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Döpper, S. – Schmidt, C. (2020), Two Stamp Seals from Tawi Said, Sultanate of Oman. The Journal of Oman Studies 21, 144–151

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Abstract and Figures

Two stamp seals were found during the 2018 survey at Tawi Said, located at the northern limits of the Sharqiyah desert in the Sultanate of Oman. They were associated with Wadi Suq (2000–1600 BC) pottery sherds as well as a few flint tools and remains of copper processing. The first seal has a dome shape and thus reveals affiliations to Dilmun type seals, although its motif is clearly local. The second seal is disc-shaped with a ring. It’s motif with circular drillings and straight lines can be compared to other seals from the Oman Peninsula from Early Iron Age (1300–300 BC) contexts.
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ةـمك ةـيملع ةـل
Scholarly Refereed Journal
Volume 21
The Journal of Oman Studies
Vol 21
21 Oó``©dG
21 Oó```©dG
The Journal of
Oman Studies
The Journal of
Oman
Studies
Volume 21
Published by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism
Sultanate of Oman
v
vi
Editor-in-Chief
Dr. Nasser Said Al-Jahwari
Associate Professor, Archaeology Department, Sultan
Qaboos University.
Editorial Board
Prof. Abdullah Khamis Al-Kindi
Professor, Mass Communication Department, Sultan
Qaboos University.
Dr. Abdullah Saif Al-Ghafri
Associate Professor, Al Aaj Research Unit, Nizwa
University.
Dr. Khaled Ahmed Douglas
Associate Professor, Archaeology Department, Sultan
Qaboos University.
Dr. Abdul Gabbar Al Shara
Assistant Professor, English Department, Sultan Qaboos
University.
Dr. Talal Khalifa Al-Hosni
Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences Department, Sultan
Qaboos University.
Advisory Board
Prof. Janet Watson
Prof. Michael Jansen
Prof. Ian Clark
Prof. Ali Tijani Elmahi
Prof. Ricardo Eichmann
Prof. Amer Ali Al Rawas
Dr. Mohammed Ali Al Belushi
Dr. Rashid Abdullah Al Yahyai
Administration Manager
Ali Hamood Al Mahrooqi
Coordinator
Zahra Said Al Siyabi
© 2020 Ministry of Heritage and Tourism,
Sultanate of Oman
ISSN 0378-8180
Printed by Mazoon
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Contents
FOREWORD
HE Salim bin Mohammed Al Mahrooqi xi
First Assessment of The Research Potential of The Prehistoric Intermountain Site
Hayl Al Ajah in The Al Hajar Mountains of Northern Oman (Project SIPO) 1- 23
Inna Mateiciucová, Maximilian Wilding, Max Engel, Jirí Otava & Miroslav Bubík
La Trobe Archaeological Research in Oman (Lario) Season 1 Report: Investigating
The Nature of Early Human Dispersal in Oman 24- 42
Dianne Fitzpatrick, Matthew G. Meredith-Williams, Yamandú H. Hilbert,
Ismail Al Matra, Mohamed Al Kindi, Salim Al Rahbi & Andrew I. Herries
New Stone Age sites from Northern Oman 43- 55
Knut Bretzke & Ash Parton
Living and Dwelling Around The Khawr Jirama, Sultanate of Oman:
Preliminary Results of First Archaeological Investigations on The Necropolis 56-81
Christophe Sévin-Allouet, Aline Thomas & Nicolas Gautier
Survey And Settlement:
Preliminary Results of The Bat Archaeological Project’s 2019 Field Season 82- 101
Jennifer Swerida, Charlotte Cable & Eli Dollarhide
New Evidence of Prehistoric Tomb Diversity in Dank, Oman 102-127
Kimberly D. Williams1 & Lesley A. Gregoricka
Bronze Age Vessel Remains from The Cave of Mugharat Al Kahf in
The Wadi Tanuf: A Preliminary Report of The 2017/18 and 2018/19 Seasons 128- 143
Takehiro Miki, Taichi Kuronuma, Hiroyuki Kitagawa, Atsushi Noguchi & Yasuhisa Kondo
Two Wadi Suq and Early Iron Age Stamp Seals from Tawi Said, Sultanate of Oman 144- 151
Stephanie Döpper & Conrad Schmidt
Ancient Pastoral Settlement in The Dhofar Mountains:
Archaeological Excavations at Shakil and Halqoot 152- 171
Joy McCorriston, Abigail Bufngton, Kyle Olson, Louise Martin, Wael Abu-Azizeh, Timothy Everhart
Ali Al Maashani, Ali Ahmad Al Kathiri, and Ali Al Mehri
New researches at the port of Al Balid and its castle (Husn):
Interim Report (2016-2018) 172- 199
Alexia Pavan, Agnese Fusaro, Chiara Visconti, Alessandro Ghidoni, Arturo Annucci
The Banush, A Traditional Vessel Of Oman 200- 226
Norbert Weismann
xi
Foreword
The Journal of Oman Studies, published by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Oman, has been
recognized over the last four decades by local, regional and international academics and researchers
as a source of original research and scholarship on Oman’s cultural and natural heritage. The Journal
publishes solid research ndings produced by many archaeological missions working in different parts of
the Sultanate. These missions target the Journal as the main publishing venue for their research output.
The Journal is thus a pioneer in publishing these archaeological discoveries and ndings. The Journal also
publishes research on various other topics related to Omans cultural intangible heritage and on topics
related to editing Oman’s heritage manuscripts. It also publishes articles on Oman’s natural heritage.
These diverse areas of scholarship enrich the Arab and World academic libraries with signicant academic
studies on Oman and its cultural and natural heritage.
I am pleased to present to you issue 21 of this Journal, which includes 12 research articles in both Arabic
and English addressing different historical and archaeological eras ranging from the Paleolithic through
the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pre-Islamic eras and Islamic eras. These research articles cover
various topics related to palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental in Al Hajar Mountains in northern
Oman as well as early human dispersal in Oman. The articles also attempt to identify the nature and
timing of human occupation and landscape change during the Stone Age period in the Western Hajar
Mountains. The articles also shed light on prehistoric occupation of cave and rock shelters as well as
ancient pastoral occupation. This issue of the Journal also includes articles on prehistoric settlements and
cemeteries and the various archaeological artefacts such as pottery, metals, softstone, int, stamp seals,
coins and so on. In addition, the issue features some ethnographic and historical studies such as the one
on the traditional banush boat and the one on aaaj. The geographical framework of these studies is
diverse and covers all regions of Oman from the north to the south.
On this occasion, I would like to extend my thanks to all the researchers who contributed to this issue and
previous issues. The Journal will continue its mission of publishing rigorous, solid and original research,
and I would like to invite researchers to submit their scholarly work whether in Arabic or in English to
this Journal for publication in the upcoming issues.
Salim bin Mohamed Al Mahrouqi
Minister of Heritage and Tourism
144 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
|2020
Two Wadi Suq and Early Iron Age Stamp Seals
from Tawi Said, Sultanate of Oman
Stephanie Döpper & Conrad Schmidt
ABSTRACT:
Two stamp seals were found during the 2018 survey at Tawi Said, located at the northern limits of the Sharqiyah
desert in the Sultanate of Oman. They were associated with Wadi Suq (2000–1600 BC) pottery sherds as
well as a few int tools and remains of copper processing. The rst seal has a dome shape and thus reveals
afliations to Dilmun type seals, although its motif is clearly local. The second seal is disc-shaped with a ring.
It’s motif with circular drillings and straight lines can be compared to other seals from the Oman Peninsula
from Early Iron Age (1300–300 BC) contexts.
KEYWORDS: Stamp Seals, Tawi Said, Wadi Suq, Early Iron Age, Survey.
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145
The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
|2020
INTRODUCTION
Tawi Said is situated about 5 km to the
northwest of Al-Mintirib in the governorate of Al-
Sharqiyah North in the Sultanate of Oman (UTM
681633 E, 2485944 N). It lies on the eastern
bank of the Wadi Batha, directly opposite of the
northern limits of the Sharqiyah desert (Fig. 1 and
Fig. 2). The site is characterised by low sand dunes
that surround a small, at area in the northwest and
southeast. While the sand dunes are made up of
light-coloured sand, with some small and some
up to st-sized stones at their peaks, the at areas
consist of light brown, very ne soil with many
small and st-sized stones on their surfaces. To
the northeast, the terrain gets sandier and scrub is
sporadically present. The south-western limit of
the side is marked by the wadi bed of the Wadi
Batha, which lies a few metres below the level of
the at area.
Figure 1: Location of Tawi Said.
TWO WADI SUQ AND EARLY IRON AGE STAMP SEALS FROM TAWI SAID, SULTANATE OF OMAN
146 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
|2020
Beatrice de Cardi rst discovered the site in 1976
after stumbling upon it while looking for another
site of the 3rd millennium in the region (De Cardi,
Doe and Roskams, 1977:61). She noted the plentiful
scatters of sherds of Wadi Suq as well as Early,
Middle and Late Islamic date. De Cardi returned in
1978 for some small excavations and, while working
on those, she revealed some mud-brick architecture,
which was, however, not associated with any nds
so that no dating could be given to the structures (de
Cardi, Bell and Starling, 1979:85). Nevertheless, the
quantities of Wadi Suq pottery found by de Cardi in
her survey led her to the conclusion that Tawi Said
was either a permanent settlement of short duration
or an area that was regularly re-used as a temporary
campsite (de Cardi et al, 1979:86). Since then, no
further work has been conducted at the site, but
various publications have frequently mentioned that
it is the only known Wadi Suq period settlement in
central Oman (e.g., Carter, 1997; Magee, 2014:186).
In November 2018, a team from the Johann
Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany,
headed by the author, conducted a short eld season
in order to re-evaluate de Cardi’s ndings and to
provide up-to-date information on the site. In the
seven days in the eld, an area of 150 by 125 m
was intensively eld-walked with a total collection
of nds. Two persons walked three metre-wide
transects together in order to allow for total visual
coverage. The location of each of the 8,611 nds
made during the survey was recorded with a hand-
held GPS device (Garmin eTrex 10) (Fig. 3).
The large majority of those nds consists of
pottery sherds, most of them of a late Islamic date.
Other categories of objects encountered during the
survey were lithics, sea shells, metal objects and
personal ornaments. Of special interest are two
stamp seals that will be discussed in this paper.
Figure 2: Tawi Said with Wadi Batha and the Sharqiyah desert in the background.
STEPHANIE DÖPPER & CONRAD SCHMIDT
147
The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
|2020
Figure 3: Results of the 2018 surface survey.
Both seals originate from the at area in the
centre of the survey that also features all Wadi
Suq period (2000–1600 BC) pottery. Here, also
the largest concentration of lithics and copper
production debris was encountered.
1. THE STAMP SEALS
The rst stamp seal, TWS18A-02783, has a dome
shape and is made of a light green stone (Fig. 4). The
stone features some natural cracks in the material
and is rather weathered. The seal measures 13.4 mm
in diameter, has a height of 8 mm and weighs 2.4
g. It is transversally perforated, most likely done
from both sides. The motif on the seal is not easy
to interpret. There is a horizontal line in the centre
from which three lines diverge to the one side and
two lines to the other side at a right angle. Further
lines are present at its edge. This possibly depicts
a highly stylised quadruped. Other interpretations
of the motif might be to anthropomorphic gures
holding hands or ghting.
The second seal, TWS18A-03571, is made of
dark grey soft-stone (Fig. 5). It weighs 4.6 g. The
oval sealing plate measures 19.5 mm in length
and 17.3 mm in width; it is 5.2 mm thick and has
a rectangular section with rounded corners. A ring,
which is partially broken off, is present on the top,
resulting in a total height of 12.3 mm for the seal. A
row of ve circular drillings along the seal’s edge is
clearly visible on the sealing surface. They surround
an oval depression in the centre of the seal, which is
associated with two incised lines and another circular
drilling similar to those at the edge of the seal.
TWO WADI SUQ AND EARLY IRON AGE STAMP SEALS FROM TAWI SAID, SULTANATE OF OMAN
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Figure 4: Stamp seal TWS18A-02783.
Figure 5: Stamp seal TWS18A-03571.
2. PARALLELS AND DISCUSSION
The dome shape of TWS18A-02783 has
comparisons to second millennium BC seals found
in Shokur, Bidbid, Tell Abraq, Jebel Buhais, as well
as Mazyad. Both, the Mazyad seal, which belongs
according to Cleuziou to the Early Dilmun style,
as well as the one from Jebel Buhais are dated by
the excavators to the Wadi Suq period (2000–1600
BC) (Cleuziou, 1981:285; Jasim, 2008:54-55). For
the seal from Tell Abraq, a more general date to the
2nd millennium BC is given (Potts, 1993:433), while
the seals from Shhokur and Bidbid are from mixed
chronological contexts spanning from the Wadi
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Suq period to the Early Iron Age (David-Cuny,
Frenez and Williams, 2016). The seal from Tawi
Said further evokes connections with later stages of
Dilmun seals production (Crawford, 2001; David-
Cuny and Azpeitia, 2012), although it misses the
disc that is usually surmounted by the dome. The
stamp motif, however, neither resembles Dilmun
glyptic nor those from the other dome-shaped seals
found on the Oman Peninsula, which feature zigzag
lines and representations of human gures. If the
decoration on the seal’s surface is really to depict an
animal, which is far from certain, a possible parallel
originates from the Hili N pit-grave, dating back
to the very end of the Early Bronze Age (Méry et
al, 2001:168, 171 Fig. 112). Layer 9 of the grave
contained a necklace with a perforated circular
chalcedony seal with an engraved quadruped with
horns, probably a bull. Based on these parallels
and the fact that Wadi Suq period (2000–1600 BC)
pottery concentrated on the area of the survey in
Tawi Said, where both stamp seals were found (Fig.
3), TWS18A-02783 can probably dated to the Wadi
Suq period, although a date in the Late Bronze or
Early Iron Age cannot be ruled out.
A stamp seal similar in shape and to some extent
in decoration to the second seal TWS18A-03571,
but made of lead, has been found on the surface of
the Early Iron Age settlement of Qarn bint Saud (Fig.
6d; Stevens, 1992). It shows a simple geometric
design with sixteen dots on the edge surrounding
parallel lines that form a crosswise pattern with two
concentric circles in the centre. An almost identical
example, also made of lead, comes from Jabal al-
Buhais (Fig. 6c; Jasim, 2008:61). A better parallel
to the second seal from Tawi Said, also in terms
of material, is a surface nd from Salut (Fig. 6b;
Degli Esposti and al-Muzini, 2015). This circular
seal is made of grey-greenish chlorite and has a ring
on its back. The sealing surface and the backside
are attened, the overall section is rectangular with
rounded short sides. On the sealing surface, it shows
ten shallow circular drillings roughly arranged in
two concentric rows. Besides, four irregular straight
incisions dene a sort of cross. As it is a surface nd,
no precise dating can be given, but the dense scatter
of Early Iron Age sherds at its ndspot suggests
its attribution to this period. The decoration on the
sealing surface of TWS18A-03571 nds further
parallels in a conoid seal from Early Iron Age levels
at Tell Abraq (Fig. 6f; Potts, 1991:95). Here, the
combination of rough straight lines and circular
drillings has been interpreted as a stylised bunch
Figure 6: Comparisons to TWS18A-03571: a. Tawi Said, b. Salut (based on Degli Esposti and al-Muzini,
2015:91 Fig. 92), c. Jebel Buhais (based on Jasim, 2008:60 Fig. 11a), d. Qarn bint Saud (based on Stevens,
1992:174 Fig. 171), e. Rumeilah (based on Boucharlat and Lombard, 1983:16 Fig. 11), f. Tell Abraq (basd on
Potts, 1991:95 Fig. 135).
TWO WADI SUQ AND EARLY IRON AGE STAMP SEALS FROM TAWI SAID, SULTANATE OF OMAN
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of dates. The closest parallel known comes from
an Early Iron Age context in Rumeilah (Fig. 6e;
Boucharlat and Lombard, 1983:6 g. 11; Lombard,
1998:156 g. 151). The circular sealing surface has
a row of ten dots along the edge and a star-shaped
pattern in its centre. A very at pierced boss is on its
back. The rather rough style of the carvings and the
use of shallow drillings for the schematic motifs of
all of these seals is typical for Early Iron Age seals
from the Oman Peninsula (Degli Esposti, 2014:136).
Furthermure, according to Yule (2014:42) soft-
stone is the most common material for Early Iron
Age seals from the Oman Peninsula. Therefore, the
parallels listed above argue for a dating of the stamp
seal TWS18A-03571 from Tawi Said to the Early
Iron Age (1300–300 BC). As within the preliminary
study of the pottery no Early Iron Age sherds were
identied during the 2018 survey, the context of the
seal remains unclear.
As seals are relatively scarce in all periods on the
Oman Peninsula, and thus accordingly also in the
Wadi Suq period and Early Iron Age, the presence of
two of them at the site of Tawi Said is noteworthy.
Although it remains unclear whether the seals
were actually used in their intended function as
administrative objects or that they rather represent
prestige goods without further practical application
(Potts, 2010), TWS18A-03571 nevertheless
underline the importance of Tawi Said as the only
known settlement site of the Wadi Suq period up
until now in central Oman. Both seals are clearly of
local manufacture, which ts very well to the idea of
a local second to rst millennium stamp seal tradition
on the Oman Peninsula (Potts, 1993:433). The shape
of TWS18A-02783 refers, however, to Dilmun seals
and is therefore a good indicator for the interregional
contacts of the site, despite it being located far
inland. Thus, Tawi Said was likely situated at an
important trading route from central Oman to the
sea. Another hint for the choice of the location of
the site in the rather inhospitable environment at
the fringe of the Sharqiyah desert are the remains of
copper processing. Other metal working sites of the
second and rst millennia BCE have been found in
similar environments such as Saruq al-Hadid (Weeks
et al, 2017) and Uqdat Al Bakrah (Yule and Gernez,
2018). Whether Tawi Said also featured furnaces for
charcoal production and metal smelting at those two
sites remains to be seen.
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CONTRIBUTORS ADDRESS:
Stephanie Döpper
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Institute for Archaeological Sciences, Institute for
Near Eastern and Classical Archaeology, Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1, 60629 Frankfurt am Main, Germany,
email: doepper@em.uni-frankfurt.de
Conrad Schmidt
Tübingen University, Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070
Tübingen, Germany, email: conrad.schmidt@uni-tuebingen.de
TWO WADI SUQ AND EARLY IRON AGE STAMP SEALS FROM TAWI SAID, SULTANATE OF OMAN
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Oman Peninsula in the Early Second Millennium B. C
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Cleuziou, S. (1981) "Oman Peninsula in the Early Second Millennium B. C.". In Härtel, H. (ed.
Early Dilmun Seals from Saar. Art and Commerce in Bronze Age Bahrain. London-Bahrain Archaeological Expedition: Saar Excavation Reports II
  • H Crawford
Crawford, H. (2001) Early Dilmun Seals from Saar. Art and Commerce in Bronze Age Bahrain. London-Bahrain Archaeological Expedition: Saar Excavation Reports II. Ludlow: Archaeology International.