Sultanate of Oman
Khor al Jarāma – 2021

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Dr. Christophe Sévin-Allouet (Éveha International)

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Khor Jarama – Archaeological campaign 2021

This fourth and last campaign of the French Archaeological Mission in Khor Jarama took place from the 8 of October to the 12 of November 2021. The aim of this year was to undertake the excavation of the four last tombs of the necropolis : tomb 4, tomb 5, tomb 6 and tomb 7.

At the end of this fourth and last excavation campaign, the results obtained this year confirm the elements observed in previous years. With dates ranging from the second half of the 4th millennium, these funerary monuments appear to be the oldest known to date in Oman. The necropolis had two distinct phases of use: monuments 1, 3 and 5 are dated between 3500 and 3300 cal. BC, while tombs 2, 4, 6 and 7 appear to be more recent with dates between 3350 and 2900 cal. BC. Furthermore, the architecture of the tombs, as well as the construction materials used, but especially the funerary practices observed, are different between these two groups of tombs. Studies still in progress will clarify this and it would also be interesting to begin a DNA research program to determine whether or not we have here two groups of individuals of distinct geographical origin.

It should be noted that all the tombs of the first phase (tombs 1, 3 and 5) were reused later, either during the Umm an-Nar period or later during the Iron Age.

Grave 5, built of limestone, which appears architecturally identical to graves 1 and 3, was reused at least twice (fig.1). It remains possible, however, that an earlier deposit, contemporary with tombs 1 and 3, took place in this tomb. The remains of the latter would have been partially emptied and/or mixed with the bones of the next deposit. However, the count of the bones from tomb 5 does not increase the MNI, which is 2, and prevents us from testing this hypothesis.

The deposits in this tomb are accompanied by few beads that served as elements of adornment for the deceased. The individuals deposited in this tomb were all adults, and the bones here are too poorly preserved to make a diagnose of sex.

Graves 4, 6 and 7, built with radiolarite, are identical in their architecture to Grave 2, excavated earlier (fig. 2). They all attest to identical funerary practices. The tombs are built for only one or two individuals who are placed on a central slab of white limestone. The individuals, adorned with necklaces or beaded bracelets, are accompanied in the tomb by pieces of goat and sheep meat: these animals were probably killed during the funeral, one part of the animal accompanying the deceased in the tomb and the other one being consumed by the community during the funeral. The killing of animals in the prime of life clearly indicates that the community deprived itself of an important resource as mentioned in the faunal study; this underlines the importance of the deceased present in these graves for whom these animals were killed.

Grave 7 is of particular interest because two female individuals were found there. We make the assumption of a simultaneous deposits, according to the very identical datings and especially according to the way the tomb functions, which is not shaped to receive successive deposits (fig.3). One of the two women expose peri-mortem cranial traumas, whose link with death and funeral practices must be tested by additional analyses (fig.4).

Thus, these four campaigns of excavation on the site of Khor Jarama in the omani Ja’alan has probably brought to light a new burial pattern or “culture” still unknown in Oman. This excavation of seven tombs has indeed enabled the discovery of the first monumental tombs known to date in Oman. The latter has given very high dates during the middle of the 4th millennium BC, that is to say five centuries before the monuments of the Hafit culture. This discovery comes to fill a void that there was until now in Oman and which corresponded to a lake of data for the period between 3500 and 3100 BC., that is to say the period of transition between the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Now that this new kind of tomb has been discovered and identified, a new project in the coming years will therefore aim to characterize and to define this culture through its geographical extension, its funeral practices and burial pattern, its dwelling, its material culture, but above all its population and its social structure. The problems are then numerous: who are these people ? how are they organized ? where is their dwelling and what relationships do they have with the surrounding communities ? And above all, how and according to what modalities can be explained the transition between these Neolithic populations and the Hafit culture of the Bronze Age ?

To answer these questions two additional necropolises, spotted in survey and located not far from this necropolis of Khor Jarama, will be investigated in the future