HILI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
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The village of Al Hili, about 12 km north of Al Ain City, has become internationally known for its archaeological excavations which were conducted starting in the late 1960s.
Teams from universities around the world have discovered remains of a settlement and tombs dating back to the third millennium BC, which provide unique insights into early life in the region.
To make the findings accessible to the public, Abu Dhabi Government built Al Hili Archaeological Park around the sights, where, people can discover the early history of Abu Dhabi Emirate in a relaxed garden atmosphere, which has made the sights a popular destination for weekend trips.
Next to Al Hili Archaeological Park is Hili Fun City, a family park with numerous attractions, such as picnic facilities, roller coasters and the Al Ain Ice Rink.
Al Hili Settlement
The first diggings in Al Hili Archaeological Park started during the 1960s and unearthed remains of a settlement that covered more than ten hectares and was built over centuries. Most of the houses, towers and tombs in the settlement are from the Umm Al Nar period (2700- 2000 BC) and were built of unbaked bricks.
The construction of the circular towers in the settlement bears significance.
Each tower is built as a stronghold around a well, with several rooms enclosed in the outer walls.
This type of construction is similar to the forts of Al Ain built during the 16th century AD and shows that the roots of traditional architecture in the region date back to the 3rd millennium BC.
Pottery and vessels found within the settlement led some researchers to suggest that the towers were erected to protect trade routes as well as a copper industry which was possibly a major source of income for the inhabitants.
The artefacts give a remarkable insight into life on the Arabian Peninsula, such as farming habits, trade activities, as well as technical developments.
Palm trees, barley and wheat were already cultivated and by the first millennium BC, the water irrigation system (Falaj) was fully developed.
In 1985, when the oldest Falaj within the UAE was found in Al Hili, it showed a level of skilled engineering equal to techniques used in ancient Mesopotamia.
In addition, several tombs were found within Al Hili settlement, while analysis of excavation findings is still being conducted by archaeological teams from France, UK and Germany.
Al Hili Tombs
The tombs of Al Hili settlement were used for collective burials over centuries and their funerary goods give valuable evidence of life in the oasis.
The largest stone tomb in Al Hili, commonly called the Great Hili Tomb, is 2.5 metres high and 8 metres in diameter, It was built during the Umm Al Nar period (2700-2000 BC).
Two entrances display engravings picturing humans and oryx antelopes.
The findings show that people were buried in collective graves, with several chambers, built of stones.
In the case of the Great Hili Tomb, a total of six chambers were found, arranged in two halves of the circular building, which is divided by a cross wall.
Since the tomb was strongly damaged, it was restored in 2005 to give visitors an impression of its original appearance.
Though only fragments of human remains were discovered in the Great Hili Tomb, scientists found several intact pit-graves to which the bodies of the original tombs were probably transferred during a later period.
Since more than 600 people of all ages have been buried in the pit-graves, their examinations resulted in valuable insights into the daily lives of the people who inhabited the UAE more than 5,000 years ago.
Scientists found, for example, a high level of child mortality as well as a general life expectancy of rarely more than 40 years.
The average height was around 157cm for females and 171 cm among the male population. Furthermore, people suffered from malnutrition, which led to serious tooth problems.
Due to the large number of human remains and artefacts found in Al Hili settlement, analyses is still ongoing and further excavations are being conducted by the Department of Antiquities and Tourism in Al Ain (part of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage), in cooperation with local and international institutions and scientists.
Yearly symposiums and publications provide up-to-date information on archaeological finding on a regular basis and a documentary series on archaeological findings of the UAE was launched in April 2010 (the Anasy Media Production “Home of History, Future’s Nation”).
Al Hili Archaeological Park lies 12 km from the Al Ain National Museum near Dubai Highway.
Must See Sites in Al Hili Archaeological Park
Due to the remarkable number of houses, towers, and tombs in Hili following the first discoveries, each site was given numbers or letters, which are used as reference codes in guide books.
Below you find short descriptions of the most significant locations and their number codes.