Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology

Interpreting and Presenting Early Islamic Bilad al-Qadim, Bahrain.

Click the images to read the captions.

As part of a project involving the construction of a new Visitor Centre and Museum at the Al-Khamis Mosque renewed archaeological fieldwork at the site took place in 2012, and again in 2015. The excavations were completed in 2012 by Mr Mohammed Redha Mearaj and in 2015 by Dr Salman Almahari under the auspices of the Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage, Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities. Because of my past association with the site (see Completed Field Projects) I acted as advisor on where rescue excavations should take place in advance of digging the foundations for the new museum building and associated walkways, monitoring the excavation of test pits, the archaeological site components to be conserved and presented, and chronological reconstruction (see Bahrain 6).

The 2012 excavations uncovered a variety of structures associated with the mosque, including a collapsed shrine and associated tombstones, and a deep well accessed via a staircase and with parts of a collapsed column in it (see Bahrain 6). An area of Early and Middle Islamic period (c. 8th/9th-14th centuries AD) housing was also recorded, comparable to that found in 2001 some 70m to the south. A further area of housing was recorded in 2015. (see Bahrain 3).

I also directed trial excavation at the Abu Zaydan spring in 2014 and 2015 as part of a plan to develop the site as an element of a tourist trail in Bilad al-Qadim. Ceramics analysis indicated an overall chronology of the 8th-14th centuries AD, but primarily between the 11th-13th centuries. Wares present included Iraqi early polychrome; Turquoise Glazed; Iranian Sgraffito; Chinese Dusun; and Sirafi storage vessels (see Insoll et al. 2016. Bilad al-Qadim Revisited: Recent Archaeological Research at the Al-Khamis Mosque, Ain Abu Zaydan and Abu Anbra, Bahrain. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 27: 215-242).

Linked with this was my curation of the Exhibition in the Al-Khamis Visitor Centre and Museum which opened in January 2017 (See Bahrain 8 – UNDER DEVELOPMENT). This presents the history and archaeology of Bilad al-Qadim and displays the Mosque and key parts of the site. The building was designed by Wohlert Architects, Copenhagen, Denmark and the Exhibition design was by Christophe Martin Architects, St Denis, France, with project co-ordination by Dr Nadine Boksmati-Fattouh of BACA. As part of the project, oral memories of the Suq al-Khamis market were collected and recorded by Dr Salman Almahari among elderly members of the local community in Bilad al-Qadim. As an adjunct, the role of heritage and the agency of museum display as mechanisms for ameliorating community tension were also explored by myself and Dr Rachel MacLean.