site located in the Sultanate of Oman (22°31′ N, 50°47′ E), at the point where the Arabian coast turns from running southeastward to running southwest-ward and the Gulf of Oman joins the Arabian Sea. The Arabic name, meaning “headland of the limit,” corresponding roughly to “Land's End,” describes its situation and has been used since before AD 1500 when the Portuguese recorded the toponym.
A small modern town stands on the neck of a sandy promontory which encloses a shallow lagoon, with low hills behind. Though strategically placed, the region has little fresh water, but marine resources are abundant. Archaeological remains, scattered at different sites (designated HD 1–HD 27) across some 1,000 ha (2,470 acres) and representing most periods from modern times back to 4000–3000 BC or earlier, document substantial continuity in lifestyle coupled with long-distance trading relations overseas. Remains of fish, shellfish, and turtles dominate the organic finds from excavation; there is also evidence for dates, today grown in inland oases with which there are close traditional links. Donald Whitcomb (1975) first drew attention to the Islamic remains. Bronze Age material was identified In 1986 by Julian Reade, who directed excavations during 1988, 1989, and 1992. The site complements nearby Ra's al-Junayz.
The earliest site identified, HD 2, is a midden producing small flints and molluscs, to be dated before 3000; terebralia shells suggest the presence of a mangrove swamp in the lagoon. At HD 6, dating to about 3000–2500, there is evidence for the use of copper and of distinctive large flint tools, and for the manufacture of stone and shell ornaments; contemporary tombs at HD 10 are circular stone structures with corbelled roofs.
HD 1 (c. 2500–2000), has stone ovens (for fish preparation) and much cooper, including fishhooks and a bun ingot; there are a few bronze pieces. Pottery was introduced during the occupation of HD 1 and mainly comprises Mature Harappan types, including one inscribed with two Indus signs. Buildings of this phase have not been located. The mangroves were declining. An aceramic village at HD 18, beside the lagoon, with subrectangular stone house-footings, is tentatively dated about 2000–1500.
Early “Iron Age” tombs abound on the hills. Those excavated at HD 9, perhaps dated about 1000, are stone, roughly oblong in shape, often abutting on one another. Copper or bronze arrowheads and some pottery vessels recall Wadi Suq types. There are many beads, stone vessels, and scraps of copper or bronze bowls. No contemporary settlement has been identified, but a Late Iron Age village was established at HD 21 (perhaps c. 500 BC), significantly located on the hills out of sight of the sea and exploiting animal rather than mainly marine resources. The village comprises agglomerations of rounded rooms and yards, with stone footings to the walls. The pottery is mainly a very coarse gritty ware similar to that found at Samad (in central northern Oman).
Hellenistic-Sasanian settlement has not been securely identified, but traces of a well-built stone structure with rectangular walls suggest a strongpoint near the lagoon. Islamic occupation is widely attested, and the HD 2 area on the promontory is rich in sherds dating from before AD 1000 to recent times. Plain and glazed wares probably derive from Oman, the Gulf, Iran, India, and Pakistan; Chinese and African wares are common. Excavations at HD 4 exposed a building of coral blocks. There is much glass, and evidence exists for the manufacture of lapis lazuli and carnelian beads. An oyster midden extends beside the sea.
The modern town has developed around a castle, which may have been built within a century of AD 1700, because no older traces were observed during restoration work about 1990.
- Reade, Julian E. “Excavations at Ra's al-Hadd, 1988: Preliminary Report.” In The Joint Hadd Project, edited by Serge Cleuziou et al., pp. 33–43. Rome, 1990.
- Whitcomb, Donald S. “The Archaeology of Oman: A Preliminary Discussion of the Islamic Periods.” Journal of Oman Studies 1 (1975): 123–157.
Julian E. Reade