Welsh Academic Un Earths Forgotten Town in the Gulf; 'This Find Was So Unexpected, That We Don't Know What to Do with It All Yet'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 24, 2010 | Go to article overview

Welsh Academic Un Earths Forgotten Town in the Gulf; 'This Find Was So Unexpected, That We Don't Know What to Do with It All Yet'


Byline: Sally Williams

A TOWN lost beneath the sands has been unearthed by a Welsh archaeologist.

When Dr Andrew Petersen, who has worked extensively on sites across the Middle East, came across a scattering of stones on a shoreline in Qatar, his interest was immediately aroused.

He teamed up with the Qatar Museums Authority to investigate the site, a lonely stretch of coastline at Ras al-Sharig, south of the old town of Zubara.

Their excavations have now revealed a settlement complete with a fort, mosque and homes.

Dr Petersen, lecturer in Islamic archaeology at the University of Wales Lampeter, now believes the settlement was abandoned when its inhabitants were driven out by pirates who set fire to the roofs of many buildings in around 1890.

Dr Petersen said: "In addition to around 30 buildings, which in total measure more than 400 metres north to south, there were a large number of burnt mounds or middens, pottery, bones and shells, demonstrating a long period of human occupation.

"The pottery found, which weighs approximately 80kg, appears to originate from as far afield as China, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Iran.

"Other fascinating finds from the site include Indian rupee coins deliberately placed within the walls of the mosque, Arabic inscriptions on plaster and a surprising diversity of different date presses."

The date presses themselves have raised a number of questions for Dr Peterson's team.

"It is odd that each one of the date presses is different," he said.

"And even odder, there were no records of date trees growing in the area, which is a desert, and the soil is not suitable for growing dates.

"So they must have been imported from somewhere else, but we have no idea where.

"There is evidence that sugar from the dates was processed."

"We believe the original settlement could have something to do with the Turkish occupation in the 16th century," he added. …

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