discovering the heart of Oman

Salut Museum


The Hilltop Shrine

In autumn 2011 IMTO started the investigation of a few tombs located along the higher ridge of Jabal Salut, the elongated hill facing the site of Salut from northeast.
Together with eight tombs ranging in date from the Early Bronze Age to the Wadi Suq period, and further re-used during the Iron Age, the most unexpected discovery was that of a rectangular plan building whose roofing was originally sustained by two rows of six cylindrical columns. This building, that can be likely interpreted as a shrine, is so far a unique discovery in the whole southeast Arabia.


The Building

The shrine was built over a small cluster of earlier tombs that can be dated to the Middle Bronze Age (or Wadi Suq period) on the basis of the collected pottery and stone vessels. Together with this terminus post quem, the only shard associated with the shrine itself belongs to a typical Late Iron Age burnished maroon slip ware dish. The shrine was thus contemporary to the main site of Salut, or at least with its later phase.


Shrine position

The position of the shrine further underlines the great importance with which elevated places were endowed throughout the Oman peninsula’s prehistory, as witnessed on a large scale by the thousand tombs scattered from Musandam to the Ja’alan.
The location of the shrine also indicates a precise intention of creating a strong visual link with the site of Salut. The shrine stands on the projection of the site’s main axes, as it can be traced through the main tower. Besides, its orientation is such that only if seen from the upper terrace of Salut, its two rows of columns appear perfectly aligned.


In the absence of direct evidence from South East Arabia, the closest comparisons can be found in some Assyrian reliefs which depict small mountain shrines comprising an open, pillared room.
Moreover, contacts with Assyria are well known, and their chronology would fit with the scanty evidence supplied by the single potsherd found in association with the shrine.
On the other hand, rare occurrences of temples comprising round, plaster pillars, are known from Bahrein and dated to the 2nd millennium BC, thus leaving the question about influences open.