Dilmun, or Telmun,[3] (Sumerian: ,[4][5] later 𒉌𒌇(𒆠), ni.tukki = DILMUNki; Arabic: دلمون) was an ancient East Semitic-speaking civilization in Eastern Arabia mentioned from the 3rd millennium BC onwards.[6][7] Based on contextual evidence, it was located in the Persian Gulf, on a trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilisation, close to the sea and to artesian springs.[1][8] Dilmun encompassed Bahrain,[9] Kuwait,[10][11][12] and eastern Saudi Arabia.[13] This area is certainly what is meant by references to "Dilmun" among the lands conquered by King Sargon II and his descendants.

Location of foreign lands for the Mesopotamians, including Elam, Magan, Dilmun, Marhashi and Meluhha.
LocationEastern Arabia
RegionNorthern Governorate
Part ofEastern Arabia
Foundedc. late 4th millennium BC[1]
Abandonedc. 538 BC[2]
PeriodsBronze Age

The great commercial and trading connections between Mesopotamia and Dilmun were strong and profound to the point where Dilmun was a central figure to the Sumerian creation myth.[14] Dilmun was described in the saga of Enki and Ninhursag as pre-existing in paradisiacal state, where predators do not kill, pain and diseases are absent, and people do not get old.[14]

Dilmun was an important trading centre. At the height of its power, it controlled the Persian Gulf trading routes.[1] According to some modern theories, the Sumerians regarded Dilmun as a sacred place,[15] but that is never stated in any known ancient text. Dilmun was mentioned by the Mesopotamians as a trade partner, a source of copper, and a trade entrepôt.

The Sumerian tale of the garden paradise of Dilmun may have been an inspiration for the Garden of Eden story.[16][17][18]

History edit

Dilmun on the relief of Ur-Nanshe
Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash: one of the inscriptions reads, “boats from the (distant) land of Dilmun carried the wood (for him)”,[19] which is the oldest known written record of Dilmun and importation of goods into Mesopotamia.[20][21]
"Boats from the land of Dilmun carried the wood"
𒈣 𒆳𒋫𒄘𒄑𒈬-𒅅
ma2 dilmun kur-ta gu2 gesz mu-gal2
on the relief of Ur-Nanshe.[19][4][5] Limestone, Early Dynastic III (2550–2500 BC). Found in Telloh (ancient city of Girsu).
Receipt for garments sent by boat to Dilmun in the 1st year of Ibbi-Sin's rule, circa 2028 BCE. British Museum BM 130462.[22][23]

Dilmun was an important trading center from the late fourth millennium to 800 BC.[1] At the height of its power, Dilmun controlled the Persian Gulf trading routes.[1] Dilmun was very prosperous during the first 300 years of the second millennium BC.[24] Dilmun was conquered by the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1050 BC), and its commercial power began to decline between 1000 BC and 800 BC because piracy flourished in the Persian Gulf. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) conquered Dilmun, and in the 6th century BC the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and later the Achaemenid Empire, ruled Dilmun.

The Dilmun civilization was the centre of commercial activities linking traditional agriculture of the land—then utterly fertile due to artesian wells that have dried since, and due to a much wetter climate—with maritime trade between diverse regions such as the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia in its early stage and later between China and the Mediterranean.[7] The Dilmun civilization is mentioned first in Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets dated to the late third millennium BC, found in the temple of goddess Inanna, in the city of Uruk. The adjective Dilmun is used to describe a type of axe and one specific official; in addition there are lists of rations of wool issued to people connected with Dilmun.[25]

One of the earliest inscriptions mentioning Dilmun is that of king Ur-Nanshe of Lagash (c. 2300 BC) found in a door-socket: "The ships of Dilmun brought him wood as tribute from foreign lands."[26]

Kingdom of Dilmun edit

Bull's head, made of copper in the early period of Dilmun (ca. 2000 BC), discovered by Danish archeologists under Barbar Temple, Bahrain.

From about 2050 BC onward, Dilmun seems to have had its heyday. Qal'at al-Bahrain was most likely the capital of Dilmun. From texts found at Isin, it becomes clear that Dilmun became an independent kingdom, free from Mesopotamian rule; royal gifts to Dilmun are mentioned. Contacts with the Amorite state of Mari, in the northern Levant, are attested. At about this time, the largest royal burial mounds were erected.[27] From about 1780 BC came several inscriptions on stone vessels naming two kings of Dilmun, King Yagli-El and his father, Rimum. The inscriptions were found in huge tumuli, evidently the burial places of these kings. Rimum was already known to archaeology from the Durand Stone, discovered in 1879.[28]

From about 1720 BC, a decline is visible. Many settlements were no longer used, and the building of royal mounds ceased. The Barbar Temple fell into ruins.[29] From about 1650 BC, a ‘recovering’ period is detectable. New royal burial mounds were built; at Qal'at al-Bahrain, there is evidence for increased building activity.[27] To this period belongs a further inscription, on a seal, found at Failaka and preserving a king's name. The short text reads, [La]'ù-la Panipa, daughter of Sumu-lěl, the servant of Inzak of Akarum. Sumu-lěl was evidently a third king of Dilmun from around this period. Servant of Inzak of Akarum was the king's title in Dilmun. The names of these later rulers are Amoritic.[30]

Dilmun under foreign rule edit

Correspondence between Ilī-ippašra, the governor of Dilmun, and Enlil-kidinni, the governor of Nippur, ca. 1350 BC

It seems that, at least from 1500 BC, Dilmun was under the rule of the Akkadian-speaking Mesopotamian Sealand Dynasty. The Sealand-Dynasty King Ea-gamil is mentioned in a text found at Qal'at al-Bahrain. Ea-gamil was the last ruler of the Sealand Dynasty. After his reign, Dilmun came under the rule of the Babylonian Kassite dynasty, as they also took over the Sealand Dynasty area.[31] Dilmun was mentioned in two letters dated to the reign of Burna-Buriash II (c. 1370 BC), recovered from Nippur during the Kassite dynasty of Babylon. These letters were from a provincial official named Ilī-ippašra, in Dilmun, to his friend, Enlil-kidinni, the governor of Nippur. The names referred to are Akkadian. These letters, and other documents, hint at an administrative relationship between Dilmun and Babylon at that time. Following the collapse of the Kassite dynasty, in 1595 BC, Mesopotamian documents make no mention of Dilmun until Assyrian inscriptions (dated from 1250 BC to 1050 BC) proclaimed Assyrian kings to be rulers of Dilmun and Meluhha, as well as Lower Sea and Upper Sea. Assyrian inscriptions recorded tribute from Dilmun.

There are other Assyrian inscriptions during the first millennium BC, indicating Assyrian sovereignty over Dilmun.[2] One of the early sites discovered in Bahrain suggests that Sennacherib, King of Assyria (707–681 BC), attacked northeast Arabia and captured the Bahraini islands.[32] The most recent reference to Dilmun came during the Neo-Babylonian Empire; Neo-Babylonian administrative records, dated 567 BC, stated that Dilmun was controlled by the King of Babylon. The name of Dilmun fell from use after the collapse of Babylon, in 538 BC, with the area henceforth identified as Tylos during the Hellenistic period.[2]

The "Persian Gulf" types of circular, stamped (rather than rolled) seals known from Dilmun—that appear at Lothal, Gujarat, India, and Failaka (as well as in Mesopotamia)—are convincing corroboration of the long-distance sea trade. What the commerce consisted of is less known; timber and precious woods, ivory, lapis lazuli, gold, and luxury goods (such as carnelian and glazed stone beads), pearls from the Persian Gulf, shell and bone inlays were among the goods sent to Mesopotamia, in-exchange for silver, tin, woolen textiles, olive oil and grains.

Copper ingots from Oman and bitumen (which occurred naturally in Mesopotamia) may have been exchanged for cotton textiles and domestic fowl, major products of the Indus region that are not native to Mesopotamia. Instances of all of these trade goods have been found. The importance of this trade is shown by the fact that the weights and measures used at Dilmun were¡ in fact, identical to those used by the Indus, and were not those used in Southern Mesopotamia.

In regards to copper mining and smelting, the Umm al-Nar culture and Dalma (United Arab Emirates) and Ibri (Oman) were particularly important.[33]

Some Meluhhan vessels may have sailed directly to Mesopotamian ports but, by the Isin-Larsa Period, Dilmun monopolized the trade. The Bahrain National Museum assesses that its "Golden Age" lasted ca. 2200–1600 BC. Discoveries of ruins under the Persian Gulf may be of Dilmun.[34]

People, language and religion edit

The population used cuneiform to write in the Akkadian language,[35] and, like the Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Eblaites of Mesopotamia, spoke an East Semitic language that was either an Akkadian dialect or one close to it, rather than a Central Semitic language, and its known rulers had East Semitic names.[36][37] Dilmun's main deity was named Inzak and his spouse was Panipa.[38] However there are no indication of population replacement happening in the region.[39]

Mythology edit

Dilmun stamp seal with hunters and goats, rectangular pen, ca early 2nd millennium BC

In the early epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, the main events, which center on Enmerkar's construction of the ziggurats in Uruk and Eridu, are described as taking place at a time "before Dilmun had yet been settled".

Dilmun, sometimes described as "the place where the sun rises" and "the Land of the Living", is the scene of some versions of the Eridu Genesis, and the place where the deified Sumerian hero of the flood, Utnapishtim (Ziusudra), was taken by the gods to live forever. Thorkild Jacobsen's translation of the Eridu Genesis calls it "Mount Dilmun" which he locates as a "faraway, half-mythical place".[40]

Dilmun is also described in the epic story of Enki and Ninhursag as the site at which the Creation occurred.[17][41] The later Babylonian Enuma Elish, speaks of the creation site as the place where the mixture of salt water, personified as Tiamat met and mingled with the fresh water of Abzu. Bahrain in Arabic means "the twin waters", where the fresh water of the Arabian aquifer mingles with the salt waters of the Persian Gulf. The promise of Enki to Ninhursag, the Earth Mother:

For Dilmun, the land of my lady's heart, I will create long waterways, rivers and canals, whereby water will flow to quench the thirst of all beings and bring abundance to all that lives.

Ninlil, the Sumerian goddess of air and south wind had her home in Dilmun.[citation needed]

However, it is also speculated that Gilgamesh had to pass through Mount Mashu to reach Dilmun in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is usually identified with the whole of the parallel Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, with the narrow gap between these mountains constituting the tunnel.[42]

Location of Dilmun edit

Ruins of a settlement, believed to be from the Dilmun civilization, in Sar, Bahrain
Location of burial mounds in Bahrain

In 1987, Theresa Howard-Carter proposed that Dilmun of this era might be a still unidentified tell near the Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab in Arabic) between modern-day Quanah and Basra in modern-day Iraq.[43] In favor of Howard-Carter's proposal, it has been noted that this area does lie to the east of Sumer ("where the sun rises"), and the riverbank where Dilmun's maidens would have been accosted aligns with the Shat al-Arab which is in the midst of marshes. The "mouth of the rivers" where Dilmun was said to lie is for her the union of the Tigris and Euphrates at Qurnah. A number of scholars have suggested that Dilmun originally designated the eastern province of modern Saudi Arabia, notably linked with the major Dilmunite settlements of Umm an-Nussi and Umm ar-Ramadh in the interior and Tarout on the coast.[44]

As of 2022, archaeologists have failed to find a site in existence during the time from 3300 BC (Uruk IV) to 556 BC (Neo-Babylonian Era), when Dilmun appears in texts. According to Hojlund, no settlements exist in the Gulf littoral dating to 3300–2000 BC.

Garden of Eden theory edit

In 1922, Eduard Glaser proposed that the Garden of Eden was located in Eastern Arabia within the Dilmun civilization.[45] Scholar Juris Zarins also believes that the Garden of Eden was situated in Dilmun at the head of the Persian Gulf (present-day Kuwait), where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers run into the sea, from his research on this area using information from many different sources, including Landsat images from space. In this theory, the Bible's Gihon would correspond with the Karun in Iran, and the Pishon River would correspond to the Wadi al-Batin river system that once drained the now dry, but once quite fertile central part of the Arabian Peninsula.[46]

Known rulers edit

Only a few rulers of the Dilmun kingdom are known:[47]

  1. Ziusudra (27th century BC)
  2. Rimun (c. 1780 BC)
  3. Yagli-El, son of Rimun
  4. Sumu-lěl (c. 1650 BC)
  5. Usiananuri, grandfather of Uballissu-Marduk (precise dates unknown)
  6. Ilī-ippašra (contemporary with Burnaburiash II and Kurigalzu II)
  7. Operi (c. 710 BC)
  8. Hundaru I (c. 650 BC)
  9. Qena (c. 680–c. 670 BC)
  10. Hundaru II (706–685 BC)

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Jesper Eidema, Flemming Højlund (1993). "Trade or diplomacy? Assyria and Dilmun in the eighteenth century BC". World Archaeology. 24 (3): 441–448. doi:10.1080/00438243.1993.9980218.
  2. ^ a b c Larson, Curtis E. (1983). Life and land use on the Bahrain Islands: The geoarcheology of an ancient society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-0-226-46905-8.
  3. ^ The former is the reconstructed Sumerian pronunciation; the latter is the reconstructed Semitic.
  4. ^ a b Transliteration: "CDLI-Found Texts". cdli.ucla.edu.
  5. ^ a b Similar text: "CDLI-Found Texts". cdli.ucla.edu.
  6. ^ Smith, Sylvia (2013-05-21). "Bahrain digs unveil one of oldest civilizations". BBC News. BBC.
  7. ^ a b "Qal'at al-Bahrain – Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun". UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  8. ^ Harriet E. W. Crawford (1998). "Dilmun and Its Gulf Neighbors". p. 9.
  9. ^ "The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer". Jean-Jacques Glassner. 1990. p. 7.
  10. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Kuwait's archaeological sites reflect human history & civilizations (2:50 – 3:02)". Ministry of Interior News.
  11. ^ Calvet, Yves (1989). "Failaka and the Northern Part of Dilmun". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. 19: 5–11. JSTOR 41223078.
  12. ^ "The Archaeology of Kuwait" (PDF). Cardiff University. pp. 5–427.
  13. ^ "Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain". M. A. Nayeem. 1990. p. 32.
  14. ^ a b The Arab world: an illustrated history p.4
  15. ^ Rice, Michael (2004). Egypt's Making: The Origins of Ancient Egypt 5000–2000 BC. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-49263-3., page 230
  16. ^ Edward Conklin. Getting Back Into the Garden of Eden. p. 10.
  17. ^ a b Kramer, Samuel Noah (1961). Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.: Revised Edition. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 54–59. ISBN 978-0-8122-1047-7. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  18. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. pp. 145–150. ISBN 978-0-226-45238-8. In fact, there is some reason to believe that the very idea of a paradise, a garden of the gods, originated with the Sumerians.
  19. ^ a b Louvre Pouysségur, Patrick , ed. "Perforated Relief of King Ur-Nanshe." Louvre Museum. Louvre Museum. Web. 13 Mar 2013.
  20. ^ CDLI Wiki University of Oxford, 14 Jan 2010. Web. 13 Mar 2013.
  21. ^ Finegan, Jack (2019). Archaeological History Of The Ancient Middle East. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-429-72638-5.
  22. ^ "tablet". British Museum.
  23. ^ Transcription: "CDLI-Archival View". cdli.ucla.edu.
  24. ^ "Dilmun and Its Gulf Neighbours". Harriet E. W. Crawford. 1998. p. 152.
  25. ^ Crawford, Harriet E. W. (1998). Dilmun and its Gulf neighbours. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-521-58348-0.
  26. ^ Samuel Noah Kramer (1963). The Sumerians: their history, culture, and character. p. 308.
  27. ^ a b Steffen Terp Laursen (2017)ː The Royal Mounds of A'ali in Bahrain, Aarhus, ISBN 978-87-93423-16-9, pp. 381
  28. ^ Steffen Terp Laursen: Kings of Dilmun identified by name; [1] Kings of Dilmun identified by name and announced in a press conference held by BACA
  29. ^ Steffen Terp Laursen (2017)ː The Royal Mounds of A'ali in Bahrain, Aarhus, ISBN 978-87-93423-16-9, pp. 388–390
  30. ^ Gianni Marchesiː Inscriptions from the Royal Mounds of A'alo (Bahrain) and related Texts, inː Steffen Terp Laursenː The Royal Mounds of A'ali in Bahrain, Aarhus 2017, ISBN 978-87-93423-16-9, pp. 428–430
  31. ^ Steffen Terp Laursen (2017)ː The Royal Mounds of A'ali in Bahrain, Aarhus, ISBN 978-87-93423-16-9, pp. 390
  32. ^ Mojtahed-Zadeh, Pirouz (1999). Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political Geography. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN 978-0-7007-1098-0.
  33. ^ "Egypt's Making: The Origins of Ancient Egypt 5000–2000 BC". Michael Rice. 1991. p. 229.
  34. ^ Page, Lewis. "Lost ancient civilisation's ruins lie beneath Gulf, says boffin". www.theregister.com.
  35. ^ William H. Stiebing Jr (2016). Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture. p. 217. ISBN 9781315511153.
  36. ^ Jean Jacques Glassner (2013-10-28). "Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha". In Julian Reade (ed.). The Indian Ocean In Antiquity. p. 242. ISBN 9781136155314.
  37. ^ Serge Cleuziou (1996). "The emergence of oasis towns in eastern and southern Arabia". In G. Afanas'ev; S. Cleuziou; R. Lukacs; M. Tosi (eds.). The prehistory of Asia and Oceania, Forlí: Colloquia of the XIII International congress of prehistoric and protohistoric sciences. Vol. 16. ABACO Edizioni, Forlì. p. 157. ISBN 978-88-86-71206-4.
  38. ^ Jean Jacques Glassner (2013-10-28). "Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha". In Julian Reade (ed.). The Indian Ocean In Antiquity. p. 239. ISBN 9781136155314.
  39. ^ "KAPA Stranded mRNA-Seq Kit(KK8420): de novo RNA-seq (stranded mRNA-Seq) from total RNA derived from invertebrates(stranded mRNA-Seq)". Bio-Protocol. 9 (17). 2019. doi:10.21769/bioprotoc.1010557. ISSN 2331-8325. S2CID 239256795.
  40. ^ Thorkild Jacobsen (23 September 1997). The Harps that once: Sumerian poetry in translation. Yale University Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-300-07278-5. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  41. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. pp. 145–150. ISBN 978-0-226-45238-8.
  42. ^ P. T. H. Unwin; Tim Unwin (18 June 1996). Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade. Psychology Press. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-0-415-14416-2. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  43. ^ Howard-Carter, Theresa (1987). "Dilmun: At Sea or Not at Sea? A Review Article". Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 39 (1): 54–117. doi:10.2307/1359986. JSTOR 1359986. S2CID 163963264.
  44. ^ Roads of Arabia p.180
  45. ^ W. F. Albright (October 1922). "The Location of the Garden of Eden". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. 39 (1): 15–31. doi:10.1086/369964. JSTOR 528684. S2CID 170465632.
  46. ^ Hamblin, Dora Jane (May 1987). "Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?" (PDF). Smithsonian Magazine. 18 (2). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  47. ^ Legrain, 1922; Cameron, 1936; The Cambridge History of Iran; Hinz, 1972; The Cambridge Ancient History; Majidzadeh, 1991; Majidzadeh, 1997.

External links edit