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Sharjah dig pauses as authorities negotiate land buy

Martin Croucher

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SHARJAH // An archaeological dig for an ancient settlement in Dibba Al Hisn has been halted while authorities negotiate the purchase of nearby land.

Excavation work has so far been restricted to an area of 20 metres by 20 metres, where experts have already found evidence of a settlement more than 2,000 years old.

Now, officials from Sharjah Municipality are in negotiations with farmers to buy land adjacent to the site, hoping it may reveal more secrets about the history of the area.

From there, ownership would be transferred to the emirate's Department of Culture.

"We hope that the adjacent areas will be possessed by the Government so we can continue our work over there," said Dr Sabah Jasim, the head of antiquities at the department.

"We have no idea what we will find there. We have always presumed it was a large settlement but how big we have no idea."

Dr Jasim said the artefacts found so far dated from the first or second century BC, all the way to the 20th century.

It is believed that Dibba Al Hisn, an enclave that sits on the east coast of the country, was once an important port city for the region.

It was the capital of Oman and a thriving marketplace for merchants from as far away as India, China and the Europe.

"Dibba is overlooking the Gulf of Oman, so we think it was a major shipping centre for the ships sailing from the south of Iraq down the Indian Ocean," said Dr Jasim.

"We think that there's a lot potential to find a lot of archaeological remains belonging to different eras."

Work in Dibba Al Hisn started in 2004 when a resident found a piece of pottery in his garden. His home was later sold to the Government and archaeologists moved in to investigate.

They found a large ancient tomb at the site dating from the first century AD, with evidence of early trade between the Roman and Mesopotamian empires.

Recently, the team has also been conducting studies in residential areas of Dibba Al Hisn, which is a densely populated district.

"What's been left in Dibba has all been developed into houses," said Dr Jasim.

"We're working on areas which have been left undeveloped between the houses. We haven't got anything right now but hopefully soon."

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