Pre-history and Palaeontology


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Bidaa Bint Saud – tombs, irrigation and trade

The ancient caravan site of Bidaa Bint Saud features Bronze Age tombs and a rare Iron Age mud brick building and irrigation system
A rare Iron Age building, irrigation systems and 5,000 year-old Bronze Age tombs are just some of the archaeological findings in Bidaa Bint Saud. Located 25 kilometres north of Al Ain, this UNESCO heritage site – part of the World Heritage Site of Al Ain – has also produced evidence that the area was an important stop on a caravan route extending from Al Ain to Northern Emirates.

The area is dominated by Gharn bint Saud, a 40 metre-tall rock rising above the surrounding landscape. Burial sites and tombs were found along the top and eastern sides of the outcrop, while irrigation systems and buildings were found slightly further south.

Iron Age Irrigation

Bidaa Bint Saud was occupied since the Bronze Age (3000-1300 BCE) but grew in importance during the Iron Age (1300-300 BCE), both as a caravan stop and as a settled community of farmers, who used the region’s distinctive falaj irrigation system. This system taps underground water sources and delivers the water to crops and plants via a series of above-ground and underground channels.

At Bidaa Bint Saud, two falaj systems have been discovered and partly-excavated, revealing sections in a fair condition. At one site, several shaft holes were revealed, as well as an underground shariaa (a main water access point), with steps leading down to a large open cistern. These discoveries provide further evidence that one of the earliest known falaj irrigation systems was built in the United Arab Emirates.

Falaj Building

Archaeologists excavated a large mud brick building located next to the main access point of the Bidaa Bint Saud falaj. It contains a large hall, 10 x 13 metres in size. Some parts of the remaining walls are up to 1.6 metres high. The roof is missing but appears to have been supported by 12 columns. Storage rooms were added later and contained many storage jars. The building’s purpose remains unclear, however, it was most likely used for administrative purposes to manage the distribution of falaj water.


Along the eastern side of the outcrop are the remains of several stone tombs dating to the Bronze Age. Although they look like heaps of stones, excavations show that each heap conceals a hollow chamber surrounded by a ring wall with a narrow passage leading inside. Originally these tombs would have had domed roofs.

A series of tombs was also built during the Iron Age, using local uncut or rough-cut stone, formed into a variety of shapes. These collective tombs were divided into several chambers, each of which contained the remains of several people.

Despite being plundered in the past, excavations at these Iron Age tombs have yielded many artefacts, including pottery and stone vessels, dagger blades, bronze arrowheads and various types of beads.

Did you know ?

The Bronze Age tombs found at Bidaa Bint Saud are similar in design and function to those found at Jebel Hafit, south of Al Ain.


Bidaa Bint Saoud



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Al Ain,

Dubai - Al Ain Road,


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