Ras al-Hadd, Oman
Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman
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About the project
The site known as HD4 at Ras al-Hadd as it looks today. This was an Islamic settlement (about tenth-fourteenth century AD) and bead workshop area. The line of the Islamic wall can still just be seen.
Ras al-Hadd is an area of small sites, typically no more than five hectares in size, dotted around a shallow coastal lagoon. The area is on the eastern coast of Oman facing the Indian Ocean at a point where the Gulf of Oman spills from the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
This places the small, modern town of Hadd at an important point for ancient trading between East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian peninsula. The archaeology of Ras al-Hadd therefore has the potential to contribute to our understanding of contacts across the Indian Ocean over the last 5,000 years.
Previous excavations by the British Museum have revealed workshops for the manufacture of goods such as beads and the exploitation of marine resources such as fish, mammals and shell fish. Analysis of charcoal recovered has been useful in determining how vegetation has changed over time in response to climate change.
Today the landscape is relatively hostile with the sea on one side and dry uplands on the other but archaeobotanical evidence suggests more vegetation existed in the past. The waters off the coast are especially rich in fish at certain times of year. The land rises rapidly into rocky hills from sea level and in these upland areas are located burial tombs and cairns.
The area of Ras al-Junayz to the south is famous for its nesting turtles and has also been the site of archaeological investigations. The archaeological evidence therefore provides interesting examples of how people adapted and exploited different ecological niches through a process which is still in evidence within the landscape today.
The coastal waters of the Arabian Sea are rich in fish and beaches at Ras al-Junayz are well established nesting sites for turtles.
Working in close collaboration with the Ministry for Heritage and Culture in Oman, the project is excavating the main settlement mound within the small town of Hadd. The low tell is the location for the oldest part of the town and a nineteenth century fort.
Surveys and excavations in the landscape around the town, inshore lagoon and surrounding hills, have identified many, smaller single-period and industrially-specialised sites but these lack a wider context. Past work has suggested that the area was particularly used for fish processing and manufacture of beads over several millennia. The site selected for this new project has the potential to provide a long historical sequence within which the smaller sites can then be situated and related.
The British Museum is working closely with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman. A new national museum is under construction in the capital, Muscat.
The area is currently under development for tourism and this work will be part of the efforts to preserve and protect Omani heritage before it is permanently altered by modern development. The project also sits within the British Museum’s wider focus on the Indian Ocean as the movement of goods and peoples would have connected the area of Ras al-Hadd to the Indus valley, Zanzibar, East Africa, the Persian Gulf, Iran and Iraq.