Archaeologists in the United Arab Emirates have uncovered the country’s oldest known buildings, dating back at least 8,500 years.
This is more than 500 years older than the previous record-breaking discoveries, according to Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism in a press release Thursday.
Discovered during an archaeological program run by the department, the buildings are located on the island of Ghagha, west of the city of Abu Dhabi.
The structures which have been unearthed are “simple round rooms,” which have stone walls that are still preserved up to a height of almost a meter (3.3 feet), the press release says.
The team said in the statement that the structures were “likely houses for a small community who may have lived on the island year-round.”
They added that the discovery showed the existence of Neolithic settlements before long-distance maritime trade routes developed, suggesting that these were not in fact the impetus for settlements in the area as archaeologists had previously thought.
Hundreds of artifacts were also uncovered, among them “finely worked stone arrowheads that would have been used for hunting,” and the team said it was “likely that the community would also have used the rich resources of the sea.”
Although the archaeologists are still unsure when the settlement was in use until, a body was discovered buried in the structures and dating back around 5,000 years – and it is one of the few known burials from this time on the Abu Dhabi islands.
“The discoveries on Ghagha island highlight that the characteristics of innovation, sustainability and resilience have been part of the DNA of the inhabitants of this region for thousands of years,” said Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the department.
The previous record for oldest known buildings in the UAE was held by discoveries on the island of Marawah, also off the coast of Abu Dhabi, where the world’s oldest pearl was found in 2017.
The team said the new discovery suggested that the islands of Abu Dhabi were a kind of “fertile coast” as opposed to “arid and inhospitable,” with settlers drawn to the islands by “local economic and environmental conditions.”