One of a group of off shore islands that run west along the Abu Dhabi coast as far as Sir Bani Yas, Marawah Island has long been known as a place of archaeological interest.\r\nIt was here, 8000 years ago, that a group of nomads settled and built houses for the first time.\r\nMillennia later, in 1829, a survey ship for the East Indian Company finally recorded the island\u2019s location for the maps.\r\nIt was another 150 years until the Abu Dhabi Islands Survey, commissioned by UAE Founding Father Sheikh Zayed, identified 13 sites of interest on the island, dating from the Neolithic period to Islamic times.\r\nThe survey noted that the island was in \u201can area renowned for its dangerous navigation waters,\u201d rising only seven metres above sea level and part of a limestone plateau.\r\nIt had three small population centres, providing season shelter for fisherman, the largest of which was Liffa.\r\nMore than 50 archaeological structures or features were found, along with dozens of flint tools, and a mound partly concealing a curved dry stone wall.\r\n\u201cIts date remained uncertain\u201d, the survey noted, adding that the site\u2019s location: \u201cWould have provided an excellent base for hunting and fishing, with easy access to a rich sea life including fish, dugong and crustaceans.\u201d\r\nIn 2004 more details emerged, with a new discovery by a team from ADIAS working with the Environment Agency.\r\nBeginning in Spring 2003, digging began on a site known as MR-11, a group of stone mounds that revealed several structure, the best preserved being a house with walls still standing at a height of more than metre in some places.\r\nA flint spear and arrowhead were also found, along with a fragment of a pestle used for grinding food.\r\nSamples of ash from some of the floors were sent to the University of Glasgow for carbon dating, and dated to around 6,500 and 7,000 years ago.\r\nLater excavations unearthed an intact and highly decorated ceramic jar, made in what is now Iraq and firm evidence that the people of Marawah were part of an extensive trade route along the Gulf.\r\nTwo years ago, the first inhabitants of the ancient community came to light. Under a partial collapsed roof, a partial skeleton was found, leading archaeologists conclude that the building was a \u201chouse of the dead.\u201d\r\nLater a second skeleton was found, with archaeologist Ahmed Abdalla Elhag Elfaki observing that it was a: \u201cform of burial is typical of other known Late Stone Age burials, such as those known from Jebel Buhais in Sharjah.\u201d\r\nIt is now believed the Marawah community existed for several hundred years, thriving in a time when the region was much wetter and greener than today, with freshwater lakes and plentiful game to hunt. Other neolithic sites discovered in the UAE include a shell midden, or refuse dump, in Umm Al Quwain. Evidence shows these early inhabitants hunted for gazelle, raised sheep, dogs and goats, and organised expeditions to find flint.\r\nEven earlier is Jebel Feyar in Sharjah, where 125,000 stone axes were found, evidence that early mankind trekked through region as they made their way out of Africa. More recent sites include the 5,000 year old Umm Al Nar tomb, also in Sharjah, and a similar structure in Ras Al Khaimah. A Bronze Age settlement was found in the late 1950s on Umm Al Nar, or the island of fire, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi near the Sheikh Zayed Bridge.\r\nThe Neolithic period was a crucial time in the development of communities in the Gulf, with the first pearl fishing, and the beginning of date palm cultivation on nearby Dalma Island.\r\nNew analysis of the carbon dating now places the village, which is still not fully excavated, closer to 8,000 years old.\r\nIt was a time when humans were previously thought to live a nomadic existence, wandering the land with flocks of sheep and goats.\r\nDr Mark Beech, a leading archaeologist who has worked on the site for TDC Abu Dhabi, said stone structures from this period had been found in Kuwait and Qatar, but much less sophisticated in design.\r\n\u201cThere is nothing as beautiful as these Marawah ones,\u201d he said.\r\nSlightly older Neolithic buildings have been found in Jordan, Cyprus and Byblos in Lebanon, he said, with the possibility that the design was brought to the site by early traders from the west.\r\nThe builders had used local limestone found on the island and situated their community close to a natural harbour: \u201cIt was a very strategic location.\u201d\r\nThe archaeological team plans to return next year to resume work in the cooler winter months. \u201cWe have only excavated two out of seven mounds,\u201d said Dr Beech. \u201cMaybe there will be further houses or structures \u2014 or surprises.\u201d\r\nMarawah\u2019s antiquity means that it is the earliest place discovered with permanent stone buildings, the first village in what is now the UAE.\r\nIt seems now that it is here that people first put down roots and decided to stay put, building homes, creating industries and technologies, going out in the world to trade and discover, a way of life that continues to this day.