The Hajar region of Oman and the United Arab Emirates has been likened by the geographer and historian, J. C. Wilkinson, to an island bounded on its southern side by a sea of sand and on its other three sides by saltwater ocean. The backbone of this island is the Hajar mountain chain which forms a great sweeping arc, some 650 km long, from the Musandam peninsula to Ra's al-Hadd. On its northern side this is flanked by the Batina coastal plain and, on its southern (interior) side, by a piedmont zone where foothills and coalescing outwash fans form a broad belt of settlement between the mountains and the barren plains and sand dunes of interior Arabia. In view of its position between the great ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran and the Indus Valley to the north, and the rest of the Arabian peninsula to the south and west, the Hajar Region is pivotal to our understanding of the archaeology of the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian peninsula. Its inhabitants were not only engaged in active trade and foreign relations with their Gulf neighbours, its beehive tombs also formed part of a culture that extended in a great southward sweeping arc through the Peninsula to Sinai. Compared with Egypt, Iraq, Iran and the Indian sub-continent, the archaeology of Arabia is new; therefore, it is a compelling area for research.
The aim of The Hajar Project, within the Sultanate of Oman and the Arabian peninsula, is to achieve an understanding of
- the archaeological landscape of the Hajar Region
- the oasis towns that have successively inhabited it
- and, in a semi-arid environment, the constraints and benefits that have shaped them.
Central to our research is the study of the groundwater-fed, sub-surface to surface falaj irrigation networks that both create the oasis landscape and form a part of it.
Cover Photo: Jeffery and Jocelyn Orchard at the foot of Qarn Qantarat Nizwa. The circular structure is the western demarcating monument of the early Hajar Oasis Town on the Bisya Area Site, Wadi Bahla.