Lakshmi Kothaneth –
History and archaeology have been my favourite subjects all through. It was fascinating to go to historical places and imagine how many people would have walked the same path centuries ago. Imagine their style of clothing. Where they happy? What were their thoughts?
These are my thoughts as I stand at the natural harbour of Mirbat and Al Baleed in Dhofar Governorate.
Although I did not take up history as a profession, it has been always fulfilling to report on various archaeological sites in Oman. Especially fascinating have been Al Baleed, Mirbat, Qalhat and Ras al Jinz.
The country has many sites that take you back to a different period and age.
The ultimate treat was when I had an opportunity to meet Prof Maurizio Tosi, the renowned archaeologist who has explored sites in so many countries. I first felt I was there to meet one of my university professors. I had been practising how to spell his name, but when I met him face to face, I had to request him, “How do you exactly pronounce your name?”
He spoke his mind. He has a great sense of humour. Soon I was at ease. He was truly a celebrity with immense knowledge and experience that one can sit and listen to him all day long.
Getting to know that the world of archaeology has lost him forever is still taking time to digest. The loss is immense.
Prof Tosi had a different perspective on almost all matters that often left me blank while having a conversation with him because it would lift me off my comfort zone.
He allowed others to look at matters from a different angle. It was definitely a learning experience.
Caught him in action at an archaeological site too. He made me realise how wonderful it is to have the zest and the unwavering interest in a career which is one of the toughest.
It was a quiet moment when I learned Prof Tosi had gone forever. Don’t know much more. We had a long conversation once on ‘after death’. After all, he had seen many burial sites. It was these very sites that he spoke about hope and thoughts on ‘after life’.
Prof Tosi never lost patience as he explained with great interest about the trade links between Ras al Jinz and Indus Valley Civiliation.
The Indus Valley has always been an intriguing civilisation. He shared his knowledge about archaeological facts of my hometown Kodungaloor. He often made you rethink. And I took it for granted that he would always be there to answer questions.
His departure is a huge loss for history as he worked on many civilisations.
Here is a man who has left a legacy through his findings, writings, and inspired many young archaeologists. He has truly seen the world.
In 1967, Prof Tosi and his team excavated Shahr-e-Sukhteh, a Bronze Age urban settlement. He spent many years in the Sultanate.
Prof Tosi has been a ‘full professor’ since 1981. He had occupied the Chair of Prehistory and Protohistory of Asia at Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples until 1994 when he was called to the chair of palaethnology at University of Bologna, Faculty of Conservation of Cultural Goods.
His main field of study has been the formative processes of complex societies across the Middle East and Central Asia together with the development of methods for the definition of this process from the archaeological record.
There were people who lived here before and he brought them to life again through archaeological findings. When he explained Oman and Kutch, and India had trade links going back to 5,000 years, he left me wondering about the people who dared the ocean to exchange goods.
I still remember him explaining, “The dates were of great value for the people of India at that time. So were frankincense and lemon.”
A decorative piece from a mosque, pottery and an ivory comb found in Qalhat from the other side of the Indian Ocean tell the tale of trade between the two countries.
He came from Italy, travelling across lands, unearthing lost stories of the past. And Italy he went back, to call it a day.
Here is a legend who has left behind a legacy.