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head-dress / amulet

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    2009,6023.245

  • Description

    Woman's head-dress made of dark brown woven strips of goat-leather (shabka, literally 'net') in the form of a large hair-net which covers the entire head. The front of the head-dress is decorated with seven horizontal rows of silver studs (nujum, meaning 'stars') that are bordered with five rows of silver chains and one row of floral stamped gold-leaf plaques. The sides and back of the head-dress are embellished with rows of hammered silver discs and tube-shaped silver beads with granulated decoration. At the base of the head-dress are tightly wound coils of leather that are bunched together forming heavy sausage-shapes. Two plain silver discs and a silver granulated 'Hand of Fatima' form the forehead ornament ('alaka). Three long braids of leather, affixed on each side of the head-dress, are meant to be tied firmly at the back of the neck to keep it in place on the head. The shabka is worn on special occasions by the Bedouin women of central and northern Oman (e.g. Bidiyah and areas in the Wahiba Sands). The hair underneath the shabka would be plaited and knotted into a bunch at the nape of the neck and wrapped in a fine-meshed black cloth. When worn, the shabka itself was also covered by a fine-mesh see-through black head-shawl. It was sometimes combined with a similary constructed leather collar (see 2009,6023.246).

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  • Date

    • 1950s
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 33 centimetres (excluding forehead ornament)
    • Width: 37 centimetres
    • Weight: 538 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    For similar examples see: Ruth Hawley, 'Silver: The Traditional Art of Oman' (London, 2000); Neil Richardson and Marcia Dorr, 'The Craft Heritage of Oman' (Dubai, 2003). This type of head-dress is sometimes worn with a similarly decorated leather collar (see BM object 2009,6023.246). According to Avelyn Forster, this type of leather headdress and collar seems to be worn by the mountain tribeswomen of Oman where the climate remains relatively cool and can be extremely cold in the winter months. A. Forster, 'Disappearing Treasures of Oman' (Clevedon, 2000:67-68). According to Jehan Rajab, this type of headdress and collar is made by the women of the Wahiba Sands and, 'each cap is individually made for and by that person alone.' J. S. Rajab, 'Silver Jewellery of Oman' (Kuwait, 1997:66-67).

    According to Miranda Morris, 'The forehead piece, the 'alaka, was attached to the front of the head-dress - with shy or reserved women, this was the only part of the shabka which was readily visible when worn; but younger and less shy women usually contrived to arrange their head-shawl in such a way as to show off as much of their head-dress as possible...This fine head-dress was worn only for special festivals, such as weddings, Eid celebrations, public circumcision ceremonies and on other occasions when a number of households met to mark some happy event (sharh).' Miranda Morris and Pauline Shelton, 'Oman Adorned: A Portrait in Silver' (Muscat, 1997), p.159.

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  • Location

    Not on display

  • Condition

    Fair

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    2009

  • Acquisition notes

    This object is part of a collection of 20th century silver items (2009,6023.1 ff.) acquired in Oman between 1987-1995. This collection was mainly acquired in the markets of Nizwa, Mutrah and Rustaq and a small number of pieces were acquired in Sur, Wadi Bani Ouf, Bahla, Ibra and Ibri.

  • Department

    Middle East

  • Registration number

    2009,6023.245


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Object reference number: RRM41450

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