To mark World Heritage Day, President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Shaikha Mai Al Khalifa, reported on a number of new archaeological findings, revealing Bahrain’s past as a “lost paradise”.
One aspect of Bahrain’s history where there have been recent discoveries relates to Bahrain’s Christian period, prior to the arrival of Islam. The area of Samaheej is believed to have been a centre for Bahrain’s Christian traditions, and there has been progress excavating a building believed to have been used as a church around the seventh century AD.
Other important research shows how in past centuries Bahrain was naturally a much greener and fertile region, in part thanks to a more benevolent climate and naturally occurring water reserves – hence Bahrain’s portrayal as a “lost paradise”. There have also been new excavations of burial mounds in Maqaba, dating back to the period of Greek regional influence, when Bahrain was known as Tylos; along with important new archaeological research being conducted at the Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain) site, which through history had been one of the centres of Bahrain’s cultural and social life.
Bahrain is home to around 170,000 burial mounds, many dating back to around the second and third centuries BC. The oldest and largest burial mounds – the “Royal Tombs” – are found at Aali; some measuring up to 15 metres in height and 45 metres wide. In 2019 UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee included the Dilmun Burial Mounds on the World Heritage List. Previously included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List was the Bahrain Fort site (2005) and the Offshore Pearling Sites in Muharraq (2012).
At the outset of 2020, Shaikha Mai announced a series of initiatives for promoting Bahrain’s historical heritage, under the slogan “Dilmun: Land of Density,” emphasizing Bahrain’s density of historical and cultural sites.