This piece of bone is carved in the shape of an oryx. It is probably a camel bone, although has not been scientifically tested. A small triangular piece of worked bone inlay and some copper alloy mounts or clasps, attached to remnants of cloth, were also found in the same level of the archaeological excavation. This suggests that these finds were originally all part of the same object, perhaps an inlaid piece of furniture or a box.
This decorative element was discovered in the final levels of excavations at Ruwayda, an important coastal village in northern Qatar with a fort and a mosque. This representation suggests that the antelope (family of bovids: Arabian oryx or white oryx), native to the desert and steppe regions of the Arabian Peninsula, was still part of the daily lives of the inhabitants of Qatar at that time.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT QATAR
Late Islamic Period, after 1600
Advances in maritime navigation, and the development of the region’s pearl industry, spurred international trade and stimulated the pearl fishing industry of Qatar and the Gulf. New pearling and trading towns sprang up on the north and east coast of Qatar, including Al Zubara, Qatar's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Zubara started life as a pearl fishing town in the second half of the 18th century but rapidly became the main trading town of the Gulf, transporting goods between Iraq, Iran, India and the wider Indian Ocean region. Its fortifications, market, magnificent houses, mosques and palaces survive today as an archaeological site in the north of Qatar. These connections drew Qatar and its people into global networks of exchange and consumption to an unprecedented degree.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT - REGION/GULF/WORLD
In the 17th century the Ottomans and Persians continued to exercise power in the Gulf, but European colonial powers were increasingly intruding into the region. Since the early 16th century, the Portuguese had imposed their rule after subjugating the Kingdom of Hormuz. By the early 17th century their hold had loosened as the English allied with the Persian Safavid dynasty, and then, with the Omanis, expelled them from the region. The Dutch were also involved, but eventually the region became part of the British Empire, ruled from India.
During this time, most of the major towns of the Gulf were founded, many of which are the capitals of the Gulf states today. The regions’ inhabitants took advantage of expanding opportunities for pearl fishing and trade. New global trading patterns emerged, yet ancient trading networks persisted.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
PETERSEN, A. & GREY, T., 2010, "Excavations and survey at al-Ruwaydah, a late Islamic site in northern Qatar," in Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 40, pp. 41–54.
PETERSEN, A. & GREY, T., 2012, "Palace, mosque, and tomb at al-Ruwaydah, Qatar," in Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 42, pp. 277–290.
PETERSEN, A. et al., 2016, "Ruwayda: an historic urban settlement in north Qatar," in Post-Medieval Archaeology 50/2, pp. 321–349.