We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Qarn al-Harf

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This project involves the excavation of a cemetery of monumental Bronze Age collective burials in Northern Ras al-Khaimah (UAE) in collaboration with the National Museum of Ras al-Khaimah.

During the Wadi Suq period (2000 – 1700 BC) the culturally homogenous structures of the preceding Umm al-Nar period (c 2500-2000 BC) broke down into a series of regional cultural entities. This is most clearly reflected in burial practices and tomb architecture. Whilst across much of the Oman Peninsula the surface-built, monumental, collective burial tradition of the Umm al-Nar developed into a tradition of single, subterranean burials only in northern Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah does the surface-built, monumental, collective burial tradition seem to survive. However, it is in a different style that lacks the careful ashlar facing stones and circular layout with complex internal subdivisions.

At Qarn al-Harf - a site which lies at the back of the fertile Jiri plain behind Falayya - three monumental Wadi Suq tombs were excavated in the spring of 2013 along with a series of six smaller collective tombs arranged in a line along the top of a low ridge and a number of smaller burials. The biggest three tombs each had different layouts but were all substantial, stone-built, corbelled structures, being amongst the largest of the Wadi Suq tombs so far excavated in the area. One of the tombs, QaH 6, appears to be a transitional Umm al-Nar/Wadi Suq structure, whilst the others (QaH 2, 5 and the six tombs of QaH1) all appear to date somewhat later in the Wadi Suq period.

The MNIs of human burials within the main tombs varies between over 100 to as low as 4. A large variety of objects were found inside the tombs, including metalwork (spearheads, arrowheads, razors, pendants, blades), beads, pottery and soft-stone vessels.

The excavations came to an end in February 2013 and the material is now being catalogued and studied in preparation for publication.


From the Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China