|Unearthing Bahrain's buried secrets
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Saar was one of the major discoveries of the Arabian Gulf region when first uncovered in the early 1980s by a Jordanian-Bahraini team. But it wasn’t until 1989 when archaeologists Dr Robert Killick and his wife Dr Jane Moon, arrived in Bahrain and formed the London-Bahrain Archaeological Expedition, that the site was fully investigated.
The city was inhabited between 2100-1800BC during the Dilmun era when Bahrain was involved in the copper trade between Oman and southern Iraq.
According to Killick, uncovering the ancient city was almost like lifting the lid on a toy box to reveal a perfectly laid out 'Lego-land' city with walls, streets, stones and a temple that had remained intact for four centuries. Lying undisturbed on the temple's sandy floor were numerous seals, platings and sealings indicating that food and drink offerings used for ceremonial rites had been stored there.
These exquisitely preserved Dilmun seals are now on display in the Bahrain National Museum and are a 'must-see' on any visitor's tour of Bahrain. The designs are often used by Bahrain's jewellers to create unique mementoes of Bahrain.
The Tylos area was introduced to Bahrain by a Grecian naval fleet exploring the Arabian coast for Alexander the Great who had his eye on annexing the peninsula into his Hellenic empire. Nearchos, one of Alexander's admirals wrote: "There lies the island of Tylos, distant from the mouth of the Euphrates about a day and a night's sail .... it is large and neither rough nor wooded and bears garden fruits and all things in due season."
But before Alexander had a chance to conquer Arabia, he died. His fleet remained however and set up a flourishing entrepôt in Bahrain, benefiting from the increasingly affluent commerce between Greece, Rome, Persia and Arabia, exporting frankincense from Oman and pearls from Bahrain. Ancient historian and military commander Pliny acknowledged in one of his letters: "Tylos was famous for its vast number of pearls."
Finds from excavated Tylos tombs now displayed in the Bahrain National Museum include exquisite Hellenic gold and precious gem necklaces, rings and earrings, delicate glasses and bowls, stone figurines and pre-Islamic coins copied from Alexander's monetary designs.
Flash forward a few centuries and Dilmun's waters of eternal life could so easily have referred to the discovery of oil in Bahrain in 1932. It was the first nation in the Gulf to find the precious 'black gold' that paved the way for untold riches to gush forth from beneath Arabia's sands and change forever the lives of its people. New Zealander Frank Holmes, the first overseas representative of California's Standard Oil Company, (forerunner to Bapco) was convinced that an immense oilfield ran along the Gulf coast – and he was proved right.