Sharjah Archaeology Museum
Archaeology, that painstaking science of digging in dirt, patiently brushing sand to one side to uncover unknown treasures long forgotten and deeply buried, is a quest to know where people lived, how they lived, what they thought, how their lifestyles and landscape have changed, and above all, trying to answer the question “why”.
This shared human story is vividly brought to life in the Sharjah Archaeology Museum where exhibits guide one through the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age up to the more recent past when Islam arrived in the region. Artefacts from the many major archaeological sites in the Emirate of Sharjah are housed here.
The Stone Age saw most communities living along the coast, where large mounds of shells stand witness to a time when an abundance of seafood was their main food source. One such community was located at Al-Hamriyah. Many finely crafted arrow heads, and the remains of domesticated sheep, cattle and goats were found at an extensive graveyard at the foot of Jebel Al-Buhais in Sharjah’s interior where nomadic herders lived around 7000 years ago. It was a time in which the climate seems to have been less harsh than it is today, and open grasslands a prominent feature of the landscape.
During the Bronze Age trade with Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) brought great wealth to the Arabian Peninsula, as can be seen from the many gold artefacts that have been found dating from this period. It was also during this period that the date palm was domesticated, and fortified towers built.
The Bronze Age has been subdivided by archaeologists that work in the UAE into three distinct periods, according to the way tomb architecture changed during them. They are named after the place where they were first found. The Hafit period refers to the time around 3000 BC, and is named after the above ground tombs that were first discovered near Jebel Hafit (Hafeet) outside Al Ain. These types of tombs were also found at Jebel Al-Emalah in Sharjah’s interior. The second period stretches from 2500-2000 BC and is referred to as Umm Al-Nar. These types of graves were found in Sharjah at Meleiha and Tell Abraq, and were circular and made of expertly hewn stone. The last period, from 2000-1300 BC, is named after Wadi Suq in Oman, and consisted of subterranean structures. Many of these types of tombs have been excavated at Jebel Al-Buhais in Sharjah. This era saw the introduction of the long sword, bow and arrow, and a new, light socketed spearhead.
Muweilah, Al-Thuqaibah, Kalba, Meleiha and Al-Madam are examples of Iron Age (1300-300 BC) settlements that consisted of large mudbrick villages. It was during this time that the camel was domesticated and the falaj system developed, both of which helped in the expansion of settlements as better cultivation could take place. Iron age graves were also found at Jebel Al-Buhais and Jebel Al-Emalah in the interior.
There is ample parking in the grounds, and the staff are friendly and helpful. An entrance fee of AED 5 includes the use of an audio guide. I visited on a Saturday and I was the only one there, apart from a mother with four young children that briefly swept through. I spent an enjoyable two and a half hours amongst the most amazing artefacts that were clearly marked and explained in detailed write-ups. Interactive computer screens gave me a chance to guess the functionality of some of the items housed in the museum, and even to try and piece some of the broken pots together.
* GPS Co-ordinates: N 25.348001° / E 55.423965°
** Visit the excellent Sharjah Museums Department website for detailed information including opening hours.
*** It is difficult to take photographs through glass display cases with bright lights reflecting off them, but I have done my best to edit the photographs so that they can give a sense of what can be found in the museum. For a glimpse of some of the exquisite artefacts housed here, visit my Gallery page.