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The origins of agricultural settlement in the al-Ḥajar region

  • Jocelyn Orchard

Extract

The earliest agricultural settlements in the al-Ḥajar region of southeastern Arabia were large, well-planned centres with a sophisticated and varied architecture. Because of their close environmental relationship with the al-Ḥajar mountain range and in order to distinguish them from the late 3rd millennium buildings and tombs of the type initially discovered and excavated on the island of Umm an-Nar, I have named these first settlements the al-Ḥajar oasis towns. To date, al-Ḥajar oasis towns have been identified at the sites of al-Khashbah, Firq, Bisyā, al-Ghubra, ʿAmlā, Bāt, Hili and Bidya, but there is every reason to believe that they also existed at Ṭawī Sim and Maysar, and at locations in Wadi Jizzi, Wadi Tayin, Wadi ʿAndām and Wadi Ḥalfayn (Fig. 1).

Associated with the ruins of the al-Ḥajar oasis towns are extensive cemeteries of Beehive tombs. These well-built funerary structures, usually circular or oval in plan, have a single, paved, corbelled chamber, encompassed by one or two contiguous walls of carefully selected, skilfully laid, flattish limestones. Their beehive shape is formed by spanning the gap at the top of the corbelling with large, flat stones and piling more flat stones on top of these to form a domed superstructure (Fig. 2ab). While generally similar in appearance as a class, the Beehive tombs may nevertheless vary in size, in the number of their walls, in the shape of the entrance (which may be triangular, wedge-shaped or rectangular) and in whether features such as external plinths or kerbstones are present. It remains to be determined whether these variations have any social, regional or chronological significance.

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The origins of agricultural settlement in the al-Ḥajar region

  • Jocelyn Orchard

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