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Within the confines of Fun City in the northern part of Hili are several tombs which date to the end of the third millennium BC (c. 2300—2000 BC). Of these, the most well-investigated is without doubt Tomb A. Excavated by a French team in cooperation with the local Dept. of Tourism and Antiquities, Tomb A is a circular construction c. 10.5 m in diameter, with three internal dividing walls which create four interior chambers. The remains of well over 200 individuals were recovered in the tomb, along with dozens of ceramic and soft-stone vessels, including examples of imported black-on-greyware from southeastern Iran or Baluchistan. Copper tools and two etched carnelian beads, originating in the Indus Valley, were also recovered.
The modern suburb of Al Ain known as Hili is famous among local residents for its beautiful garden. In fact, the garden and its immediate hinterland are the location of a large number of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, dating to c.2500-400 BC Of these, Hili 8 is perhaps the best investigated, thanks to a French expedition which began work there in the late 1970s. Hili 8 consists of a round mudbrick tower with associated outbuildings. Such towers are typical of the late third millennium BC in both Oman and the UAE. Other examples have been excavated at Tell Abraq, Bidya and Kalba in the Emirates, and at Baat, Maysar and Ras al-Jins in Oman. Hili 8 has evidence of slight occupation at the very beginning of the second millennium BC as well. Thereafter human settlement in the region shifted to other sites, such as Qattarah and Rumeilah.
This prominent rock outcrop to the south of Mileiha and al-Dhaid is the site of numerous graves dating to the Iron Age and second millennium BC (so-called Wadi Suq period) which have been excavated since 1995 by Dr. Sabbah A. Jasim, director of the Sharjah Archaeological Museum. In addition, on the terrace to the east of Jebel Buhays, is an important burial ground used by some of the UAE’s first inhabitants.
Dating to c. 5000-4000 BC, the site has yielded the remains of dozens of several hundred individuals and is being excavated by a team from the University of Txbingen (Germany) under the direction of Prof. Hans-Peter and Dr. Margarethe Uerpmann. The ancient inhabitants of Jebel Buhays hunted gazelle, oryx, wild ass and camel, and raised cattle, goat and sheep. They used stone tools belong to the Arabian bifacial tradition.
This name has been given to an anticline of mainly Tertiary rocks formed as a result of a Cretaceous period, mid-oceanic Tethys ridge near the Gulf of Oman. Jebel Hafit is oriented almost exactly north-south, just south of Al Ain in the interior of Abu Dhabi. A prominent feature of the landscape today (up which motorists can drive thanks to a road built by Sheikh Zayed), Jebel Hafit would have been just as prominent for the region's prehistoric population.
Circular graves dating to c. 3000 BC are dotted along the eastern slope of Jebel Hafit. These consist of massive cairns of unmasoned stone piled up around a keyhole-shaped chamber. Similar graves of even larger dimensions are known at Jebel Emalah in the interior of Sharjah. Because such graves were first identified and excavated at Jebel Hafit, they have come to be known as 'Hafit-type' graves. Most of the graves at Jebel Hafit were robbed in antiquity, but those excavated by successive Danish, Iraqi and French expeditions give evidence of having held more than one person, perhaps up to five or six, and thus represent the first of a long line of collective burials in the UAE.
One of the most important settlements on the Batinah coast of the UAE, Kalba is also the location of an important mangrove stand (Khor Kalba). The prehistory of Kalba has been investigated in recent years by a team from the Institute of Archaeology in London, working at a mound in the Kalba gardens to the west of the main town. Here a large settlement dating back to the Umm al-Nar period and settled well into the first millennium BC is being excavated. The site at Kalba is comparable in many respects to Tell Abraq and provides a long sequence of human occupation for the East Coast of the UAE, just as Tell Abraq does for the Gulf coast. A massive Iron Age wall at Kalba is almost identical in dimensions and construction to the Iron Age fortification enclosure wall at Awhala in southern Fujairah.
Early in the sixteenth century the Portuguese, expanding their empire in the Indian Ocean, built a series of forts along the southeastern coast of Arabia, including one at Kalba. In his Viaggio dell'Indie Orientali (Venice, 1590) the Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi mentions a place on the Arabian coast called 'Chelb' which is probably Kalba. Kalba was visited by a Dutch ship called the Meerkat in 1666. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Kalba was tributary to Sharjah, but in 1937 it was recognised as a Trucial sheikhdom by the British government.
One of the most important harbours on the east coast of the UAE, Khor Fakkan has a long history of human settlement. Excavations by a team from the Sharjah Archaeological Museum have identified 34 graves and a settlement belonging to the early-mid second millennium BC. These are clustered on rock outcrops overlooking the habour.
In 1580 the Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi noted 'Chorf' in a list of places on the east coast of the UAE, and this is almost certainly Khor Fakkan. The Portuguese built a fort at Khor Fakkan. By 1666 this was a ruin, for it figures in the log book of the Dutch vessel known as the Meerkat where we read: 'Gorfacan is a place on a small bay which has about 200 small houses all built from date branches, near the beach. It had on the Northern side a triangular Portuguese fortress, of which the desolate ruin can still be seen.
On the Southern coast of the bay in a corner there is another fortress on a hill but there is no garrison nor artillery on it, and it is also in ruins. This place has a beautiful valley with a multitude of date palms and some figtrees and there also grow melons, watermelons and myrrh (!). Under the trees there are several wells which are used for irrigation. It is good and fresh water'.
One reason for the ruinous state of the forts at Khor Fakkan may have been that the Persian navy, under the command of Sheikh Muhammad Suhari (an Omani from Sohar), invaded the East Coast of what is now the Emirates in 1623 and, facing a Portuguese counter-attack, withdrew to the Portuguese forts, including that of Khor Fakkan. When the Persians were expelled, the Portuguese commander Ruy Freire urged the people of Khor Fakkan to remain loyal to the Portuguese crown, and established a Portuguese customs office as well. In 1737, however, long after the Portuguese had been expelled from Arabia, the Persians again invaded Khor Fakkan, with the help of the Dutch, during their intervention in the Omani civil war. In 1765 Khor Fakkan belonged to a sheikh of the Qawasim, according to the German traveller Carsten Niebuhr, just as it does to this day.
The Semitic deity whose name means literally 'sun' is attested throughout the Arabian peninsula. In the Emirates an impressive temple to Shams was excavated at al-Dur by a Belgian team. The identification of the temple with this deity has been secured by the discovery of a limestone basin with a poorly preserved Aramaic inscription including the name Shams. In addition, coins found at Mileiha and al-Dur include several which bear the name Shams written in South Arabian letters, or with a simple monogram in the form of the initial letter shin, Sh-, generally taken as an abbreviation for the full name. This has raised the possibility that the seated figure of Zeus shown on the reverse of this coinage was assimilated by the local Arabian tribes with their own solar god Shams.
Shams occurs as a theophoric element in personal names all over the Arabian peninsula. Thus, it is interesting to note that a bronze bowl found by the French team at Mileiha has the name Mara’shams engraved on it in South Arabian letters. This strengthens the suggestion that Shams was one of the chief deities worshipped in the Emirates during the late pre-Islamic era.