The Bronze Age Towers at Bat, Sultanate of Oman: Research by the Bat Archaeological Project, 2007-12. By CHRISTOPHER P. THORNTON; CHARLOTTE M. CABLE; and G. L. POSSEHL. Museum Monographs, vol. 143. Philadelphia: THE UNIVERSITY MUSEUM, 2016. Pp. 352, illus. $69.95.
One of the first statements which I heard as a newcomer to Oman in the 1980s was that Bat is the country's best archaeological site. The reason is that this large site (2000 x 1500 m). which boasts a scattering of magnificent tombs, harbors remains from the entire Bronze Age and other periods. Significantly, in 1988 this site was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The authors of this welcome volume focus on the Bronze Age towers, the emphasis of their project. Building on excellent previous excavation research, the authors document the building substance, stratigraphy, and analysis of the pottery and other finds recovered during the campaigns undertaken by the team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum jointly with the Omani Ministry of Heritage and Culture from 2007-12.
The report is circumspectly conceived, well-written, and illustrated. As opposed to many far larger site reports, this one is compact, structured, and focused. The authors' work commands all the more respect in the context of the qualitatively heterogeneous--even sometimes anarchic--specialist literature on the archaeology of Oman.
The introduction sets out clearly the temporal and spatial scope of the cultural assemblages investigated. There is a broad picture of geographic distribution (p. 2. fig. 1.1), as well as a chronological table which subdivides the Hafit and Umm an-Nar periods (p. 3, table 1.1). Unlike the authors, following D. Potts (1986), I see Magan located on both sides of the Gulf. The authors push the date of the beginning of Umm an-Nar up from the usual 2500 BCE to 2800. These datings rest on stratigraphic equation with the pottery of Hili H8 and other sites, not to mention radiocarbon assays.
Chapter 2 consists of a terse and circumspective analysis of the site and its environment. Chapters 3 to 8 encompass detailed reports on numerous towers: 1145-1148, 1156, ADS 1, ADS2 as well as others. Several km west of Bat lie the poorly published towers known as al-Khutm and Wahrah Qala, which receive real publication here for the first time.
Chapter 9 contains a detailed catalogue of Hafit and Umm an-Nar pottery--among the most detailed treatment for these periods to date. Previous...