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Located southeastern from the University City of Sharjah in the Al Jurainah neighborhood
Muweilah is an Iron Age settlement located approximately 15 kms from the present-day coastline in Sharjah and about 45 kms from the inland Dhaid plain. It is likely that when it was occupied in antiquity it was situated near an ancient lagoon, or Khor, that came in from the coast. At that time, it is likely that the United Arab Emirates experienced a similar climate to that which exists today: very hot summers and warm winters with very limited (less than 100mm per annum) rainfall.
Since 1994, the site has been excavated by archaeologists from Australia, Europe and the USA in collaboration with the Sharjah Directorate of Antiquities. During these excavations and survey a settlement has been revealed that has fundamentally altered our understanding of the late prehistory of the United Arab Emirates.
The site was principally occupied during the Iron Age II period (1000-600 BCE), this period follows the Iron Age I period (1300-1000 BCE) but sees a rapid increase in the number and size of settlements throughout out this region. Muweilah is one aspect of this settlement growth but differs from contemporary settlements in several ways.
At the centre of the settlement lies a large walled enclosure. Inside, there are at least seven buildings that have specific functions. Some of these were used for living and habitation, some for storage and one, Building II, was probably the administrative center of the settlement. It consists of a large central room with twenty column bases and a number of smaller ancillary rooms. These rooms contained many painted and spouted vessels, iron weapons and hundreds of pieces of bronze which indicate the presence of bronze working.
Imported goods from Iran, Mesopotamia and Yemen are found throughout the settlement and these suggest the growing importance of trade, some of which was made possible by the then recent domestication of the camel. In the UAE this occurred no earlier than 1000 BCE. Contacts with Yemen were particularly important for frankincense. However, the discover of a three letter Sabaean inscription in the earliest writing yet discovered in the UAE, is also a result of contact with Yemen.
The settlement grew rapidly during the ninth and eight centuries BCE. At some stage after c. 750 BCE it was attacked and destroyed in a complete fire. This has been a fortunate circumstance for the archaeologists excavating the site: thousands of artifacts, animal bones and archaeobotanical remains have so far been recovered. Archaeologists will continue to work at Muweilah in the coming years to further investigate the life of people that lived in the Emirate of Sharjah 3000 years ago.
(Text: Directorate of Antiquities, Department of Culture & Information of the Government of Sharjah)
Main institution for contemporary arts, organizer of the Biennial and other world class events.
March - June 2022. Curators: Okwui Enwezor, Hoor Al Qasimi. Theme: Thinking Historically in the Present, conceived by late Enwezor.