The Oldest Gulf Pearl on Record

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) announced in 2019 the find of a very old pearl at an archaeological site in the Marawah Island, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubbed “Abu Dhabi Pearl” the small (ca. 3 mm) slightly pinkish pearl (locally known as wardi), presumably from the local Gulf pearl oyster (Pinctada radiata) was radiocarbon dated to 5800 – 5600 BCE, making it the oldest Gulf pearl on record so far (the oldest pearl on record in the world was recently reported in Mexico). In 2012, a team of scientists working on a burial site in Umm al-Quwain, also in the UAE, had also reported on a ca. 7,500 years old 4 mm pearl, dated 5547-5235 BCE, which was, then, the oldest pearl ever found.

These finds, and many others in the area, notably the 62 pearls in Jebel al-Buhais (5200-4000 BCE) and the 18 pearls in Akab Island (4700-4100 BCE), support the thesis that the pearl trade, and possibly pearl fishing, is an ancestral millennial activity in the region. Similarly, more Neolithic pearl finds have been reported in Arabia, namely in Saudi Arabia and in the Sultanate of Oman. The Abu Dhabi Pearl was on display for the first time since its discovery in 2017 at the Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibition “10,000 Years of Luxury” in 2019-2020. © Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism

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