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Past to Present

Excavations of settlements have offered evidence that there were pastoralists living in Oman at least 7,000 years ago. As early as the third millennium BCE, inhabitants on both sides of the Gulf shared a common culture, which is known as the Umm al-Nar culture (Mother of fire in Arabic). Excavations have taken place in Oman, Umm al-Nar, an island near Abu Dhabi, and Iran.

At that time Oman was part of Magan, an empire that included parts of the Arabian Peninsula and India. Sumerian cuneiform texts dating from 2300 BCE mention that ships from Dilmun (now Bahrain), Magan and Meluhha (Indus Valley) moored at the quays of Akkad. They carried copper, diorite, alabaster, onions and wood and exchanged these goods for wool garments, cloth, grain, paint, processed fish, leather, oil and fats. Copper was mined in al-Batina from the third millennium BCE. Diorite was also mined in the mountains of Oman. It is an extremely hard rock, suitable for durable inscription (the Code of Hammurabi, compiled circa 1700 BCE in Babylon, is engraved in diorite), pots and other utensils.

In the first millennium BCE, camels were domesticated. From that time, camel caravans transported products from Oman such as frankincense, myrrh and other aromatics overland to the great civilizations in the East (Persia and India) and West (Mesopotamia, Egypt in Pharaonic times, and later to Greece and Rome).

Around the second century CE, the first Arab tribes entered the region. These were part of a large migratory movement coming from the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. They arrived via south-west Arabia (Yemen) and the northern gateway of Tawam (al-Ain, located near the border with the United Arab Emirates) between 100 CE and 800 CE. At that time Oman was under Persian rule. Persian dynasties controlled the coastal ports and parts of the interior region from at least the 6th century BCE.

Members of the migrating tribes settling along the southern and eastern coasts contributed to the Persian maritime trade network as sailors and merchants. This network encompassed the Indian Ocean and the Far East. The Persians were eventually ousted from Oman in a number of battles in the 7th century CE when Islam united the tribes.

Pre-historic rock painting near the top of Jabal al-Harim at 1,650 metres, in Oman / Photo HH
Frankincense trees in Dhofar, Oman