Unique Pearling Town Found in Persian Gulf


A team of archaeologists in the United Arab Emirates has made an exciting discovery on Sinniyah Island, located to the east of Umm al-Quwain emirate. The group has found what they believe to be the oldest pearling town in the Persian Gulf. The town functioned between the late 6th and mid-8th centuries, predating Islamic civilization.

Largest Surviving Urbanized Settlement Found

The researchers’ findings reveal that the 12-hectare town is one of the largest surviving urbanized settlements ever found in what is now the UAE, and it is believed to have housed thousands of residents, many of whom relied on the pearling industry. The community’s houses were built from local beach rocks and other materials from the surrounding environment, and their roofs were made of palm trunks.

The town is particularly unique because of its age and size, said Timothy Power, associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University. It was a proper town, densely populated with a range of housing types and various socioeconomic groups.

Christian Settlement and Pearling Industry

Residents of the town were likely Christian, as the settlement is located near an ancient Christian monastery that was discovered just last year, Power said. The practice of pearling, which involves divers recovering pearls from oysters or mussels found in seas and lakes, has been part of the region’s heritage for over 7,000 years, according to the Umm al-Quwain Department of Tourism.

At peak times for the pearling market, huge numbers of people were involved in the industry, Power said. In neighboring Abu Dhabi, almost two-thirds of the male population was involved in pearling in the 19th century.

Overall, the discovery of the oldest pearling town in the Persian Gulf provides an exciting glimpse into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. The archaeological find sheds new light on how the people of the region lived and worked in ancient times, and will undoubtedly spark further interest and research.