7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Underwater excavation planned

UNDERWATER archaeology sites could be explored as experts search for new discoveries from Bahrain's past.

The government has consulted specialists as it seeks to overcome obstacles that could prevent the excavation from taking place.

Underwater excavation is an expensive and highly specialised aspect of archaeology, mainly because of how difficult it is to access and its hazardous nature.

"The ministry has taken some steps towards underwater archaeology," said Culture Ministry archaeologist-in-charge Salman Al Mahari.

"We have an interest in it and it's very important. A good example is Bahrain Fort.

"We don't know what we would find if we could excavate the area directly north of it. We had a small, expert team in 2008 that did a pilot attempt.

"They stayed in very shallow waters, but they found some fragments of pottery and ceramics. That gives us hope that there is something that could be found there."

Though often mistaken for the study of shipwrecks, underwater archaeology encompasses much more.

But changes in sea level, as well as widespread climatic changes, mean that some sites could be submerged.

"Bahrain Fort was the capital of Dilmun, and an ancient harbour," said Mr Al Mahari. "It was a key hub in the maritime trade and there were several attacks that happened.

"It would probably be from the Dilmun and Portuguese eras, like the fort."

Meanwhile, other studies into building materials and construction techniques in historic buildings in Muharraq have yielded some new findings.

"There is a widely held belief that the old houses were made with coral stones," said Mr Al Mahari.

"However, our studies found that they were made with a mix of marine stones, including coral and sedimentary rock known locally as "fooroosh".

"Second, ground water samples from Muharraq and Manama show that there is a higher percentage of salt in the water in Muharraq.

"It increases the chances of deterioration, which is important when adopting day-to-day regulations to try and minimise damage and make sure it doesn't affect the architectural integrity of the buildings."

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