Archaeologists say natural pearl was found on island off capital of United Arab Emirates
An 8,000-year-old pearl that archaeologists say is the world’s most ancient is to be displayed in Abu Dhabi, according to authorities who said it was proof that the objects have been traded since neolithic times.
The natural pearl was found during excavations at Marawah Island, off the capital of the United Arab Emirates, that revealed the earliest architecture yet found in the country.
“The layers from which the pearl came have been carbon dated to 5800-5600BC,” said the chairman of Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, Mohamed al-Muabarak.
“The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory.”
The excavation of the Marawah site, which is made up of numerous collapsed neolithic stone structures, has also yielded ceramics, beads made from shell and stone, and flint arrowheads.
The pearl will be shown for the first time in the exhibition 10,000 Years of Luxury, opening on 30 October at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Emirati experts believe that the pearls were traded with people from Mesopotamia – ancient Iraq – in exchange for ceramics and other goods. They were probably also worn as jewellery.
“The Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi, who travelled through the region, mentions the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a source of pearls in the 16th century,” the culture department said.
The pearl industry once underpinned the economy of the UAE but the trade collapsed in the 1930s with the advent of Japanese cultured pearls and as conflicts rocked global economies.