The Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) has added a new section to its official website, providing an in-depth and scientific study on the history of date cultivation and consumption.

According to Dr Mark Beech, Senior Resident Archaeologist of the ADIAS, the section is the latest addition to the site from which the experts and general public can get an insight into the science of date palm history and its growth.

"It is also a source of information for students. The section will keep on updating the site with more and more research works and studies posted to it."

The section has been introduced with the posting of a scientific study on carbonised date stones discovered in the UAE, and the history of date consumption and cultivation.

He said: "The date palm has been an important resource in North Africa and the Arabian Gulf region for thousands of years.

He said the exciting discovery of 7,000-year-old carbonised date stones on Delmon Island in Abu Dhabi emirate has made an important contribution to the dating of early date consumption in the Middle East.

"Date stones are often found during archaeological excavations in this region, but the excavation at Delmon Island in the United Arab Emirates proved to be of exceptional interest as these are the oldest recorded remains of dates yet found and may be important in the study of the earliest cultivation forms."

Dr Mark Beech is involved with the survey and is comparing archaeological date stones with a comprehensive collection of modern varieties assembled by Phil Iddison, another expert involved in the study.

The database of date stone measurements, so far assembled, have been subjected to preliminary statistical analysis and an assessment of results will soon be available on this website.

"Several date stone impressions were also discovered in burnt mud brick fragments at the site. Recent archaeological excavations, carried out in Kuwait at a site dating back from a similar age, have uncovered traces of mineralised date stones," while referring to other regional excavations to confirm the early consumption of dates in the region.

About the ancient importance of date palm, Dr Beech said date palm residue traces have been successfully identified from a first century BC site near the main entrance of an ancient temple at Add Dur in Umm Al Quwain.

"This particular deposit, along with a bronze ring seal, illustrating a person holding what appears to be a palm leaf, clearly illustrates the symbolic as well as economic importance of dates in the region."

Dr Beech also spoke of early consumption of juice extracted from dates in the region.

He said evidence from ancient Delmon (Bahrain) sites and the ones in Egypt indicate the early consumption of date juice.

Referring to wild date palms, Dr Beech said: "It is disputed whether there are any truly wild date palms in existence today, as they have been under cultivation for at least 7,000 years and all extant examples are likely to be modern cultivated forms."

Dr Beech also referred to the method of pollination and said date palms are dioecious and consequently most new plants are derived from suckers as plants grown from seed take a long time to come to maturity, and 50 per cent will be unproductive males.

"Some male plants are required, however, as pollination is necessary for the development of the fruit."

Wind pollination is the natural method, but because male plants are so scarce female flowers are manually dusted with anther spathes which can be purchased in the local markets.