Link to the beginning of history

MUSCAT: A press conference was held at the Office of Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs to present part of the recent results of the Italian mission carrying out in the Sultanate, namely in Salut in the Wilayat of Bahla in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah, and Sumhuram in the Governorate of Dhofar, with the supervision and collaboration of the Office of Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs. Prof Alessandra Avanzini, Head of the mission from the Italian University of Pisa, said that the two sites are full of exceptional beauty and historical value as they are treasures in terms of cultural heritage and environmental importance in Oman.
“The Italian Mission To Oman (IMTO) has been working at the port of Sumhuram and in the surrounding area for over twenty years. The long history of the port, the urban layout, the life of its inhabitants are much clearer today. The port had been active from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD and the date of its foundation, as I will show further on, is a fundamental historical datum for the history of trade by sea from the Mediterranean Sea to India,” she explained.
“The region surrounding Sumhuram bears testimony to an ancient history. Only few days ago, our archaeological campaign ended on the eastern promontory facing Sumhuram (Inqitat). Its results were spectacular. Some years ago, we excavated a village of the Mediaeval Period, but after our last two campaigns now, we know that the human presence on the Inqitat dates back to a very ancient period: the Palaeolithic Period (60,000 years ago). Also some evidence of Late Neolithic came to light (about 6,000 years ago); a new evidence for the coastal archaeology of Dhofar.
“The Governorate of Muscat has Al Watiyya Archaeological Site, which is one of the evidence of the existence of coastal settlements during the Neolithic Period (10,000 BC). It is characterised by the existence of various caves, rock paintings and water dams,” she added.
She said that the palaeo-ground in Inqitat (Terra Rossa type) bears witness to a long history of climate change; it is the result of higher water availability in the past and of dense vegetal cover.
“We discovered that the ruins of a large village were used in the Classical Period (about 2,000 years ago), but there are indicators that the village has been in use from the Bronze Age (4,000 years ago) and the early Iron Age (about 3,000 years ago). Contacts by land and by sea with the north of Oman in the 3rd Millennium are well-known. The historical importance of the area is justified by the trade of a precious good: frankincense,” Head of the Italian mission added.
As far as Sumhuram is concerned, she explained that the excavations of Italian Mission proved that its foundation dates to the 3rd century BC, and collocates the port of Sumhuram in the period when the commercial network between the Mediterranean Sea and India was defined.
She furthered said: “For several years, it has been accepted that only during the Roman Empire did ships dare to face the open sea from Arabia to India being pushed forward by the monsoon. Today, it is clear that a few centuries earlier there was already a communication network going from Berenike in Egypt to Sumhuram until Pattanatn and Arikamedu in India. Sumhuram is at the core of this commercial network, the actual bridge between east and west on the rising trade and cultural route between faraway lands. The large quantity of amphorae produced in Italy and found in Sumhuram shows the long-lasting contacts with Mediterranean cultures. The strongest links since the foundation of Sumhuram were with India: the finding of pottery, Indian objects, a Brahmi-Tamil inscription seems to indicate the presence, although temporary, of Indian communities in Sumhuram. — ONA

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