Site of pre-Islamic settlement in Mleiha Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: The Sharjah Archaeology Authority said four important Sharjah ancient sites had been added to the preliminary UNESCO World Heritage List.

In preparation for the final submission of the cultural landscape file for the central region, the authority has recorded the site of Mleiha, the pre-Islamic period in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula; the sites of stone inscriptions in Khatum Melaha and Khor Fakkan; the site of Wadi Helo, evidence of copper mining in the Arabian Peninsula; the site of the prehistoric cultural scene in Faya; as well as the sites of stone inscriptions in Khatum Melaha and Khor Fakkan.

“The registration of these sites is the result of a series of studies conducted by the authority in collaboration with academic experts and specialists to assess their cultural value and archaeological importance at the global level, as these studies also dealt with historical value and state of preservation reports,” said Dr Sabah Jassim, Director-General of the Sharjah Archaeology Authority.

Dr Jassim confirmed that the preliminary list of archaeological sites, which began in 2021, is part of the authority’s strategy to sustain and preserve the emirate’s tangible cultural heritage and promote these sites worldwide.

The initiative included researching the features of the emirate’s cultural heritage locations and showing their cultural worth, ensuring their designation as world heritage sites. The locations fulfil the World Heritage standards by achieving one of the ten criteria and demonstrating exceptional universal value.

Inclusion on the UNESCO provisional list is considered a prerequisite for inclusion on the World Heritage final list and a factor in encouraging future tourist business at these sites.

Faya’s prehistoric landscape

The Faya Mountains are an exceptional illustration of a desert environment during the Stone Age, dating early human habitation from the start of the Middle Stone Age until the Neolithic Period, during shifting weather conditions in the Arabian Peninsula.

Geological and climatic investigations of the site’s history strata revealed the continuation of human habitation 210,000 years ago. The historical discoveries at the site date the evolution of settlement and residents from groups of hunters to migratory herdsmen with unique burial rituals, which helped scientists create a novel view of the nature of human adaptation to the environment.

Climate change cycles every 20,000 years have led the area to vacillate between a desert and a wet environment, with water collecting in lakes and flowing along the river channels stretching from the Hajar Mountains to the Faya.

The geomorphological characteristics along the Faye Mountains record these events and changes, which aid in understanding this pivotal era in the region’s past. The extraordinary mix of available water sources, raw materials, and occupied caverns made Al-Faya - the world’s earliest inhabited desert environment, filling a knowledge void in understanding early human development and adaptation in the Arabian Peninsula desert.

Pre-Islamic era in Mleiha

The settlement of Mleiha marked the pinnacle of old culture in this area during the pre-Islamic era, with a cultural impact extending from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

The historical findings verified the cultural worth reflected by Mleiha’s foreign connections and its vital role in the camel trade as a significant component of the trade network that connected the coastlines of the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea across the Arabian Peninsula.

Maliha minted its coins, and its rulers and merchants amassed wealth that allowed them to own the best camels and horses, as well as build tombs in the shape of towers as an expression of their high status, as evidenced by the discovery of funerary practices and funerary architecture, which constitute a remarkable testament to this civilisation and its role in human history in the region over six centuries.

The graves of camels and horses are regarded as the most beautiful in the area, indicating this site’s critical role in disseminating this type of funeral practice in the region.

Khatum Melaha and Khor Fakkan’s rock carvings

The rock engravings in the emirate of Sharjah were found as the first rock art location in the Hajar Mountains area at the turn of the century.

Ancient rock art offers a glimpse into aspects of lives of our ancestors Image Credit: WAM

The consecutive proposal records hundreds of writings found and engraved on gabbro rocks at Khatum Melaha in Kalba, Mudifi, Luluyah, and Wadi Shie in Khor Fakkan. These writings were estimated to date from the fifth millennium BC until a few decades ago, demonstrating the historical consistency of rock art from the early eras to contemporary times over seven thousand years.

The degree of intricacy of these writings and the presence of distinct designs not found in other rock inscriptions in the area point to the Province of Sharjah’s extraordinary rock art group.

The emirate’s rock engraving is also distinctive in that prehistoric man depended on boulders isolated from permanent stony formations as bases for this art.

Rock art in the Arabian Peninsula offers an essential foundation for understanding past societies and a massive visual collection that can be used to better understand political and economic events, customs, and religious views, among many other aspects of past societies.

read more

Wadi Helo: Copper mining

During the Neolithic to Bronze Age transition, Wadi Helo contains the first signs of mining in southern Arabia. The historical site in Wadi Helo is an integrated testament to local copper mining methods and the connection of the valley’s ancient occupants with the environment through their adaptation to the site’s beautiful geological and topographical factors.

Archaeologists at a site in the wadi Image Credit: WAM

When compared to metals produced in nearby locations, Wadi Helo copper is distinguished by its high purity, which can sometimes approach nearly 100%. Historical evidence suggests that Wadi Helo was part of a vast network of Bronze Age trade exchanges between locations throughout the Arabian Gulf. Wadi Helo was the primary source of unrefined copper for other bronze-producing sites in the area, including Tell Abraq, Kalbaa, and Umm al-Nar.

The rock engravings spanned the valley’s terrain and documented the passage of people and goods across the valley to the eastern and western coastlines. The etching of the boat in the valley’s depths and the unique carvings on swords representing the bronze era attest to the site’s connection to the local and regional trade network.