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Key Iron Age site of eastern Arabia found in Oman

With the support and supervision of the office of the Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs, an Italian expedition from the University of Pisa has continued its work at the archaeological site of Khor Rori “Sumhuram,” Al Baleed, and Wabar, in the Governorate of Dhofar.

Key Iron Age site of eastern Arabia found in Oman
The site also provides early evidence of the Aflaj system 
in the Omani peninsula [Credit: ONA]
The Italian mission was invited in 2004 to conduct a preliminarily study of what has now been confirmed as be the Salut Ancient Castle and Village, at Buhla in the Governorate of A’Dakhiliya.

The historical importance of Salut is 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 also provides early evidence of the Aflaj system in the Omani peninsula.

This work resulted in a site that is now a prominent landmark in the area and can be safely visited and understood by tourists.

The scope of the IMTO’s involvement in Salut has gradually widened over the years, and in 2010, an investigation into the Early Bronze Age tower site (ST1; roughly 2450-2100/2000 BC), located some 300 meters to the northwest of Hisn Salut, was started. Extensive excavations continued until late 2015, bringing to light a complex monumental water management system.

Here, a remarkably dense scatter of Iron Age shreds had already been recorded, as well as the presence of buried large stone walls. Recently, an Iron Age stamp seal and occasional stone vessels fragments were collected from the surface of this area.

Excavations at the northern edge of this terrace revealed that it contains a substantial stone wall that also comprises an occasional megalithic. More importantly, this wall does not seem to be just a containment wall for the aforementioned large terrace, but is rather the actual fortification wall closing the settlement to the north. Its western end was in fact discovered, and ancient stratigraphy was unearthed against its southern face.

The actual seat of Salut’s main settlement area, directly connected with Hisn Salut, and prominent among the other smaller sites was located during previous surveys conducted by the IMTO.

This development allowed the team to name the site as Qaryat Salut Alathariyah, “Salut Ancient Village.”The importance of this discovery can hardly be overestimated. What the team appears to be facing is, especially when considered together with Hisn Salut, is the most impressive Iron Age complex discovered so far in the whole Eastern Arabia.

Besides, the presence of the intact, Iron Age surfaces at least in the part of the settlement located on the plain has already been verified. The stratigraphy along the hill slopes probably suffered from more impacting erosion, but original floors were anyhow discovered at least on the lower terraces, and indications about the presence of water drainage devices collected.

A project for protecting the site from runoffs occurring after heavy rains was drafted and has already been partially realized with the erection of the site’s perimeter wall. Moreover, a few tombs crowning the crest of Jabal Salut, that is, the hill that faces Hisn Salut to the northeast, were fully excavated and philologically reconstructed, as well as a small, likely Late Iron Age (650-300 BC), shrine that had been erected directly above a cluster of dismantled tombs.

After bringing these fundamental projects to an end, in December 2015, investigations were re-launched in the proximity of Hisn Salut, on the remaining slopes of the hill that hosts it and its surroundings.

These renewed excavations revealed an even more outstanding situation where the remains of an actual settlement were discovered. While it is true that the presence of some buried walls and stones alignments was already known to IMTO’s team, the results of the first field season went beyond the most optimistic expectations.

The whole hill on which the Hisn Salut stands is in fact occupied by an extensive terrace system, which also comprises some monumental features. Work mainly focused on the eastern slope of the hill, but several walls were already outlined on the opposite slope as well.

Moreover, a few surroundings traced on the plain to the east of the site provided evidence that the structures also extended in that area. The same is true to the north of the Salut hill where a large terrace, slightly less than two meters higher than the surrounding plain, has been found.

This situation is of immense scientific importance as the complete excavation of the settlement, although surely needing a long time when properly done.

A programme of long-lasting, extensive excavations has already been compiled and had started on January 15, relying as usual on the collaboration and invaluable support of the Office of the Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs.

Source: Times of Oman [January 18, 2016]

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