Omani softstone Vase. Softstone can be Steatite, Soapstone or Chlorite 3500 to 4000 years old

Steatite Soapstone Vessel Oman
  • Description

Fine concave (but slightly asymmetric) stone vessel made of Soapstone or Steatite with geometrical designs including "dots in circle" However, this vessel has quite some weight so not absolutely sure about it being made of soft stone.  No lid present.

These vases are carved out of a big piece of soft stone, so no pottery! The material soft stone is plentiful in Oman.

These type of pots were manufactured in Oman e.g. Maysar and found in elsewhere in Oman e.g. Bawshar and Baht. They were also exported to Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Similar vases were found in Bahrain and the Emirates (Hili tombs) They were used for burial gifts or storage:  holding oil, concentrated fluids and honey. Burial places can also have the shape of beehives.  Height 11 cm.

Ref 3 / Ref 9: "Soft Stone vessels made from Steatite / Chlorite / Soapstone are  divided in 4 stylistic and chronological groups:

  1. Serie Ancienne (2600-2200 B.C): The Ancienne series dates from the third millennium BC decorated with figurative figures.
  2. Serie Intermediaire: The most common group the so called Omani group  of shallow bowls in Grey steatite sometimes with a single trough sprout, sometimes with vertically pierced lug handles decorated with the dot and circle design motif in a single row below the rim (Potts would place these in the series intermediaire)
  3. Serie Recente (2300-2000B.C.): Slightly later come a group of conical vases with concave sides often with lids. Pots and lids are decorated with increasing numbers of double circles with dots in the centre and a limited range of linear motifs as well. It is generally accepted that many of these Series Recente vessels originate in Oman and that a number were made in Maysar (Weisgerber 1981)
  4. Serie Tardive (2000-1700 BC) Some time in the middle of the second Millenium herringbone patterns of broken lines become popular (Haser 1990) etc

Most of the Omani softstone vessels fit in the serie Recente and serie Tardive. However Potts puts several Omani softstone vessels also in the serie Intermediaire.   

Omani archeology steatite vessel

 Softstone Vessel with "dot in circle" design

Name: "Decorated Softstone vessel"

Period: Second millennium before Christ (this vessel is 3500 to 4000 years old...) Sometimes called the Wadi Suq period (see Potts)

Origin: It was made or found in Oman, unknown. Five steps were carried out to make the stone vessels:

  1. The raw steatite material was broken down to portable size and then carried form the mines to the workshop
  2. The rough chunks were apparently cut by flint or metal tools to approximate  dimension of the finished vessel
  3. Hollowed out by blows of sharp metal and shaping the vessel
  4. Both sides (interior and exterior) were smoothed by wetting and rubbing
  5. The smoothed vessels were probably carved with a three pointed metal tool to make the dotted double circle motifs.

It must have been a very time consuming and risky process to produce these vessels!

 References
  1. Journal of Oman Studies (series)
  2. Mehr als Kupferin Oman by Weisgerber ( worked in Oman e.g. Maysar as an archaeologist over a long period).
  3. The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity Volume 1 by Potts page 249-251
  4. The soft-stone Inventory of Shimal by Haser BBVO 9 p 103-7
  5. The sultanate of Oman Prehistory and Proto-history By Muhd. Abdul Nayeem
  6. Catalog Oman exhibition Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 10,27, 54. ; Contains similar item.
  7. Muscat gate Museum memoirs of history April 2001 p 11 Contains photo of similar Vase from Bawshar
  8. Oman Faces and Places page 30 and page 32
  9. Dilmun and its Gulf Neighbors Harriet Crawford
  10. Oman Faces and places, articles from PDO News magazine 2009 page 30-32 steatite vessels found
  11. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 pages 30-31 and 35-43 give some information on archaeological finds in Oman.
  12. 2016 The bronze age towers at Bat, Sultanate of Oman Researched by the Bat Archaeological Project 2007-2012 edited by P. Thornton etc. Published by University of Pennsylvania 330 pages

Interesting website regarding ancient burial? towers in the Omani mountains: https://maptia.com/oriolalamany/stories/the-forgotten-tower-tombs-of-oman