• archaeology;
  • United Arab Emirates;
  • Dubai;
  • Iron Age;
  • Wadi Suq;
  • snake cult;
  • ground-penetrating radar;
  • optically stimulated luminescence

The 2008–2009 excavations conducted by the Dubai Desert Survey at Saruq al-Hadid, Dubai, have transformed our interpretation of the site from an Iron Age bronze production centre to a site with multiple occupations over the course of more than three millennia; they underline the importance of this site for understanding land use and settlement patterns in the deserts of the Oman peninsula. Saruq al-Hadid probably began as an oasis site where nomadic pastoralists during the Umm an-Nar and Wadi Suq periods camped and took advantage of a relatively well-watered landscape. In contrast, Iron Age remains at the site do not bear any definite signs of settlement per se; instead, the material culture suggests that Saruq al-Hadid may have been one of several sites in south-east Arabia that were dedicated to a snake cult. The site is capped by waste from an intensive metalworking operation that appears to have taken place during the later first millennium BC. Iron age and later remains from the site tie Saruq al-Hadid to a regional network of settlement and trade centres and suggest that, like the mountain piedmont and coasts, the sandy desert expanses of the Oman peninsula held economic and ritual importance in the overall landscape.