Mesopotamian culture had a great impact on development of the later civilizations and its influences can be found in the history of the UAE. Mesopotamians affected development of people living in the area in the Hafit Period in different ways. It has been found that earliest contacts between Mesopotamia and the Oman Peninsula dated as far back as the Middle or even Early Uruk period (Carter, 2013: 581).
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It is noteworthy that the area had been rather deserted prior to that period but the change of the conditions (the peninsula became wetter with numerous oasis areas) population of the peninsula increased. One of major attractions for Mesopotamians was the area’s rich deposits of copper. The need to have access to these deposits led to Mesopotamian influences in such spheres as trade, agriculture, architecture and art. It is possible to identify two major ways the influence spread: maritime and inland.
Notably, maritime expeditions are seen as important factors of the increase of trade between people of Mesopotamia and the Oman Peninsula. There are different views on the reasons why people of southern Mesopotamia expanded trade links with people of the Gulf. Some researchers believe that this was due to “socio-environmental collapse” in this part of Mesopotamia but recent evidence suggest that the interests were fueled by easier access to the Gulf partners rather than northern trade partners (Carter, 2013: 589).
Clearly, maritime expeditions to the Oman Peninsula were significantly shorter than inland trips to the Northern part of Mesopotamia. This was especially true for delivery of such heavy cargo as copper and maritime expedition were often the only options for traders of large amounts of this important material.
Clearly, maritime trade was not confined to copper trade as Mesopotamians brought such goods as pottery and textile to the Oman Peninsula. There could be other products as well since only a few trading documents are available for researchers.
Thus, existing evidence (a number of documents and seal impressions) suggest that the trade contacts were well-established and merchants from Mesopotamia were accustomed to trading with people from the Gulf (Carter, 2013: 591). These trade connections played crucial role in development of the Oman Peninsula.
At that, inland trade was also very important for establishment of trade connections between the two territories. While maritime trade was more favorable for development of handicraft and copper production, inland trade had a more significant impact on development of the local culture or rather spread of Mesopotamian traditions and technologies.
Caravans of merchants travelled through the Gulf and the Mesopotamian culture was spreading alongside. The trade was the necessary stimulus for development of cities and the knowledge brought enabled local people to develop agriculture, architecture, as well as art.
It is necessary to note that researchers found numerous examples of Mesopotamian pottery in the Oman Peninsula. This ceramics revealed conventional patterns used in Mesopotamia. Colors, shapes, patterns and imagery typical of Mesopotamian pottery spread across the Oman Peninsula.
Thus, merchants brought those products that became widely spread in the Gulf. Admittedly, the Mesopotamian pottery became a sample used by potters who lived in the Oman Peninsula in later periods. Admittedly, people often copied things they were accustomed to. Clearly, the products acquired new features that were more adjustable to needs of local people (Carter, 2013: 588). Apart from ceramics, Mesopotamians also brought their art with them.
Thus, particular sculptures of Mesopotamian deities were found in the area. The artworks bore conventional features of Mesopotamian culture. Clearly, local sculptors started copying the works brought. It is noteworthy that artists of the Oman Peninsula used materials typical of the region. Thus, copper artworks were widely spread in this area. At the same time, ivory and ceramic products were largely brought from Mesopotamia.
More importantly, Mesopotamians also affected development of cities. As has been mentioned above, the Oman Peninsula was not heavily inhabited at the times prior to the Hafit Period. Development of trade and changing environment attracted many people and created the need to build cities. The cities were often built on the seashore or close to big ports that were constructed to facilitate trade between Mesopotamians and people of the Oman Peninsula.
Mesopotamian architecture had a great influence on the new cities. The structure of cities was similar to the one of Mesopotamian settlement. Of course, delivery of water to the cities was also developed with the help of Mesopotamian traditions and technologies. Cemeteries were built with the use of Mesopotamian traditions as well.
Thus, the shape of tombs in the area suggests that they were constructed on the basis of conventions that reigned in Mesopotamia at that period (Carter, 2013: 587). Cairns found in the Oman Peninsula can be regarded as illustrations of Mesopotamian influence.
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Of course, one of the most important spheres that flourished in Hafit period was agriculture. As has been mentioned above, that was the period when weather conditions became more favorable for people as well as agriculture. The area had many oases and people were able to grow plants in those fertile lands.
Initially, people were restricted to oasis zones. Importantly, some plants were brought from Mesopotamia. For instance, date palms were cultivated in Mesopotamia and, in Hafit period, the trees became typical for the Oman Peninsula as well (Carter, 2013: 586). Clearly various crops were cultivated in the peninsula, which attracted more farmers to the area.
It is noteworthy that farming later developed due to development of irrigation that was heavily influenced by the Mesopotamian culture (Cleuziou & Tosi, 2007: 157). Delivery of water to larger areas made it possible to farm vast areas. Apart from delivering water to cities, this natural resource was also brought to farming lands. This led to development of farming in the peninsula. Again, more farmers were eager to come to the area where they had an opportunity to access essential resources.
Finally, development of handicraft and copper production were heavily affected by Mesopotamians. The growing demand in Oman copper led to development of new smelting sites. Mesopotamian traders were willing to pay and people living in the Oman Peninsula were interested in developing their major industry to provide more products and earn more. Clearly, this demand led to attraction of many people to the area.
People produced copper, craftsmen produced copper products and traders paid for them. Researchers have found plenty of “fish-hooks, pins, tweezers and blades” (Carter, 2013: 586). Mesopotamian technological advances enabled people in the Oman Peninsula develop copper production. Clearly, in the course of time, the industry was developing and new technologies were adopted. However, they all needed the push and it was Mesopotamian demand in copper and other metals.
Interestingly, there is hardly evidence that the area was influenced by Mesopotamia in the field of administration. Some researchers assumed that the Oman Peninsula was under control of Mesopotamian rulers since Mesopotamian traders brought considerable amounts of copper to the country (Carter, 2013: 593).
There are certain documents that allude to certain hegemony of Mesopotamian rulers but the document lack historical relevance. Thus, there were some taxes imposed and people from the Oman Peninsula paid some money that came to Mesopotamia in the form of taxes (Carter, 2013: 593).
At the same time, Mesopotamian laws or administrative regulations did not penetrate the peninsula. People living in the area was free from the rule of Mesopotamia. However, they still adopted lots of conventions brought to the peninsula. The spread of Mesopotamian culture brought certain traditions to the peninsula.
It is necessary to note that all these influences were of paramount importance for development of the area. On the one hand, the Mesopotamians had a more-developed society in terms of technology and they inflicted their ways in the Oman Peninsula. It is possible to note that the Mesopotamian culture became the basis of development of people living in the area. Of course, people adjusted technologies brought from Mesopotamia to make them more applicable in the area.
Mesopotamian culture created the society that started evolving in the Hafit Period. Admittedly, traders, artists, administrators coming from Mesopotamia used traditions of their land, People living in the peninsula (who often came from different areas) willingly adopted the traditions that shaped their further development. It is possible to note that following generations developed their own ways but they still were based on Mesopotamian technologies.
On the other hand, development of trade and industries led to increase in population and the peninsula started developing rapidly. Traders from different parts of Mesopotamia (Southern Mesopotamia in the majority of cases) spread the news about plentiful deposits of copper in the peninsula and this attracted more and more people (traders, craftsmen, farmers and so on).
The peninsula was becoming a favorable place for people to settle down. Technological advances of Mesopotamians enabled people to create more favorable conditions for farming as well as living in the area.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the Mesopotamian culture played an essential role in development of the Oman Peninsula in the Hafit Period. Even though the links between the two areas were established earlier, really close ties developed at that period. Prior to that period, environment conditions were harsher and the peninsula was almost uninhabited.
The Hafit Period was the time when the Oman Peninsula was evolving rapidly due to the changing environment as well as copper production and trade with Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamian culture enabled people living in the peninsula develop industries (copper production), farming, handicraft, architecture and arts.
It became the basis of further development of the area. Archeologists still find numerous artefacts that suggests particular Mesopotamian influences. The UAE has a long history and ancestors living in the area developed unique culture that was a product of experiences of many generations and peoples. However, the Hafit Period influence has a specific place in the history of the country as it was the time when the basis of traditions and values were formed.
Carter, R 2013, ‘The Sumerians and the Gulf’, in H Crawford (ed.) The Sumerian world, Routledge, New York, pp. 579-99.
Cleuziou, S & Tosi, M 2007, In the Shadow of the Ancestors: The Prehistoric Foundations of the Early Arabian Civilisation in Oman, Ministry of Heritage & Culture, Muscat.