Fieldwork in Progress

To achieve its research objectives, The Hajar Project undertakes a number of programmes, each of which addresses a different aspect of its work. These include: surveys and mapping; the excavation, planning and conservation of the sites’ building remains; the tracing and investigation of the ancient aflaj; and study of the ancient tombs.


The Hajar Project employs a Real Time Kinematic Global Positioning System to produce cm accurate contour maps of its extensive landscape sites with all archaeological features pinpointed.

Archaeological Geophysics

Fraser Prince surveying

From the start of our research in the winter of 1980/81, The Hajar Project has been conducting geophysical surveys at its sites in the Wadi Bahla and the Wadi Meleh. From 1980 to 2009, this work was undertaken by Bartlett-Clark Archaeogeophysics who provided both fluxgate magnetometers and the expertise of Alister Bartlett, the late Dr A.J. (Tony) Clark, Peter Cottrell and Fraser Prince. Their excellent surveys revealed a variety of sub-surface anomalies, one of which - a linear feature, excavated in 2004 at the site of al-Ghubrat Bahla, north of Bahla town - proved to be a 5000 year old falaj channel (Falaj A). and confirmed our long-held hypothesis that the earliest oasis towns of the Hajar region were irrigated by falaj technology. The discovery of a contemporary falaj (Falaj 1) in an area of 3rd millennium BC housing within the earlier of the two Hajar Oasis Towns on the Bisya Area Site, Wadi Bahla, then followed and these results have led to the further discovery of equally ancient and even older aflaj and opened the way to the exploration of the ancient oasis landscapes.

As we progressed to tracing the aflaj upstream towards their source, it soon became clear that a technology capable of deeper penetration would be required, as the depth of the channels beneath the present ground surface was increasing rapidly with each successive sounding. We decided that Ground Penetrating Radar would provide the necessary technology and Dr Adam Booth - previously of the Glaciology Group, Swansea University and now of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London - was invited to undertake this work. Dr Booth - assisted in 2011 by Dr Benedict Reinardy (formerly of Swansea University and now of Bergen University) and then in 2013 by Mr Khalil Al-Hooti (of The Department of Earth Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman) - undertook the task of detecting the deeply buried upstream channels of Falaj A and Falaj 1 and also of searching for the falaj of the later Hajar Oasis Town on the Sallut plain, Bisya Area Site. This work was largely financed by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.


Adam Booth's account of his GPR Surveys can be viewed in the News and Events section.

Pottery Recording

The work undertaken by our Pottery and Small Finds Recorder, Ms Olga Bassinne is complex and essential to our understanding of the ancient oasis civilization that we are gradually uncovering. She is shown here at work, patiently piecing together the sherds that are such important clues to the trade and foreign relations of the Hajar Oasis Towns.

Commenting on her work, she says:

“During the excavation of a small portion of the platform monument known as Bisya Area Site Building 3, several thousand ceramic fragments have come to light. These seemingly insignificant pieces have yielded important information on the sequence of occupation and reconstruction of this building, as well as confirming Oman's place firmly in the midst of a pan-Arabian and international trade. Not only are vestiges of the enormous black slipped jars from the Indus present here - as often throughout sites of this period - but an array of Indus basins, pots, and jars are well represented. Some of it may rival the best produced in the great urban centres of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa of the third milleniium BC, or perhaps have travelled here from there, such as the series of exquisite red and white water jars.

In addition, Iran is well represented through a smaller array of goods, from the elegant Emir type of grey ware to some jars which find parallels at Jiroft, an Iranian site brought to fame in the last decade; others stem in style from the Dasht plain. The most mysterious may come from as far afield as northern Syria; and the identifications are still continuing. If all this comes from just a small part of one building on the site, who knows what will come from further investigations of the site! In addition, comparison with similar research from other contemporary areas at Bat, Ra’s al Junayz and Maysar have shown a similar trend. This is not an isolated case, but a cultural phenomenon”.


Masonry Conservation

 With a generous grant from the Anglo-Omani Society, widely experienced archaeological conservators Richard and Helena Jaeschke have been testing methods for the strengthening and stabilisation of the massive stone walls of the Bisya Area Site’s imposing monuments. Some of the masonry is showing the strain of 5,000 years of exposure to the elements and The Hajar Project wants to make sure that these major structures are given the care they deserve. After examining the problem in the spring of 2010, the Jaeschkes began field trials in 2011, using mixtures of sand and sarooj in a lime mortar between the blocks to bond them together. This report below describes their work.

Conservators Richard and Helena Jaeschke demonstrating their treatment of the fragile limestone blocks to ‘Ali Maqbali and Sultan al-Bakri (Director of Excavation and Archaeological Studies) from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture in Oman, who were on a visit to the Bisya Area Site.

Conserving Stone Wall Buildings on the Sallut Plain, Bisya Area Site Dec 2011: Jaeschke
Conservation report by Richard and Helena Jaeschke
Microsoft Word document [1.4 MB]