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German universities research archaeological sites in Central Oman.

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The Wilayat al-Mudhaybi, located in the Sharqiyah North Province of the Sultanate of Oman, is rich in archaeological sites. Several thousand graves, as well as many settlements and monumental buildings, are known from the Bronze Age (ca. 3100-1300 BC).

Since 2015, archaeological investigations by the Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Tübingen have been taking place in this region. The team from the Goethe University, led by Dr. Stephanie Döpper, conducts an archaeological survey, i.e., fieldwalking and landscape exploration of the region in order to gain an overview of its settlement history. The studies of the University of Tübingen, led by Dr. Conrad Schmidt, focus on the Early Bronze Age (c. 3100-2000 BC) site al-Khashbah.

The archaeological survey by the Goethe University aims to provide an overview of the settlement history in a 30 x 30 km area around the modern city of al-Mudhaybi by mapping all archaeological structures in this area.

As a first step, potential archaeological structures were located on satellite images and, then, ground-truthed in 2019 in Oman. Through this method, 1781 structures from the satellite images could be verified, 534 could not. There were also 2174 structures that were newly discovered during on-site verification. The vast majority of all structures are Bronze Age tombs.

In 2020 and 2021, the study area will be systematically field-walked in north-south transects that are 4 km apart. All the finds discovered in the process are fully documented in order to gain an overview of the distribution of smaller archaeological structures that cannot be seen on the satellite images.

The archaeological research in al-Khashbah took place between 2015 and 2019. The excavations focused on two monumental buildings, Building I and Building V, which date to the first part of the early Bronze Age, the so-called Hafit period (ca. 3100-2700 BC).

Building V is Oman's oldest monumental building known to date. Radiocarbon measurements on charcoal date the building to around 3100 BC. It has a circular stone main wall with a diameter of 25 m. Thousands of crucible fragments, as well as slag and copper prills, demonstrate that there was intensive copper production at the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

Building I is a complex of several mud-brick buildings surrounded by large ditches. The excavations mainly produced stone tools and waste from their manufacture, as well as beads and bead blanks. These finds show that a number of craft activities were carried out here. Charcoal samples date Building I to 2800 BC.

Further information:

A large number of Omani students visit the excavation sites.

The German-Omani Society supports this research by funding an information board in Arabic and English about the historical background.

Students of all disciplines can take part in the excavations in Oman.

Dr. Stephanie Döpper
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften
Abt. I: Vorderasiatische und Klassische Archäologie
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1
60629 Frankfurt am Main
Email: doepperem.uni-frankfurtde

Frühbronzezeitliche Gräber in der Wilayat al-Mudhaybi
Early Bronze Age tombs in the Wilayat al-Mudhaybi
Studierende der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt bei der Arbeit.
Goethe University students at work.
Studierende der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt bei der Arbeit.
Studierender der Universität Tübingen bei den Ausgrabungen am Gebäude V.
Tübingen University student excavating Building V.