Home » A rare chance find: a team from Goethe University discovers 4,300-year-old copper bars in Oman

A rare chance find: a team from Goethe University discovers 4,300-year-old copper bars in Oman

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A rare chance find: a team from Goethe University discovers 4,300-year-old copper bars in Oman

A tip from the local population had led the Frankfurt archaeologists to the area near the city of Ibra in Oman, where they found several settlements. Irini Biezeveld and her fellow doctoral student Jonas Kluge were in North Sharqiyah Governorate in the eastern Arabian Peninsula country for a six-week field research project funded by the German Orient Society and under the supervision of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism of Oman. They documented the visible buildings and then made test cuts in the terrain. With the help of any charcoal finds they wanted to date the settlement. Then something green appeared: a lump of copper, corroded on the outside, consisting of three individual ingots in the shape of a round cone. “Such a find is extremely rare,” says PD Dr. Stephanie Döpper, who is scientifically supervising the two doctoral students. The find, weighing 1.7 kilograms, was probably accidentally left behind by the residents when the settlement was abandoned – for whatever reason.

The settlement that Biezeveld and Kluge identified dates from the Early Bronze Age (c. 2,600-2,000 BC). During this time, the area of ​​present-day Oman was one of the most important producers of copper for ancient Mesopotamia in present-day Iraq and the Indus culture in present-day Pakistan and India. Only here was copper ore found on a larger scale. Cast into copper ingots, it was a coveted commodity, as evidenced not least by cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia. Since the copper ingots were usually processed into tools and other objects, they are rarely encountered during archaeological excavations. The discovery of several such bars in the Early Bronze Age settlement was all the more surprising.

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The copper ingots have a plano-convex shape typical of the time, which was created by pouring the liquid copper into small clay crucibles. The discovery of the copper ingots makes it possible to learn more about Oman’s role in interregional trade relations during the Early Bronze Age, as well as the metalworking technologies that were already known at the time. The smelting of copper requires a lot of fuel, which must have been a great challenge in an area as dry and sparsely vegetated as Oman. Researching how people in the Early Bronze Age dealt with their limited resources and whether they were able to use them sustainably is one of the questions that will be answered in the further course of the project.

The fact that the newly discovered village was in close contact and exchange with the Indian subcontinent is also proven by several sherds of pottery from so-called »black-slipped jars«, large storage vessels of the Indus culture, which were also discovered there. Apparently, even a small, more rural settlement in central Oman was involved in a system of interregional trade and exchange.

The excavations were carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism of the Sultanate of Oman and were financially supported by the German Orient Society.

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