3,000-Year Old Fingerprints Found At The Al Ain Site In UAE

fingerprints

Back in 2017, we talked about the preserved remnants of a 7,500-year old house, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, in UAE. Archaeologists have once again revisited the remarkable yet oft-ignored historical legacy of this region, this time by focusing on an Iron Age site in Al Ain, located also within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. And their latest findings pertain to fingerprints on bricks – probably made by a worker during the building of an ancient wall section in Hili 2, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mud bricks used for the walls at the site.

Al Ain in itself, also known as the Garden City, is often touted as the largest inland city of UAE. And talking of urban conglomerations, their Emirati predecessors weren’t too far behind in settlement-building, as is evident from the recent discoveries made at Hili 2. To that end, the researchers from the country’s Department of Culture and Tourism have found historical clues that establish how the area and its structures were worked upon by a skilled network of craftsmen in the Iron Age.

fingerprints
Iron Age dwellings at the site.

In fact, the 3,000-year old fingerprints directly allude to one of the construction methods used for erecting the walls. In that regard, one hypothesis put forth by the archaeologists relates to how the skilled workers used their hands to create indentations on the bricks. These small depressions, known as ‘frogs’, held the mortar – made of a composite of mud, stones, and water, thereby creating a well-bonded structure. Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism (Abu Dhabi), said –

We are thrilled with the results of our investigations. The discoveries at Hili 2 bring previously unknown details about our past to light, for us and for future generations. The archaeological results illustrate how our ancestors used available materials, in a sophisticated and optimal fashion, to build houses and buildings that would last for millennia.

fingerprints
Tannour oven

Beyond just fingerprints, archaeologists, excavating the site for past few months, were also able to unearth a wealth of clues that could shed light on how these Iron Age people lived the communal life, ranging from cooking together to growing crops. Pertaining to the former, the researchers have found the remnants of well-preserved ovens known as the tannours. Made from clay, the tannour ovens housed burnt stones that could heat up and effectively cook sheep or goat meat. Interestingly enough, hinting towards a communal life, these ovens were not found inside individual structures but rather in public spaces – which suggests an occasional usage pattern by a large group of families. Furthermore, the archaeologists also found clay seals with the engraving of a gazelle, possibly alluding to some of form of governance in the area.

Clay seals found at the site

In any case, the circumstantial evidence gathered from the Iron Age Hili 2 site in Al Ain does paint a picture that is a contradiction of our stereotypes about ancient Emirati history – sometimes (erroneously) considered as a backwater to other advanced cultures in West Asia. To that end, the advanced craftsmanship of these Iron Age walls becomes evident from their current intact state even after the rigors of millennia.

Source: The National

Image Credits: Department of Culture and Tourism (Abu Dhabi)

About the Author

Dattatreya Mandal
Dattatreya Mandal has a bachelor's degree in Architecture (and associated History of Architecture) and a fervent interest in History. Formerly, one of the co-owners of an online architectural digest, he is currently the founder/editor of Realmofhistory.com. The latter is envisaged as an online compendium that mirrors his enthusiasm for ancient history, military, mythology, and historical evolution of architecture.
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