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


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
Volume 21
Published by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism
Sultanate of Oman
Dr. Nasser Said Al-Jahwari
Associate Professor, Archaeology Department, Sultan
Qaboos University.
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Prof. Abdullah Khamis Al-Kindi
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Qaboos University.
Dr. Abdullah Saif Al-Ghafri
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Dr. Khaled Ahmed Douglas
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Qaboos University.
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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:
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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
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The Banush, A Traditional Vessel Of Oman 200- 226
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144 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
Two Wadi Suq and Early Iron Age Stamp Seals
from Tawi Said, Sultanate of Oman
Stephanie Döpper & Conrad Schmidt
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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The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
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.
146 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
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.
The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
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.
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.
148 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
Figure 4: Stamp seal TWS18A-02783.
Figure 5: Stamp seal TWS18A-03571.
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
The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
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).
150 The Journal of Oman Studies |
Vol. 21
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.
Boucharlat, R. and Lombard, P. (1983) “L’âge du
fer dans l’oasis d’Al Ain: Deux saisons de fouilles à
Roumeilah”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian
Studies, 13: 3–17.
Carter, R. A. (1997) Dening the Late Bronze Age
in Southeast Arabia: Ceramic Evolution and Settlement
during the Second Millennium BC. (PhD thesis),
University College London, London, UK.
Cleuziou, S. (1981) “Oman Peninsula in the Early
Second Millennium B. C.”. In Härtel, H. (ed.) South
Asian Archaeology 1979. Papers from the Fifth
International Conference of the Association of South
Asian Archaeologists in Western Europe Held in the
Museum für indische Kunst der staatlichen Museen
preussischer Kulturbesitzt Berlin, pp. 279–293, Berlin:
Dietrich Reimer Verlag.
Cleuziou, S. and Tosi, M. (2000) “Ra’s al-Jinz and the
Prehistoric Coastal Cultures of the Ja’alan” The Journal
of Oman Studies, 11: 19–73.
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.
David-Cuny, H., Frenez, D. and Williams, K. D. (2016)
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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,
Conrad Schmidt
Tübingen University, Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070
Tübingen, Germany, email:
... Previously, Tawi Said was considered a sedentary site of mudbrick architecture, based on research conducted in the 1970s (de Cardi et al., 1979). However, recent studies of the German expedition (Döpper, 2021;Döpper & Schmidt, 2020) reported that the mudbrick architecture of the Wādī Sūq period was not observed here, indicating that the Wādī Sūq occupation was less sedentary (Döpper, 2021;322). The potsherds collected at this site are of open vessels and medium-sized jars (de Cardi et al., 1979;Döpper, 2021). ...
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This paper reports the results of excavation at Mugharat al‐Kahf (WTN01) in Wādī Tanūf, North‐central Oman. It also provides information on the nonmortuary and nonsedentary activities in central Oman during the Wādī Sūq period (2000–1600 BCE), as the subsistence and social arrangements of this period are the subject of much debate. Previous surveys had discovered a substantial amount of Wādī Sūq pottery at the site. This project took forward the excavation for further exploration. The excavation at Test Pit 1 identified Layers Ia and Ib, wherein pottery sherds, charred date stones and other samples for radiocarbon dating were discovered. These prove the cave's occupation during the early third millennium BCE, early second millennium BCE and the Islamic period. The analysis of artefacts and floral remains provided insights into the sojourn, storage and consumption of dates in the cave, and the mobile lifestyle in central Oman.
... Special finds from the 2018 survey were two stamp seals (Döpper & Schmidt, 2020b). The first stamp seal is domeshaped, made of a light green stone and its motif is difficult to interpret (Fig. 8h). ...
Full-text available
Significant changes in the material culture, subsistence and mode of life are associated with the Middle (c. 2000–1600 BCE) and Late Bronze Ages (c. 1600–1300 BCE) in Eastern Arabia. Since first excavations in the 1970s, research has focused on the United Arab Emirates, where all major sites of this period known to date are situated. This birthed the idea of two different lines of development in the second millennium BC. While a more gradual change is assumed for the United Arab Emirates, Central Oman was regarded as having completely abandoned settled agricultural life, returning to a less complex social organisation. This article presents new evidence from Tawi Said, Al‐Mudhairib and the Wilayat al‐Mudhaybi that shows that the developments in both regions were more akin to each other than previously assumed. This encourages us to reconsider our assumptions about Central Oman’s social complexity during this pivotal period of Oman’s history.
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On April 1st, 2012, in the desert sand three tourists stumbled onto what they interpreted as the remains of an ancient battlefield. In reality they discovered the remains of an ancient metal melting site ‒ an ancient crime scene. Most of the finds consisted of weapons fashioned from copper-alloy, especially daggers. They were mostly grave-goods. Everything about this find was unusual. How and when did it get there, just inside the Empty Quarter. Why should it be here, distant for markets and roads? The editors combined an international team which consisted of the original archaeologists at the site and experts on metal-finds. The text begins with an introduction from Sultan al-Bakri in which he explains the discovery from the point of view of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, which sponsored the field-work. Clearly the true site toponym is ʿUqdat al-Bakrah, although the first archaeologists on the site called it by other names. In the first chapter Gösta Hoffmann explains the geology of the area, in order to get an idea of the pre-requisites for placing the site here. Important is water and fuel availability. Roman Garba tells the story of the discovery from first-hand experience. He also worked in the area prior to the find. Francesco Genchi and Claudio Giardino present the documentation of the excavations and find recovery made a few weeks after the finds were first sited. They establish the site dating and character. Paul Yule updates the chronology for metal-finds in south-eastern Arabia for the time from 3000 to 300 BCE. A main hurdle is to identify heirloom pieces and update the find chronology. Claudio Giardino and Giovanni Paternoster examined the metallic finds by means of energy dispersive X-Ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) and therewith characterise the chemical composition and technology available to the ancient metallurgists. Their results correlate nicely with the inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy of Julie Goy. Guillaume Gernez synthesises the results of the different studies based on his expertise in metallic weaponry. His independent opinion is designed as a final representation of the find and its cultural importance. It was deemed essential to make an exhaustive catalogue study of the find with the intention that it would not be necessary to document any of the finds again. That is why they are drawn and described. A the end concordances order the finds first by catalogue and then by find number. Except for arrow-heads, the finds are drawn 1:3 in scale.
Encompassing a landmass greater than the rest of the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean combined, the Arabian peninsula remains one of the last great unexplored regions of the ancient world. This book provides the first extensive coverage of the archaeology of this region from c. 9000 to 800 BC. Peter Magee argues that a unique social system, which relied on social cohesion and actively resisted the hierarchical structures of adjacent states, emerged during the Neolithic and continued to contour society for millennia later. The book also focuses on how the historical context in which Near Eastern archaeology was codified has led to a skewed understanding of the multiplicity of lifeways pursued by ancient peoples living throughout the Middle East.
Recent excavations at Tell Abraq in the United Arab Emirates have brought to light material dating to the third, second and first millennium BC which calls into question certain long‐held views in the archaeology of the Gulf region, as well as some more recently published hypotheses. Using the material from Tell Abraq, a number of problems specifically related to trade between the Oman peninsula (ancient Magan) and her neighbours are discussed. The emerging picture is one of much greater continuity in Magan's external relations than had previously been thought.
Cylinder seals were used in the ancient Near East from the fourth to the first millennium BC. Although the numbers known from sites in the Arabian Peninsula seem relatively small, more have been found there than is generally recognised. A comprehensive overview of the cylinder seals of Arabia is presented, and the cylinder and stamp sealing traditions of the region are discussed.
Oman Peninsula in the Early Second Millennium B. C
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