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World's oldest pearl found in Abu Dhabi

October 20, 2019

Archaeologists in the United Arab Emirates have discovered an 8,000-year-old pearl in a Stone Age settlement. Emirati experts believe pearls were traded in ancient Mesopotamia and perhaps worn as jewelry.

The Abu Dhabi pearl

Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism has announced the discovery of the world's oldest known natural pearl during excavations on Marawah Island, off the coast of the Emirati capital.

The pearl was discovered among the ruins of a Stone Age settlement on the island. It's discovery could have implications for what is known about the history of trade.

According to the director of the archaeological unit, Abdulla Khalfan Al-Kaabi, the pearl is at least 8,000 years old, which is "evidence that the pearl trade existed from at least as far back as the Neolithic period."

The excavation on Marawah Island also led to the discovery of pottery and arrowheads.

Emirati researchers have suggested pearls might have been traded for pottery and other goods in Mesopotamia, the ancient civilization covering what are today parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is credited with inventing the wheel, farming, writing and mathematics.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, when what is today the United Arab Emirates was controlled by different colonial powers, the pearl trade was a major factor in the area's economy. However, since the invention of pearl oyster farming in Japan in the late 1920s, the cost of pearls has dropped dramatically.

The Marawah Island pearl will be on display during an upcoming exhibit at the Louvre Abu Dhabi titled "10,000 Years of Luxury."

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.