Study sheds fresh light on Dilmun 

By REBECCA TORR

A SAUDI archaeologist is rounding up a group of experts to witness an annual phenomenon in Saar, which he claims sheds new light on the Dilmun civilisation.

Dammam Regional Museum archaeologist Nabiel Al Shaikh has been visiting a temple at the 4,000-year-old Saar settlement for the last nine years in an attempt to prove his theory.

The ancient temple has an oddly positioned triangular corner room, which Mr Al Shaikh claims was used as an astronomical device to measure the position of the sun.

He believes that during the summer solstice, which falls on June 21, the sun would set over the corner of the temple - letting priests know that it was the beginning of the New Year.

If his theory is correct, it means that the Dilmun civilisation was one of the first to base its calendar on the movement of the sun.

It would also mean it used a different calendar to other civilisations of that time - such as Mesopotamia, Iran and Egypt, whose first day of the year fell on March 21 under the equinox calendar.

The corner room is made even more unusual because its outside wall is not connected to the wall of the main building.

Mr Al Shaikh believes this would enable people of that time to rebuild the corner room to compensate for slight discrepancies that occur in the 365-day calendar.

He says the astronomical year is closer to 365.242 days, which means there is an extra 11 minutes and 14 seconds each year.

"It's a major discovery," Mr Al Shaikh told the GDN.

"People 4,000 years ago discovered a calendar. The Dilmun civilisation introduced astronomy and a calendar - they didn't just have fishing and trade.

"With a calendar you can organise your life because it tells you when to farm or when to sail."

Mr Al Shaikh has approached several archaeology authorities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but has received little support for his theory.

One of the problems is that the sun no longer sets over the corner of the temple, but is off by about 10 degrees.

However, Mr Al Shaikh said the discrepancy could be explained by the movement of tectonic plates, erosion and soft sand beneath the settlement.

"The Heritage and Archaeological Directorate until now has not confirmed it, but I will try to get them along this time," said Mr Al Shaikh.

"We have been debating this every year. I'm trying to create awareness and get geologists to confirm there is local movement. If they confirm this, they will confirm the theory."

Mr Al Shaikh said the Bahrain Historical and Archaeological Society would be publishing his theory in a Dilmun book later this year.

Another discovery by archaeologist Khazal Al Majdi has also lent weight to Mr Al Shaikh's theory.

Mr Al Majdi published a report in 1998, which explained the word Saar was a Sumerian name meaning 'the cycle of a year'.

Archaeologists, astronomists, geologists, scientists and others interested in visiting the site tomorrow should contact Mr Al Shaikh on 39679219.

He will give a short tour of the Saar settlement at 4.45pm and then explain the phenomenon as the sun sets at 6.36pm.

"People don't have to believe I'm wrong or right, but I invite them to come and see," he said.


©  Gulf Daily News