Over the last 200 years, there have been at least four instances of the people of Doha resolving to rebuild the city from scratch, a new archaeological project has revealed.
The findings of the Old Doha Rescue Excavation initiative were unveiled by UCL Qatar and Qatar Museums (QM) at a public event recently.
Professor Robert Carter, professorial research fellow at UCL Qatar, and Dr Ferhan Sakal, head of archaeological operations at QM, discussed, in a lecture, the work their teams had carried out at the archeological dig close to the major city landmark - Souq Waqif.
The lecture was the latest in the UCL Qatar public lectures series.
Noting Qatar’s perpetual resilience, Prof Carter explained how from the early 1800s through to the 20th century, the land of Doha was marked by a perpetual state of flux and development, both as a pearl-oriented economy and as a habitat.
About the people of Doha resolving to rebuild the city from scratch several times, Dr Sakal noted how evidence of this “literally lies beneath our feet”, with the excavation finding Doha’s population of the time used infrastructure that already existed to recreate homes and buildings on top of constructions that had previously been dismantled, according to a statement.
The speakers also noted how Doha’s initial development, as with many of the biggest hubs in the Gulf, was inspired by the pearl fishing industry. It is believed that from the early 19th century, the Gulf provided around 80% of the world’s pearls, with Qatar being a foremost player in the region.
The research has also uncovered evidence that shows Qatar has always been globally connected and how the pearl trade – considered for centuries a luxury item in the West – led to importation of foreign goods such as ceramics from Europe and Far East, UCL Qatar said in a statement.
Such was Qatar’s connection to the global market in the 20th century that the pearl industry was heavily impacted by the Great Depression in 1929, with this event disrupting the pearl fishing economy because of its impact on Qatar’s trading partners, a mere 20 years or so before the discovery of oil once again led to a period of reconsolidation and development.
Professor Carter said, “Today’s Doha reflects a process of adaptability and development that has been in place for hundreds of years. This study informs us about the living experiences of the people before us, and how Qatar was intimately connected to global networks – global patterns of trade, economics and consumption.
“It shows us how the distant and recent inhabitants of the town rose to the challenges, which occur from living in a once geographically isolated place – factual evidence of which has been hitherto absent from historical sources. Building, buying and global expansion is not new to the people of Qatar.
Dr Sakal added, “Based on this kind of development-led archaeological project, researchers are able to extract information and insights previously unavailable. This work is fascinating because of what it tells us about the history that literally lies beneath our feet in this special country. The findings serve to enhance the heritage of Qatar and improve awareness of its rich history.”
The research was delivered through the Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation, and was supported by the Qatar National Research Fund.
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