THE USE OF TRADITIONAL MUD-BASED MASONRY IN THE RESTORATION OF THE IRON AGE SITE OF SALŪT (OMAN). A WAY TOWARDS MUTUAL PRESERVATION
Keywords: Mudbrick walls, Traditional masonry, Mud plaster, Earthen heritage
Abstract. The archaeological record of the Sultanate of Oman speaks of the use of mudbricks (adobes) and mud plaster as key building materials over a long chronological range from the Early Bronze Age (late 4th / 3rd millennium BC) to the Late Iron Age at least (first centuries BC). Traditional earthen architecture perpetuated this scenario until modern times when the discovery of oil brought along deep transformations in the local economy and way of living. This long-lasting tradition has provided the necessary means to cope with the problem of mudbrick structures conservation on the prominent archaeological site of Salūt, in central Oman, where substantial mudbrick walls were discovered, dating to the second half of the second millennium BC and beyond. In fact, exploiting the life-long experience in mud-based masonry of a local mason turned out to be the best (and arguably only) way of consolidating and protecting the ancient structures. This strategy not only is definitely a sustainable one, as only readily accessible and largely available natural materials were employed, but it also helps to revive a locally rooted skill that seriously risks being forgotten due to the lack of interest in younger generations. With this aim in mind, a survey and recording of the local terminology connected with the tools and techniques of mud-based masonry were also carried out. This paper will account for the various stages of the work that led to the final restoration and conservation of the site. The use of different media – pictures, drawings, videos – reflects the comprehensive approach towards this fundamental issue. The recent development of the project included the preparation of mud plasters made following different procedures in order to achieve a better visual impact and a lower static load on the structures.