEM analysis by prof. V. Buchwald and C.H. Pedersen shows that the axe is a tin bronze with 3.5% tin. Shaft-hole axes are not unknown in the Oman peninsula during the Iron Age, but most of the published examples either have a large, triangular blade, or, in cases where the blade is smaller and shaped more like a celt, there are often three or more ribs around the shaft. Bearing this in mind, the only published example which is as conservative as the Tell Abraq exemplar is a piece found in a period II context at Rumeilah ( Boucharlat and Lombard 1985:PI. 62:15).

A Late Umm al-Nar Fireplace

Some time during the Iron Age a foundation trench was dug for the stone wall which supported a brick platform exposed this year (see below). The trench and wall, as well as a neighboring, sunken storage jar were placed directly above a third millennium fireplace consisting of a low wall of burnt clay, c. 20 cm. high, which measuring 1,5*1.3-1.5 m. was exposed this year. The fireplace was full of black, ashy sand containing a large amount of charcoal, burnt date stones, pottery, and bone. A similar, rectangular fireplace was excavated just outside the Umm an-Nar period round building at Hili 1. Miraculously, the fireplace itself had obviously not been disturbed by the Iron Age building activities, and although the north section of Square III shows a sand-filled pit dug into the deposit, the material contained within it was free of any later admixture. It appears as if the Iron Age builders, in digging the foundation trench for their wall, came down on the soft, ashy deposit of the fireplace, and realizing that they could not construct a wall upon so unstable a foundation, covered the fireplace with a cap of mudbrick thereby permitting them to erect their wall and, unwittingly, protecting the contents of the fireplace from further disturbance. This was fortunate for us, as the fireplace provided an excellent sample of both painted and plain Umm an-Nar pottery, along with several unique artifacts. Foremost among these must be mentioned two Harappan cubical stone weights. The smaller cube (TA125) weighs 14.20 gr., and measures 2.1*1.9*1.6 cm. It is a dull, opaque, deep reddish-purple in color, and is probably made of jasper. Jasper, while never used for weights at Harappa, and only rarely at Mohenjo-Daro 0.4% of 244 weights, of which the material was identified, in Mackay 1937, was used for 4.7% of the weights found at Chanhu-Daro (Hendrickx-Baudont 1972:6). TA 125 most probably corresponds to the basic unit of the Harappan metrological system, the median value of which has been reckoned to be 13.63 gr. Indeed, a weight of 14.188 gr. is known from Mohenjo-Daro. The larger cube (TA 146), of white and tan banded chert, measures 3*3*2.5 cm., and weighs 53.95 gr. Thus, it weighs slightly less than four times the basic Harappan unit. TA 146, with its highly polished surfaces and clearly visible bands, is identical to weights known from a number of sites, including Mohenjo-Daro, Chanhu-Daro, and Shimal . A weight of 53.952 gr. is known from Mohenjo-Daro.

The Ancient Economy of Tell Abraq

the deposits excavated in 1989 at Tell Abraq were exceedingly rich in animal, bird, and fish bone, but as the analysis of this material is still taking place, nothing can yet be said about the exploitation of specific types of fauna. With respect to the exploitation of molluscs, however, we have a considerable body of information from our excavations already at hand. Evidence for the use of shellfish through time is also provided by the substantial amount of shell at the northern edge of the site, where stones used for cracking open shell were found. Similar, though more oval-shaped, stones were also found during the excavations. These belong to a type which has been well-documented on the shell-middens along the coast of Sharjah . Floral evidence pertaining to the ancient economy was obtained this year as well, largely in the form of burnt date stones and, as noted in the discussion of the first Umm an-Nar building, charred branches and matting. Date stones were present from the earliest levels occupation through the Iron Age, and we can therefore be certain that the date palm played an important role in the settlement s economy. Circumstantial evidence for the use of grains is provided by the large number of grinding stones. Of indigenous industries we can say little at the moment. That most of the pottery found was locally made is of course likely, but clay sources are absent in the vicinity of the site, the nearest, to my knowledge, being those in the Wadi Haqil in northern Ras al-Khaimah. The production of copper objects on or near the site is possible, but the ovens excavated this year are unlikely to have had an industrial function. Weaving may be attested by a type of ceramic weight, suitable for use as a loom weight, of which several examples were found. Soft-stone objects were relatively rare and it is not unlikely that they were imported to the site in a finished state. One object of soft-stone which has not yet been introduced is a lid, recovered from one of the dumps used for squares OI and OII. The piece measures 5.7cm. in diameter, and has a maximum thickness of 1.4 cm. It appears at one time to have had a small handle which was cut off. The surface of the cut shows the mark of a drill, and the entire top of the piece is incised with curious marks which are unlike any decoration attested in the known soft-stone repertoire of the Oman peninsula.