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Sculptures Linked to Beginning of Oman’s History Unearthed

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« on: December 29, 2008, 05:17:03 am »

Khaleej Times Online >> News >> REGION

Sculptures Linked to Beginning of Oman’s History Unearthed

Ravindra Nath

29 December 2008   
MUSCAT - Archaeologists excavating at a site in Oman’s interior Dhakhliya region have unearthed hitherto unknown facts about the origin of the country’s history.

At another location in the southern Dhofar governorate, they discovered the stone sculpture of a full human head inside what they describe as a ‘monumental building’.

The exciting new finds were revealed by Professor Alessandra Avanzini, who headed the expedition team, at a news conference here on Saturday at the Office of the Advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for Cultural Affairs under whose support and supervision the studies were conducted.

She said the importance of the archaeological site in Dhakhliya, ‘Salut’ at Bahla, was “directly linked to the beginning of the history of Oman, and thus related to the early arrival of the Arab tribes from other parts of Arabia.” The site is also linked to the early evidence of the Aflaj system in the Sultanate.

Salut, situated on a rocky outcrop of about 20.45m, above the level of the surrounding plain, lies in the middle of an ancient oasis, which occupies a large area in the western part of a valley, crossed by Wadi Bahla and Wadi Sayfam. After the initial surveys, the Iron period of Salut (from 1400 to 600 BC) came to light. “Surely, Salut is one of the most important sites for the knowledge of this period, so far not well known, in Eastern Arabia,” Avanzini, Director of the Italian Mission in Oman at the University of Pisa in Italy, observed.

More significant evidence was discovered during the latest excavations. A large circular stone structure was found directly under the surface of the platform, indicating a much earlier phase of the settlement in the early Bronze Age, third millennium BC.

“We obtained a clarification of the plan of the Early Bronze Age structure: it is a large circular structure, located on what would have been the highest point on the hilltop, with concentric walls and a diameter in the order of 12 metres,” Avanzini said, adding: “It is a monumental tomb. Partial human remains have been found; there are sufficient long bones to show that it had been placed in a flexed position.”

The archaeologists also found a number of other interesting finds nearby, including beads, bronze pin and a white stone mace-head. The structure foundations lie directly on the bedrock; the structure has been covered by the iron mud-brick surface.

On its east side, which represents the steepest slope of the hill, the site features a large buttress built against the outside wall. Preliminary clearing on the slope, Avanzini said, had already revealed a substantial wall from the top of the hill. “The buttress and the wall reveal that these most probably date back to the Bronze Age. During further removal of collapsed stones, a possible door through the tower wall has been revealed. In front of the door, two alignments of huge natural stones could indicate the way to enter into the fortified site,” she added.

The large amount of artefacts revealed during the excavations — stone and bronze tools, pottery vessels, votive objects, in particular snakes, as well as constructional technique of mud-brick and stone structure of Salut, she stressed, were a proof of the historical importance of the site in the history of Oman. “The archaeological relevance of Salut resides both in its developed fortification and monumental architecture and in the use of a sophisticated irrigation system known as Aflaj,” the Italian archaeologist said.

Speaking about excavations in the Khor Rori ‘Sumhuram’ site in Dhofar, Avanzini said a restoration campaign there from October 11 to December 11 focused on three areas considered strategic — the outer city walls, facing the entrance of the site, the gate complex and the main structures of the ‘Monumental Building’.

Confining her briefing to the monumental building, she said it was characterised by a clear ‘cultic function’. Along all the walls of the room ran low benches and at each corner of the room stood a squared feature. At its southern end, the area is closed by a sort of little altar. “This altar is U-shaped and two little decorated pillars stand near the eastern corner, bearing the image of a snake. From this room the most interesting finding of the last campaign came out…   A stone sculpture of a complete human head, from the surface. It is the first human head discovered in Sumhuram. The original function is supposed to be funerary, but the piece has been re-employed.”

The scientists also came across a tall incense burner (l5.5 cm) with high-truncated pyramidal-shaped base. The base is decorated with projecting and recessing panels, with slightly winding snakes. On the frontal face of the cubic element is depicted the astral motif made from the crescent moon with a disk inside. The lateral faces present an eagle with opened wings and a feline (panther),” she pointed out.

“A tall incense burner (15 cm) complete except for three of the four decorative elements was placed in the corner. All the four faces are decorated,” Avanzini said. Besides the composite shape, the most interesting feature, she added, was that the decoration on face 2 consisted of three animals — a lion and two ibexes.
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