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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Dr Derek Kennet

Kennet, D. (2003). Julfar and the urbanisation of southeast Arabia. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 14(1): 103-125.

Author(s) from Durham


The fourteenth-sixteenth-century town of Julfar (al-Mataf) in Ras al-Khaimah (UAE) is one of the most fully investigated archaeological sites in the Gulf, having been the subject of seven different excavation projects. Evidence from the published reports, when brought together, provides a detailed and coherent picture of the development of the site from a small fishing community in the mid-fourteenth century to a fully urbanised settlement by the mid-fifteenth century, and then attests to its eventual decline and abandonment by the late sixteenth century.

Julfar was the first example of true urbanism in this part of Arabia, and therefore marks a significant historical turning point. Its development is believed to have been linked to the expanding mercantile economy of Hormuz, but it occurred at the same time as a period of spectacular rural growth in its own immediate hinterland, evidence for which has been produced by archaeological field survey. Together these phenomena suggest the development of a local market economy, perhaps for the first time, which would have had significant implications for the social and economic structure of the area.