HERITAGE, CULTURE AND THE ARTS

While Oman and its people are fully committed to the drive to progress and development, there exists within the country a strong determination not to exchange their long established traditions for the trappings of the modern age; efforts have consistently been made to blend the two and get the best of both worlds. The government policy of conserving the country’s heritage and promoting its culture and arts is pursued through various official institutions and channels. In addition to excavating archaeological sites, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture maintains an inventory of the country’s historic buildings and hosts annual art and literary events, discussion forums and cultural weeks at home and abroad. Societies like the Literary Association and the Cultural Club continue to play a useful role. The culture of the past can be found in the country’s many museums that showcase a wide range of exhibits from ancient and more contemporary times. Meanwhile, in modern, visitor-friendly surroundings the continuing restoration of Oman’s forts and castles helps project a living history of the country alongside its fascinating past. As well as devising a series of management plans for the Land of Frankincense sites, the Office of the Adviser to His Majesty for Cultural Affairs is working with various UNESCO committees and collaborating with several scientific and research institutions and universities on programmes to restore and maintain the Sultanate’s rich cultural and natural heritage. The Ministry of Tourism, which recognizes their importance as tourist attractions, is revamping forts and historic sites; several of these will eventually be converted into museums. Its renovation programme includes the forts of Nizwa, Khasab, al Hazm Fort, Bait al Radaida, Bait al Nu’man and Barka. Excavations at archaeological sites The Ministry of Heritage and Culture monitors the archaeological excavations taking place in the Sultanate. ● Among these is the Bausher dig – a joint AGCC initiative being carried out by experts from the antiquities departments of the AGCC states. This operation will enable one of the most important archaeological sites in Muscat to be documented and protected from the effects of urban sprawl. The project is a valuable example of what can be achieved by constructive co-operation between the AGCC states.

An old grave at Samad a’Shan, near Mudaibi in the Sharqiyah region

His Majesty conferred two Royal Grants on crafts people in October 2008

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The Bausher site contains several tombs originally excavated by a German archaeological team in the 1980s before the joint Gulf team undertook further explorations in 2004, which unearthed soapstone implements, earthenware pot fragments, a seal, spearheads, a pair of bronze tongs, shells and beads. ● A dig at the Bait al Maqham site at Bausher in Muscat revealed remains of the walls of a rectangular chamber believed to have served as a kitchen since the area containing earthenware fragments and a central oven containing coal. ● The Ministry also oversaw digs on a number of other sites including the Waihi al Murr, near Tanuf, in the Dakhiliyah Region, four kilometres from Bahla Fort. This site revealed a burial ground dating from the third millennium BC which, when excavated, contained two separate sections. The first contained earthenware pots, beads and fragments of soapstone vessels, while the second section housed 12 tombs containing skeletons and earthenware fragments. ● A recovery operation was carried out at an ancient site in the village of al Faiqain in the wilayat of Manah when a water reservoir was under construction in the vicinity. Three tombs were excavated, two of which were found to date from the late Iron Age (300 BC), while the third dated from the late Copper Age and Early Bronze Age (3200-2700 BC). The main finds at the site were bronze arrowheads, soapstone vessels, earthenware cups and pottery fragments. ● Some exploratory digs were carried out in an enclosed area at the al Khawbar site in the wilayat of Sumail, where a badly damaged tomb was unearthed containing the remains of a skeleton and some soapstone vessels and earthenware fragments. ● Some 20 tombs in a rectangular area at the al Birain site, near Quryat in Muscat, were found to have been badly damaged as a result of construction work in the area. They dated from two eras - the Lizq period (1000-400 BC) and the Samad

The Bausher archaeological site in Muscat is being documented by antiquities experts from a joint AGCC initiative

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The Land of Frankincense Museum, part of the Al Baleed archaeological site in Dhofar

al Shaan late Iron Age period (300 BC – 793 AD). The tombs contained human remains, earthenware fragments, daggers, bronze lances and axes, as well as a number of small glass, ivory and agate beads, some soapstone implements and a large bronze pin. ● A comprehensive survey was carried out at Seih al Makarim in Sohar, where a large area was divided into ten sections and the contents of each recorded. The area was found to contain around 1,000 tombs, most dating from the first millennium BC. ● A dig at Halban, Seeb, on a site dating from between 3200 and 2000 BC consisted of a burial ground of tower and beehive tombs similar to the ones at Bat (see below). There have been excavations in the area previously and a study made of the life of its inhabitants during the third millennium BC. A mission from the German Mining Museum first carried out a survey of the site’s archaeological contents in 1993. ● The Salut archaeological site lies at the heart of what was once an ancient oasis occupying a large area in the western part of a valley, crossed by Wadi Bahla and Wadi Sayfam. Salut was a fortified settlement (1300-800BC) located at the foot of the western side of the al Hajar mountains, one kilometre north of the modern town of Bisya in Bahla. The ruins of the fortress are set on a rocky outcrop of about 20m, some 45m above the level of the surrounding plain. The historical importance of the site is linked with the arrival of the first Arab tribes from Southern Arabia to the territory known as present day Oman. Its archaeological relevance resides both in its developed fortification and monumental architecture - the only example of the period known to exist in the Omani interior - and in the use of the sophisticated irrigation system, known as falaj.

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