Barbar Temple

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The Barbar Temple is an ancient archaeological site belonging to the Dilmun Culture, located in the village of Barbar, Bahrain. The site is the location of at least three known temple structures, built successively over a period of some six hundred to eight hundred years.

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It is believed that the temples were dedicated to the worship of god Enki, the god of wisdom and freshwater, and his wife Ninhursag (Nankhur Sak).

Archaeological Remains of the Barbar Temple


First Temple
The construction of the first temple on the site represents the first phase, the older in terms of time and the deeper in spatial sense (the structure inside the small artificial hill). It is also distinguished by the fact that its builders spread and artificial layer of cleaner soil under the entire area of the temple, a style followed in the Sumerian temples before the commencement of construction.

The building's layout or floor plan at this time consisted of an elevated temple with graded double platform, the lower oval in shape and the upper square. There are two side wings, a sacrificial area or altar, and a water trough. The temple retained these characteristics in the second construction as well.

The first temple stands on a small plateau that inclines to a depression in the south-east from which the fresh water of a spring flows. The surface of the square platform contains on its south-western corner a symbolic room. There are aslo several rooms along the sides and on room in the center, which was believed to be the sacred room (cella) or the inner sanctuary of the temple where the altar platform was discovered. Worship annexes were found in the open areas between the rooms. The temple had a water well but of all its remains, only two hollows with stair cases leading to the bottom across the lower platform were found exactly at the same location the well would occupy in the following phases of the temple.


Second Temple
The construction style and plan of the second temple was almost exactly as the previous one. It is the best preserved of all the previous and later constructions. Its walls were built of carved stones quarried from Jiddah island. The upper platform consists of a trapezoid form, measuring some 26, 24, 27 and 25 meters. Its floor surface was covered with hewn stone slabs. The platform is characterised by an upper and lower area. It is believed that the courtyard of the temple at this time existed towards the east, which was surrounded by a heighted wall. A number of remains related to the worship rituals were discovered, the most important being a circular double altar built in the middle of the yard with carved stones. It was prepared to receive worshippers offerings and sacrifices.

To the south-west, archaeologists discovered three blocks of engraved rocks embedded in the ground, each has a round perforation (inspect) at the top. They were probably used for the animal sacrificial rituals, speculated because of the traces left by ropes in each hole. Another opinion maintains that these rocks were originally boat anchors dedicated to the temple as known from similar discoveries in ancient Syrian and Egyptian cities.


Third Temple
The third temple on the site was built on a single square platform measuring 38x38 meters with no buildings on the sides but was surrounded by a great stone wall. To implement the building, large portions of the second temple were filled with debris, which expanded the area of the third temple, and it became much larger than its predecessors. It is probably that it was fitted with stairs in its northern section whose architectural features have disappeared. The renovations included the old well, which looked like a semi-circle from the third phase which was protruding from the southern wall. The well shaft was built exactly on the previous one. Due to the fact that the remains of third temple remained exposed above ground for a long period and the architectural elements suffered extensively from the deterioration, plundering of stone for rebuilding the nearby structures in the subsequent periods much more than the previous temples were exposed to and to the extent that only a few of the large well engraved rocks which demarcated its entrance remained.

It is believed that the building was close to four meters high, in other words it was twice the height of the previous temples. Discoveries also indicate that the third temple represents a remarkable departure from its predecessors in terms of architectural conventions either in pursuit of the square shape or dispensing with the side building.

Notable Artefacts

circa 2000-1800 BCE

Copper Bull Head
Thought to have been decorative part of a lyre. It was discovered during the Danish excavations in 1954 CE. It is thought to belong to the Dilmun Culture dating back some 4000 years.

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