Excavations at a late antique to early Islamic pearling town and monastery on Sīnīya Island, Umm al‑Quwain


  • Timothy Power College of Humanities and Social Science, United Arab Emirates University
  • Michele Degli Esposti Institute for Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Robert Hoyland Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
  • Rania Hussein Kannouma Tourism and Archaeology Department, Government of Umm al‑Quwain
  • Federico Borgi Italian Archaeological Mission in Umm al‑Quwain
  • Urszula Iwaszczuk Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Elena Maini Department of Science of Antiquity, Sapienza – University of Rome
  • Teresa Nicolosi Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Bologna
  • Seth Priestman Department of Archaeology, Durham University


late antiquity, Gulf monasticism, urbanization, pearl fishing, UAE, United Arab Emirates


Previous work on Sīnīya Island by the Tourism and Archaeology Department of Umm al‑Quwain, in collaboration with its local and international research partners, revealed the existence of a Christian monastery dating broadly to the seventh and eighth centuries AD. The second season of the Sīnīya Island Archaeological Project continued work at the monastery and opened a new area of excavation in an associated settlement. The settlement constitutes a 10 ha area of dense mounding covered with building materials, pottery, glass, and shells. The ceramic assemblage and buildings typology indicate that the settlement is contemporary with the monastery. Excavations revealed a smaller number of large courtyard buildings surrounded by densely packed small double-roomed buildings, which we might interpret as the houses of merchants and fishermen. Evidence that pearling contributed to the economy was provided by oyster-shell middens, several pearls, and a pearl diver’s weight — the earliest well-dated example yet found in the Emirates. A picture is now emerging of a pearling town and nearby monastery that flourished between late antiquity and early Islam.


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How to Cite

Power, T., Degli Esposti, M., Hoyland, R., Hussein Kannouma, R., Borgi, F., Iwaszczuk, U., … Priestman, S. (2024). Excavations at a late antique to early Islamic pearling town and monastery on Sīnīya Island, Umm al‑Quwain. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 53, 211–229. Retrieved from https://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/PSAS/article/view/2508

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