The beginning of the history
Oman, its neighbors, the raw materials and the imported objects (Courtesy of the Office of the Adviser to HM the Sultan for Cultural Affairs)
In Sumerian and Akkadian sources from the 3rd
millennium BC, Oman is referred to as the Land of Magan. It owed its strategic importance and economic prosperity to the copper mines located in the northern part of the country. From there the copper, transformed into ingots, was exported to Mesopotamia, Dilmun (present-day Bahrain and the eastern part of Saudi Arabia), as well as the Indus Valley. The images on carved seals and evidence from excavations of the site of Ras al-Jinz show us how merchant ships were built during the 3rd
millennium BC. The hull was made of tightly bound bundles of marsh cane and reed mats were affixed to it. Only a few parts, such as the mast and sections of the rudder, were made of wood. The hull was waterproofed inside and out with bitumen; hence these craft were known as “the black ships of Magan".
The site of Ras al-Jinz
In the 3rd millennium BC Ras al-Jinz, situated on the northern east coast of Oman, was little more than a village built of stone and mud- bricks. Its inhabitants seem to have been for the most part fishermen, although excavations have brought to light evidence of a wide range of activities – from fish processing to rope-making, boat building and the fashioning of modest ornaments from seashells – all of which suggest a certain level of social and economic development. The discovery of objects produced in Mesopotamia, the coast of Iran, the Indus Valley, and southern Arabia confirm that Ras al-Jinz was involved in international trade during that period.
The site of Bat
Located in the western part of Oman, Bat was one of the first sites in the Sultanate of Oman to be systematically excavated; this was carried out in the 1970s by a Danish archaeological expedition. The settlement includes a large necropolis and several imposing circular towers that were built in the Bronze Age. The necropolis dates from at least the middle of the 3rd
millennium BC. It was added to in successive periods, and the changing typology of the tombs allows us to follow the evolution of local burial practices, which began with individual tombs of modest dimensions and culminated in large structures, some comprising several chambers, with an external facing of squared blocks of white calcareous stone. The ‘beehive tomb’, an example of which is shown here, marked an intermediate point in the development of this culture’s funeral architecture. Such tombs typically assumed the form of truncated cones, sometimes built up from a series of concentric walls. The entrance was generally trapezoidal in form, and might be completely blocked off after the burial ceremony by the completion of an outermost encircling wall.