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Home arrow Sites of interest arrow  Al-Khidr arrow Archaeozoology
Archaeozoology at Al-Khidr

Zora Miklíková and Peter Barta

During three excavation seasons of KSAM a large amount of animal remains, i.e. bones, teeth, otoliths and shells, has been collected. In spite of the fact that the final detailed analyses have not yet been carried out, some preliminary information relevant to the economy and environment of the Bronze Age settlement of Al-Khidr are already available.

According to the first assessment of bone material it can be stated that the food production at the site was strongly dependent on marine resources. A similar subsistence strategy has been observed also at other sites along the Arabian Gulf coast. The majority of the animal bone remains retrieved from Al-Khidr consisted of fish bones. This clearly demonstrates the importance of fishing for its inhabitants. At least ten families of fishes and twelve species are present including requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae), sawfish (Pristidae), marine catfish (Ariidae), groupers (Serranidae), jacks/trevallies (Carangidae), grunts (Haemulidae), emperors (Lethrinidae), seabream (Sparidae), parrotfish (Scaridae) and barracudas (Sphyraenidae). Large amounts of cormorant bones in some excavation areas indicate that this bird contributed significantly to the diet of the inhabitants. The exploitation of sea turtles, swimming crabs and cuttlefish has been also recorded. Marine molluscs appear in large quantities at the site and probably made an important supplementary dietary contribution, as well as provided items such as pearls and raw material for making  the artefacts.

Apart from information on species identification, archaeozoological data also produces insights into the daily life of past societies, which could not be otherwise revealed. At Al-Khidr, a number of large fish were caught suggesting that fishing was carried out with a hook and line. Such a picture is also corroborated by many metal fish-hooks found here. Analyses of otoliths, small calcareous structures inside the ear of fish, carried out in cooperation with the fisheries biologist Dr Mohsen Al-Husaini from the Kuwaiti Institute for Scientific Research, is providing important information on seasonal activities at the site. Otoliths have an incremental growth structure which when sectioned can be evaluated very much like tree rings to assess the age and season when it died. This work suggests that fishing was taking place mainly during the late spring and early summer, from April to June. Regarding terrestrial mammals, domestic species such as sheep (Ovis aries), goat (Capra hircus) and cattle (Bos taurus) all occur. Animal husbandry, like nowadays, provided the inhabitants with both primary (meat, fat, bone, hide) and secondary products (milk, draught power). The remains of wild mammals have not yet been detected. However, due to the evidence of gazelle and fox, though sporadic, from the Dilmun settlement in south-west Failaka, we cannot entirely exclude that some hunting may have been practiced in the north-western part of Failaka, adjacent to Al-Khidr.

To conclude, Al-Khidr can be viewed as a Dilmun settlement with clear evidence for fishing and shellfish gathering (food?, pearling?) as well as the keeping of domestic livestock (sheep, goats, and cattle).

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Click on a map to see all known archaeological sites on Failaka island from the Bronze Age up to the present day.