Archaeology Field School and Archaeology Club

04 Dec 2017


December 4, 2017

“Our mission as faculty is not only to transfer knowledge theoretically to the students, but also to teach them skills on how to conduct archaeological research”, said Dr. Timothy Power, Associate Professor, College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Soon after he joined ZU in 2014, Dr. Tim formed both the Archaeology Field School and Archaeology Club to involve female undergraduates in a series of national archaeological research projects.  Turning some courses in the Emirati Studies major such as Archaeological Field School, Independent Study and Special Topics into a feasible research projects has not only allowed these young female Emirati to discover their own history but also prepared them to become the first cohort of national archaeologists. “All the projects we are involved in try to shed light on the 17th to 20th century era, when the tribes started to settle in the Trucial States and form alliances creating the modern history of the UAE” remarked Dr. Tim. 

Participating in the Archaeology Field School and Archaeology Club allowed students to learn qualitative and quantitative research methods such as interviewing and documenting oral history, surveying and excavating of old sights and districts, as well as recording and registering old pieces such as coins and pottery. The main projects were and are conducted in Abu Dhabi emirate, precisely Al Ain; however, there are major future plans to include other Emirates such as Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. It is also worth mentioning that one of the projects was conducted abroad in Zanzibar with the involvement of two ZU graduates to highlight UAE maritime trade and cultural connections in the early modern era in Zanzibar. Below is a chronological order of the projects:


Every year, Dr. Tim takes a group of students to work in al-Ain to carry on the Al Ain Oases Mapping Project as part of a collaborative research project with the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi (DCT). This collaboration paved the way to establish the HIS 383 Archaeological Field School as well as the Archeology Club. The project is also funded by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS). The group began mapping Qattara Oasis in 2015. It is worth noting that the group includes not only undergraduate students but also alumni like Afra Hamad Aljneibi, the current president of the Archaeology Club, and Mai Hareb Al Mansouri. They were involved in surveying of Jimi Oasis in 2016 and excavating Hili Oasis in 2017. They are planning to map al-Ain Oasis in 2018 at the weekends with volunteers from the ZU Archaeology Club in January and February.  Dr. Tim was able to successfully send two groups of students to present their work at the Seminar for Arabian Studies in the British Museum.

Aside from Al Ain Oasis Mapping Project, Dr. Tim involves his students in archaeological research projects on the historical inlands and islands of Abu Dhabi such as Hisn al-Sira in the Liwa and Al Saadiyat Island. A group of students has worked on a DCT survey of the archaeological site of Hisn al-Sira in the Liwa. The students are now working on recording and analyzing the pottery, which they have collected from the site. Their work proves an old tradition that this is the oldest fort of the Dhafra and birthplace of the Bani Yas tribe who later established Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This will be quite a big story when they have finished their study. Similarly, a number of students have worked on Saadiyat Coastal Heritage Project over the past few years, beginning with Afra Khaled Al Hallabi and continuing with Mai al-Mansoori and Afra al-Jenaibi, who are recording pottery collected from Saadiyat Island by DCT for publication in the journal Liwa.

Further research will be carried on in other Emirates such as Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. For instance, The Department of Antiques and Museums in Ra’s al-Khaimah have asked Dr. Tim to help with writing up the pottery from their ongoing excavations in Jazirat al-Hamra, part of a major rehabilitation project to transform this well-preserved historic pearling town into a touristic attraction. His involvement at the site goes back several years when he worked with the Ministry of Public Works and the National Archive on an oral history project. The plan is to work together with the students in Abu Dhabi to publish this important ceramic assemblage. Additionally, Dr. Tim is now working with the Centre Nationnal de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) archaeological project in Masafi Oasis, Fujairah. So far, their work has focused on the Iron Age remains but they are now turning their attention to the Islamic remains and have invited Dr. Tim to participate as an expert on the Islamic period archaeology of the UAE. He will be spending his weekends in Masafi through November and December 2017 to work on the project. Several students and ex-students have expressed an interest in working with him.  

Moving abroad, Dr. Tim and several ex-ZU students are involved in The Zanzibar Trade of the Emirates in the Early Modern Period project. This project is funded by a AED 150,000 RIF grant from the Office of Research. It is a collaborative research project with the University of Bristol in the UK. The projects involved two ex-ZU students, Myriam Saleh al-Dhaheri and Noura Hamad al-Hameli. In fact, Noura’s passionate involvement in the project paved the way for her to become a professional archaeologist and pursue her career at the DCT. The team was involved in two excavations, the first on a 19th-century Arab house at Unguja Ukuu and the second inside an Arab fort in Zanzibar’s Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The team is planning to return in summer 2018 to the sites to continue their work. The projects will never end. Dr. Tim is still negotiating to involve his students in future projects all over the UAE. He would like to work at the early Islamic town in Jumeirah, Dubai, and at the pre-Islamic port of ed-Dur in Umm Al Quwain. With a proposal for new BA Heritage Studies in process, the projects currently rely on the involvement of the Archeology Club’s members.  These passionate and dedicated students are willing to spend their spare time during the weekends to conduct fieldwork. Between the ruins of pottery and coins as well as the old stories from their ancestors, these promising students are paving their way to become the first national generation of archaeologists in the UAE. 


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