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Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn - Sultanate of Oman.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynThe Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn are a group of necropoleis from the 3rd Millennium BC, located near a palm grove that were declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 1988.

The protohistorical site of Bat is located near a palm grove in the interior of the Sultanate of Oman.

Protohistory is a period between prehistorical and historical during which a culture or civilization has not yet developed writing, but other cultures have already noted the existence of those pre-literate groups in their own writings.

Together with the neighboring places, the place forms the most complete collection of settlements and cemeteries in the world from the 3rd millennium BC.

The necropolis of Bat is located in a bounded and coherent place and shows the characteristic and unique features of the evolution of burial practices during the first Bronze Age on the Oman Peninsula.

There are two archaeological sites: the Tower of Al-Khutm, located 2 kilometers west of Bat and the group of tombs of Qubur Juhhal in Al-Ayn, 22 kilometers southeast of Bat.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynStudies conducted over the last 15 years have shown the existence of numerous human settlements scattered from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman.

The site of Bat is located inside a palm grove. Somewhere around 3000 BC, there was an intense trade of copper which was extracted locally and stone - likely diorite, with the Sumerians.

The necropolis consists of 100 graves and circular buildings each with a diameter of about 20 metres or 66 feet.

These buildings have no exterior openings, so aside from the possibility of their having ritualistic function, they may have been used as tanks or silos.

Their precise function is as of yet still to be determined. In 1972, the excavations carried out by a Danish team led by Karen Frifelt showed that the area has been continuously inhabited for 4000 years.

The ruins at Al-Khutm are thought to have derived from a stone fort, with a tower made of rock with again a diameter of 20 metres or 66 feet. They are located 2 kilometres or 1.2 miles west of Bat.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynAl-Ayn is a small necropolis, although it is in the best condition of the three necropolises. It is located 22 kilometres or 14 miles southeast of Bat.

The sites have not been subjected to restoration or other types of conservation before the protection being provided by UNESCO, so their isolation has been their only protection.

One of the greatest dangers concerning the sites preservation comes from locals who take building material from the archaeological sites.

The pilfering of stones from sites has always been a challenge at historical sites. I know because I was remodeling an old village house in the village where I still live next to the ancient port city of Kaunos in southern Turkiye.

Several years ago my brother and I discovered that its porch was made with stones from the ruins of nearby Kaunos - a 2400 year old Lycian port city located just a few kilometers away from the house we remodeled.

Fortunately we were able to go talk to the archeologists still working on Kaunos and let them know they could come and recover the stones.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynA road between Oman and Saudi Arabia, which goes through these villages, was completed in September 2021.

The protohistoric site of Bat lies near a palm grove in the interior of the Sultanate of Oman. Together with the neighbouring sites, it forms the most complete collection of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium BC in the world.

The protohistoric archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn represents one of the most complete and well preserved ensembles of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium BCE worldwide.

The core site is a part of the modern village of Bat, in the Wadi Sharsah approximately 24 kilometres east of the city of Ibri, in the Al-Dhahira Governorate of north-western Oman.

Further extensions of the site of Bat are represented by the monumental tower at al-Khutm and by the necropolis at al-Ayn.

Together, monumental towers, rural settlements, irrigation systems for agriculture, and necropolises embedded in a fossilized Bronze Age landscape, form a unique example of cultural relics in an exceptional state of preservation.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynSeven monumental stone towers have been discovered at Bat and one is located in al-Khutm, 2 kilometers west of Bat.

These towers feature a circular outer wall about 20-25 meters in diameter, and two rows of parallel compartments on either side of a central well.

The earliest known tower at Bat is the mud-brick Hafit-period structure underneath the Early Umm an-Nar stone tower at Matariya.

The latest known tower is probably Kasr al-Rojoom, which can be ceramically dated to the Late Umm an-Nar period (ca. 2200-2000).

All of the stone-built towers show dressed blocks of local limestone laid carefully with simple mud mortar.

While conclusive evidence of their function is still missing, they seem to be platforms on which superstructures, that are now missing, were built – either houses, temples or something else entirely.

The vast necropolis at Bat includes different clusters of monumental tombs that can be divided into two distinct groups.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynThe first group is Hafit-period 'beehive' tombs located on the top of the rocky slopes surrounding Bat, while the second group extends over a river terrace and includes more than a hundred dry-stone cairn tombs.

Another important group of beehive tombs is located at Qubur Juhhal at al-Ayn, 22 kilometers east-southeast of Bat.

Most of these tombs are small, single-chambered, round tombs with dry masonry walls dating to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE. Others are more elaborate, bigger, multi-chambered tombs from the second half of the 3rd millennium BCE.

As in many other ancient civilizations, monuments in ancient Oman were usually built with regularly cut stones.

Unique to Bat and al-Ayn are the remains the ancient quarries from which the building materials were mined, and the many workshops that attest to the complete operational procedure, from the quarries, to the stone-masonry, to the buildings construction techniques.

The continuous and systematic survey activities constantly increase the types and number of monuments and sites to be documented and to be protected.

These include villages and multiple towers, quarries associated with the Bronze Age stone-masonry workshops, Bronze Age necropolises, an Iron Age fort, Iron Age tombs, and two Neolithic flint mines connected with workshop areas for stone tool-making.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynCriterion: The area encompassing the settlements, the necropolises and the workshop areas of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn is the most complete and best known archaeological complex in Eastern Arabia for the 3rd millennium BCE.

Cuneiform texts of ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq), dating to the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, inform us that the country of Magan (Oman) was at that time the principal extraction centre of copper.

Then this ore was exported overseas to Mesopotamia to the northwest, and possibly to the Indus Valley in the east.

Archaeological evidence for the appearance of a more hierarchical and structured social organization is attested at Bat.

In both the settlements, where circular monumental structures contrast with rectangular houses, plus the necropolises, where the arrangement of funerary space increased in complexity and the grave goods testify to higher living standards.

This higher living standard and social changes that occurred were mainly due to the introduction of a long-distance trade economy.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynCriterion: In a restricted, coherent space, the necropolis of Bat bears characteristic and unique witness to the evolution of funeral practices during the Early Bronze Age on the peninsula of Oman.

The archaeological sites of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn encompass the most unique ensemble of 4000-5000 year-old burial monuments, towers, and remains of settlement in the Arabian Peninsula.

They represent an extraordinary example of the unique response of the ancient people of Oman to the pressures of an increasing population and to the input from contact with other civilizations.

The actions of time, erosion and weathering processes, has slightly damaged some structures, but in general, the sites at Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn are very well preserved.

They continue to express and exhibit their exceptional cultural value and incredible monumentality.

Bat and its surroundings represent a mosaic of intact, authentic monuments of great antiquity, represented not only by villages and funerary buildings, but also by the many monumental towers and irrigation dams.

For centuries, the tombs were used and reused, thus preserving their original function and meaning.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynThe archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn are protected by a law implemented for National Heritage Protection of the Sultanate of Oman in 1980.

They are studied and preserved under the control of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture and its Department of Excavations and Archaeological Studies (DEAS).

The Ministry of Heritage & Culture is presently developing a new 'Management Plan' and a new 'Memorandum of Understanding' which focus on the following three points:

(I) to protect the site from destruction by regulating access to and development of specific parts of the site;

(II) to promote understanding of the meaning of each site and monument through scientific study of archaeological remains and the contemporary landscape;

(III) to promote the dissemination of these studies through the development of an interpretive programme oriented for local and international tourism, including the creation of one or more interpretation centre at site.

To answer these goals, the following elements are under way or planned: Since 2004 the Ministry of Heritage & Culture there has started a comprehensive international project in close collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Tokyo, Japan, the German Mining Museum in Bochum, Germany, and the University of Tübingen in Tübingen, Germany, for the documentation of the study and the conservation of the archaeological complexes of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynResearch has been concentrated on tombs (German Mining Museum and University of Tübingen), monumental towers (University of Pennsylvania Museum), local settlement patterns (University of Pennsylvania Museum and University of Tübingen), and quarries (German Mining Museum).

In 2009, the Department of Explorations & Archaeological Studies of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture excavated the monumental tower at al-Khutm.

There is continuous collaboration and interaction between all teams involved in the study of the archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn.

It is under the constant supervision of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture, resulting in the creation of a more detailed typology for the tombs and the monumental towers.

Moreover, this research strategy has led to an increasing understanding of the social, cultural and environmental contexts present there.

This eventually resulted in the foundation and the development of such a complex mosaic of villages, necropolises and hydraulic structures still visible at Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn.

 Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-AynIn light of recent discoveries at al-Ayn, it might be worth considering an enlargement of the boundaries of the property for the re-inscription of Bat, Khutm, and al Ayn to include also the row of tombs locally known as Qubur al-Jehhal, situated near the modern village of al-Ayn.

Plans are being developed to begin the restoration of the best preserved monumental tower, the so-called Kasr al-Rojoom.

A local inspector has been entrusted by the Ministry of Heritage & Culture to monitor the construction and the development of modern infrastructures and any potentially destructive access to the sites.

The main cemetery site was already partly fenced off from vehicular traffic, but the construction of a complete fence began in 2009.

The area surrounding the sites will be tested by means of non-invasive geophysics techniques such as magnetometry and ground penetrating radar, to find an appropriate place for building a visitors centre, a museum, a car park, and all the facilities needed to enhance the public access and safety of the sites.

UNESCO Organization


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