The Cultural Landscape of the Central Region in the Emirate of Sharjah

Date of Submission: 30/01/2012
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vii)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
The National Council of Tourism and Antiquities
State, Province or Region:
The central region in the Emirate of Sharjah
Coordinates: N 25065072 – E 555053.8
Ref.: 5664
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The central Sharjah region consists of three natural areas; these are: the section which lies to the west of the mountains comprised of desert dunes, and the eastern area which is a gravelly plain that extends up to Alhajar Mountain. The last section is the sedimentary maintains which lies in the middle of the area and extends in both north & south directions. The area forms a connecting link between many emirates through the routes connecting the south form Al-Ain towards the eastern region in the U.A.E. This road was used in the past by caravans loaded with trading items from the coasts of the northern emirates to Al Batinah region in the Sultanate of Oman.

Naturally the region is characterized by the presence by a variety of perennial trees these like Algal, Samar and Sider in addition to the many annual plants that grow after the fall. Wilde animals like foxes live in the mountainous region while in the sandy areas live such creatures like hedgehogs and lizards. The region is also known as being a suitable shelter for many wild donkeys, in addition to a number of different kinds of emigrant birds. Sea fossils can be seen embedded within the layers of the sedimentary mountains in the region; these represent the natural history of the area. The mountainous region is also rich in its cultural heritage as reflected by archeological sites.

Those Important Sites are distributed as follows:

1) The Site of Mleiha Mountain
A group of burials dating from the end of the 4th Century B.C. The burials extend on the eastern foots of the mountain.

2) The Site of Mleiha
That is a site which was dated back from the end of the Iron Age till the 4th Century A.D. There are a number of fortified buildings like the Fort of Mleiha and the so-called castle building. Also a number of houses beside other burials and workshops for iron and bones manufacturing activities can be seen. A variety of objects were unearthed throughout the settlement. An important Bronze Age tomb dated back to the 3rd millennium B.C was also discovered.

3) The Site of Fayah Mountain
This site is characterized by its various cultural periods and historic phases extending from Middle Paleolithic to the 18th century A.D. Also found are remains of a tomb dating back to the Neolithic Period as well as a number of tombs which belong to the fourth millennium B.C. Other tombs date to the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC were recently excavated.

4) The Site of Al-Buhais Mountain.
This site is one of the most important sites in the Arabian Peninsula. It contains a large number of tombs dating from the 5th Millennium B.C to the first century A.D Of special interest is the site No. 18 which dates to the beginning of the 5th millennium BC. The excavations revealed a mass grave containing around 1000 human skeletons beside traces of seasonal settlement. The study of bones has shown that the inhabitants of the region mobile herders moved between the coast and the mountain. They kept domesticated animals and practiced medical surgeries.

5) The Site of Emlaih Maintain
This site comprises a group of a Bronze Age burials dated to the transitional period between the end of the 4th Millennium B.C and the 3rd millennium B.C. A nearby site called Nad Al Thamam was also discovered in a dune area. A number of stone implements date to the 5th millennium B.C. were found.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Paleolithic site of Faya is considered to be one of outstanding significant areas of the site. Excavations revealed a number of stone tools dated by OSL to 125,000 years and this finding is older than what was known in the northern part of the Arabian peninsula by 50,000 years.

As far as Mleiha site is concerned, this archaeological area is exceptional as it is distinguished by a civilization which extended from the third century B.C. up to the 4th Century A.D. In fact, two types of writings were discovered and practiced at the site at the same time. These are Al-Musnad and the Aramaic calligraphy. Also coinage was known in this area and type coins of Mleiha were minted in the site as evidenced by the discovery of coin molds. In addition, Al-Buhais Mountain is a unique area significant due to its archaeological sites and burial typologies and discoveries ranging from the Neolithic to pre-Islamic eras.

Criteria
(iii) The archaeological sites of the Central Region in Sharjah reveal the evolution of various life's periods in the area which started since the Paleolithic period and continued up to modern times. The area is testimony to various cultural periods and diversity in the burial patterns and traditions.

(iv) The Fayah mountain has a unique location and is of outstanding significance in the history of mankind, as archaeological evidence has proven the migration of the Homosapiens from Africa and their passing through the region crossing to Iran and India then reaching the Far East. The site also illustrates the human interaction with the environment representative of cultural practices and reburials which organically evolved and now includes both fossils and continuing interaction with the landscape throughout history.

(vii) The central region of Sharjah is uniquely characterized by a diversified geological nature. It was a very important area illustrating the formation of land and varied geomorphologic traits of the region's physical geography.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Most of above mentioned areas are intact and located away from cities. They are in need for special protection to guarantee their preservation and present authenticity for future generations. To this end, the region was designated as protected area of natural and cultural heritage, with marked boundaries. Documentation and archaeological surveys and studies were conducted covering the whole region, and detailed maps and records of the region exist. Also, conservation work was carried out in a number of sites, and reversible protective structures were erected at various areas with minimal impact. The Sharjah Antiquities Law, as a too, ensures the full protection of the site and organization of archaeological work in the Emirate.

Comparison with other similar properties

Various elements of the sites can be compared with other similar features found in the Arabian Peninsula. The Mleiha fort can be compared with the fort discovered at Feilaka in Kuwait; however, the Mleiha Fort with its eight square towers is distinguished by having only one entrance on its eastern side and its building materials made of mud bricks. The inscriptions, especially the funeral writings, on tombstones seem to be similar to those which were found at Al-Hasa in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, at Mleiha site funeral writings consist of only two words: soul and grave.

Moreover, the decorations found in the burials at Mleiha were almost like those found decorating Saleh burials. The same decorations were also found at Al Betra in the region of Ras Suleiman. The most characterizing feature was that Mleiha burials were built of bricks and decorated with plaster. The graveyards found at Emailh mountain are somehow similar to those found in Al-Ain site known as Hafit burials, but the burials at Emailh are thought to be transitional between the Hafit phase and Um Al-Nar phase, hence their outstanding significance.

Finally the large diversity of types of archaeological remains together with the interaction of man with this exceptional environment make this site a unique example of an archaeological landscape found in a desert environment special with its geomorphology and geological formations.