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28 November 2016 Kings of Dilmun identified by name and announced in a press conference held by BACA
Kings of Dilmun identified by name and announced in a press conference held by BACA

Today, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), announces a sensational new historic discovery that brings written history of the Kingdom back 3700 years to c. 1700 BCE. The names of two Bronze Age kings of Dilmun and their royal tombs have been identified in Bahrain. According to recent C14 analyses the two tombs which are located at the site of the Royal Mounds in the village of A’ali, were built sometime around 1715 BCE and 1700 BCE.

Background: 

Working under BACA a team of Bahraini archaeologists led by the late excavator Ali Ibrahim Kadeem (see fact sheet) discovered in 2012 numerous fragments of stone vessels in one of the Royal Mounds of A’ali. The stone vessels had originally been placed in the tomb of a Bronze Age king of Dilmun. The extreme importance of this new discovery became clear when post-excavation analysis of the finds, by Dr. Steffen Laursen from the Bahrain-Moesgaard Museum investigations at A’ali, revealed recently that four of the stone vessels carry cuneiform inscriptions in ancient Akkadian language.

Translation and analysis of the inscriptions by Professor Gianni Marchesi (University of Bologna, Italy) has revealed that three of the inscriptions named the king buried in the tomb. His name was Yagli-El, and he was called the servant of Inzak of Agarum. The name Yagli-El freely translates to “The God Has Shown Himself” and possibly testifies to the divine status enjoyed by Dilmun’s royalty. According to Prof. Marchesi the name of the Dilmunite king identifies him as an Amorite (see fact sheet). The is an exceedingly important finding because it establishes a connection between the royal dynasty buried at A’ali and the great contemporary kingdoms of Mesopotamia: Babylon, Mari, Aleppo, Assur, Ebla and others that were all ruled by Amorites kings.

The inscriptions all refer to the palace of the king and call him by the Dilmunite royal title: The Servant of (the god) Inzak of Agarum. The latter title was first known from an undated inscription found on the famous Durand Stone in 1879 (see fact sheet). The inscription on the Durand Stone reads: “Palace of Rīmum, the servant of (the god) Inzak of Agarum.” The new inscriptions are with the exception of the king’s name identical to the inscription on the Durand stone. Amazingly, one of the newly discovered royal inscriptions from A’ali explicitly states that the entombed King Yagli-El was the son of King Rīmum.

In order to establish the chronology of the Royal Dynasty buried at A’ali the Bahrain-Moesgaard team has for the last 7 years investigated the chronological order and dating of the royal tombs at A’ali. This work has relied on a combination of field excavations, analysis of the tomb architecture and radio carbon dating (14C). These analyses led by Dr Laursen and supported by BACA, Moesgaard and the Carlsberg Foundation in Denmark have allowed the identification in the Royal Cemetery not only of the tomb of king Yagli-Elwhere the inscriptions were found, but also the previous royal burial mound which by implication can be ascribed to his father king Rīmum.

 

Fact Sheet

Amorites:

The Amorites were a Semitic-speaking people which entered the world scene during the third millennium BC. Their language is related to the later Hebrew and Arabic languages. According to ancient Sumerian sources the Amorites originally lived in tents and practiced a nomadic lifestyle. However, perhaps beginning in the 3rd millennium the Amorites tribes gradually conquered much of present day Syria, Iraq and possibly the lands of Dilmun and settled in the cities. By the first centuries of the second millennium BCE the Amorites had become the dominating powerful of the Middle East. 

The Royal mounds of A’ali:

The Royal mounds of A’ali are located in the central north part of the main island of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The site was originally composed of 12 to 14 huge royal mounds that were bordered by about 200 large burial mounds of aristocrats or senior courtiers dating to between 2000 and 1700 BC. Ten of the royal mounds are still preserved today. They were up to 15 m high and some still stands 12.5 m today. The royal cemetery emerged in the NW corner of the world largest mound cemetery originally holding 11.000 burial mounds belonging to the lower ranking Dilmunite population. Since 1879 the Royal mounds of A’ali have been the subject of numerous archaeological excavations including most recently excavations by the Directorate of Archaeology lead by the late Ali Ibrahim Kadeem (BACA) and the joint Bahrain-Moesgaard Museum investigations directed by Dr. Laursen from Moesgaard Museum. The site is currently a hot candidate for inscription on the UNESCO world heritage list. 

The Mound excavated between 2009 and 2012:

The burial mound is located at the site of the Royal mounds of A’ali and was completely excavated by the late Ali Ibrahim Kadeem from the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA). The mound has a ring wall of 31 m in diameter and a huge, 17.8 m long burial chamber. The main chamber is flanked on both sides by six huge alcoves. Access to the chamber is made possible through a vertical shaft which is blocked by a ton heavy stone door cut from a single piece of limestone. Originally, the inside of the door way had also been blocked by a now perished inner wooden door.

Early Dilmun pottery and steatite vessels were found in substantial quantities and date to the time of the original royal burial. The tomb had been looted in Antiquity and reused for burial later. It will probably not be possible to identify among the many human bones the royal remains of King Yagli-El, son of Rīmum the servant of Inzak of Agarum.

The “Durand stone”:

Captain Edward Law Durand, visited Bahrain in 1878-79. He excavated parts of one of the Royal Mounds of A’ali and made other archaeological investigations around the main island of Bahrain. In 1879 he found the famous 80 cm long foot-shaped stone since called the “Durand Stone”. It was at the time of “discovery” secondarily inserted in the wall of the Madrassah-i-Daood Mosque in Bilad al-Qadim. Durand brought the stone to his London home where it was destroyed under Nazi Germany’s Blitz bombing during World War II. Until now the Rīmum character has been a most enigmatic figure in Dilmun studies. It was until now unknown when the stone dated and who this Rimum was. The mentioning in the inscription of the god Inzak, which at the time was known from Iraqi clay tablets to have been the patron deity of Dilmun, eventually led to the first identification of Bahrain as ancient Dilmun. Dilmun was the name used by the ancient Sumerians in Southern Iraq. The place name Agarum has given rise to speculations that this was in fact the name which the ancient Dilmunites originally used for Dilmun (Bahrain). Replicas of the stone and the inscription are housed both at the National Museum of Bahrain and at the British Museum in London.

Further Information:

Excavator Ali Ibrahim Kadeem, Field Director of BACA’s excavation at A’ali has sadly passed away since the discoveries were made. Ali Ibrahim worked for a lifetime at the Directorate of Archeology and was a passionate excavator of the Kingdom’s ancient remains from the Dilmun, Tylos and Islamic periods.

Dr. Gianni Marchesi is a Senior Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Cultures (Academic discipline: L-OR/03 Assyriology) E-mail: gianni.marchesi@unibo.it Tel: +39 051 20 9 7714. Dr. Marchesi is a specialist in the early History of Dilmun and he has written several encyclopedia chapters and academic papers on Ancient Dilmun. 

Dr. Steffen Terp Laursen is Head of Oriental Department at Moesgaard Museum, Denmark. (Work 0045 23446513, Home 0045 60627128) E-mail: Stl@moesgaardmuseum.dk. Dr. Laursen has directed excavations at the Royal Mounds of A’ali in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and is currently directing the Bahrain Burial Mound Project and the Bahrain-Moesgaaard joint investigation at A’ali. Moesgaard Museum have been engaged in the exploration of Ancient Bahrain since 1953. Dr. Laursen has written his PhD on the Burial Mounds of Bahrain and is presently laying the final touch on a book titled: The Royal Mounds of A’ali, Bahrain - The Emergence of Kingship in Early Dilmun, co-published by BACA and Moesgaard and planned to appear in early 2017. Another book on the ancient Gulf co-authored with Professor Piotr Steinkeller entitled: Babylonia, the Gulf Region and the Indus: Archaeological and Textual Evidence for Contact in the Third and Early Second Millennia BC is also scheduled to appear in 2017.

 

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