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Doha dig reveals city is 200 years old

As Doha's face changes with the constant infrastructure works taking place throughout the city, recent excavations show that its beginnings could have been as long ago as 200 years

NEWS, Projects, Doha, Infrastructure, Research

According to the latest archaeological findings, Doha’s origins go back 200 years, but the ongoing infrastructure within the region could impact on the excavations.

From a seashore fishing vilage and pearl diving community, Doha has grown to become the hub of infrastructure within Qatar, including deep tunnelling excavations for Doha Metro and vast road building around the Expressway.

In a pioneering effort to find the origins of modern Doha, archaeologists have found evidence that the city was founded 200 years ago in the early 19th century.

Evidence of early habitation around the Qubib Mosque and near Musherib in the heart of Doha, a few houses, each with a kitchen and two rooms and an alley have been found, along with coins, glass, animal and botanical remains imported pottery, incense burners and merchant’s weights, The Peninsula reports..

An analysis of the findings would give a detailed insight into people’s economic life and into everyday life in old Doha.

The excavation site next to the Qubib Mosque lies between the Fardan Centre and the FANAR Centre, on the other side of Bank Street (Grand Hamad Avenue) from Souq Waqif. In 2013, another excavation was conducted in Musherib.

Dr Robert Carter, Senior Lecturer, University College of London-Qatar said that the first extensive excavations in Qatar have found a vast amount of archaeology which reveals a sequence going back to the foundation of Doha.

“The archaeological evidence from the dig supports the idea that Doha was founded in the early 19th century (early 1800s),” he said. “It is not important that Doha is only 200 years old — the period of Doha’s occupation that we excavated (19th and early 20th century) is incredibly important to this region — it is when nearly all the Gulf towns were founded,” he added.

The town located in (and under) central Doha appears to have been founded some time in the first two decades of the 1800s.

First appearing on a map in 1823, Doha was said to have been founded after Bida’ (now parkland on the other side of the Emiri Diwan), which colonial British sources thought was founded around 1801, Carter explained.

The University College of London-Qatar’s ‘The origins of Doha’ project is a research about early settlements of Doha, through the Qatar National Research Fund and the excavations were carried out with Qatar Museums.

Specific aims of the project include tracing the changing physical configuration of Bidda and Doha through time, using historic maps, aerial photographs and the excavation of archaeological deposits, said the daily, and to help archaeologists understand the development of the city and the lives of early people who lived in these structures.

“The key analysis will finish before summer 2015... We are going to get to know a very good idea of what Doha was like when it was founded and how it changed from the 19th century,” said Carter.

“We found a good sequence which could be from 1820s showing different phases of architecture. It’s a residential area. We know Doha was destroyed several times in the 19th century. When we get low the remains are heavily damaged, but we have also found a better preserved alley way, house with kitchens and rooms. That information will be the first evidence to know what life had been in one of the Gulf pearling towns,” he added.

Also the researchers have found evidence of three clusters of wells or major wells in Doha, by studying aerial images, from 1940s, which also they seek to analyse and find archeological evidence.

However, the rapid development of Doha adds urgency to this work, as much of the buried heritage relating to the original occupation of Doha is highly threatened with the vast infrastructure works presently taking place in the city.

The three-year funding by QNRF ends by 2015 and researchers of the ‘Origins of Doha Project’ expect to apply for an extension and expansion of work. Recently, new historical evidence has come to light that suggests that Bida’ (not Doha as such) was not founded in 1801, but goes back at least to 1680. Excavations have not yet been done at the Bidda area, which was a still a town until 2006. The researchers also hope to investigate places out of Doha, for comparitive purposes.

“We are like to investigate Bidda, which has historical evidence of going back to 17th century, up to 200 years older,” said Carter.


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