Abu Dhabi Heritage

To gain a deeper appreciation for the development of human history and culture in the Emirate, it is important to examine the vast frame of geography and time in which it lies. As described in other chapters, the geography and environment of Abu Dhabi as seen today has evolved over hundreds of millions of years; enormous time spans that overwhelm human history. However distant this geological past may seem, it is intimately linked to the environment, which has in turn profoundly influenced the development of human history, culture and civilisations – and it still does so today.

Deep within geological time, environmental conditions allowed the evolution and dispersal of many life forms, many of which have long since disappeared. Evidence of their existence can be seen in fossils shrouded within rocks and sediments. Upon examination, these fossils speak of an ancient and dynamic environmental history when the earliest building blocks of life were established.

Over geological time, a diversity of plants and animals (flora and fauna) evolved to adapt more effectively to their surroundings. Some of these life forms could be used for cultivation and farming and as domestic livestock, thereby contributing to the development of rich cultures and complex civilisations. Just as ancient life forms left fossilised clues to their existence, so have the past cultures and civilisations of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi that once inhabited the land but eventually disappeared. These archaeological relics and artefacts provide evidence of the ingenuity and innovative skills of the early ancestors of the people of Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these items illuminate the way in which ever-changing environmental conditions presented unrelenting challenges to human development that led to the expansion and dispersal of people across the region and, in some instances, to their eventual disappearance.


Ancient Environments

Environmental conditions during the Cretaceous were very different from today and sea levels were significantly higher. At times, as little as eighteen per cent ...

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Earliest Peoples

Our earliest human ancestors, known as hominids, evolved in East Africa. Most of the evidence for them has been discovered in the Great Rift Valley, which stretches ...

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Oasis Settlements

At certain locations in the desert, water originating from mountain ranges many kilometres away can be drawn from aquifers deep below the ground. In some places, ...

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Iron Age to Pre-Islam

As aridity gradually became a permanent feature of the Emirati environment, accessing groundwater increasingly became a challenge. Around Al Ain, falaj (plural aflaj) ...

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Islam to the Pre-Oil Era

Although it is convenient to divide history and cultural development into distinct and named eras, they all exist along a continuum of progress and transitions marked ...

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