The ninth conference of the International Council of Archaeo-zoology (ICAZ) was held at the University of Durham in the UK recently.

Several participants, including anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, palaeontologists and zoologists from universities, museums, governmental and non-governmental institutions attended the conference, which was held from August 23-28.

Four members of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) team delivered papers at a session on Coastal Adaptations in Arid Enviro-nments, organised by Dr Mark Beech of ADIAS, and Caroline Cartwright, from the Department of Scientific Research at the British Museum.

Dr Mark Beech and Dr Peter Hogarth (from the Department of Biology at the University of York, UK) presented a paper entitled: Modelling ancient crab consumption in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. This highlighted their recent work to establish a scientific collection of modern crabs from the coastline of the United Arab Emirates.

From their study of crab remains from a number of archaeological sites in the Arabian Gulf, Beech and Hogarth showed that swimming crabs were regularly caught by early prehistoric coastal communities.

An apparent decline in the occurrence of the mangrove associated crab, Scylla serrata, during the past 2000 years may be related to a general decline in mangrove habitats due to pressures connected with their human over-exploitation as a source of timber and fuel.

Emily Glover, an expert on shellfish from the British Museum in London, studying remains at a number of ADIAS sites, including the oldest settlement yet discovered in the UAE, on the western island of Dalma, presented a paper entitled: Intertidal economies: shellfish use in prehistoric Arabia. Shellfish were an important food resource for both the prehistoric and the historical coastal populations in the Gulf region.

The marked occurrence of the large gastropod shell species, Terebralia Palustris, on some early prehistoric coastal sites in the UAE, may, like the crab remains, suggest that mangrove habitats were once more extensive in the past.

Shellfish were, of course, not only important as a food item for the ancient inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates, but also for other reasons. The importance of the pearl oyster in the economy of the Arabian Gulf during the pre-oil era is well known, for example.

A paper presented by Stephen Rowland examined archaeological evidence for the pearling industry, based on the recent work carried out by the ADIAS on the island of Abu Al Abyadh.

Other papers in the same session included reports on the evidence for fishing during Bronze Age in Oman and archaeological remains of fishing equipment found on prehistoric coastal sites in South East of Arabia.