As part of archaeological studies throughout the UAE over the last six decades, numerous examples of petroglyphs (rock art) have now been identified and studied.
According to the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority, FTAA, more than 31 petroglyph sites have been found in Fujairah, including sites in Wadi Saham, Hassat al-Risoom, Wadi ah-Shanah, and Wadi al-Hayl.
These petroglyphs provide valuable insights into past occupants of the country, dating as far back at the Bronze Age, over 3,000 years ago, as well as the local Iron Age, which lasted from around 1250 BC to 300 BC, the late pre-Islamic period and during the Islamic period. While petroglyphs are difficult to date without scientific analysis of the rocks on which they are found, some motifs have direct parallels with excavated artefacts from the Iron Age.
Motifs (designs) portrayed in the rock art include drawings of horses and riders, ‘wusum’ (tribal signs in the form of geometric symbols), and other zoomorphic (related to animals) and anthropomorphic (related to humans) symbolism. Among the motifs discovered, according to FTAA, is a collective dance scene that provides an insight into aspects of historical development, including agricultural practices.
Much of the work on the petroglyphs of the UAE, including Fujairah, has been undertaken over the past twenty five years by UAE resident Dr. Michele Ziolkowski, who has personally recorded over 500 individual petroglyphs.
A PhD graduate from Australia’s University of Sydney, whose thesis was on the archaeology of Fujairah, Dr. Ziolkowski has published several papers in academic journals and has presented numerous papers at conferences about the UAE’s petroglyphs.
Saeed Al Samahi, the FTAA Director-General, says, "Today, we are prioritising the preservation of historic sites across the UAE. We are keen on ensuring that these important sites are preserved and maintained, so that residents and tourists are able to view this rock art."
"There are 11 petroglyph sites that have undergone preservation work," Al Samahi said. "Other sites are currently undergoing preservation to ensure that they are well-maintained so that future generations can have access to their country’s history."
Al Samahi added, "A large number of carvings and rock paintings have been discovered that they are distinctive to the history of the UAE, providing insight into ancient civilisations and the environment in which they lived.
"We strive to maintain an up-to-date inventory of the petroglyphs via specialised conferences and workshops.
"A number of archaeological missions – both local and international – have explored sites in the Emirate of Fujairah. We continue to conduct research, to explore, and to document these findings," he stressed.
In other work, he noted, "a settlement dating back to the second millennium BC was recently discovered, with many sites yet to be fully explored. We will continue our archaeological missions and our preservation efforts to highlight Fujairah’s history and heritage."