NEW light has been shed on ancient burial customs and worship practices following excavations at a 2,000-year-old cemetery in Shakura.
A Bahraini archaeologist has a theory that upon the death of a relative, the Tylos civilisation (250BC until 250AD) would hold a funeral banquet at a cemetery and offer food to the deceased.
Mohammed Ridha Mearaj said his team found a layer of ash at a cemetery in Shakura that contained fragments of glazed pottery with fish and animal bones.
He said this gives weight to a theory that the Tylos civilisation practiced funeral banquets in the cemetery, besides offering food and drink to the deceased and burying human and animal bones inside the tomb chamber.
"We found about six to eight centimetres of ash," he told the GDN.
"At first we thought maybe Tylos people cremate their dead, but we have no evidence to believe this because we didn't find a single urn in the whole of the Tylos cemetery, so we can rule this out.
"Also we found complete skeletons inside the tomb chamber and we didn't find a single human bone burnt, so we can feel sure that the Tylos people don't cremate their dead.
"We examined the ash and found inside fish and animal bones and charcoal dates.
"We also found fragments of glazed Hellenistic pottery, so this shows they held a funeral banquet feast when they buried their dead and when they visited them.
"So we think the ash with the bones are remains of their feast."
The excavations were conducted by a Culture and National Heritage Sector archaeological team led by Mr Mearaj at a Tylos cemetery in Shakura between December 2001 and June 2003.
The research is expected to be published soon.
In previous European and Bahraini Tylos cemetery excavations archaeologists believed that a rectangular construction containing two statues was a grave.
However, Mr Mearaj said the purpose of these rectangular constructions was not as a tomb chamber but a room to place religious statues.
In his opinion the chamber was actually like a funeral temple in a cemetery and the statues were probably considered to be deities and not headstones as previously believed.
"We found different statues arranged in different ways, one was in a temple room and other statues were found in the ring wall of the burial mound. They fixed the statue in the wall with plaster. They also placed these statues in a group because at the edge of the cemetery we found five to seven statues side by side that were supported with stones," he said.
"Their methods prove the function of the statues was for religious purposes. These statues were probably deities that they fixed for worshipping when they visited the cemetery," he added.
Mr Mearaj said a Bahraini team earlier found statues at a cemetery in Hajjar but at that time didn't know their purpose. However, he believes this cemetery is the same as the one excavated in Shakura and Al Hadra, Iraq.
"It's of the same period as the Tylos period and they found these statues near every grave construction," he said.