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Activities in 2005-2006

Beyond archaeology: natural-science and chemical researches in Sumhuram and the Dhofar region

Since the outset, one of the characteristics of the Italian Mission, to Oman led by Alessandra Avanzini, has been its multidisciplinary approach.
In order to achieve an overall view of the city within its territory, therefore, archaeological investigations conducted at Sumhuram were broadened to incorporate natural science and geology.
Research is being conducted on the ecology of Dhofar, jointly with the Department of Botanical Science of the University of Florence, focusing on elements relating to the environment around the site of Sumhuram from antiquity until today. The aim is to gain a broader understanding of the relations between city and territory before the foundation of the city and during its occupation.
The palaeo-ecological setting of Sumhuram is studied not only from the palaeolithic point of view but also in terms of its geo-archaeological and archaeometrical content.
Excavated materials are analyzed with an eye to discovering how they were manufactured and where the raw materials came from.
At the same time, sedimentology studies have to ascertain the stratigraphy and the different phases of accumulation. These are conducted jointly with the Department of Geology of the University of Florence and the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage of Florence.

The Tropical Herbarium of Florence is assisting the IMTO team in its research into the natural environment of Dhofar, especially the areas where the frankincense tree (Boswellia Sacra) grows.
The coastal areas as well as the mountains and the pre-desert areas have been monitored, and samples of plants and flowers have been collected.
The incense is studied in both a botanical and a chemical light. Aromatic resins for burning which are discovered in archaeological contexts can be analyzed chemically and studies of this nature are presently being conducted by the Department of Chemistry of the University of Pisa.
Collaboration began in 2006 with the Department of Metallurgy of the University of Ferrara on the specific analysis of metal artefacts.
In the coming months metallographic research is planned to focus on the chemical composition of metals and alloys. Microstructural analysis will also be carried out to ascertain the mechanical properties of the metals and how they were worked.