Dilmun Cemetery - World Cultural Heritage in Bahrain

The Dilmun burial mounds, built between 2200 and 1750 BC, are spread over 21 archaeological sites on the western side of the island. Six of these sites are burial mounds containing several tens to several thousand graves. In total there are around 11,774 tombs, originally in the form of a low cylindrical tower. The other 15 sites include 17 royal burial mounds, built as two-storey burial towers. The burial mounds testify to the primitive civilization of Dilmun, around the 2nd millennium BC. AD, a period in which Bahrain became a center of commerce whose prosperity enabled the people to develop elaborate burial traditions that applied to the entire population. These tombs illustrate unique features in the world, not only in number, density and scale, but also in details such as burial chambers equipped with alcoves.

Year of accreditation: 2019
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Area: 168.45 hectares
Buffer zone: 383.46 ha

Outstanding Overall Value

Dilmun Burial Mounds is a serial property formed of 21 archaeological sites located on the western side of the island of Bahrain. Six of the selected site components are burial sites composed of several tens to several thousand graves. Together they comprise approximately 11,774 burial mounds. The remaining 15 components of the site include 13 single royal mounds and two pairs of royal mounds, all within the urban fabric of A’ali Village.

The Dilmun burial mounds were built in the early Dilmun period over a period of 450 years, between 2200 and 1750 BC. The property includes the most representative sites of early and late Dilmun style construction. The burial mounds bear witness to the flourishing of the first Dilmun civilization around the 2nd millennium BC. During this period, Bahrain gained international economic importance as a center of commerce, resulting in population growth and more diverse social complexity. The latter is best reflected in the vast necropolis with various types of tombs, including burial mounds of various sizes, as well as chief’s burial mounds, and the largest of these are Royal’s burial mounds.

Archaeological evidence shows that the burial sites were not originally built as mounds but as low cylindrical towers. The royal burial mounds, characterized by their marked size and elaborate burial chambers, were built as two-tiered burial towers forming a ziggurat shape. Two of the Dilmun kings were eventually identified as Ri ‘Mum and Yagli-‘El in relation to royal mounds 8 and 10.

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The Dilmun burial mounds exemplify features unique in the world, not only in terms of number, density and scale, but also in terms of construction type and detail, such as burial chambers equipped with alcoves. .

Criterion (iii): The Dilmun burial mounds represent unique burial evidence of the early civilization of Dilmun over a period of 450 years. Since the rest of the settlements are sparse and buried under thick layers of soil, the Dilmun burial sites are the biggest and clearest evidence of the early culture of Dilmun. At the time, the newly acquired prosperity enabled the ancient inhabitants of the island to develop an elaborate burial tradition that applied to the entire population. The excavated mounds provide cross-sections of different social groups in early Dilmun society, attesting to thousands of individuals of different ages, genders, and social classes. They also provide important evidence of the evolution of the elite and the ruling class.

Criterion (iv): The development of the early civilization of Dilmun is reflected in the architecture of the Dilmun Cemetery. Five different types of mounds give clues to the emergence of social hierarchies. Although the burial mounds can be subdivided based on variations in size and internal design, the basic layout of the burial mounds remained the same throughout a 450-year period. The type of construction is particular. The majority of the tombs are built as small single-storey cylindrical towers, while some of the larger two-storey examples are built in the form of a ziggurat. A very special and unique feature of the construction of the Dilmun tombs is the presence of niches. Depending on the social status of the occupants, there may be up to six of these alcoves which are usually filled with grave gifts.


The ownership of the series shows the initial distribution of early and late Dilmun burial sites, organized into individual cemeteries. It excludes two schools which provide evidence for the majority of early Dilmun burials of the ancient type (Wadi as-Sail and Umm Jidr) which are scheduled to be nominated as an extension during the second nomination period. The five different types of burial mounds reflect the hierarchy of the ancient inhabitants and represent a cross section of the different social groups of Early Dilmun society.

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Most of the tombs have not been excavated and their structure is completely intact, affected only by occasional ancient looting and natural erosion which has turned the towers that were once tombs into mounds. . Due to previous development activities, the facility has lost some of its integrity. In particular, the direct proximity of residential developments affects the visual integrity of certain components of the property. However, the urban development has come to a halt due to the effective organization of protection and management of the area. Corrective measures are underway and include the introduction of green belts around the old cemeteries to improve their visual setting.


The multi-period property is authentic in location, function, material and content, form and design, and density. Although affected by erosion and partly by looting in antiquity, the architecture, layout and interior design of the burial mounds have remained intact. The specific features and distribution of early and late types of early Dilmun burial mounds in cemeteries are well represented. The density of fields in a confined area is exceptional, as is the unique concentration of burial mounds in each cemetery.

Management and protection requirements

All elements of the site under the continued ownership of Dilmun Mounds are registered as national monuments and are protected under the Kingdom of Bahrain Legislative Decree No. 11 of 1995 relating to the protection of antiquities. Restrictions on urban development within the buffer zones of site components are incorporated into zoning and land use regulations which are subsets of the Planning Act 1994. Governance Mapping of the site was produced by the Bahrain Agency for Culture and Antiquities. A unit within the General Management has been designated to manage the assets.

The Dilmun Tumulus Management Plan was approved and entered into force in January 2018 for a period of 5 years, including long-term objectives for the site. It is envisaged as an integrated management and action plan with the following main strategic themes: management and finance, land tenure and development, research, conservation, awareness and community involvement, as well as the interpretation, presentation and management of visitors. The management plan also acts as a protection plan as it addresses the main threats to the components of the site, namely development pressures, pollution and erosion.

Map of Dilmun.

Dilmun video. Graveyard