The Archaeology of Bahrain

  • July 8, 2019
  • Archaeology of Bahrain - royal mound 8

The archaeology of Bahrain was introduced to FRAG by Michael Olney. Bahrain is a small island 32 miles long by 11 miles wide but it has been at the centre of world trade and civilisation for millennia.

archaeology of bahrain - map

In ancient times the island was an oasis of fertility within a mainly desolate region. This could have given rise to a legend that Bahrain might even have been the biblical Garden of Eden.

Most of Bahrain is low-lying and barren desert but a fertile strip of land in the north has many freshwater springs. There, Qal’at al-Bahrain is an exceptional example of unbroken occupation over a period of almost 4500 years.

Qal'at al-Bahrain
A multi -‘city’ sequence of structures: monumental public, commercial, religious and military buildings as well as residences dating from the early 3rd MBC onwards

Within Bahrain’s interior there are 175-350,000 burial mounds. The earliest date to 2700 BC at Medinet Hamad, an extension of the A’ali cemetery.

archaeology of bahrain - A'ali i
A’ali is a vast cemetery area with huge ‘Royal’ mounds and moundfields
Archaeology of Bahrain - Saar
The settlement and possible temple at Saar is an extensive late 3rd-early 2nd MBC complex of buildings connected by alleys and a main roadway

The Sumerians, and the later Babylonians and Assyrians wrote down stories of creation and a paradise land called Dilmun. Elements of these stories seem to have become incorporated into old testament stories like the Garden of Eden and The Flood.

Archaeology of Bahrain - The Sumerian creation story of Enki and Ninhirsag
The Sumerian creation story of Enki and Ninhirsag

Archaeological evidence from Mesopotamia, the Arabian Gulf, and the Indus Valley point to Dilmun as a major trading centre on the eastern Saudi Arabian coast. Michael suggests that, just possibly, paradise has been found on Bahrain!

He has kindly made his presentation available to publish online:
(7MB download).

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