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In the land of the Ichthyophagi

Modelling fish exploitation in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman from the 5th millennium BC to the Late Islamic period

Mark J. Beech
Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey Monograph


Fishing forms an important activity in many societies throughout the world today and played a significant role in the life and subsistence of many prehistoric societies. Past archaeological research on fishing has often tended to concentrate on particular sites or chronological periods. This study aims to adopt an inter-discAlinary approach to model regional interactions between coastal communities and their environment. The geographical framework for this study is the Arabian Gulf/Gulf of Oman, with aparticular focus on the southern Gulf region and present day coastline of the United Arab Emirates. The environmental and archaeological background to the region is considered first and modern fisheries data, as well as ethnographic data relating to traditional fisheries is presented. An evaluation is carried out of all the archaeological evidence for the adoption of particular fisheries technology. The princAal data forming the basis for this study are 23 archaeological fish bone assemblages from sites located throughout the Arabian Gulf/Gulf of Oman. The chronological focus is from the 5th millennium BC to the Late Islamic period. In order to comprehend the regional variation in fisheries, sites were selected on the basis that they represented a variety of site types in different environments scattered throughout the region. This research provides for the first time a detailed insight into the status of past fisheries resources in the region as well as an insight into the fishing strategies utilised by the early coastal inhabitants of the Gulf during the course of the past 7000 years. The work’s special focus is on the use of biometrical techniques to enable size reconstruction of economically important fish groups. The overall aim of this research (the first in a planned series of Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey Monographs) is to consider the interactions between the goals of the coastal societies, their fishing strategies and environment; the work overall goes some way towards addressingsome of the key questions of relevance to the archaeology of south-east Arabia.