From raw materials to finished products: pottery production at Sumhuram (Khor Rori, Sultanate of Oman)
Keywords:pottery production, pre-Islamic pottery kiln, pottery analysis, South Arabian pottery, Sumhuram
The aim of this paper is to analyse the dynamics related to the pottery production in Sumhuram, the easternmost port of call between the Red Sea and the Indian continent along the southern coast of Arabia (second century BC–fifth century AD). Being a rich hub of international trade, receiving and redistributing local products and goods from many different areas, Sumhuram was able to provide for its needs through its own agriculture and a number of local activities, as attested by the presence of kilns and furnaces. Previous studies on the topic have suggested a possible connection between local pottery manufacturing in Sumhuram, and the Hadrami tradition, although kilns have not been found until recently. In 2015 archaeological investigations unveiled the first evidence of such a connection with the discovery of a pottery kiln and some production waste inside the city wall, along with the identification of pottery sherds in the area of the kiln. In order to identify their mineralogical and petrographic composition, thin-section analyses were made on a number of selected sherds. The preliminary results demonstrate that the raw materials used are compatible with a local production. This allows us to describe the different phases of the pottery cycle in Sumhuram as well as the structure of the pottery kiln, which represents an uncommon find in the pre-Islamic archaeology of southern Arabia.
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