Ancient history playing out today

Human remains discovered in Dibba may reveal that the hub on the Gulf of Oman was settled in the first millennium BC.

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"The only thing new about the world is the history you don't know," quipped the US president Harry Truman. By that measure, it is not just what the UAE is building for the future that is a novelty; its past, too, offers surprises each time scientists begin to dig deeper.

In Dibba, which was a popular trading hub for thousands of years, archaeologists are just beginning to understand what's beneath the surface. "This work gives us a new history about the region, especially in Dibba where there has not been enough information," said Eisa Abbas Yousef, an officer of archaeological sites in Sharjah. "It's a very exciting development."

Human remains discovered in Dibba may reveal that the hub on the Gulf of Oman was settled in the first millennium BC. Similar digs in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Gulf have suggested settlement in the region dates as far back as the expansion of Hellenistic Greece in the 4th century BC.

We tend to think that the UAE became a centre of trade and transport in the last generation. But these finds can help provide a far more humble understanding of our own role in history. Dibba appears to have been a crossroads and "an important harbour", according to the German archaeologist Adelina Kutterer, for thousands of years. The country's openness to the world has been remarkable, both at present, and it appears, in its ancient past.