Dr Shaikh Sultan tours the exhibition titled ‘40 Years of Emirati-French Archaeological Cooperation after inaugurating it at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum on Wednesday. Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: A new exhibition celebrating a historic partnership that has linked the UAE and France for 40 years, opened on Wednesday, and will run until January 31, 2018.

The exhibition titled ‘40 Years of Emirati — French Archaeological Cooperation,’ was inaugurated by Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and Ludovic Pouille, French Ambassador to the UAE at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum.

The museum, in partnership with Institut français in the UAE and the Cultural Department of the French Embassy with the support of Unesco organised the exhibition, which features more than 100 priceless objects excavated by the French Archaeological Mission to the UAE since it began its work in 1977.

The vast collection of objects, including intricately-decorated pottery, jewellery, incense burners, and weaponry, is heavily significant in shedding light on the UAE’s role as a cradle of civilisation and centre of trade routes over some 7,500 years.

Over this period, teams led by the French Archaeological Mission have worked in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain on the most significant excavations carried out in the country.

“Cooperation between French and UAE archaeologists has been vital in reconstructing the ancient history of the UAE and the region as a whole. The excavations have revealed many treasures that provide us with significant knowledge of the past socio-economic habits of the people living here from the Neolithic to Islamic periods,” said Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority.

Meanwhile, Pouille emphasised the exhibition is a great way to celebrate the 40-year anniversary between the two countries. “I am delighted that this ambitious cultural and scientific project, of a federal nature, could be accomplished as this exhibition reveals the formidable work of the French and Emirati archaeologists who have zealously worked to understand and shed light on the great richness, originality, and variety of the Emirati archaeological past,” he said.

“For our common fight against extremism is more powerful through culture and education, it is my sincere wish that this exhibition will contribute to engaging the youth in the discovery of the rich Emirati history and encourage them to pursue professions in this field,” added Pouille.

Teams led by French archaeologists began excavations in 1977 at Jebel Hafeet, Hili and Rumeilah in the Eastern region of Abu Dhabi Emirate. In 1985, the work extended to sites in Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah, and in 1999 to Fujairah.

Working every year without interruption, they made a series of crucial discoveries, including objects that date as far back as the Neolithic period. These include flint arrow heads, mother-of-pearl fish hooks, painted pottery and items of jewellery made from shells.

Bronze Age objects featured in the exhibition include items of pottery created locally and elsewhere in the region, revealing the UAE’s importance as a centre of trade. Iron Age objects include a range of weapons, including copper arrow heads and a bronze dagger. Advancements in pottery are revealed by intricate incense burners and figurines.

Similarly, highlights from the Late Pre-Islamic Period include silver coins, a bronze bull head, and a bronze plaque inscribed in Aramaean. More recent Islamic Age discoveries feature a huge range of pottery and ceramic objects made locally and brought into the UAE from Iran, China and Thailand.

The exhibition is guest-curated by Dr Sophie Méry, an archaeologist and ceramologist specialising in the early history of Arabia.