Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

Ancient Kingdom of Oman

ExcavationsPosted by Bruno Overlaet Tue, February 02, 2016 15:39:55

Belgian archaeological expedition in the U.A.E. reveals the existence of an Ancient Kingdom of Oman.

A Belgian team directed by Dr Bruno Overlaet from the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, and working in close collaboration with Sharjah's Department of Antiquities made a discovery of major historical importance at the archaeological site of Mleiha in the central region of the U.A.E. The find was made on 17 December 2015, the last day of the team's fieldwork. The discovery was revealed to the press by the Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Muhammed Al Qasimi on 28 Januari 2016.

A monumental tomb measuring approximately 5.20 by 5.20 meter is under excavation, work on it is planned to resume in the fall of 2016. A square building of lime-bricks once stood on top of two underground burial chambers. These chambers, which once contained the deceased and the grave goods, had walls constructed with large boulders. The passage between the rooms was blocked with bricks and a large monumental inscription that had fallen down from the upper structure.

The bi-lingual inscription is written in Aramaic and Ancient South Arabian. The exceptionally well preserved text reveals the identity and the family lineage of the deceased, as well as the date when the monument was built. The central panel of the stone is written in Ancient South Arabian. It states that the tomb was build by the son of a certain ʿAmīd, who was in the service of the king of Oman. An Aramaic inscription is placed on the rim around the central panel. It gives the date when the monument was erected, in the year 90 or 96 of the Seleucid era, the equivalent of 222/221 or 216/215 BCE.

The inscription provides the oldest mention of the name Oman and proves that a kingdom of Oman already existed in the late 3rd century BC. The local Abiel dynasty, known from its coins minted at Mleiha, can in all probability be associated with this title of "King of Oman”. Their kingdom was apparently centered around Mleiha and probably consisted of the territory of the U.A.E. and the Northern parts of the Sultanate of Oman. Up to now, the oldest mentioning of the name was in Classical sources from the 1nd century CE where Omana refers to a harbour on the Oman peninsula. This Omana in the Periplus Maris Erythraei (Voyage around the Erythraean Sea) and in the Natural History by Plinius the Elder, is usually associated with the coastal sites of either ed-Dur in Umm al-Qaiwain Emirate or with Dibbah in Sharjah Emirate, both in the U.A.E. The identification of Mleiha as the royal seat, suggests the Classical authors referred to a harbour that served Mleiha, as the capital of the Oman Kingdom.

At this stage, only the upper part of the burial chambers has been excavated. The excavation will be resumed in the Fall of 2016.


illustrations :

01. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

02. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. View of the tomb with the inscription.

03. Belgian excavations at Mleiha. The inscription.

04. Eisa Yousef of the Sharjah Department of Antiquities and Dr Bruno Overlaet, director of the Belgian team, examining the funerary inscription.

Short selection of press coverage:


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