Qumayrah Valley (Oman), 2016

Qumayrah Valley Archeological Project


Dates of work: 20 November–20 December 2016



Director: Prof. Piotr Bieliński, archaeologist (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw)
Omani representative: Sulaiman Al-Jabri (Department of Archaeology and Excavations, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman)
Archaeologists: Dr. Marcin Białowarczuk, lithic specialist, field director at QA 2 (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw), Dorota Bielińska, Dr. Maciej Makowski (both Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of Polish Academy of Sciences), Dr. Agnieszka Pieńkowska, field director at QA 3, Dr. Łukasz Rutkowski, field director at QA 1, Agnieszka Szymczak (all three Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw)
Topographer: Magdalena Antos (independent)
Documentalist: Marta Momot (Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw)
Photographer: Adam Oleksiak (freelance)


The first excavation season of a joint project of the PCMA and Department of Archaeology and Excavations, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman, was carried out in the microregion of Qumayrah in the fall of 2016. Within its scope three separate sites of various chronology were investigated, and additional survey work was conducted in the valley.

The Project, organized in conjunction with the Omani Ministry of Heritage and Culture, included in its scope a site on the southern fringes of the village of al-Ayn Bani Saed, which was known from earlier surveys but had not been investigated more closely then. In 2016, the team tested the site, designated as Qumayrah-Ayn (QA 3), clearing off the dense vegetation, tracing stone walls and digging two probes in search of dating evidence. At the widest the remains extend for 70 m from east to west and stretch southward for about 120 m southward, apparently divided by a hollow in the ground. The southern part consist of a triangular mound rising 2 m above the surface, concealing stone structures, and the northern part, which is fairly flat on a slope dropping away to the north. Four groups of irregular units with stone walls rising up to 1.50 m in height are located in this area; these are probably the remains of a modern village deserted a few hundred years ago. The complex to the south consists of massive stone architecture closed off from the west and south with a wall of large blocks. The fragment cleared this year (Unit 1) was at least 40 m long and included six chambers. A nearly square free-standing structure (Locus 6) with walls of two rows of stone blocks stands in the southern part of the site. A probe dug to the south of it suggests a landscape of three terraces dropping away to the south. To the north of the structure a section of thick stone wall, built in two different techniques and stretching for at least 8 m, was discovered. Its role in the settlement could not be ascertained as yet. Tracing of wall tops in the area to the north of this wall recorded a large building unit, at least 20 m long and made up of at least seven fairly regular rectangular chambers (Unit 2); some of the standing walls seem to have been reused in the structures of the deserted modern village. More conclusive determinations regarding mutual stratigraphy of the structures could not be made without more extensive excavation. It can be said, however, that the site of Qumayrah-Ayn 3 (QA 3) reveals at least two cultural horizons: one modern on top and at least one that is pre-Islamic. The collected ceramic evidence is composed of a mainly red slipped and flat-bottomed common ware of domestic character with some very low ring bases and fragments with ribbed decoration on the shoulders, typical of the Omani Iron Age II period (Unit 1). A few painted sherds collected from the area of Unit 2 may tentatively represent the Umm an-Nar culture of the Early Bronze Age. These findings will need to be confirmed by further research.

The team continued with a survey of the Qumayrah Valley, identifying and documenting two sites QA 20 and QA 21 with settlement remains of the Iron Age II period, presumably contemporary with QA 3. The location of QA 20 even suggests that it may have been linked to QA 3, permitting better control of the entire valley.

A single tomb was investigated at an Umm an-Nar period burial site at the site of Qumayrah–Ayn (QA) 1, in the area of the village of Al-Ayn. A complete ground-plan was traced, identifying the tomb as an example of a well-known type with interior divided into four burial chambers by crosswalls. The excavated quadrant yielded commingled skeletal remains and mortuary gifts: numerous beads, a number of pottery sherds and a single complete vessel, a few metal objects and a score of stone vessel fragments.

A short reconnaissance was made at the site of Qumayrah–Ayn (QA) 2, a new prehistoric site located in a poorly studied part of the Qumayrah Valley in northern Oman. A survey and limited probing by the Omani–Polish Qumayrah Archaeological Project confirmed the presence of a sediment, approximately 15–20 cm thick, which yielded not just lithics, but also stone installations discovered in situ. One of these installations was evidently a hearth, the other a kind of platform. The lithic assemblage is characterized by a prevalence of flake technology with rare blade products. Predominant in the tools group are side-scrapers, notches and perforators produced by direct-scaled retouch. The most characteristic tools are tanged projectile points made on flakes. The main problem is contextualizing these materials. On the grounds of certain premises they may be associated with the Fasad technocomplex, but not necessarily the pre-Neolithic one as is the case of the classic types. However, a much later chronology is also quite possible.


The Project wishes to thank the archaeological authorities of the Sultanate of Oman, especially Dr. Sultan Al-Bakri, Assistant Director General of Antiquities and Museums in the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, whose hospitality and continuous support are well appreciated. We also wish to thank Mr. Sulaiman Al-Jabri for his unstinting assistance both in the field and at the dig house.


Text: Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 26/1


Piotr Bieliński: piotrbielin@wp.pl