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World's oldest pearl to be displayed in Abu Dhabi this month

24 October 2019

For the first time following its discovery, the world’s oldest pearl will be displayed to public at 'Louvre Abu Dhabi' this month.

The pearl, which is more than 8000 years old, was first discovered at an archaeological site at Marawah Island, located off the Abu Dhabi coast, says the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT).

The initial discovery was made in the room of a structure which they were excavating, revealed the department through a video post in their official Twitter account on Sunday. Later, they used radiocarbon dating to confirm that it was formed between 5000 BC and 5600 BC, making it the oldest pearl to be discovered.

The Pearl is less than a third of a centimetre in diameter in photos, and it appears to be pale pink in colour.  The pearl is all set to feature in the forthcoming exhibition to be held on 30th October at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.


Abu Dhabi, a hub for pearl trade

The presence of pearls at archaeological sites is sufficient evidence that the pearl trade existed from the Neolithic period, pointed out the Director of Archaeological Survey Unit at DCT, Abdulla Khalfan Al-Kaabi in the video.

Several other ancient sources and texts suggest the fact that Abu Dhabi was popular for its pearls, and was a major trading hub during the 16th century.

A DCT press release also said that the Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi actually travelled through the region in the 16th century and had actually made a mention about the islands off the Abu Dhabi coast as a source of pearls.

Archaeologists at the site also found several artifacts that were made using the bones of sea creatures like turtles and fish. The ocean was an integral part in the life of ancient communities in the region, and the pearls may have been used to barter with other civilizations, said Al-Kaabi.

According to the DCT Chairman, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, the Abu Dhabi Pearl is a stunning find, and it is sufficient proof about the ancient origins of the engagement of Abu Dhabi with the sea.

Further, the discovery of the world's oldest pearl in Abu Dhabi makes it all the more evident that the recent economic and cultural history of Abu Dhabi has deep roots that stretch back to the advent of prehistory, Al Kaabi commented.

oldest pearl

Pearls, once the backbone of region's economy

Pearls were once the backbone of the region's economy. They were used as jewellery and were considered as luxury items. The pearling crews would spend their summer months sailing to oyster beds in the warm shallow Persian Gulf, and dive for oysters and then break open their shells to obtain the naturally formed pearls inside.

Early in the 1900s, the region’s pearling industry was witnessing a decline, as the Japanese oyster farmers found several new techniques to cultivate the perfectly round, immaculate pearls. Today, pearl diving has completely disappeared as a vocation in Abu Dhabi, although the theme parks and tour companies suggest it as an activity for visitors.

Robin Vinod

Writer/blogger who writes on topics such as travel, real estate, employment and everyday life on GCC countries.

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