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Dilmun civilisation in Bahrain

I was privileged to spend a week in Bahrain and get to know a little about the Dilmun civilisation. The Dilmun were a Persian Gulf civilisation that existed in Bahrain and the first mention of Dilmun is in some Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets dated to the late third millennium BC. The Dilmun people placed their dead in tumuli that consisted of a central stone chamber enclosed by a low wall and covered by earth and gravel. Most mounds are 4.5 by 9 m in diameter and are 1–2 m high. There were an estimated 350,000 burial mounds.

Dilmun burial mounds are on either side of the highway and surrounded by buildings. It constituted the largest burial area in the world of that age but now only about 20,000 still exist. These are not preserved, so have holes in the top and others have car tracks over them.

Dilmun burial mounds are on either side of the highway and surrounded by buildings. It constituted the largest burial area in the world of that age but now only about 20,000 still exist. These are not preserved, so have holes in the top and others have car tracks over them.

Royal Dilmun burial mound that has already been excavated.

Royal Dilmun burial mound that has already been excavated.

Royal Dilmun burial mound in the yard of the pottery workshop.

Royal Dilmun burial mound in the yard of a pottery workshop.

I was fortunate to visit the Bahrain National Museum on my first afternoon in Bahrain and therefore gained an excellent overview of the Dilmun civilisation of whom I was previously unaware (being an antipodean ignoramus). The Bahrain National Museum contains a rich collection that covers 6000 years of Bahrain’s history, including artefacts uncovered in numerous archaeological sites. Also two halls have excellent exhibits of local customs and traditions, featuring clothing, housing, rituals and traditional crafts.

Dilmun pottery, some from as old as 3000 BC. These were very advanced people with writing, pottery, jewellery, cities, sanitation, and trade as far away as India and China

Dilmun pottery, some from as old as 3000 BC. These were very advanced people with writing, pottery, jewellery, cities, sanitation, and trade as far away as India and China

View inside a Dilmun burial mound. Note the pot and knife beside the skeleton.

View inside a Dilmun burial mound. Note the pot and knife beside the skeleton.

Bahrain Fort site is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The fort is located on an artificial hill that has been built over more than 4000 years of continuous occupation. It is the site of the former capital of the Dilmun civilisation.

Dilmun civilisation capital city, c. 3000 BC. The white building in the background is the associated museum.

Dilmun civilisation capital city, c. 3000 BC. The white building in the background is the associated museum.

In the Museum near Bahrain Fort there are lots of relics that European archaeologists have excavated from the Dilmun city. Including these miniatures.

In the Museum near Bahrain Fort there are lots of relics that European archaeologists have excavated from the Dilmun city including these miniatures.

Bahrain fort, built on top of the Dilmun capital city in the 11th century AD

Bahrain fort, built on top of the Dilmun capital city in the 6th century AD

Inside Bahrain Fort is very well preserved and beautiful

Inside Bahrain Fort is very well preserved and beautiful

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8 comments on “Dilmun civilisation in Bahrain

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2013 by in Travel and tagged , , , , , .
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