The Lost Cities Project

The abandoned mud-brick settlements of central Oman: between neglection and romanticization

In the centre of many cities in Central Oman there is a mud-brick settlement that has been abandoned since the 1970s as part of the country’s modernization processes. More recently, the mud-brick settlements have been at the centre of conflicting interpretive processes. Scientists and national institutions warn of the decline of this unique cultural heritage, while local populations have little interest in their active use, but do not want to forego the settlements either. The abandoned settlements are visible structural representations of the past, while, at the same time, occupy uncertain spaces in the present and future.

Against this background, this research project is made up of an interdisciplinary research group consisting of archaeology (Dr. Stephanie Döpper, Goethe University Frankfurt), cultural sociology (PD Dr. Thomas Schmidt-Lux, University of Leipzig) and Islamic studies (Dr. Birgit Mershen, Ruhr University Bochum) to make the social relevance of the abandoned mud-brick settlements understandable. For this purpose, the material culture, the actors, and practices, as well as the interpretations and codes of the abandoned settlements, are to be studied. Methodologically, this is dealt with by mapping the settlements, collecting artefacts, historical and heritage studies, and knowledge-sociological discourse analyses.