Flintpladser i Bahrains ørken


  • P.V. Glob


flint sides in Bahrain, flintpladser i Bahrain, Glob


The Flint Sites of the Bahrain Desert

In practically every part of the world chipped stone implements are found dating to one or another period of the half-million years covered by the oldest cultures of man, the relics of the hunting peoples who ranged over wide-stretched areas, following the movements of the game. Since flint and related types of stone formed the material of their tools and hunting weapons, the possibilities of finding such relics on Bahrain would appear to be particularly good, as the cliffs which form the underlying substance of the island are of yellow and grey Eocene limestone containing many flint-bearing strata. Despite their investigations, however, former expeditions had not found the slightest trace of Stone Age man.

The "Danish Archeological Bahrain-Expedition" was successful in discovering, during the course of its first reconnaissance journeys, a number of flint sites in the southwestern desert stretches of the island. Subsequent surveys of considerable areas resulted in the discovery of many new sites, both in the southwestern desert and at two points in the northwest of the island, as well as three sites on and near the highest point of the island, Jabal Dukhan, raising the total of stations found to 12 (cf. p. 94, fig. 2).

All the stations are surface sites. The worked flint was found where the wind had uncovered the ancient ground surface, which in most places in the coastal areas is covered by yard-thick sand deposits or by high cliffs. There are therefore no possibilities of stratigraphical distinction between the various flint cultures which are represented. Several of the discoveries were, however, made inside a very limited area, covering not more than a single flint­smithy, so that in some cases it is possible to be certain of affinity between the various types found. On the mountain in the centre of the island there is a small cave, facing north, in which, however, a sondage produced no objects earlier than the Islamic period. Within this area there are also a large number of shelters, projecting ledges of rock, beneath which Stone Age hunters very often established their dwellings, but such settlements have not yet been found. There is here a subject for future investigations.

The great majority of the objects of flint, which is a clear dark-brown in colour or else an opaque light-brown, show the same cultural characteristics. They consist almost entirely of rough flakes and chips, as well as cores with various degrees of flaking and retouche. Regular blades are scarcely ever found, only some few struck with a blow from the side and not, as is usually the case, from the end. The main impression given by the specimens collected, with a very few exceptions (Figs. 4-5), is therefore that they belong to a Middle Palæolithic flake culture. A few specimens are of a clear transparent white or greyish white flint, and probably belong to the Neolithic period or later. In all, the material found consists of about 300 implements from the 12 sites, as well as about 3000 chips and swarfs from the flaking process.

One of the sites (no. 25), discovered in the centre of the island, would appear to diverge from the remainder, by the appearance of some massive flakes with coarse edge-flaking (Fig. 1 c-d), which is reminiscent of Leval­loisian work 1). Together with these were found two cores, pointed by means of coarse flaking at one end (Fig. 1 b), as well as a flake chipped into the shape of a three-pointed star (Fig. 1a).

The flint implements illustrated in figs. 2 and 3 are characteristic of the remaining discoveries. Most of the sites are dominated by the massive flint cores with rough shaping, forming sharp or jagged edges (Fig. 2 h-i), a type which finds its closest parallels in the lndian Sohan culture 2). In addition a series of crude bladelike flakes are found, with very little (Fig. 2 b) or no (Fig. 2 c) flaking along one edge, corresponding to specimens found in the Sohan culture 3). Flakes and chips are also common in which crude retouching along one side has produced a sawtoothed edge (Fig. 2 f-g and Fig. 3 a-c). The discoveries include only one typical centre burin (Fig. 2 a), as well as one massive flake of triangular form worked to a point (Fig. 2 e). Flake scrapers were found on the majority of the sites, either with an evenly retouched edge at the opposite end to the bulb of percussion (Fig. 3 d) or with a scraping edge on one of the sides (Fig. 3 e). A certain number of larger pieces of flint are also provided with a scraper edge (Fig. 2 j). A unique specimen is an oblique blade with surface flaking on both sides (Fig. 2 d).

The large number of worked cores and chips gives this dominating flint culture on Bahrain a close resemblance to the Sohan culture of India, of which the settlements Iie thickly in a series of river valleys in northwest Punjab 2). The earliest discoveries are 400,000-200,000 years old, but the culture can be traced for a very considerable period up to the close of the last Ice Age and extends over a great part of northwest India 4). The core implements worked from pebbles 5) which are typical of the earliest phase of this culture are not known in Bahrain. On the other band the discoveries described above have a close resemblance to the later phase of the Sohan culture, even though atypical specimens also occur, such as the rounded Mousterian-like scrapers (Fig. 3 d) and the massive scrapers of Levalloisian character (Fig. 1 c-d and 2 j), as well as the implements with sawtoothed edge (Fig. 3 a-c). Completely foreign to the Sohan culture is the surface-flaked blade (Fig. 2 e), which is known from other cultures including the later Jabrudian 6), where the small chips worked to a point (Micro-Mousterian; Fig. 5 a-b) are also found 7).

A Late Palæolithic date, or later, must be ascribed to certain arrowheads, fashioned from a pointed blade with the tang flaked from the front (Fig. 5 c).

The very varied inventary thus appears to span a considerable period of time, representing a number of culture groups, among which the lndian Late Sohan culture predominates, though with an inmixture of a culture under Levallois-Mousterian influence, such as is strongly represented in discoveries in Palestine 8) and elsewhere. An absolute date for the artifacts belonging to Bahrain's Old Stone Age cannot yet be given, but at a reasonable estimate the dating would appear to lie between 50,000 and 20,000 years ago.

A distinct position among the flint objects from Bahrain must be accorded to a collection of arrowheads (Fig. 4). They were all collected on a little site, covering not more than 30 square yards, and they represent beyond a doubt the chipping site of one flintsmith for a single day, or perhaps for only a few hours. In addition to the objects illustrated the complete find consists only of three fragments of semifabricata for arrowheads (similar to Fig. 4 b-e) and of 115 chips from the working of the arrowheads. On the site lay in addition many hundreds of extremely small flakes from the surface flaking of the arrowheads. These were not collected.

The raw flint which is here used is of the same light and dark brown type as is found in the palæolithic inventary, with the exception of two specimens, the one of a transparent grey flint (Fig. 4 b) and the other of a dull reddish flint (Fig. 4 g). The collection contains representatives of several of the stages in the manufacturing process of the arrowheads. The first step is illustrated by a flake, struck roughly off and showing a commenced retouche on one side (Fig. 4 a). Next comes a more finished preparatory piece, which broke in the course of the surface flaking and was therefore discarded (Fig. 4 b). On the next preparatory blank the flat flaking was completed, but during the final stage of this flaking or while chipping the barbs out the bottom of the blank was accidentally broken off and the piece discarded (Fig. 4 d). Finally we have the completed arrowheads (Fig. 4 e-h), but these were perhaps rejected because of lack of balance and were allowed to remain on the site. In the case of the last three specimens (Fig. 4 f-h) small pieces had been broken off in the course of the final flaking. The discovery was made complete by the finding of the flintsmith's chipping tool, a little spherical flint pebble (Fig. 4 i), with the traces of striking on both sides. This was the only chipping stone on the site, and it was used for striking off the flakes and for the first rough shaping. Its discovery illustrates in a uniquely vivid manner the work of the flintsmith. Only one tool is missing, the animal tooth or the bone with which the final flaking of the arrowheads was carried out. This tool must have perished from the site long ago, unless the flintsmith replaced it in his skin pouch, before he continued his hunting with his newly fashioned arrows.

The site provides no possibilities for dating. It lies by the same ancient coastline along which the palæolithic implements were picked up (p. 94, fig. 2, no. 27). Similar arrowheads occur in Mesopotamia in the third millenium B. C.9), but they are of an ancient type, known in western Europe back to palæolithic times 10), while they are found in similar forms in Egypt, fashioned of the same grey or brown flint as is used in Bahrain, from the agricultural communities of the end of the fifth millennium 11). It is possible that these Bahrain arrowheads also belong to an early agricultural stage, where the population lived on the products of the chase as well as by the growing of crops. That the cultivation of corn was practised is shown by the discovery of a series of toothed sickle blades (Fig. 5 d-h), which, in addition to the illustrated specimens, are known from one further site (no. 24) in the southwestern coastal area. They are all fashioned of brown flint with the exception of one, which is of a light grey, transparent flint (Fig. 5 d), and they are formed from narrow blades, of which one is a typical keeled blade (Fig. 5 e), the first blade struck off a core after it had been flaked into shape for striking. Several of these small blades were used together, set in a row to form a cutting edge in a sickle of some other material, bone, wood or earthenware. A bright and sparkling surface on the toothed edge shows where the sickle edge has been worn by the silica contained in the harvested cornstalks. Sickles of this composite character, to which the sickle teeth found in Bahrain have belonged, are known from the early agricultural communities of Mesopotamia and Egypt, where they were in use for a long period, making it impossible to ascribe an exact date to these specimens. That there were better conditions for the cultivation of corn on Bahrain in ancient days than at the present day is suggested by the presence of dark layers of cultivable earth under the tumuli of the Bronze Age. They bear witness to a greater rainfall at the period when the tumuli were raised - though it is not impossible that a system of irrigation had already been introduced.

P. V. Glob.





Glob, P. (1954). Flintpladser i Bahrains ørken. Kuml, 4(4), 106–115. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/97148