AL THUQAIBAH

Al Thuqaibah is a settlement of the Iron Age, located nearly 20 kilometers south of Dhaid at the southern extreme of the Al-Madam oasis. Geomorphology of the area indicates that the water table supplies the oasis and its cultures and wells. The surrounding Jebe al Buhais, Aqba and al-Emeilah, shelter the oasis and protect it from the desert sand. Despite the torrid climate of the region and its scarce rains, the springs of Jebel Buhais (BHS 18) and the water in the plain which flows through its wells and aflaj have enabled human life to flourish in the area. In 1988 the Sharjah Archaeology Authority excavated an exceptionally well preserved Iron Age (1300-300BC) mudbrick house close to al- Thuqaibah village. A subsequent French archaeological campaign in Sharjah documented fifty four archaeological sites dating to different ages. A later French-Spanish campaign in 1994, followed by a collaborative effort between the Universidad Autonoma of Madrid and the Sharjah Archaeology Authority uncovered an extensive Iron Age II (1000-600 BC) settlement. This has provided data of exceptional interest related to the ancient history of the Arabian Emirates.

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During the Iron Age, Thuqaibah and other contemporaneous settlements in Al-Madam such Umm Safa, occupied the southern extreme of the oasis. Its inhabitants enjoyed access to the resources afforded by both the steppe and the oasis. A combination of archaeological and scientific expertise has resulted in the emergence of a precise historical and cultural image of the area during this time and has also provided an insight into previously unknown elements of historic and monumental heritage, including a settlement of unusual typology, the use and domain of water, the first known mud-brick working area and a wide range of hydraulic constructions of varying complexity.

Construction materials seen at Thuqaibah are similar to those from other Iron Age settlements and consist mainly of mud-brick. However the inhabitants of Thuqaibah occupied their living spaces in a different way to what has previously been witnessed at other Iron Age sites – they lived in dispersed houses. For example, groups of two houses with shared wide spaces that were delimited by low wall enclosures. Structures, bones and material evidence indicate that the economy of this community was largely based on cattle breeding, however ovicaprid and camelid remains have also been found. In the open spaces – probably yards or working areas – which exist among some of the houses, were found wells formed from the natural rock soil. These wells were excavated to a depth of seven meters. Animal tracks, probably belonging to ovicaprid, were found imprinted in the mass of one well’s curbstone. Thuqaibah inhabitants encountered and resolved two major issues posed by their environment; the availability of water for people and cattle, and the difficulties of construction in a semi-desert environment. Thuqaibah reveals much to us about how mud-brick was made in oasis settlements through the mixing together of shredded soft rock from the natural soil with, sand and vegetable residue. Many work areas exist throughout the site but the specific mud-brick working area (MWA), preserved through petrifaction beneath the desert dunes, is a huge installation. Investigation of the MWA has so far revealed two channels that were used to distribute water to a series of basins, which were themselves used for mixing the mud. Present also are amounts of prepared materials, complete and broken mud-bricks, and imprints of children’s and adults footprints at the bottom of the basins

In summary, Thuqaibah is a wonderful example of the delicate balance between human beings and their environment. The settlement was ultimately abandoned due to the environment when sand dunes breached the houses, causing the walls to collapse and stopping water flowing through wells and underground channels.

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This site is not open to the public, it is accessible by appointment only, please click on the button to fill out a request for an appointment.