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Pre-history and Palaeontology
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Jebel Hafit Desert Park

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Jebel Hafit Desert Park

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The natural and archaeological wonders of Jebel Hafit Desert Park stand as living evidence of the long and rich history of the UAE. One of the Cultural Sites of Al Ain that make up the UAE’s first designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Park is recognised by UNESCO for its “Outstanding Universal Value”, with its sites providing “exceptional testimony to the development of successive prehistoric cultures in a desert region, from the Neolithic to the Iron Age.”
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Neolithic Period

During most of the Neolithic period (8,000 to 4,000 BCE), the Indian Ocean’s monsoon moved north and changed the climate in the region, bringing rain and occasionally forming lakes where there are now deserts. At that time, people were nomads and moved across the landscape with their herds of sheep, cattle and goats. Jebel Hafit was an important location for them as it supplied hard rocks that could be made into tools and arrowheads.

 

Bronze & Iron Ages

The start of the Bronze Age (3,000 BCE) saw the local population still living a nomadic pastoral life. However, the tombs dotted around the mountain from this era, alongside discoveries at the nearby Hili 8 site, have been a major source of archaeological findings, showing the people of Al Ain beginning to settle and practice agriculture as years went by.

 

The community grew wheat, barley and date palms, and kept animals like sheep, goats and cattle. During this time, trade with southern Mesopotamia became very important. The people of the region produced copper, which developed into one of the country’s main exports, and the beginnings of a local ceramics industry formed. The centre of the community in Al Ain seems to have been around Hili, where there were several large tombs and mudbrick forts, and the mountain remained a focal point for activity through the millennia.

 

The Iron Age (1,300 to 300 BCE) saw the development of falaj irrigation and rapid human expansion around the entire Al Ain area. Jebel Hafit reveals evidence of people reusing the Bronze Age tombs for burial, which seems to have been a common practice throughout the UAE.

 

Recent History

While there is very little archaeological evidence for occupation around the Park in the centuries just before and after Islam was introduced into the UAE, historical records mention a place called ‘Hafit’ as one of the important locales in this part of Arabia.

 

The village of Mezyad, in the southern area of Jebel Hafit Desert Park, emerged as a settlement in the last two hundred years. Archaeological remains of a kitchen and other buildings have been found south of Mezyad Fort, as well as evidence of a falaj running across the site, probably supporting date palm agriculture. The settlement around Mezyad expanded as the nearby town of Al Ain prospered. A number of important historic buildings were built to defend key approaches to Al Ain during this time. The fort at Mezyad is the largest of these and was probably built around the 1890s.

 

The fort has undergone several phases of alteration and additions, including the construction of towers. In more recent times, the fort served as a police border post between the UAE and Oman. Now it is a stunning reminder of the importance of Jebel Hafit as a strategic location in the Al Ain Region.

 

The archaeological and historical remains of Jebel Hafit Desert Park are an important reminder of the human occupation and activity in the area throughout the past 8,000 years. As the climate and the population shifted around the mountain, these remains bear testimony to the shifts in local, regional and global economics.

 

Continued archaeological research will reveal more evidence of this unique history and fill in many of the gaps which still remain in our understanding of these past millennia.

Did you know ?

From 8,000 to 4,000 BCE, the climate across the UAE was wetter, with lakes forming across the land due to the Indian Ocean monsoon having moved north for several millennia, bringing rain to the UAE and the region.

The rainfall made the land more hospitable to life, leading to more wild animals, such as the gazelle and oryx, migrating to the area and making it home.

Location Details

ADDRESS

Jebel Hafit,

Al Ain

Opening Hours

Daily 8am to 6:00pm (subject to time of sunset)

CONTACT DETAILS

+971 3 711 8362

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