Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos

Date of Submission: 29/05/2008
Criteria: (iii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Delegation to the World Heritage Committee
Ref.: 5369
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

  • The burial mound field of Umm-Jidr  N26 01 0.62 E50 31 2.31
  • The burial mound field of Dar Kulayb  N26 04 30.94 E50 30 18.91
  • The burial mound field of Karzakkan  N26 07 17.92 E50 29 56.73
  • The burial mound field of Buri  N26 08 24.51 E50 30 11.66
  • The Burial mound field of Wadi as-Sail  N26 07 28.92 E50 31 1.74
  • The cultural landscape of Ali  N26 08 56.44 E50 30 40.91
  • The burial mound field of Janabiyah  N26 10 49.10 E50 28 23.67
  • The burial complexes of Saar  N26 10 47.31 E50 29 27.04
  • The burial mound field of Shakhurah  N26 12 49.29 E50 30 3.25
  • The grave field of Al Hajar  N26 13 0.06 E50 30 53.81
  • The burial mound field of Jannusan  N26 13 39.90 E50 29 29.70

The "Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos" are a seriaI property formed by eleven sites located on the western part of the island and composing together a chain which extends over 25 km from the centre of the country to its northern coast.

Ten of these eleven sites are archaeological areas consisting of fields of graves which were built by the inhabitants of what is currently the island of Bahrain, between the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and the middle of the Ist millennium A.D. The eleventh site is a cultural landscape resulting from the urban development which led to the expansion of the village of Ali into the northern part of the neighbouring burial mound field. The urban fabric occupied the empty space between several enormous burial mounds (called "Royal Mounds"), creating an exceptional interaction between a contemporary urban pattern and funeral elements belonging to the Bronze Age.

Each of the sites composing the proposed serial property provides essential archaeological and scientific data defining the unique funerary practices of the Dilmun and Tylos civilizations. This essential information concerns either the evolution of the societies through these practices over successive periods, or the types and sizes of graves, or the burial rituals or the relatively recent human interaction with this particular heritage.

The ten grave fields and the cultural landscape of Ali can be briefly described as follows, in order of geographical location from South to North and West to East:

  • Umm Jidr is a mound field lying on the slopes of a rocky hill. This field features both mounds of Early Type (flat mounds of rocky fill and chambers without cap stones from c. 2300 to c. 2050 B.C.) and mounds of Late Type (conical mounds of earth fill and chambers with cap stones from c. 2050 to c. 1600 B.C. Towards the east and south this mound field is lying in its original environment which has only been modelled and transformed by natural phenomena since 4000 years.
  • Dar Kulavb, Karzakkan and Buri are large mound fields encompassing Dilmun mounds of Late Type, each field with an exceptional density. These three archaeological areas constitute together a high concentration of mound fields within a relatively limited territory, entirely surrounded by the contemporary urban fabric of Hamad Town.
  • Wadi as-Sail is a Dilmun mound of Early Type field. The mounds are lying scattered on the plateaus above the "wadi" and on the slopes running down to the "wadi" bed.
  • Cultural landscape of Aali: This complex site is the result of the interaction between two major elements: the Ali burial mound field and the Ali village, which covers the area north of the mound field and the northernmost part of the mound field itself. The Ali mound field is a large mound field of primarily Late Type divided into two parts by a north-south running highway. At the north end of the burial mound field is a group of huge mounds, called "Royal Mounds", which have during the growth of the village become part of its urban fabric, so that the immediate neighbourhood of these mounds has been utilized for habitation and small industries, e.g. pottery and lime production.
  • Janabivah: is a mound field comprising five so-called Chieftain Mounds, i.e. mounds with two-tiered chambers, large diameters (c. 20 m) and heights (c. 4-5 m), plus a few other mounds.
  • Saar: is a field of two wide flat tumulis each composed of more than a thousand closely built tombs, consisting of chambers separated from each other by interconnected curved stone walls.
  • Shakhurah: is a field consisting of mounds of Tylos type, i.e. irregular mounds of varying sizes, covering over up to several hundred burial chambers made from roughly cut stones covered by plaster.
  • Al-Hajar: is a field consisting of around 150 sub-terranean tomb chambers cut into the rock and covered with cap stones. The earliest of the tombs date from the Dilmun period, but many of the tombs were re-used and re-built in the Middle and Late Dilmun periods, c. 1600-300 B.C. Besides, the al-Hajjar mound field also features a number of Tylos mounds.
  • Janussan: is a field consisting of 8 huge mounds, some more than 10 m high, lying in an approximately east-west oriented row.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos are the expression of funerary practices of these civilizations which flourished in Bahrain from the mid 3rd millennium B.C. till the mid 1st millennium A.D. and which played essential roles in the organization of trade between Mesopotamia, South Arabia and the Indian subcontinent.

These burial ensembles consist of tumuli of various shapes, forming fields of different levels of density. Among these fields are the densest concentrations of burial mounds found anywhere in the world from any period.

The tumuli illustrate globally unique characteristics with regard to both burial chamber construction and remains of burial rituals.

Among the tumuli of the Dilmun civilizations are two burial complexes each of them consisting of more than 1000 tombs, which are unique in the world.

Criterion (iii): The burial ensembles of the ancient civilizations of Dilmun and Tylos bear a unique testimony to their funerary traditions.

This unique testimony consists of:

  • the only mound field which illustrates the evolution from Early to Late Type of Dilmun tombs and the only remaining mound field in a relatively undisturbed landscape (the site of Umm Jidr);
  • the only remaining example of a type of landscape where the Early Type mounds are lying scattered along a wadi, a type of landscape which used to dominate the centre of Bahrain around Rifa al-Gharbi (the site ofWadi as-Sail);
  • the highest level of density of burial mounds in one field and the highest density of mound fields in a relatively limited territory (the sites of Dar Kulayb, Karzakkan and Buri);
  • the expression, through the variation of mound types, of the social structure of the Dilmun civilization (the site of Ali) and the constitution, over time, of a unique cultural landscape resulting from the interaction between the Ali mound field and the Ali village, where the contemporary urban fabric surrounds the so-called "Royal Mounds", with cases of appropriation of sorne burial mounds for human activities (the culturallandscape of Ali);
  • a unique ensemble consisting of two burial complexes (the site of Saar);
  • five large, two-tiered chambered, so-called "Chieftain Mounds" (the site of Janabiyah);
  • a group of rock-cut, subterranean Dilmun tombs re-used in later periods and a number of Tylos mounds (the site of Al Hajjar);
  • the largest field of Tylos mounds (the site of Shakhurah);
  • the largest Tylos mounds located on an east-west orientated line (the site of Jannusan).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The attributes which express the authenticity of the Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos are: the form and design, the material and substance, the function, the location and the density.

Form and design: despite plundering which affected most burial mounds in ancient times -easily observable on aerial photographs as small depressions on top of the mounds -and despite archaeological excavation which modified the shape of a small number of mounds, all the tombs of the Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos still present their original shapes modified only by natural erosion.

Material and substance: all the tombs built during the Dilmun and Tylos periods were made of different kinds of limestone, earth, plaster and wood, as shown during the excavations which were launched in the late 19th century and which did not reveal any later modification or addition of materials.

In the case of the site of Al-Hajar, Early Dilmun graves were reused and rebuilt in the Middle and Late Dilmun and Tylos periods. After the new burial types were constructed, no modification or addition of materials occurred.

Function: all the burial mounds are still tombs with their burial chambers, fragments of skeletons and burial goods. Some mounds in the village of Ali have been used since the 1950's as kilns for the production of pottery and lime, showing an interesting human appropriation and contributing to the design of the exceptional cultural landscape of Aali. This secondary use of the mounds did not affect their primary function as burial chambers.

Location: all the graves of the Burial Ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos are located in their original position.

Density: the density is expressed at two levels: an exceptional density of fields in a limited area despite the removal in recent years of a certain number of mound fields, and a unique concentration of burial mounds within each field, the highest in the world, unchanged since the fields were formed.

Despite the removal of many burial mounds since the 1950's due to urban development, there is still a high number of fields likely to express the exceptional density of fields and the exceptional concentration of mounds as well as to demonstrate the evolution of the funerary practices of the Dilmun and Tylos civilizations.

The burial mounds are today less voluminous than originally, due to natural water and wind erosion which affected them over thousands of years. Apart from this unavoidable phenomenon the burial mounds have not suffered from any human actions which have affected their physical integrity, except the widespread plundering which did not disturb the structure of the mounds in any major degree.

Comparison with other similar properties

National level:

The burial ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos provide essential information about the evolution of these two civilizations and are historically linked to major archaeological sites of Bahrain, dating from the same period and notably the World Heritage Site of "Qal'at al-Bahrain: the ancient harbour and capital of Dilmun" and two other sites included in the Tentative List of Bahrain: the Saar Archaeological Site and the Barbar Temples.

Regional level:

There are several mound fields in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, contemporary with those of Bahrain, but their density is much lower than the one characterizing the mound fields of Bahrain.

The Dhahran burial mound field, located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, is contemporary with the Dilmun mound fields of Bahrain and belongs to the same cultural tradition. The Dhahran mound field had originally a high density of mounds, but it has been heavily damaged over the past forty years which severely affected its density in burial mounds.

International level:

The burial mound, as funerary element, was widely used during Prehistoric times throughout the world. Burial mounds can still be found in North America, Asia and Europe, presenting similar characteristics from the structural and design points of view. Among all these burial mounds, those belonging to the Dilmun and Tylos civilizations have the highest density of mound fields in a limited territory and the highest concentration of mounds in one single field ever observed in the world. They also have some particularities (for example a1coves in the corners of the burial chambers) which cannot be found elsewhere.