Sa'ad and Sae'ed Area in Failaka Island

Date de soumission : 27/02/2013
Critères: (iii)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
National Council for Culture, Arts & Letters
État, province ou région :
State of Kuwait
Ref.: 5800


The archaeological site of Tell Sa'ad (F3 ) Dilmun Town N3258669.797  E235762.699

The archaeological site of Tell (F6 - A) Al Hakim Palace N3258904.000  E236053.000

The archaeological site of Tell (F6 - B) The Tower Temple N3258888.000  E236101.000

The archaeological site of Tell Sae'ed (F5) The Hellenistic Fortress N3258787.000  E236086.000

The archaeological site Tell (F4) Al Khan (Dar Al Deyafa) N3258578.000  E235911.000

The archeological site of Tell ( B6 ) Hellenistic Sanctuary N3258674.000 E236197.000

Shaikh Ahmed Al Jaber Rest House N3258684.003  E235739.694

Failaka Island is located approximately 20 km North East of Kuwait City. The island has a shallow surface measuring up to 12 km in length and 6 km wide.

The island proved to be an ideal location for human settlements, known for its wealth in natural resources such as harbors, fresh water, fertilized soil, as well as being a strategic maritime commercial route that links the civilizations of Mesopotamia from the northern side and the Gulf from the southern side. Studies indicate traces of human settlement can be found on Failaka dating back to as early as the end of the 3rd millennium BC, and extending until 19th  century AD.

Failaka was first known as Agarum, the land of Enzak, the great god of Dilmun civilization according to Sumerian cuneiform texts found on the island.

As part of Dilmun, Failaka became a hub for the civilization which radiated around Bahrain from the end of the 3rd to the middle of the 1st millennium BC.  Dilmun was a necessary interlocutor for its powerful neighbors in their need to exchange processed goods against raw materials. Sailing the Arabian Gulf was by far the most convenient way of trade at a time when transportation by land meant a much longer and hazardous journey.

The flourishing cities of Sumer in Mesopotamia, the sophisticated Harappan people from the Indus Valley (Meluhha in Sumerian texts), the industrious inhabitants of Magan (The Oman Peninsula during the Bronze age period) and of the Iranian hinterland have left many archeological traces of their encounters on the island. From a less tangible point of view, it is still debated among academics whether Failaka might be the mythical Eden, the place where Sumerian hero Gilgamesh almost unraveled the secret of immortality, the paradise later described in the Bible.

As a result of changes in the balance of political powers in the region towards the end of the 2nd millennium BC and beginning of 1st millennium BC, the prominence of Failaka began to deteriorate.

In the end of the 4th century BC, Failaka appears to be the island which saved the Greek traveler Sotelos and his companions from sinking (as described by Sotelos stone which was found on the island).

Studies indicated that Alexander the Great received reports about two islands from the missions sent to discover the Arabian shoreline of the Gulf, one of which located around 120 Stadia (one stadia is roughly equivalent to 185 meters ) from the estuary, where the second island located a complete day and night sailing journey with proper climate conditions. As the historian "Aryan" stated: “Alexander the Great ordered to name the nearer island "Ikaros", which is known as Failaka now, and the distant island as "Tylos" which is now known as the Kingdom of Bahrain. Ikaros was described by the explorers as an island covered with rich vegetation and a shelter for numerous wild animals, considered sacred by the inhabitants who dedicate them to their local goddess. After Alexander's death, the island became an important harbor for the Seleucid kingdom.

After the collapse of the great empires in western Asia (Greek, Persian, Roman), the first centuries of The Christian era brought new settlers to Failaka. Following a long tradition of religious fervor in its sanctuaries, the island becomes a secure home for a Christian community, possibly Nestorian, until the 9th century AD. Its name may have changed again at that time, as a place called Ramatha. At Al-Qusur in the center of the island, archeologists have uncovered two churches, built at an uncertain date, around which grows a large settlement. Failaka was then continuously inhabited throughout the Islamic period until the present. Excavations on the Island began in 1958 and are still going on until today. Many expeditions have landed on Failaka since and it is considered one of the key sources of knowledge about civilizations emerging from within the Gulf region.

Sa'ad and Sae'ed Area

The significance of the proposed archeological sites is that they represent civilizations extending between the 2nd millennium BC and the 2nd century BC. These sites are geographically close to each other and fenced within a land plot of approximately 382,000 square meters.

Bronze Age: Description of the Archeological sites (F3 - F6)

Dilmun Town (Tell Sa'ad - F3)

Tell Sa'ad is a high hill located South West of the island bordering the sea coast. Reports indicated that habitable parts explored within this location are contemporary with parallel habitable parts explored in Bahrain (City 2).

Explorations within this location show remains of houses with small rooms of approximately 3x3m square. The walls are built from mud and rock with parts coated with bitumen and red colored paint. Door entrances with one or more door steps were also uncovered. The entrances lead to side by side rooms indicating a single habitable unit. Potentially, each room was set to be used for a particular reason as mud made counters with rock, pottery and scraping tools were found within. Also, mud and rock made ovens were found in other rooms.

Outside the houses, many shallow water wells were found. South of the settlement, several ovens were also found and believed to be used for kilning pottery. Those pottery kilns constitute most of the houses external spaces and were built from square shaped rocks and bitumen.

Al Hakim Palace (Tell F6 - A)

At Tell F6, north east to Tell Sa'ad, a square shaped structure built with rock called Al Hakim Palace was uncovered. The building is centered by pillars and rooms used as stores and administrative offices. A workshop was uncovered as well towards the west of the palace.

Tower Temple (Tell F6 - B)

East to Al Hakim Palace, a square building made with stone and plastered floor was uncovered, along with a stone-built drainage channel surrounding what is called Tower Temple. The compound of F6 (Al Hakim Palace and Tower Temple) represents the central administration during that period.


A. Dilmunian seals are considered to be the most important findings in this location. Large amount of various inscriptions and different shaped seals were found in these Tells (Cylinder, circular, rectangular, scarab-shaped, and square seals) which proved that Failaka was a cultural bridge between the North and the South civilizations of the Gulf.

B. Metal tools like knives, hooks, agricultural tools, etc, are evidence of the daily activities of an independent society that settled in Failaka

C. Findings include accessories like beads, pearls, earrings and rings.

D. Large amount of pottery, jars and soft stone vessels.

Hellenistic Period: Description of the Archeological sites (F5 – F4)

Hellenistic Fortress (Tell Sae'ed F5)

Tell Sae'ed is a high hill located South West of the island bordering the sea, and 200 meters away from Tell Sa'ad towards the north eastern side.

Excavations at this location revealed a Hellenistic Fortress dating back to the 3rd century BC and set as part of the Tell Sae'ed. The Hellenistic Fortress is semi square structure with approximately 60 meters long on each side, with a tower in each corner. The fortress's southern main gate was secured by a large tower, while the eastern smaller gate was secured by two towers.

The fortress included two temples; Temple A and Temple B. Temple A, built in an Ionic style structure constructed with fine cuts and imported rocks. , and was used for worshipping the God Artemis. In this temple, pillars with Persian decorated bases can be found.

In the entrance of Temple A, Ikaros’s slab-stone stands with a 44 Latin line scripted on limestone known as the source of guidance for the island's rules of the law of the land. During excavations, a U-shaped moat with sea rock paved sides that gradually tilt towards the inside of the fortress was uncovered.

Studies conducted by archeological expeditions have shown that there were five different stages of occupation in the fortress.

The first and second stages resembled a habitable group of buildings built with rocks and mud, and two temples.

Third and fourth stages date back to the third century BC as those stages witnessed the fortress’ expansion work. It included a new north side defensive wall with a huge defence shelter in the north western side. A number of towers were refurbished and the main east side gate was blocked.

At the same stage, the fortress was surrounded by a defensive moat, while many old houses were demolished and some were refurbished. This stage was marked by the construction of many new houses which lead to an increase in population and unorganized habitable areas within the fortress.

In the fifth stage, buildings were dilapidated and obviously abandoned militarily and defensively. Potentially, the castle was heavily populated up to the end of 1st century BC when the island formed a part of the Kingdom of Khirax.

Al Khan or Dar Al Deyafa (Tell F4)

South to the Hellenistic Fortress, Tell (F4) is a small Tell not far from the shoreline located south west of the island, between Tell Sa'ad and Tell Sae'ed.

Al Khan is a twelve room structure built with mud-brick, One of the rooms is used as a workshop for moulding Terracotta statues and storing modeling tools. The assumed function of this building is a house of relaxation attended by ship captains and sailors. Food and water were probably served at the place.

Hellenistic Sanctuary (B6)

The north-eastern side from the fortress, a small Tell (B6) had a profile of a two rooms building with a yard where signs of ritualistic activities could be detected. This building in particular did not last in standing condition as it was drifted by sea high waves.


A.    Metal Products: silver coins with the image of Alexander the great as inscriptions, needles, rings, hooks, etc..

B.    Pottery Products: Jars glazed and non-glazed, and Vessels.

C.    Stone Products: altars, incense burners, stone inscriptions with Latin writings.

D.    Accessories and beads.

E.    Lamps and terracotta figurines.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Jaber Rest House

The Rest House was built in 1927 on Failaka Island. It is an elongated building with a double door on each side. The elevation of the building shows two intersecting passages connecting the outer doors. This creates four sections further divided into rooms. Each room has two windows for internal ventilation. The building materials consist of sea rock, mud, and wood, commonly used at that time. This design is uncommon in the Gulf region, and happens to be very effective during hot summers. It allowed cross- ventilation throughout the building by opening doors located at the end of the intersecting corridors.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

The south western side of Failaka Island is considered as one of the prominent archeological areas that relate features of different civilizations in the Arabian Gulf, representing the Bronze Age (2000-1100 BC) and the Hellenistic period (300-150 BC). The archeological compound and it's natural sea and land views remain intact and unchanged for more than 4000 years.

The Bronze Age elements that stand within Tell Sa'ad (The Dilmun Town) include houses, a temple, kilns and Tell (F6) Al Hakim Palace and tower temple ,  an integrated administrative center for the island, forming an extraordinary Arabian Gulf model of islands. It also historically linked with the Al Khider harbour and settlement, located at the north side of the island, which assures the maritime activities delivered by communities who settled in the island.

The Hellenistic sites in Tell Sa'eed (F5), the Hellenistic fortress and Tell (F4) Al Khan or Dar Al Deyafa, and The Hellenistic Sanctuary (B6), resemble an extraordinary model as the architectural details of the fortress are unmatched throughout the gulf. Furthermore, the God Artemis's temple with its art and decoration, the guest house and the mud statues accent the other exceptional qualities of the site. It is worth to mention the (Ikaros) stone is considered as the only complete administrative document found within the Gulf area.

The Historical Building (Sheik Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah rest house). This building has been constructed during 1927 on the top of Tell Sa'ad. The building was built with sea rock and mud, and without an external courtyard, unlike the indigenous architecture of that period. The crossed internal passages with four main gates leading to a central hall are other elements that add to the value of this unique site.

Criteria (III): The archeological sites found in Sa'ad and Sae'ed Area in Failaka Island bear an exceptional testimony to a succession of civilizations settling in one area. These civilizations disappeared leaving behind a unique example of cross-cultural hub, expressed in the remains of a human settlement, buildings are artifacts.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

The designated buffer zone, and the excavated sites are protected by " Law of Antiquities ", a royal decree issued in 1960 to protect and preserve tangible and physical cultural assets.

Location and setting: The seascape and landscape both remain unchanged since the first occupation, allowing visitor to witness the actual context in which these civilizations were formed.

Urban fabric of the proposed locations remains intact under the supervision of the expeditions involved in excavating and maintaining the archeological sites on the island.

Design, materials and substance constituting the physical entity have not been replaced or changed, and are in their original condition, making use of the several Tells:  great archeological mounds resulting from thousands of years of building and rebuilding in the same place without demolishing the accumulated living spaces.

Since the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the island remains significantly underdeveloped, giving way to current policies of cultural tourism to further shape future scenarios for the Island, and support strategic development projects aligned with keeping the island as an archeological record.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

Although many archeological expeditions have been working on several locations in Kuwait's mainland and Failaka Island, the proposed site of " Sa'ad and Sa'eed Area" stands out as a rare model of organized settlement and administration center. The area finds no equivalence on the national scale due to the succession of different civilizations that created the historical record of Failaka Island, within one area of approximately one hundred thousand square kilometers.

On a regional level: Bronze Age:

Dilmun Town: The archeological sites of the Bronze age on Failaka Island mark an important point in the geographical distribution of Dilmun civilization across the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The findings on Failaka can be compared to Saar settlement (Early Dilmun village in Bahrain) a single-period Early Dilmun settlement which is located northwest of Bahrain Kingdom.

Saar was a trade partner between the ancient states of Melukha (the Indus Valley civilizations of Pakistan and India) and Mesopotamia, similar to the trade connections of the settlements on Failaka Island. Saar covers an area of about 2.5 hectares, and it lies on the side of a north/south limestone ridge which once included an extensive cemetery.

Seals found in the site on Failaka Island exceed the number of seals found in other Dilmun sites, where as 3 of the largest seals are also found in the same location, asserting the cultural and economical importance of the settlement to the Dilmun era.

On an international level: Hellenistic Period:

Hellenistic Fortress, Structure and Style: So far, no structure analogous to the sacred enclosure and contemporary with it has been found elsewhere, although it is likely that the fortified compound on Ikaros was modeled on a prototype of wide application, which may have been used in many parts of the vast oriental territories appropriated and governed by Seleucid rulers. The closest analogy known is still the square Roman castrum of the early Republican period, such as the one that was founded at Minturane about 295 BC. Fortresses of a square plan discovered elsewhere in the Gulf area date from the 12th and 13th centuries AD.

As for the structure and style of the temples and their alters, the architectural finds at Ai-Khanoum in Bactria testify to a different trend of Hellenistic cultural influence, and the best comparative evidence available at the moment must be sought in the eastern Mediterranean.

Architectural features of a surprisingly similar provincialism can be studied in the rock-cut tombs at Kaunos in Caria, which was situated on the coast of Asia Minor just opposite to and only some 60 km by sea from Rhodes, one of the most important centers of Hellenistic civilization. These tombs are difficult to date individually, but it can hardly be doubted that the bulk of them are 4th century or Hellenistic.

Further comparisons can be drawn from buildings on other Aegean islands which prospered in the Hellenistic period, such as Kos, Thasos and Samothrace. The distyle-in-antis plan remained popular throughout the Hellenistic period, for sacred, secular and sepulchral purposes. Most of the tomb facades at Kaunos are of this type, possibly in imitation of banquet-halls (andrones). The plan of temple A on Ikaros with its square cella and relatively deep porch compares to that of temple B in the Asklepi-eion at Kos which is estimated to date from about 280 BC.