discovering the heart of Oman

Salut Museum


Soft-stone vessels

One on the most important Omani handicraft in antiquity as mirrored at Salut.

Small stone vase in form of a truncated cone with a saw-tooth pattern running beneath the rim (diam. 5.9 cm; h. 7.2 cm; th. 0.5 cm)

The massive mountains that constitute the backbone of the Oman peninsula were not only rich in copper, but also contained good sources of chlorite, a soft-stone that can be easily worked. As early as the Bronze Age (third millennium BC), Omani craftsmen learned how to produce beautifully polished and decorated vessels out of this stone, several of which were found during the IMTO excavations at Salut and ST1.

These vessels likely became so renowned that now they are found on archaeological excavations on an area which comprises Mesopotamia, central Asia and even the Indus.
Shapes and decorations were quite standardised, with variants that can be now used to establish the chronology of the contexts in which such vessels are found.
So at ST1, dating back to the Bronze Age, a different assemblage of stone vessels has been collected than that coming from Iron age Salut. The general tendency is towards a rougher (only relatively) working of the stone, often less polished in Iron Age specimens that it is in more ancient ones. The colour of the stone itself changes, with darker shades of bluish-grey chlorite being preferred in earlier times, over a lighter grey-greenish stone more commonly used during the Iron Age.
Besides, while the Bronze Age decoration is mostly limited to straight lines and/or dot-in-circle motifs arranged in different layouts, in later periods it becomes more articulated and tends to cover larger areas of the vessels. A typical decoration for the Iron Age period, also useful for chronological attribution is, for example, the saw-teeth motif.
Stone vessel production did not cease with the Iron Age but carried on through the Pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, always with the introduction of new shapes and decorations, and also with the introduction of lathe turning, which likely took place during the last centuries BC, if not toward the end of the Iron Age.