Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Ancient beehive tombs of Oman

Ancient Beehive Tombs of Oman – So, Where are the Bodies?


Lined up dramatically atop a rocky ridge, the beehive ‘tombs’ of Bat and Al Ayn are two of Oman’s most celebrated prehistoric sites. Little is known about the stone structures, or the culture that constructed them. However, despite this lack of knowledge, UNESCO feels it knows enough to conclude that “the necropolis of Bat bears characteristic and unique witness to the evolution of funeral practices during the first Bronze Age in the Oman peninsula” – a rather strange statement considering that not a single human or animal bone has been recovered from the hundreds of beehive-shaped monuments scattered across the rugged landscape.

No Burial Remains in the Beehive Tombs?

Visit any website about the beehive monuments of Oman, and you will read endless descriptions about these impressive ‘tombs,’ which form one of the largest proto-historic necropolises in the world. You will even read detailed descriptions of the ‘funeral chambers’ within the monuments and how many bodies would have been held within each room.  However, what most of these sites fail to mention is that no burial remains have ever been retrieved from these so-called ‘tombs.’

Oman’s Beehive ‘tombs’ lined up dramatically atop a rocky ridge. (Olja /Adobe Stock)

Unfortunately, the beehive structures of Oman demonstrate one of the greatest shortfalls of the field of archaeology – the tendency to impose pre-conceived ideas upon phenomena that cannot be understood through our modern-day mindset. As there seems to be no other obvious purpose for their building than as funerary structures, the conclusion has simply been drawn that they were built as tombs – case closed.

World Heritage beehive structure at Al Ayn, Oman. (Public Domain)

Three Main Clusters of Beehive Structures

It was during the 1970s, that a team of Danish archaeologists ‘discovered’ the beehive structures of Oman, although it is likely that the local people always knew of their presence. The monuments are composed of stacked local flat stones and have been dated to between 3,500 and 2,000 BC, a period when the Arabian Peninsula was subject to much more rainfall than now, and supported a flourishing civilization in what is now desert to the west of the mountain range along the Gulf of Oman. In 1988, the monuments were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The structures are arranged in three main clusters: one in Bat, which is arguably the most famous, as well as the sites of al-Ayn and al-Khutm. The best preserved are those located in al-Ayn, where 21 beehive structures are lined up over the mountain range before the impressive backdrop of the Jabal al Misht (‘Comb Mountain’).

5000-year-old stone beehive ‘tombs’ at the UNESCO world heritage site of Bat in Oman. (Kylie /Adobe Stock)

In 2019, 45 more beehive tombs were identified in Al Sharqiyah along with an Iron Age settlement and a copper mine. It has been described as one of the best preserved sites found in Oman in the last decade.

The earliest of the structures are the simplest, with only one entrance and one chamber, and the later tombs have two entrances and up to four chambers. Only a few artifacts give any clue to the culture, and are basically limited to a few arrowheads, daggers, and water jugs.

The Hili Grand Tomb

Not far from Al Ayn beehive monuments are the circular tower tombs of Hili, including the Hili Grand Tomb, a reconstructed collective tomb, which is the largest monument in the UAE in terms of size of the stones used. It measures 12 meters (39.37 ft.) in diameter and 4 meters (13.12 ft.) high and has two entrances which are decorated with human and animal reliefs.

The tombs belong to the Umm an-Nar culture, a Bronze Age culture that existed from the second half of 3rd millennium BC. This culture is known for their circular tombs characterized by well fitted stones. Within the tombs at Hili, archaeologists have recovered hundreds of human remains, as well as some objects and personal items.

The Iconic Great Hili Tomb. (David_Steele /Adobe Stock)

The circular tower tombs of Hili bear many similarities to the beehive monuments, but as you can see in the image above there are also distinct differences.

It appears that there is a presumption that the beehive monuments must have served the same purpose as the circular tower tombs of Hili because they date to around the same period of time and are located in the same region. However, the important question remains – why were no human remains found in the beehive tombs?

Alternative Ideas on the Beehive ‘Tombs’ of Oman

Perhaps they were constructed as tombs but never needed to be used. Perhaps the deceased were placed in them and their bones moved to another location once decomposition had taken place. Or perhaps they served a different purpose entirely.

Some scholars have suggested they were used as silos or tanks, while researcher Brien Foerster has referred to the incredible acoustic properties that have been detected in other beehive-shaped monuments found around the world.

Beehive tombs at the UNESCO world heritage site of Al-Ayn in Oman. (derusu /Adobe Stock)

The fact remains that we really do not know what the beehive monuments of Oman were used for and drawing conclusions based on assumptions and without sufficient evidence only serves to undermine and water-down the entire field of archaeology.

Top Image: Beehive ‘tombs’ at the UNESCO world heritage site of Al-Ayn in Oman. Source: derusu /Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan


Beehive Tombs of Bat – Atlas Obscura

The Necropolis of Bat – Oman Tours

Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn - UNESCO

Results, limits, and potential: Burial practices and early Bronze Age societies in the Oman Peninsula – by S. Mery

Strange Phenomenon of Beehive Shaped Tombs Around the World – Hidden Inca Tours



I worked on the beehive tombs a decade ago, over two years. As said, we never found a single datable find in or around any of those we worked on. Most (all?) were too small for shelter-hardly room to crawl inside, let alone turn around. Remember, that these were built when Oman bore no resemblance to the arid place it is now, but was green and more lush. The mountain range where we worked is the Jabal Akthar-literally the Green Mountains-impossible to imagine now that the climate has changed so extremely-not a tree in sight, yet numerous irrigation channels run from the mountains, some deep underground. To warrant the massive work involved must mean that a plentiful supply of water was assured.
NO one knows what the so-called tombs were used for. We also excavated the remains of a large Bronze Age tumulus. In comparison, this was untouched and contained several burials and metal finds. With this in mind, it is very difficult to think why only the beehive's were robbed out (if they actually were) and the larger, later tombs left untouched, leading to the conclusion that there never was anything contained in them. They are very numerous and obvious.
Very strange all round

Living not far from some beehive huts on Skellig, I'd say these buildings were for a similar purpose, shelter.

This is much less a mystery or secret than depicted. I was once a tour guide there, and found some more of those tombs in the desert (only the tourists were disturbing), apart from this tourist attraction of Hilli Grand Tomb near Al Ain.
The explanation is quite simple. You can find quite similar tombs in India built by members of the Parsees. As their name indicates, they originally came from Iran/Persia after Islamic conquests.
Their religion (which is related to that of Zoroaster) requires that their bodies should not come in contact with earth - no time and spaces to explain this here more in detail.
So where they are? As the tombs are open at the top, the bodies were just taken or eaten by birds. This is the simple answer to the problem.

Ancient Bulgarians possessed a sacred knowledge about the geomagnetic healing forces of Bulgarian mountains and rocks and built their sanctuaries and niches in them. Our common ancestors used the geomagnetic healing force of earth by laying in especially cut in the rocks stone beds, niches and wholes, sometimes filled with rain water and used their so called Petro Energy / Geomagnetism.
Ancient Bulgarians were people of advanced and mystic knowledge and their Stone Civilization, the first human civilization was born in the lands of today Bulgaria and spread all over the world after the Biblical flood in Black Sea in appr. 5504 BC.
Today this sacred knowledge about the earth geomagnetic forces is lost for the humanity, but still kept in the secret military scientific laboratories for producing the so called UFO's and the Geoengeneering arms like HAARP and Chemtrails, which irresponsibly play with the geomagnetism and gravity of our planet.
The dangerous result is in front of our eyes - unpredicted and deadly earthquakes even in stable regions of solid mountains as in Nepal.

Peter Harrap's picture

If our house survives for thousands of years after our deaths and we are buried in a cemetary or cremated, there wont be any human remains it it either.

There might be bits and bobs left around, as here. They could indeed be homes. A small village.

They could have served to protect animals from predators at night, by blocking the entrance with a much larger stone. They could be watchtowers for falconry.

And now prove their age please, if you can.


Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

Next article