During six seasons between 1976 and 1982 the Mission Archéologique Française à Qatar, directed by Jacques Tixier, investigated a number of prehistoric, protohistoric and Islamic sites across the Qatar peninsula. The pre-Islamic archaeological investigations concentrated on the area of al Khor on the north-east coast, where various members of the team excavated several sites with ‘Ubaid pottery and a number of undated cairn burials (Tixier 1980, Inizan 1988, Midant-Reynes 1985). As part of this team the author investigated two second-millennium BC sites during the three winter seasons of 1980–2. This report gives an account of one of these sites; a separate article will consider issues arising from the other site.
The site is located on a small island at the margin of the intertidal zone within the lagoon of Khor Shaqiq, on the north-east coast of Qatar (Fig. 1). Under present conditions a mangrove swamp lies off the east and south-east end of the island, open tidal mud-flats extend around its northern shore, and the deeper water of the bay lies to the west and south-west. Outcrops of Eocene limestone form the island core, around which lie cemented mid-Holocene beach-deposits and uncemented Holocene beach-lags (Fig. 2 inset). The latter, formed as thin alternating beds of silicate and skeletal carbonate sands, provide broad and fairly level expanses between the island shoreline and the limestone outcrops; these flats are the favoured location of human occupation. Uncemented sands, forming a chenier spit, front the south side of the island. The island lacks a permanent source of water and supports a very thin cover of xerophytic species of the Chenopodiaceae, Boraginaceae, Plumbaginaceae and Gramineae families.