The Department of Archaeology at Qatar Museums (QM) has announced the discovery of new archaeological remains in Asaila, located west of Qatar, about 12km east of Umm Bab and said to be one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country.
The initial excavation took place at a burial mound, dating back between 300 BCE and 300 CE, according to a QM statement Tuesday.
QM officials during the excavation at Asaila
Although the tombs themselves had been robbed already in antiquity, a team from the Department of Archaeology was able to uncover the remains of important individuals, who were buried on top of a plateau in large and carefully constructed burial mounds together with personal items such as a sword, metal tools and a golden earring.
The sacrificial burial of a camel and its calf was found in a stone chamber attached to one of the human graves. The human remains will be subject to advanced paleoanthropological and molecular analyses, including the study of ancient genetic material.
The newly excavated graves also revealed an untouched burial of a camel in its natural resting position with its legs folded under the body
A golden earring found in a burial mound
QM noted that the process is aimed at understanding the migration and dietary habits of people who lived in this region in ancient times.
“The recent discovery at Asaila paves the way for a deeper understanding of past civilisations, which will in turn enable QM to trace the influences they have had on shaping Qatar’s heritage. We are honoured to be able to carry out this important archaeological work to support the preservation of Qatar’s history and traditions,” QM CEO Ahmad Musa al-Namla said.
Commenting on this finding, Faisal al-Naimi, director of the Department of Archaeology at QM, said: “Excavation is one of the Department of Archaeology’s key focus areas. Qatar’s sites and burial mounds tell the stories of its past inhabitants. Our work at Asaila is part of a wider plan to be implemented over several years to uncover burial mounds in the country, which will provide invaluable insights about how people lived on this land in the past. The findings from the excavation will contribute to preserving and documenting Qatari heritage, and linking it to the present day.”
Extensive data revealed that Asaila still has numerous undiscovered archaeological remains. The newly excavated graves also revealed an untouched burial of a camel in its natural resting position with its legs folded under the body.
This suggests that the camel was led into the burial pit, made to kneel and then slaughtered alongside with its calf. This spectacular finding will provide new information about the domestication and usage of camels and the ritual practices that existed in pre-Islamic Arabia.
In 1961, a similar grave containing the remains of a dromedary-Bactrian hybrid camel was excavated at Mezruah.
The Asaila tombs are one of several burial sites that QM plans to excavate as part of the National Priority Research Programme “Human Populations and Demographics in Qatar from the Neolithic to the late Iron Age” led by Sidra Medicine and funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (Grant no. NPRP10-0208-170411).