Stone Beads in Oman during the 3rd to 2nd Millennia BCE. New Approaches to the Study of Trade and Technology

"In this paper," write the authors, "we present the preliminary results of a long-term and multifaceted study of the role of craft specialists and traders who were present in ancient Magan during the 5th-1st millennia BCE (Table 1), with a specific focus on beads found at sites in modern Oman, and their relationship with the Indus Valley or Meluhha" (p. 63). This in-depth exploration of the types and manufacturing methods of different kinds of beads in Oman is a fine summary of the richness that archaeologists confront when faced with thousands of years of history at sites that are only recently being properly excavated in the Arabian Gulf. They suggest wide-ranging contacts with neighboring civilizations, and speak once again to the close connections ancient peoples had one another, especially when valuable or desirable goods like carnelian beads were involved.

Many of the beads found in Oman seem to have been made in Indus workshops given the close analysis of drill holes and materials. One might not guess how delicate and involved an operation like drilling a whole through a bead, especially a long one is, but expertise counted: "Beads produced in major workshops of the Indus Valley region tend to have drill holes that are exceptionally well centered, while beads drilled in other regions tend to be quite irregular and are often not centered," (p. 66) writes Drs. Kenoyer and Frenez.

They conclude: "One of the most important aspects of our study of stone beads has been to confirm the presence of carnelian beads that appear to have been made in the Indus and traded to Oman. Three carnelian, long biconical bead fragments (Figure 11, a [see image above]) were discovered in the excavations at the 3rd-millennium stone tower site at Salut ST1 (Frenez et al. 2016). These beads are technically long bicones, but in the classification developed for these types there are three sub-types: long biconical, very long biconical, and very, very long biconical (Kenoyer 2017a: Figure 6). The shape and finishing of the beads is identical to beads studied by Kenoyer from the site of Dholavira, Gujarat" (69-70). That said, "it is also clear that many carnelian beads found in Oman come from other sources and that it is important to broaden our study of ancient trade networks to include areas such as Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Egypt, and Anatolia" (p. 74).

Future results from these continuing investigations look like they will cast more light on the networks and reflect how closely bound they once were.

Image: a) Long biconical carnelian bead, four views, Bat (photo: P. Koch, courtesy of Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Conrad Schmidt, German Archaeological Mission); b) SEM images of long biconical bead drilling from Bat.