Preserving Oman’s past with care?

Muscat: Workers have been painstakingly removing ancient rocks and inscriptions from the site of a new road, in an effort to preserve Oman’s past.

Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture said it is shifting rocks with ancient inscriptions from an archaeological site in Rustaq for safekeeping.

Some conservationists expressed fears that the relics of Oman past could be lost due to construction work at Wadi Sahtan.

But an official at the ministry reassured the public that the site is well preserved.

Nestled in the rocky valleys of Rustaq, Wadi Sahtan is an archeological haven displaying ancient drawings, some of which can be dated back to 3,000 BC, according to experts.

“The ministry, in collaboration with experts from Italy’s Catholic University, has surveyed and documented all of the drawings and inscriptions found in the valley,” said Sultan Saif Albakri, Assistant Director General of Archaeology and Museums at the ministry.

Further, hobbyist Harith Al Kharusi said that some rocks, containing what could be the oldest signs of civilisation in Oman, were demolished as the government paved a new road in the village.

“These can be the first attempts in Oman to document history and share stories through time,” the 33-year-old added.

“The graffiti represents what we call, nowadays, social media,” Al Kharusi added.

The drawings show clearly, despite centuries of weathering, images of horses, camels and people carrying weapons.

A sign that reads ‘Tampering with the content of this archaeological site is strictly prohibited. Violators will be prosecuted by law’, is located a few meters from the sign “Men at work. Sorry for the inconvenience”.
Two-minute drive

And a two-minute drive from there has a larger red and white signboard that reads “Bombing area.” However, Albakri stressed that the ministry is cooperating with the transportation ministry to protect the site.

“We worked with professional researchers to carefully move most of the boulders to Rustaq Fort and the ministry’s headquarters in Muscat,” Al Bakri explained, adding that some boulders were kept in their original location.

He noted that the Ministry of Heritage and Culture sends someone to check on the site every week. The Ministry published a study in 2015 about the documentation in Wadi Sahtan in its book, ‘Windows On Our Past’, volume four.

Jaber Al Shiriani, a monuments technician at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, said that any acts of vandalism are considered violations of the law.

“No company is allowed to destroy any heritage at any archaeological site,” he added.