Thursday, August 17, 2006

ARAMAIC IN THE UAE? This Gulf News article on archaeology in the UAE (via the Agade list) has an interesting aside. It begins:
Sharjah treasures its prehistoric links

By Mariam M. Al Serkal, Staff Reporter

The UAE has a long history that was shaped over the centuries by the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the sands towards Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter.

Little archaeological research was conducted in the Arabian Peninsula before World War II and only the remains in Yemen and Bahrain were studied. The first excavations in the UAE originally began in the late 1950s, when a Danish team of archaeologists investigated sites at Al Ain Oasis.

In 1992, a local archaeological team from the Directorate of Antiquities in Sharjah launched its first excavation in Khor Kalba and other parts of the emirate that are currently displayed in the new Archaeological Museum, which was inaugurated in May 1997 by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
It goes on to discuss excavations in Sharjah and then the Archaeological Museum and its displays. Then we read:
The fourth stage covers the period from 300 BC-611 AD, where models of burial methods and housing units are on display.

Exhibits include samples of weapons used at the time, such as arrow heads, spears, daggers and ornamentation items.

This period marks the appearance of writing in the region, which is represented in the Southern Musnad calligraphy and Aramiac writings that are on display.
This makes it sound as though there are Aramaic inscriptions in the museum and therefore that there were speakers of Aramaic in the region in antiquity. The Museum website has more details:
Also on display in the hall that covers this period are several ornamentation materials in use during the period. It records the beginning of the appearance of writing in the area represented in the Southern Musnad Calligraphy (Southern Arabian writing found mainly in the Kingdoms of Yemen and used by the people of North-Eastern Arabia) and some Aramaic writings which were in practice in Maleeha, a district of Sharjah, and finally replaced the Southern Arabian writing which apparently disappeared at the advent of Christianity.
The page goes on to say that Maleeha was a port, so presumably Aramaic-speaking traders could have traveled through it. Or is this rather a reference to an Aramaic-inspired alphabet in which an Arabian dialect was written? I don't know the ancient history or philology of the region. Can anyone clarify?

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