Testifying the rich history

Sumhuram was a small but compact city with temples, private and public buildings, a vast warehouse district, impressive fortifications, a necropolis, and busy artisan quarters within the city walls, and fertile fields and orchards outside the city limits  

Kaushalendra Singh –

The ancient city of Sumhuram was connected with the world — its urbanised and cosmopolitan character is testified by the urban structures and extraordinary variety of imported pottery that has been found at the site by the historians and archaeologists.
Professor Alessandra Avanzini of University of Pisa has done extensive study on Sumharam and has come out with interesting facts, which can run into volumes if written in detail.
Sumhuram, according to her, was a small but compact city with temples, private and public buildings, a vast warehouse district, impressive fortifications, a necropolis, and busy artisan quarters within the city walls, and fertile fields and orchards outside the city limits.
“It is now certain that Sumhuram was not a small trading or military outpost lying on the margins of South Arabian civilisation. It was a relatively small city surrounded by strong fortifications; the area within the walls would not have exceeded 7,000 square metres. It had temples, private and public buildings, a vast warehouse district, impressive fortifications, a necropolis, and busy artisan quarters within the city walls, and fertile fields and orchards outside the city limits,” she said while putting stress on the fact that Sumhuram was founded at the end of the 3rd century BC and was not definitively abandoned until sometime during the 5th century AD.
The structures and findings at Sumhuram (Khor Rori) make historians believe that the great history of the place, which was well connected with the world, had a cosmopolitan dimension. “It has been testified to by the extraordinary variety of imported pottery that has been found at the site,” said Prof Alessandra.
The work at the ancient historical site is being carried out by the Italian Mission in Oman (IMTO) under the direction of Professor Alessandra Avanzini of University of Pisa. For the last 20 years she is engaged with the site, which was excavated by an American in 1950s and 1960s.
Prof Alessandra finds her journey of finding a port city, only 36 km from the city of Salalah, very interesting. “The findings there are amazing, so are the speculations about ancient port city’s global reach and volume of trade.”
“Today we have the city plan, an idea of the construction methods, everyday life and activities carried out in the city. Moreover, the port of Sumhuram was active for about eight centuries. In this long history several contacts have been tied between Sumhuram and many faraway countries,” said Prof Alessandra.
“The impressively coherent layout of Sumhuram suggests that some sort of preliminary plan had been drawn up even before construction began and the city walls are really impressive.”
Notable are the offset that were built into the wall at regular intervals of 7.5 or 8 metres. There were clearly engineering reasons for this; the walls were built without mortar, and the offsets served to divide the long expanses into smaller units and to provide static support. At the same time, these offsets served to enhance the imposing aspect of the city walls, with accents of light and shade.
All the city walls, according to Prof Alessandra, were restored by the IMTO.
“Artisanal and industrial activities are attested. The remains of different types of tools have been found inside the fortified settlement, testifying to large-scale industrial activity. Evidence of kilns have been found outside specific buildings, and in streets and squares: A kiln for the production of plaster, a tannur for cooking bread. During the 2015 campaign we found a pottery kiln. Some buildings could have served as workshops or storerooms. A workshop for the production of bronze inscriptions has been discovered.”