Date press at Ruwayqa
Every July, academics from the Middle East, Europe and the USA gather for three days at the British Museum in London at the Seminar for Arabian Studies, to share the results of their recent researches.
Archaeologists working in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have given presentations at this event for many years, but until 2010 the archaeology of Qatar had been given little coverage. 2010 saw a major change, with so many archaeologists and related researchers reporting on behalf of the Qatar Museums Authority [QMA] that their programme had to be spread over two days.
Dr Andrew Petersen and his team from the University of Wales in Lampeter, UK, together with archaeologists from the QMA, have completed two seasons of excavations in Qatar, in 2009 at the large fort of Ruwaidha on the NW coast and this year at the newly discovered small coastal settlement of Ruwayqa on Ras Ushayriq, also in the north west.
Although coastal, it was apparent to the archaeologists that Ruwayqa was not just a fishing village. Its major occupations, like those of Zubara a little further north, appear to have been trading and pearling. Four phases of construction have been identified, dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. An extraordinary number of date presses in a range of construction styles have been excavated, and evidently the production and export of date syrup was an important source of income for the inhabitants of Ruwayqa.
'It is estimated that each press measuring 3 by 2 metres could store 9000 kilos of dates, producing 400 kilos of syrup,' said Dr Petersen. 'We do not know for sure where the dates came from - some were perhaps grown within Qatar, but others may have come from Bahrain and Basra. Ruwayqa is unusual in Qatar in that it has deep water just offshore, so ships could come and unload beside the settlement.'
The village was protected by a fort. The dramatic discovery of several iron cannon balls, and a cache of silver rupees wrapped in cloth and hidden in the wall of the mosque is evidence that there were sometimes periods of conflict. The coins were presumably hidden by someone who was either killed or driven away and so was never able to retrieve his savings.
Related: Qatar's History and Archeology
Read a review or buy a copy of Discovering Qatar, by Frances Gillespie, Gulf Times journalist and former chair person of QNHG.