Evidence of Recycling From 3,000 Years Ago Discovered at Site of Ancient Civilization in Middle East

Archaeologists have discovered evidence that ancient people living in the area of what is now Dubai practiced recycling methods around 3,000 years ago.

A team of researchers found around 2,600 copper, bronze and iron objects at Saruq Al Hadid in the Persian Gulf that incorporated broken parts from ceramic vessels.

"It is an interesting fact that a few thousand years ago, the inhabitants of this place implemented recycling. Broken ceramic vessels were not thrown away, instead they were only slightly modified and used as tools," Karol Juchniewicz, head of the research from ArcheoConsultant, told Science in Poland.

"They included weapons, decorations, jewelry and iconic or magical items, for example figurines of snakes," Juchniewicz said.

Previous research has revealed that people had been making metal objects at Saruq Al Hadid since around 4,000 years ago. It was discovered in 2002 by the ruler of Dubai Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum while he was flying in his helicopter above the Rub al-Khali desert.

The ruler noticed that the pattern of the sand dunes in one area of the desert took an unusual form. In addition, he observed that numerous black stones were dotted between the dunes.

The sheik reported the sightings to scientists, who discovered that the stones were made from slag—a by-product in the metal smelting process.

According to researchers, the large number of black slag stones indicates that the production of metal at the site took place on a huge scale. But despite being in the middle of a desert, in ancient times, the area may have been home to an oasis with abundant vegetation—and even lakes.

Saruq el Hadid
The site at Saruq el Hadid. Jan Kurzawa

"This is the only explanation for the location of metal production furnaces in a place that is today an endless desert," Juchniewicz said.

Additional research is being conducted at the site in an attempt to reveal more of its hidden secrets.

Saruq Al Hadid is one of the most important Iron Age sites in the United Arab Emirates, and indeed the entire Arabian Peninsula.

Experts say it was once a significant center for trade and metallurgy, which flourished between around 1,100 B.C. and 600 B.C.

Thousands of objects have been found by researchers at the site, expanding our knowledge of industrial activity, trade and everyday life in Iron Age Arabia, according to the Saruq Al Hadid museum.

The kinds of objects discovered at Saruq Al Hadid showed that the people here had links to many of the most important regions of the ancient world, including those in Mesopotamia, Syria, India and Egypt.