The stone and shell beads of the shell-midden settlement of RH-5 (Muscat, Sultanate of Oman)

Above: An aerial view of Ra’s al-Hamra cape on the top of which RH-5 is clearly visible (grey spot) (photograph by R. Salm).

A look at shell-midden and cemetery sites discovered in Oman that date back to the fifth millenium BCE, testifying to the levels of development in areas around the Indus Valley civilization thousands of years before it reached its peak.


During the excavations carried out by the Italian Archaeological Mission at the shell- midden site RH-5, Muscat, 374 beads of different shapes and sizes, obtained from both stone and marine shell, were recovered. This paper discusses their chronology, typology, raw material, manufacturing technique and circulation along the southern coast of the Arabian sea during the fifth millennium BP. The authors point out the probable exogenous production of the RH-5 beads, given also the scarce number of these items from the large cemetery excavated at the same site. The existence of production centres, and the specialised role played by some of the coastal (shell- midden) sites of this period are also emphasised.