Archaeological Finds From the Magan Culture: An Overview of Pottery in Iron Age Arabia, by Michal Ann Morrison

The pottery found at Sanisera Archaeology Institute’s excavation site in Dubai is characteristic of pottery found throughout southeastern Arabia during the Iron Age. While our site contains more metallurgical artifacts than pottery, there is still a significant number of ceramics represented, which contributes to our growing understanding of the various occupations this site has seen throughout history.

Eastern Arabia pottery found at the UAE site of Rumeilah.

Eastern Arabia pottery found at the UAE site of Rumeilah.

During Iron Age II and III (1,000 BC to 250 BC), pottery in Eastern Arabia was very stylistically homogenous in shape and decoration, and similar between one region to another. With composition being the same across the southeastern Arabic peninsula, it is believed that several production centers functioned during the Iron Age. In the oasis region of Al Ain, a pottery workshop probably existed at a site called Hili, where large amounts of pottery have been collected.

The most common pottery shapes in Iron Age Arabia were bridge spouted vessels, painted wares, bowls, large open vessels, small jugs, and large storage jars, some of which were decorated in painted geometric patterns. Bridge spouted vessels, hole mouth storage jars, and small carinated bowls are some of the time’s most characteristic productions. These kinds of pottery were used not only in homes and for cooking, but also in public places and graves. Noteworthy amongst the pottery found at our excavation site are jars with relief appliques of snakes. The existence of a snake cult has been suggested because of the findings of bronze serpent figurines at various sites around the UAE.

Pottery with applique snakes found at an archaeological site in Dubai.

Pottery with applique snakes found at an archaeological site in Dubai.

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