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Ancient village — home to pearl divers 1,300 years ago — uncovered near Dubai

An ancient village was recently unearthed on a small, sandy island near Dubai, according to media reports.

The livelihoods of its one-time inhabitants were dedicated to a valuable resource that they spent their time scouring the sea for: pearls.

Dating back to as early as the sixth century AD, it is the oldest-known pearling settlement in the Persian Gulf, making it a finding of great significance, according to the Emirates News Agency.

The settlement’s inhabitants were probably Christians since they predated the proliferation of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula, according to the Associated Press. An ancient Christian monastery was previously found on the island.

The archaeological remains span about 30 acres on the United Arab Emirates’ Siniya Island, located about 50 miles northeast of Dubai, according to the agency.

The homes, which came in a number of sizes and are believed to have housed thousands of people, were constructed from beach rocks and roofed with the trunks of palm trees, according to Time Out Dubai.

Among the artifacts discovered in the settlement were pearls, oyster shells and a pearl-diving weight — presumably used to quickly drag divers to the sea floor, Time Out Dubai reported.

The process of finding pearls would have been time-consuming as few oysters contain the precious gems, according to the AP.

“You only find one pearl in every 10,000 oyster shells. You have to find and discard thousands and thousands of oyster shells to find one,” Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at United Arab Emirates University, told the outlet. “You’re dealing with millions, millions of oyster shells discarded.”

But the effort was worthwhile for divers and the merchants who bought and sold them, according to the Gulf News. Before oil was the name of the game, these small, white treasures from the sea brought wealth and prosperity to the region.

“Pearling has been an essential part of the livelihood and a fundamental component of the (region’s) heritage for over 7,000 years,” Sheikh Majid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, Chairman of the Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology, told the Emirates News Agency.

It’s unclear if the ancient settlement will be open to the public in the future, according to Time Out Dubai.

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