Story Behind Bahrain’s Large Burial Mounds!

Madinat Hamad 1 Burial Mound Field.  © Think Heritage
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Bahrain has one of the largest burial mounds in the world. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Bahrain was known for its large number of burial mounds even since ancient times. So we were just wondering, why would Bahrain’s ancestors put so much effort into a burial process – building large cemeteries for people and almost covering a major part of the island with burial mounds?

We had a quick research and here’s the story behind our island’s burial mounds.

The Dilmun Burial mounds are the most apparent evidence that connects Bahrainis to the early Dilmun culture. Rewinding to the ancient period, there was a time when the island attained prosperity and wealth. This indeed became one of the main reasons for our ancestors to develop elaborate burial traditions applicable to the entire population. Yeah, you read that right! But how? After all, making plans is easy.

Fencing wall with seal impression, Madinat Hamad 2 Burial Mound Field 

© Think Heritage

Well, the ancient inhabitants had an execution plan as well. So they created a cross-section among excavated mounds for various social groups in the early Dilmun society. This included thousands of individuals of different ages, genders, and social classes. And they were intelligent too. They understood the geological configuration of the island and made sure that they used non-fertile lands for the formation of these extraordinary cemeteries. This went on until they built the biggest and densest burial mound cemeteries the world has ever seen!

Burial chamber with blocked entrance, Royal Mound 8, looking west

© Think Heritage

Apart from the story, there’s more to the burial mounds. They reveal quite a lot of things which otherwise we wouldn’t have a clue about. They are, in real, crucial evidence on the elites and ruling classes.

Madinat Hamad 1 Burial Mound Field –  the second-largest having 4,262 burial mounds set in a pristine wadi landscape.

© Think Heritage

These large cemeteries tell untold stories of how the Dilmun civilization has evolved over the years. This is especially true in the architecture of the burial mounds. You can find four different mound types that give clues about the emergence of social hierarchies. 

The burial mounds can also be divided according to variations in size and interior designs but the basic layout has remained the same over the 300-year period. 

The construction typology is also quite exceptional. The majority of the tombs were constructed as single-storeyed small cylindrical towers while some of the bigger two-storeyed were built in a ziggurat-like shape(similar to step pyramids). A very particular and unique characteristic of the Dilmun tumuli construction is the presence of alcoves. Depending on the tenant’s social status there can be up to six of such alcoves which were usually filled with mortuary gifts.

All these indeed make the Dilmun Burial Mounds a living proof of Bahrain’s distinguished cultural heritage and is hence, marked Bahrain’s third World Heritage Site.

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