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The Past

2,000 - 200 years ago

Located c. 20 kms south of al-Dhaid and 50 kms from the Sharjah coast, Mileiha is today a small village along the main north-south highway traversing the interior of the northern Emirates. On either side of the road, however, extending up to one kilometre away from the highway, lie the remains of an important settlement occupied during the later pre-Islamic era (c. third century BC - third century AD). The site was first investigated in the early 1970s by an Iraqi expedition, and then again in the 1980s and 1990s by a French team. Most recently, a local team from the Sharjah Archaeological Museum has been working at the site.

In spite of the large number of sites in the Emirates which date to the Iron Age (c. 1200-300 BC) Mileiha is virtually the only settlement known which dates to the immediately post-Iron Age period. The site consists of a large number of individual houses and craft areas where iron, bone, and stoneworking was carried out, interspersed with cemetery areas. In addition, directly under the highway is a small, square fort with rectangular corner towers which contained fragments of several coin moulds for the issues of a king named Abi'el.

Since coinage of this type was being made in the fort, it is likely that this represents the political centre of the ancient settlement.

The tombs at Mileiha included large, 'tower tombs' consisting of a subterranean brick chamber surmounted by a tall, brick tower decorated with stepped stone decorative blocks. Most graves of this type were robbed in antiquity, but shallower, pit burials excavated by the Sharjah museum have been found to contain rich horse trappings. Both horse and camel burials have been excavated at Mileiha, the horses decorated with heavy gold medallions and roundels backed with iron.

Mileiha's occupation in the last centuries BC is demonstrated by a number of finds, including imported Attic black-glazed pottery from Greece; beehive-shaped, South Arabian alabaster jars with lion handles; and stamped Rhodian amphora handles. But there is also an abundance of later material comparable to that known at al-Dur which demonstrates that the site continued to be occupied at least into the first century AD.

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