Templer ved Barbar


  • P.V. Glob


templer, temples, Barbar, Bahrain


Temples at Barbar

Even the smallest clue may lead to important results. During a reconnaissance in the northern coastal area of Bahrain the top of a large block of stone, in which two square holes and one round hole had been cut, was noticed protruding from the side of a gravel mound of considerable extent. As numerous almost microscopic fragments of copper or bronze were at the same time seen on the surface of the mound, while the usual quantities of Islamic potsherds, which cover the majority of the hills in this area, were here absent, everything pointed to this mound being a prehistoric site. It was, however, not impossible that it was actually a destroyed burial tumulus, as the hill lay as the westernmost of a row of giant tumuli which extend westwards from Jannusan parallel with the coast. This mound, however, lay at a considerable distance from the remainder, which stand close together, and was located immediately to the south of the little village of Barbar, about 800 yards from the coast.

The gravel mound was square in shape with rounded corners, and measured about 60 yards in each direction. It consisted of three terraces, which proved to have been formed by a process of stone-robbery from the buildings which the mound covered. Its highest point was about 6 meters above the surrounding country. In order to gain an impression of the mound's construction a trench was driven through the centre from north to south. A little over 5 meters from the northern edge this trench uncovered a large square hewn block of stone (Fig. 1), of the same type as that first found, but with only two depres­sions in the top, both square. Further south, 9 and 17 meters respectively from the north edge, appear two walls crossing the trench. The continuation of these walls was confirmed further south and west in the mound, thereby making it probable that they have formed two square figures, the outer with a side length of 45 meters surrounding the inner with a side length of 25 meters. At the upper righthand side of Fig. 2 the remains of the inner wall can be seen uncovered in the trench. The walls consist of a foundation of rough stones set in plaster, upon which a wall of sandstone ashlar masonry has rested. This wall was razed almost to the ground when the gravel mound was raised, while later stone-robbery has carried off the greater part of the remaining building stones. This robbery probably occurred in Early Islamic times, a dating which is based upon the discovery of glazed potsherds in the trenches dug by the robbers 1). The ashlar masonry is of sandstone from the little island of Jida, which lies about six miles from Barbar off the northwest coast of Bahrain. There building stone has been quarried for centuries, and the quarries are still in use 2).

The inner wall of this square complex surrounds a central area, probably a courtyard, which is still partly paved with sandstone flags. lts inner dimen­sions are 14 x 18 meters, its greater length being east-west. In the centre of this courtyard, perhaps a little to the south of the actual centre, stand the remains of two circular structures which touch one another (Fig. 2 D-E). Before being covered with earth these were razed to their present height, and they have later suffered further damage on the northern side at the hands of the stone plunderers (Fig. 3). The stones have been very carefully cut to fit together so as to form the two circles. South of this feature two stones of about 80 cms. in height, "altar-stones ", had been raised. One of them still stood in situ, while the other lay overturned, but the mark left by its foot could still be seen in the paving (Fig. 4). In front of these stones stood a little square stone trough, apparently not very far from its original position (Fig. 2 B). Behind the eastern half of the circular feature there lay, over­turned, a stone about 80 cms. high, rounded at the top and pierced by a round hole (Fig. 2 C and Fig. 4). A similar stone still stood in situ in the south­western corner of the inner courtyard (Fig. 2 F). In the northeastern corner of the courtyard there was a pit bordered by slabs standing on edge along its south and west sides (Fig. 2 A and Fig. 5).

Beneath the western of the two circular stone structures were found the remains of another stone circle, covered by a layer of chips of shattered masonry. This circle belongs to an earlier temple structure, and its surface lies about one meter under the level of the upper courtyard. In the southern portion of the wall of the section-trench this earlier phase of temple building could be clearly followed, and about one meter further down still another building level could be identified, showing that there have here been three buildings one above the other. Foundations of walls surrounding the earliest structure were found in the southern part of the trench.

The identification of these structures as temples is based on their distinctive form, on the "altar-stones" and on the objects found in the inner courtyard. How the "altar-stones", which were slightly hollowed at the top, were originally used, cannot be definitely stated. It is possible that a seat originally rested on them, and here there is reason to make reference to scenes represented on Mesopotamian seals, where the god is seen seated on a throne of similar form, with a square altar before his feet, while he accepts offerings 3). This interpretation is further supported by the objects discovered in the course of the excavation, "offerings", which almost all lay in or around the square pit in front of the "altar-stone" and the altar (Fig. 2 A). It is probable that the perforated stones also had a function within the cult of the temple (Fig. 2 C and F), and for their significance reference may be made to ring-stones belonging to the Indus civilization 4).

As mentioned above, the majority of objects were discovered in and around the square pit in front of the altar stones (Fig. 5). Here, in a sand layer of about 30 cms. in depth, lay a considerable number of objects of copper or of bronze with a low proportion of tin. They consisted mainly of sundered bronze vessels, among which were the bases of seives. Beneath the layer of sand was a thick stratum of chippings from shattered masonry, presumably the remains of the razing and levelling of the middle temple building.

The metal is very corroded, and the process of conservation is not yet complete. At the north end of the pit lay a little naked male figure, standing on a base which is curved at the foot and cast in one piece (Fig. 6). The actual figure, which holds its hands clasped at the breast like the Mesopotamian figures of gods, is 11 cms. high, and of this the head occupies 2.5 cms. The features can just be made out, and a broad triangular nose can be clearly seen. The figure shows thereby a close resemblance to a copper figure from the Chouchinak temple in Susa 5), which is dated to the middle of the third millennium 6). This figure, of which the upper part is naked, holds in its hands a bird, perhaps a dove. A figurine of a bird of the same type was discovered at Barbar on the flags just north of the pit (Fig. 7). It measures 12.6 cms. from breast to tip of tail and is 12.8 cms. high. Like the male figure it is solid-cast, probably of copper.

Prominent among the objects of bronze is a large number of stave-shaped nails 7), 2.5-3.5 cms. long. Dr. Paul Bergsøe has very kindly analysed one of these nails. The result shows a copper content of 72.9 %, a tin content of 1.8 %, mainly present in the form of sulphides, and traces of lead, silver, cadmium, arsenic and iron, as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium and silicic acid, the last four presumably derived from the surrounding earth. In addition to fragments of pottery vessels there were also found here several sherds of alabaster vases, as well as two complete vessels. One of these alabaster vases possessed a curved profile and is of exactly the same type as those found in Ur and dated to the middle of the third millennium 8). The other alabaster vessel is cylindrical and provided with a rebated lid 9). Of particular interest among the objects from the pit are moreover some fragments of lapis-lazuli, long cylindrical beads and a linga-shaped games man which is known from the lndus civilization in exactly the same shape and material 10).

The discoveries made in the upper level of the Barbar temples, of which only a small area has yet been investigated, thus show connections with both Mesopotamia and India in the third millenium, to which period the upper complex must thus be ascribed, and most probably to the latter end of the period. How much older the structures lying deeper are cannot yet be determined, but there is reason to emphasize that the potsherds found in the levels belonging to these earlier structures do not differ in any important particular from those associated with the upper temple.

It is remarkable that the two earlier temples have been successively razed to the foundations. The same fate also overtook the last temple, but here in addition a 3 meter high gravel mound was heaped up over the building. The central cult feature was, however, disturbed as little as possible, though one of the "altar-stones" was overturned. It is probable that the offerings were at the same time rummaged through, as they lay partly within and partly around the square pit, and many of them were broken. These circumstances seem to reflect a period of disturbance and of change of religion. The large gravel mound was thrown up over the temple sanctuary and foundations in order to suffocate and destroy its powers. The many problems, however, which arise cannot be satisfactorily solved before the excavation of the Barbar temples is completed. The broad gravel mound may still conceal many surprises.

P.V. Glob





Glob, P. (1954). Templer ved Barbar. Kuml, 4(4), 142–153. Hentet fra https://tidsskrift.dk/kuml/article/view/97163