Slovak archaeologists found gemstones of Old Christian community in Kuwait

Amethysts probably come from Sri Lanka and are a testament to the long-distance trade of the Old Christian Nestorian community, which inhabited today's Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf in the Middle Ages.

Semi-precious stones, jewellery, as well as containers made of rare glass and other findings have been found by a Slovak archaeologist during this year's research mission in Kuwait. The Old Christian community of Nestorians left them on today's Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf where they lived in the early Middle Ages.

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Read also: Slovak Egyptologists show how an ancient Egyptian settlement looked Read more 

Scientists from the Archaeological Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences in Nitra in cooperation with the Kuwaiti National Museum has scrutinized in detail a complex of buildings with a large residential building and more economic objects. There are more than 140 such buildings in the settlement of Al Qasr from the 7th to 8th centuries. Economic units served not only for housing, but ancient residents also bred cattle, kept and processed grain from surrounding fields and dedicated to crafts - including the splitting and working of semi-precious stones.

"The extensive collection of raw materials has been preserved in the complex, semiprecious stones, mostly amethysts, which probably originate from Sri Lanka and are evidence of long-distance trade,” said the head of terrain research in Kuwait, Karol Pieta, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

“It corresponds to the contemporary characteristics of the community of Nestorian Christians who were missionaries and spread the Christian faith further east to India, China, but at the same time were also traders and skilled craftsmen, hunters, as well as distributing pearls," he told SITA.

Fashion hit

Archaeologists have found five kilograms of raw material the Nestorians used for the production of jewellery. Amethysts were a sought-after item at the time.

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"They were set in jewellery, their bead shapes a fashionable hit. Thanks to the trade that flowed from east to west, they were entering deep into Europe,” Pieta said, as quoted by SITA.

Read also: Slovak archaeologists will work in Sudan, China and Kuwait in 2019 Read more 

In the 7th century, Islam spread in the Gulf, but still, Christian communities also lived here. The desert island of Falaika was green in that time.

Slovak archaeologists have been working in Kuwait with breaks since 2004. During this year's research season they have found many ceramics, decorated glass jars and glasses of precious Syrian or Egyptian glass, various decorations, articles of daily use and also the bones of animals whose age can be accurately determined using the radiocarbon method.

"A great problem of previous research in the Gulf region was the lack of accurate time data. Just our research has provided more accurate data from recent years and we know that we are moving from the first half of the 7th to the second half of the 8th century," said director of Archaeological Institute in Nitra and head of Kuwaiti-Slovak mission, Matej Ruttkay, as quoted by SITA. The findings of Slovak archaeologists will help chronology throughout the Gulf region.

Saved the findings

With the help of drones and geodetic measurements this year, scientists managed to map the entire early-middle age settlement and discover unknown buildings. They collected a number of findings that were located on the surface. They saved them from being destroyed because camels graze right on archaeological sites and the locals are driving off-road cars in the area. Thanks to this year's specific climate ratio - wet winter - the desert island almost turned green.

"Detailed research has shown that thanks to the so-called vegetation signs can be used to identify extinct objects based on a reddish colour. Also, thanks to the signs and combined with field photogrammetry, we completed the original look of the central and eastern parts of settlements and found out unknown courts," he added, as quoted by SITA.

There are two churches in the centre of the inhabited area and monastery. The mystery remains where residents at that time buried their deceased because with the exception of one person buried in the church, no human remains have been found.

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