Sharjah Archaeology Museum’s current exhibition, Omani Civilisation: History and Development, offers a fascinating look at the country’s ancient artefacts and its significance in the region.
The temporary exhibit, held in co-operation with the National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman, is enlightening and enthralling in equal measure.
With many pieces displayed for the first time outside Oman, the collection includes fishing gear, weapons, clay and stone pots, ornaments, personal jewellery and other artefacts, which reveal the stories of Oman’s inhabitants dating back to the Stone Age (125,000 – 4000BCE).
The Omani Civilisation: History and Development exhibition is running until June 7 at Sharjah Archaeology Museum. Above is a stone tool or axe that was used for hunting and protection. All photos: Leslie Pableo / The National
“We hope that people will learn about the history of Oman,” Mohamed Yousif Al Zarooni, curator assistant at museum, tells The National.
“We want them to see the similarities there are when it comes to these ancient objects that were in Oman and the ones that were found here [in Sharjah]. People will see that all of us were connected and not isolated.”
The exhibition clearly displays through the three time periods Oman’s diverse history, which is not widely known in the region.
The Stone Age collection includes a set of stone tools, including fishing gear, which date back to 125,000 BCE. A stand out piece in this section is an ancient axelike tool made of stone. The tool, which dates between 125,000 and 75,000BCE, is clearly shaped and has clean facets. It would have been used for hunting and protection.
In this same section there is a collection of shell beads and other adornments that were found in a woman’s grave, from 6,000–4,000BCE in the Early Neolithic period.
There is a shell bracelet, a soft stone earring, shell beads and a number of other types of shells. These items were worn or buried alongside a woman who would have been between 18-25 years old when she died.
The second time period is the Bronze Age (3100-1300BCE), with fishing gear, axes, personal jewellery including rare golden beads, stamps and soft stone pots on display.
Particularly enlightening to discover in this section is that Oman, or Magan as it was known in ancient times, was a trade point for ancient civilisations.
Copper was a major resource mined in Oman at the time and the region became a focal point for the export of the material to many civilisations throughout the Middle East and South Asia.
On display is a replica of a cuneiform tablet found in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq, which dates back to about 2,000BC. The tablet lists materials needed to build a fleet of boats which could sail from the Sumerian city-state of Ur in Mesopotamia to Oman.
On the list are various kinds of wood, animal skins, special kinds of reeds, and bitumen – a thick, black type of oil. This trade project would have been a costly venture, and was commissioned by the governor of Girsu, an ancient city in Sumer, suggesting the importance of the project.
This type of trade would have affected the growth of many heavily-populated centres and what the exhibition describes as semi-independent cities in the region, where architecture, writing and crafts were developed as part of the evolving culture.
The third and final time period is the Iron Age (1200 BCE-600AD) which includes a rare collection of stone artefacts that display the evolution of the soft stone industry, along with a rare collection of short daggers, bronze arrowheads and axes.
A collection entitled A Warrior’s Last Stand features an iron sword, a dagger and a quiver filled with 27 arrows dated from the late Iron Age. At the time, a person with high status would be recognised in death through the items buried with them.
The exhibition is curated in an accessible and informative way for visitors of all ages to gain a clear understanding of the items, their context and how the various time periods fit into Oman’s rich and numerous archaeological sites.
And while each time period reveals something interesting about Oman’s history, what’s evident throughout the exhibition is how people interacted with their landscapes and environments.