Pearl of Dilmun

, CULTURE

Rediscover the island’s epic history and rich heritage with Intersections, Bahrain National Museum’s pop-up exhibition

History is awash with tales from the mythical land of Dilmun. Regarded as one of the oldest civilisations in the Middle East, this ancient Semitic-speaking country was an important trading centre controlling trading routes in the Persian Gulf. Despite speculations by modern researchers, the scholarly consensus is that Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the coastal regions of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Intersections

Over the past two decades, emerging archaeological evidence has contributed to a better understanding of the political and socio-cultural setting in Bahrain, and a revision of previously established typologies and nomenclatures. The 19 new exhibits set up in the Dilmun and Tylos and Islam halls present a new reading of the existing 28-year-old display.

Dilmun Hall

It records a detailed timeline of events in ancient Bahrain from the Neolithic age to the late Dilmun era. The temporary exhibits include stone and flint tools dating back to 4000 and 5000 BC, seals used for trade extending to Mesopotamia and Indus Valley, clay pots and vessels used for daily events as well as temple rituals, relics excavated at the Qal’at Al Bahrain (Bahrain fort) site and more. It’s interesting to note that the Qal’al Al Bahrain site served as the capital of a thriving and powerful Dilmun from 2050 to 1750 BC.

Few of the popular practices and traditions back then are held close by locals to this day. Pottery, for example, has been a common craft in Bahrain for millennia. A’ali village is presently popular for the craft as are the clay incense burners of Qalali village and Riffa town. The ‘firthi’ style boat used by today’s Bahrain fishermen is another example.

Tylos and Islam Hall

The Tylos era began after the entry of Alexander the Great into Dilmun. It’s worth mentioning that Bahrain, though part of Dilmun, never came under his empire. Even the island’s culture remained essentially Arabian though Greek styles influenced art, including pottery and jewellery. There was a surge in figurative art and tomb stones as well as figurines of ‘wailing women’ or mourners in graves were common practice; relics have been found in Sa’ar and Al Shakura. Incense trade was big too and luxury items like glass were imported in return. Tylos jewellery is another highlight – never were women so lavishly adorned with precious stones and metals; artifacts including a diadem, gold discs, necklaces and rings have been found at Sa’ar, Al Shakura and Al Maqsha.

A variety of Islamic period coins found in Bahrain testify the commercial significance of the land during this period. Gold, silver, copper and lead coins minted in Iraq, China and India have been excavated.

Intersections runs till December 31 at Bahrain National Museum’s Dilmun Hall & Tylos and Islam Hall. Museum timings are 8am to 8pm throughout the week. Entry fee is a nominal BD1 per head.

By: Melissa Nazareth

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