Unique bronze weapons found in Oman

A collection of bronze weapons that were symbolic and possessed no utilitarian function were found in Oman. The finds are dated to the Iron Age II (900-600 BC). The remains were discovered scattered on the ground in a building belonging to what is thought to be a religious complex, during excavations carried out by the French archaeological mission in central Oman.

3D model of the site (by CNRS)
3D model of the site (by CNRS)

The artefacts consist of two complete quivers and weapons made of metal, including two bows, objects that are for the most part non-functional and hitherto previously unknown in the Arabian Peninsula. The discovery was made in the region of Adam, which is located at the frontier between Oman’s oasis and desert regions. The site known as Mudhmar East consists of two main buildings and several additional facilities. It is located at the foot of Jabal Mudhmar, near one of the largest valleys in Oman and crossing of trade routes.

The discovery of bronze weapons (by CNRS)
The discovery of bronze weapons (by CNRS)

The collection of bronze weapons appears to have fallen off furniture or shelves on which they were placed. Alternatively, they may have hung on the walls of the room. The quivers are small-scale bronze models (35cm) imitating the original objects made of perishable materials (leather). Other finds include five battle-axes, five daggers with crescent-shaped pommels, around fifty arrowheads, and five complete bows. The bows are made up of a flat, curved bow-stave bent at both ends, which are connected by a string made of bronze. The size of the bows (70 cm on average), and above all the material used, shows that they were imitations of bows normally used in that period.

Bronze quivers (by CNRS)
Bronze quivers (by CNRS)

The non-utilitarian nature of most of the weapons may indicate that they were designed to be offered to a deity of war, and/or as a key element in social practices not yet understood by the archaeologists. The first hypothesis is reinforced by the presence in the site’s second building of several fragments of ceramic incense burners and small bronze snakes, objects often associated with ritual practices at that time. This collection of weapons was formed at a time when metallurgical production was on the rise in the eastern Arabian Peninsula during the Iron Age. This economic and technical development went hand-in-hand with an increasingly complex society, as shown by the proliferation of fortified sites and monumental architecture.

Bronze bow (by CNRS)
Bronze bow (by CNRS)

(after National Center for Scientific Research)

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