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Researchers at Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter in the Al Habhab region, UAE.  	Source: Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority

Arabian Rock Shelter Shows Evidence of Human Occupation From 13,000 Years Ago!

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Contrary to popular belief, Fujairah in southeast Arabia, was not deserted in ancient times. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed human settlements in the area, resetting previously accepted timelines by thousands of years! Evidence of the habitation of the Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter in the Al Habhab region from 13,000 years ago has been the focus of the new research, where artifacts such as stone tools, animal bones, and fireplaces found at the site demonstrate that nomadic, mobile groups occupied it repeatedly during this period until 7,500 years ago.

Previously, it was thought that Southeast Arabia remained uninhabited from approximately 38,000 years ago until 7,000 years ago, which was met by the development of dry conditions, until the onset of more moist conditions.


The new excavations at extend the known history of settlements in Fujairah and fill gaps in archaeological records. (Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority)

The new excavations at extend the known history of settlements in Fujairah and fill gaps in archaeological records. (Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority)

On a Mission: Identifying Sites

The research is a collaboration between an international team of researchers from the Department of Tourism and Antiquities in Fujairah, the University of Jena in Germany, and Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, following directives from the Government of Fujairah, reports Gulf News.

The Fujairah Natural Resources Corporation, in collaboration with international experts, has identified over 30 sites with significant geological characteristics. This project also led to the discovery of archaeological sites that provide further evidence of human activities in the region during prehistoric times.

“Previous archaeological discoveries in the region have indicated the existence of human settlements and unearthed tools dating back to the prehistoric period. In the study and research of Jabal Kaf Addor in the Habhab region, the department provided all logistical and scientific support to the specialised archaeological mission. The archaeological findings shed light on the history of the emirate, which dates back to the prehistoric and post-historic eras, and the chronology of human settlements that continue to this day,” explained Saeed Al Samahi, Director of the Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority.

Evidence uncovered by the international team pushes the timeline of human occupation in the region. (Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority)

Evidence uncovered by the international team pushes the timeline of human occupation in the region. (Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority)

Wadi and Lithic Raw Material: Occupation of Jabal Kaf Addor

Researchers believe that prehistoric mobile groups were drawn to the Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter due to the high-quality lithic raw material found in the Jebel’s limestone, the protection provided by the rock shelter, and access to a variety of landscapes, including the interior plain, the western foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains, and wadi channels.

The term "wadi" is derived from Arabic, a geographical feature common in Western Asia and North Africa. Wadis can vary greatly in size, from small gullies to large valleys, and are often characterized by steep banks and rocky beds. The formation of wadi channels is primarily influenced by the arid climate and the intermittent nature of rainfall in desert areas. During rare and intense rainstorms, water flows through the wadis with significant force, carving out the channels over time.

Test excavations at the Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter revealed three layers containing stone tools, animal bones, and fireplaces. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal from these fireplaces indicates that the site was occupied multiple times between approximately 13,000 and 7,500 years ago, reports GDN Online.

The findings from the site make it the oldest archaeological site in the emirate, covering the transition from hunting and gathering to animal husbandry and food production – a crucial period in human history. This transition, popularly known as the Neolithic Revolution, began around 10,000 years ago and involved significant changes in social, economic, and technological practices, reports The National News.

It has long been argued that humans left the region during the Last Glacial Maximum, a period of hyper-arid conditions in Arabia between approximately 26,000 and 20,000 years ago. It was then believed that recolonization occurred with the onset of the Holocene wet phase around 12,000 years ago. Archaeological records support this, with the occurrence of small arrowheads called Fasad points, which have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Around 10,500 years ago, the area began to gradually become wetter over thousands of years due to a change in the balance between two climatic systems. The region is positioned at the interface between the mid-latitude Westerlies, which bring winter rains and the hot summer Shamal winds, and the Indian Ocean summer monsoon.

Today, the monsoon is weak, but at various times it has increased in intensity across the region. About 13,000 years ago, it was previously thought that the Westerlies were intensified, driving more arid conditions. Globally, the onset of the current interglacial period, called the Holocene, began around 11,700 years ago, marked by the collapse of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets and the onset of warmer global temperatures.

Dr. Knut Bretzke, the archaeologist who supervised the excavations at the site from the University of Jena, Germany, concluded by saying, “The recent archaeological discoveries at the Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter site mark a significant milestone in our understanding of human history in Fujairah.”

Work is currently underway to identify the bones found and conduct additional analysis on other materials. The researchers, who carried out their work on-site in late 2022, hope to publish their findings in an archaeological journal and have received permission to undertake further excavations.

Top image: Researchers at Jabal Kaf Addor rock shelter in the Al Habhab region, UAE.                 Source: Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority

By Sahir Pandey


Barakat, W. 2024. UAE: Fujairah’s mountains had human settlements dating back to 13,000 years ago, new book reveals. Available at:

Bardsley, D. 2024. Scientists unearth startling evidence of ancient settlements in Fujairah. Available at:

GNR. 2024. Pre-historic settlement in interior Fujairah unearthed. Available at:

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I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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