| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Can she dig it?

Budding archaeologist Anelisa Lambert certainly can...

© ITP Images

How did you get into archaeology?
It started when I was in primary school. We used to move country every three years or so, and we lived in Greece for a while. I went on amazing field trips to Olympia, Mycenae and Knossos in Crete, and they just blew me away. I had a really inspiring teacher who was fascinated by the decoding of ancient languages like Linear B – a Minoan script – and that really sparked my imagination as a child. Ever since then I’ve always made a point of visiting historical sites wherever we’ve been living, working on the odd dig, and doing archaeology courses.

Is there much opportunity for archaeology in Dubai?
I really thought the UAE would be all shopping and shiny buildings, but when I googled ‘archaeology Dubai’ I found the Dubai Tourism website (www.dubaitourism.ae), which featured many of the heritage sites in and around the city. I asked if I could volunteer, and got involved through the Jumeirah archaeological site – a fabulous facility – and am now lucky enough to do some volunteer work on an Iron Age site. Believe it or not, there are numerous sites across the UAE.

What have you discovered about the UAE’s history?
I think we all have very little appreciation for what life was like here in the past. In more recent times, life was fairly poor and quite tough, but the climate may have been very different prior to the Iron Age: the Indian monsoon rains came much further inland resulting in a lot more moisture, so life was probably quite different and much richer than the more recent arid conditions allowed. We’ve unearthed some beautiful artefacts – jewellery, beads made from shells and carnelian (a semi-precious stone), wonderful incense burners, a lot of bronze pots and some fabulously engraved dagger handles.

What’s the attraction?
There comes a point in life when you realise how you want to spend your time, and archaeology has always been my passion. I’m enjoying being a stay-at-home mum at the moment, but sometimes I just need something for myself, so once or twice a week I go off and dig around in seven-metre sand dunes! Yes, it’s challenging, it’s physical and it’s pretty mucky, but I’m used to that. It’s painstaking work – even a little bit of wind can make it tricky – and you have to work quite slowly with a trowel and a brush because while you won’t fail to see a bronze pot, some of the smaller arrow heads or beautiful beads are so tiny they can be easy to miss. Drawings, photographs and coordinates have to be completed for each trench and artefact, in order to maintain a really good written record.

Can anyone join in?
If people have an interest, volunteers are welcome.

Does your daughter join you?
Serena is interested and has visited a site with me. We’ve travelled a lot so she’s been dragged round museums, but rugby is her primary concern!

Time Out Dubai,

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