The Qal'at al-Bahrain (also known as the Bahrain Fort or Fort of Bahrain and previously as the Portugal Fort (Qal'at al Portugal) is an archaeological site located in Bahrain, on the Arabian Peninsula. Archaeological excavations carried out since 1954 have unearthed antiquaries from an artificial mound of 12 m height containing seven stratified layers, created by various occupants from 2300 BC up to the 18th century, including Kassites, Portuguese and Persians. It was once the capital of the Dilmun civilization and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
History and Explorations
The archaeological finds unearthed in the fort reveal much about the history of the country. The area is believed to have been occupied for some 5000 years and contains a valuable insight into the copper and Bronze Ages of Bahrain. The first Bahrain Fort was built around three thousand years ago, on the northeastern tip of Bahrain Island. The present fort dates from the sixth century AD. The capital of the Dilmun civilization, Dilmun was known as the "land of immortality" and the ancestral place of Sumerians, a place where the Gods met.
The site has been termed as Bahrain's "most important site in antiquity" and excavations have been carried out since 1954. The first excavation at the site was carried out by a Danish expedition between 1954 and 1972 which was later followed up by a French expedition from 1977. Since 1987 Bahrain archaeologists have been involved with this work. The archaeological findings have revealed seven civilizations of urban structures beginning with Dilmun empire, the most important ancient civilizations of the region. The Danish expedition revealed that it was a notable Hellenistic site.
The fort and the tel are located on the Bahrain island, 6 km from the seashore towards the Northeast. On a clear day it is also seen from Saar. It stands like a "sentinel" near Manama, the capital of Bahrain; it is 4 km away from Manama in the fertile north coast. The tel is the largest in the Gulf region and was built close to the port and built by reclamation of seashore land.
Qal`at al-Bahrain is a typical tell — an artificial mound created by many successive layers of human occupation. The strata spread over an area 180000 sqft, laid out over the 300×600m tell, testifies to continuous human presence from about 2300 BC to the 16th century AD. About 25% of the site has been excavated revealing structures of different types: residential, public, commercial, religious and military. They testify to the importance of the site as a trading port over the centuries.
Metal artifacts found in the tel were limited to copper pieces, a socketed spearhead, fishing tools; a workshop of 15x35 m size was also identified where copper casting two piece moulds and wax moulds were found. small and large crucibles used for melting of the metal were recovered in substantial quantities indicative of large scale manufacture by professional artisans. This is also indicative of trading in such copper ware with Oman and Mesopotamia. Stamp seals of the Dilmun type were also recovered from the excavations.