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Early Society in Oman

Wattayah, located in the governorate of Muscat, is the oldest human settlement and dates to the Stone Age, making it around 10,000 years old. Archaeological remains from different dates have been discovered here, the earliest representing the Stone Age, then the Heliocene Age and finally, the Bronze Age. Findings have consisted of stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths. The latter date back to 7615 BC and are the oldest signs of human settlement in the area. Other discoveries include hand-moulded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements made from slivers of quartz, and sharp, pointed tools and scrapers.

On a mountain rock-face in the same district, animal drawings have been discovered. Similar drawings have also been found in the Wadi Sahtan and Wadi Bani Kharus areas of Rustaq. These drawings consist of human figures carrying weapons and being confronted by wild animals. Siwan in Haima is another Stone Age location and some of the archaeological finds have included arrowheads, knives, chisels and circular stones which have been used to throw at animals.

Ras al-Hamra, in the north west of Muscat, contains evidence to show that the region had human settlements in the fourth millennium BC. The site consists of settlements heaped one on top of the other. The layer representing the dwellings is composed of sand, shells, fishbone, ash and coal. Interestingly, no pottery remains have been found.

Other archaeological finds include a symmetrically shaped pit, such as might be used for waste disposal, fire hearths, flint tools, snare weights fashioned from rock crystal, and hunting hooks made from copper and seashells. Hunting fish and turtles appears to have been the principal activity of these dwellers.

There was evidence that the lotus tree was widespread, as well as mangrove swamps, sorghum and mulberry bushes. The inhabitants of this time built their homes from branches and reeds. The dwellings were circular in shape with a central excavation.

A burial ground was unearthed at this site which contained 220 skeletons lying on one side in a foetal position facing the sea (the source of their subsistence), their arms folded upwards and back. In some cases the hand was folded firmly over an oyster. However, in one case a pearl was discovered. This pearl is one of the oldest examples found in the Gulf. In many cases, the skeleton was adorned with jewellery made from shells, including rings and bracelets, along with necklets made from stone beads with shell pendants shaped like leaves.

There are many locations throughout the Sultanate which represent the third millennium BC, including Bat, Ras Al-Hadd and Samad Al-Shan. Bat is east of Ibri in the Dhahirah region. A burial site located at a distance of 1-2 km north of the village was discovered which consisted of 100 burial sites made from stone. These have become known as the Bat Tombs and they are circular in shape, constructed from blocks of local stone and incorporating two walled enclosures, one inside the other, constituting the burial structure. Parallels between these tombs and those found at Umm Nar in the United Arab Emirates have been made. A fine quality of terracotta earthenware has been found at both sites and the interior walled enclosure of the tombs has had the effect of sectioning it into several chambers.

The vestiges of six square-based stone towers, marking out and enclosing rectangular shaped dwellings has been unearthed. It has been calculated that the height of one of the six towers was over ten meters. Carbon dating has placed the structures at 2750BC. Water channels have been uncovered which were probably used to deliver water from a more remote spot, making them some of the first examples of the aflaj irrigation system in Oman.

The Samad Al-Shan site is located in the wilayat of Al-Mudhaibi in the eastern part of the Sultanate. There are a number of ring-shaped graves huddled together which are built from large stone blocks and three different types have been identified: The men's graves contained iron and copper weapons, such as daggers, knives and arrowheads as well as large earthenware jars and shells used as drinking vessels; The women's graves have deep stone vessels and earthenware flasks for storing viscous liquids such as essences and shells containing a green substance used as a cosmetic, together with a variety of shells; Dual graves, containing the skeletons of men and women together.

Archaeological studies of the artefacts from this site have established that it dates back to around 500BC. The pottery has been hand-made from a coarse clay and fired at a moderate temperature.

At the Ras Al-Hadd site in Sur, an edifice has been discovered which is constructed of brick and sub-divided into several elongated chambers. It is thought that these were used for storage. A workshop for carving flintheads was also identified in which were found fragments of red shert, a type of flint specifically associated with the pre-historic period. The workshop was also used as a production unit for making jewellery from shells, such as rings, beads and pendants.

A number of pots were found, the most important dating back to the third millenium BC. These are of the Harappan type and probably belong to the last of the Mohanjudaru Dynasty from India. Red terracotta earthenware was also found, with dark stripes and illustrations. Other archaeological discoveries include pieces of burnished pottery of the Sassanid Islamic period and also African ware and Chinese porcelain.

The buildings are distinguished by their unique use of brick. This is the only district in Oman and its environs, including south of Iran, Baluchistan and the Sind Valley, where brick was used during the Bronze Age. It has been surmised that the inhabitants of Ras al-Hadd were pioneers of using brick as a construction material, a practise which persisted for more than 1500 years in Oman.

The most commonly found artefacts are flint implements: chisels used for boring holes into beads, hammers, stone snare weights and shell ornaments such as rings, necklets and oyster shells containing antimony. A variety of beads have also been unearthed, made from red carnelian and lapis lazuli, as well as green porcelain vessels dating to around 1800BC. There were also large quantities of bones from fish, turtles and sharks.



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