Bat graveyard: A unique example of cultural relics in an exceptional state of preservation

The Ministry of Heritage and Culture continues the excavation and restoration work at the Bat Archaeological graveyard in the Wilayat of Ibri. At the entrance to the site, the Al Khutum Tower is currently being restored. Excavations are continuing with the aim of finding new archaeological evidence relating to an ancient human civilisation.
Bat Tombs historical sites are located in Bat, Al Khutum and Al Ayn in the Wilayat of Ibri. In 1988 these tombs were considered as one of the archaeological and historical sites that date back to the third century BC and are located to the east of Ibri. The Bat Tombs site was the second site to be included in the World Heritage list in Oman. The historical sources mention that in the southern part, the site is a collection of graves built on the lines of those found in Um AnNar, while in the northern part, the graves look like beehives and date back to the third millennium BC. The architecture is similar to the tombs built in the Hafit period. Another cemetery containing 100 tombs built of stone were also discovered, where the evolution from the beehive style to cemeteries built during Um AnNar period is apparent. While the beehive cemetery contained between two to five tombs, Um AnNar cemeteries were mass graves. A similar cemetery of this style was discovered containing 30 burial chambers. The historic significance of the Bat site is that it is located at the crossroads of an ancient trade route. Caravans loaded with goods heading to other nearby destinations passed through Bat. Included with the Bat settlement in the World Heritage List are two other sites: Al Khutum (Al Wahrah) and Wadi Al Ayn Tombs.
The proto-historic archaeological complex of Bat, Al Khutum and Al Ayn represents one of the most complete and well preserved ensembles of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium BCE worldwide. The core site is a part of the modern village of Bat, in the Wadi Sharsah approximately 24 kilometres east of the city of Ibri in the Al Dhahirah Governorate of north-western Oman. Further extensions of the site of Bat are represented by the monumental tower at Al Khutum and by the necropolis at Al Ayn. Together, monumental towers, rural settlements, irrigation systems for agriculture, and necropolises embedded in a fossilised Bronze Age landscape, form a unique example of cultural relics in an exceptional state of preservation.
Seven monumental stone towers have been discovered at Bat and one is located in Al Khutum, 2 km west of the Bat. The towers feature a circular outer wall about 20-25 m in diameter, and two rows of parallel compartments on either side of a central well. The earliest known tower at Bat is the mud-brick Hafit-period structure underneath the Early Umm AnNar stone tower at Matariya. The latest known tower is probably Kasr Al Rojoom, which can be ceramically dated to the Late Umm An-Nar period. All of the stone-built towers show dressed blocks of local limestone laid carefully with simple mud mortar. While conclusive evidence of their function is still missing, they seem to be platforms on which superstructures (now missing) were built – either houses, or temples, or something else entirely. The vast necropolis at Bat includes different clusters of monumental tombs that can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group is Hafit-period “beehive” tombs located on the top of the rocky slopes surrounding Bat, while the second group extends over a river terrace and includes more than a hundred dry-stone cairn tombs. Another important group of beehive tombs is located at Qubur Juhhal at Al Ayn, 22 km east-southeast of the Bat. Most of these tombs are small, single-chambered, round tombs with dry masonry walls dating to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE. Others are more elaborate, bigger, multi-chambered tombs from the second half of the 3rd millennium BCE. As in many other ancient civilisations, monuments in ancient Oman were usually built with regularly cut stones. Unique of Bat and Al Ayn are the remains the ancient quarries from which the building materials were mined, and the many workshops that attest to the complete operational procedure, from the quarries to the stone-masonry to the buildings construction techniques. The continuous and systematic survey activities constantly increase the types and number of monuments and sites to be documented and protected, which include villages and multiple towers, quarries associated with the Bronze Age stone-masonry workshops, Bronze Age necropolises, an Iron Age fort, Iron Age tombs and two Neolithic flint mines connected with workshop areas for stone tool-making.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY YAHYA AL SALMANI