salut virtual museum

Discovering Ancient Oman

Arts & Crafts

The availability of new raw materials, the diffusion of new technologies and the drastic cultural change in central Oman lead to the introduction of a new material culture at the end of the Early Iron Age.
 
Our knowledge for this period at Salut comes mainly from the excavation of the cemetery, although evidence from the settlement (Qaryat Salut) is not absent, albeit difficult to interpret.
Materials, shapes, and decoration patterns are consistent with what known from contemporary sites of south-eastern Arabia such as Mleiha, Ed-Dur, Samad al-Shan and Dibba, to mention but the most extensively investigated ones.


Pottery

The pottery assemblage shows considerable differences compared to that known for the Early Iron Age. Traditional shapes such as long-handled bowls, bridge spouted jars, carinated cups and decorative patterns such as applied snakes, disappear in favour of a more standardized pottery often finished with the fast lathe.
 
Pilgrim flasks, oval or rounded jars, often with suspension handles, are commonly found in central Oman during the Late Iron Age. The introduction of superficial glazing for bowls, jars and other shapes represents one of the most evident innovations in pottery making for this period.


Stone vessel

The introduction of the fast lathe represented the key innovation in the production of soft-stone vessels: thanks to this tecnhology, it was possible to create more regular vessels with a circular cross-section and develop different types of closed shapes, like small circular boxes and beakers, or open shapes, such as bowls and pedestal dishes. Lids are also fast lathe turned, and show regularity and experimentation in the shapes and in the decorations.
 
In fact, while the traditional freehand-engraved motifs are mostly abandoned, in this period a linear and schematic decoration is preferred.
 
A different raw material than in the past is also used: dark blue or blackish stones are predominantly used, although some light grey or pale blue vessels are still attested.


Bronze ritual objects

The use of bronze objects continues in this period, despite the large diffusion of iron working for many productions. Bronze working now includes a particular class of artifacts related to the ritual dimension of the banquet. This specialization somehow agrees with the tradition of the Early Iron Age, when pottery drinking sets were common, but at the same time it involves the introduction of new elements, in particular of theriomorphic representations.
 
At the SLP graveyard outstanding artefacts were discovered like the one in the picture, which shows a bronze drinking set consisting of a ladle, whose handle ends with an animal head, a strainer, a small open bowl and a bowl with a horse-protome shaped spout shape, all part of the grave-goods.
 
The horse motif appears to be widely spread in this period, while snake decoration, widespread during the Early Iron Age, is no longer equally appreciated.


Weapons

In the Late Iron Age a most significant innovation is the spread of iron weapons in place of the earlier bronze ones.
 
In the SLP graveyard, weapons, namely arrowheads and swords, are the most abundant class of materials represented in the tombs. Arrowheads usually come in large groups, which suggests they were deposited (as complete arrows) within now disappeared quivers. Swords can be different in size and shapes; some have been deposited with their organic matter sheath (leather or wood), of which only the metal parts survive.
 
This abundance of weapons is also common at contemporary sites with the LIA graveyard of Salut, such as Mleiha, Ed-Dur and Samad al-Shan.


Jewels and seals

Jewels are a very rare find, both in settlements and in cemeteries, as objects in gold, silver, and other precious metals or stones have been looted from antiquity to the present day.
 
The tombs of the SLP graveyard at Salut did not escape looting as well, but some fortunate discoveries such as this little fragment of a gold jewel indicate that bodies were buried adorned with their own jewels.
 
This jewelry masterpiece shows small gold beads soldered to a flat silver-base support. They are arranged in a semicircle, while the edge is marked by finely aligned gold segments.
 
Among other finds, remarkable is a finger ring possibly used as seal: made of iron, it has a flattened surface where a human figure has been shaped in low relief.
 
The precision and beauty of these unique pieces demonstrate the highly-skilled craftsmanship reached in this period and at the same time offer a glimpse of the wealth achieved by the community who buried its dead at Salut.