Today, the first day of touring Bahraini archaeological sites focused mainly (but not only) on the mind boggling burial sites.
Melanie graciously guided me the entire day, and Ahmed was kind enough to drive me around.
We started the morning at the site of Saar, a habitation and burial site excavated by a British team in the 90’s. The well preserved Early Dilmun (late 3rd mill BCE) village includes a temple with a two horned altar! In addition, next to the village is a burial ground with unique “honeycomb” burials, quite different from the contemporaneous burials in the large burial mound fields (more below).
We then went to the first of the burial mound fields, starting at the Janabiya field, and saw the first of many of the round mounds which are set in groups. These in fact are built structures (the later ones reaching to three stories) that with time the architecture collapsed and the internal filling poured out, creating the mound shape.
From this we went on to the stunning A’ali burial field, which includes thousands of mounds and at its northend (amongst modern houses), a cluster of much larger “royal” mounds, which have been excavated over the years, the most recent being by a Danish team led by Steffen Laursen. These mounds, which date to the latter part of the Early Dilmun culture (ca. 2050-1700) have been identified as the burials of local kings. Most importantly, a few years ago a partially preserved inscription mentioning Yagli-El, son of Rimun, one of these kings.
To the south of the royal mounds in a large open area, there are several thousand small burial mounds, and impressive site indeed. These are tombs of “regular” people, from the Early Dilmun Period.
From there we went on to visit the Japanese excavations at the Wadi al-Sail burial mound field, directed by Dr. Masashi Abe. These burials are from the earlier phase of the Early Dilmun Period (ca. 2200 BCE and earlier) and are a less developed type of burial structures.
The next burial field was the Sheikh Hamad 2 burial field, once again with several thousand burials of the Early Dilmun period, a few of the early type and most of the later type.
We finished off the tour with a visit to the recently excavated Sheikh Hamad Qanat (excavations directed by T. Insoll), a water system of Persian origin (known throughout the Middle East, including in Israel). The dating of this Qanat (one of many that exist in Bahrain; the only one so far to be excavated) is unclear, perhaps to the Sassanians.
I finished up the day on my own, with a sunset visit to Qalat Bahrain, with a mound from the Early, Middle and Late Dilmun culture, finds from Hellenistic and Medieval and early Modern times, including the so-called “Portuguese Fortress” (actually with several pre-Portuguese phases). But we’ll be back there tomorrow for a more detailed tour during the day.
I also did some regular touring around Manama..