Tombs are the most typical feature of the architecture of the Bronze Age in Oman. Attested from the 3rd millennium BC, they punctuated, in number of thousands, the landscape of the country, placed on isolated hills on the interior or grouped on cliffs facing the sea.
Together with the cairn tombs, monumental towers represent the key monument of the Bronze Age culture all over the Oman Peninsula, scattered over the territories of today’s United Arab Emirates and Sultanate of Oman.
It is debated, therefore, whether these represent isolated sites or are just one component of a more extensive settlement defined by a number of similar buildings.
Built of hilltops and hill slopes, these constructions are usually referred to as “beehive” or “cairn” tombs in the Omani territory. Similar constructions have been unearthed also in Yemen where are called “turret graves”.
Beehive 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.
The remains of two tombs of the Bronze Age were discovered on the top of the hill of Salut, associated with residual funerary goods including a collection of beads, a bronze pin and a white stone mace-head.
Tombs of the same period are located along the crest of Jabal Salut, north-east from the site. From here the ancestors were guarding Salut. A few contemporary materials were discovered, which luckily survived the action of time, weather and looters.
In Oman, a different type of monumental tombs developed in the second half of the third millennium: the Umm an-Nar tombs.
Main features of these tombs were internal partitions and the external sheathing made with whitish, carefully polished blocks, in some cases decorated with reliefs. Here in the picture is the representation of a Hili tomb, where two men holding hands in between two oryxes or ibexes carved at the entrance.
A massive tower, dating to the third millennium BC, was uncovered by the IMTO a few hundred meters to the northwest of the site of Salut. It was built using huge boulders taken from the rocky ridges nearby, and a well was dug in its centre. It is probable that there was a building or series of buildings on top of the tower.
Two roughly oval structures were discovered outside the tower: they could have been houses or, more likely, buildings with some communal function, as houses were probably built in more perishable materials.
A huge ditch, over 11 meters wide and almost 3 meters deep, surrounded the Bronze Age Tower of Salut. If it has to be interpreted as a defensive device, the question is from whom were the inhabitants so eager to defend themselves. This in turn has implications regarding the possibly bellicose nature of Bronze Age society at this time.
Probably these ditches served more than one purpose: they surely had a role in water management, serving as a water reserve and probably as a protection against floods.
Ditches similar to those excavated around the Monumental Tower of Salut have been discovered in different Omani sites as well as Hili 8.