Cultural Selection: The Warehouse of Qal’at al-Bahrain
Amongst all cultural elements demonstrating the cultural heritage of the Silk Roads, it is interesting to focus on the excavated coastal fortress warehouse of Qal’at al-Bahrain located in Bahrain. Situated at the heart of the Maritime Silk Roads, Qal’at al-Bahrain was built by Persian Sasanian Kings around the 3rd century AD. It was probably was unoccupied for centuries until the fortress reused in the 13th century AD.
In fact, most of the archaeological findings of the Qal’at al-Bahrain warehouse such as the Islamic coins in copper or lead date from this period. These coins have the name or the symbol (“tamgha”, a kind of a flower blossom) of the Salgharid dynasty, who ruled Bahrain since 1234. Moreover, Chinese coins that were discovered at the same fortress are witnesses of the exchanges between the surrounding regions of the fortress with the Far-East. These coins originate from the Tang dynasty and the Song period (Northern Song Dynasty and their successors Southern Song Dynasty).
Moreover, ceramics were discovered in the warehouse of Qal’at al-Bahrain. Most of them came from Iran region as well as Southeast Asia, including the Chinese celadons of the 13th century. These celadons date back to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and came from the Longquan region in Eastern China as one of the main Chinese exportations.
Other pieces found in the fortress dating from that time included conical bowls decorated with lotus flowers, dishes, and incense-burners. Their bodies were in grey or white tones, while their glazes were rather thick, crackled and varied from jade green, to blue green, and dark olive green. In addition, a grey deep cup made of porcelain with ridged sides and foliate edges, covered with a blue-green celadon glaze and a reddish-brown fringe was discovered at the warehouse of Qal’at al-Bahrain. Similar pieces as this cup originating from the Longquan region have also been found in the Philippines and in Fostat, Egypt, exported by the Chinese thanks to the Silk Roads.
Some of these findings date back to the 14th-16th centuries too. For example, most of the blue and white porcelain discovered at the fortress of Qal’at al-Bahrain can be traced back to the Chinese production of the 16th century. The porcelain found had diverse decorative features such as lotus ornaments, spiky leaves, landscapes, garden scenes with deer, or bamboos. Apart from these decorative elements demonstrating the Chinese origin, inscriptions in Chinese were also perceptible in these porcelains.
It should be noted that Bahrain has been famous for the unique beauty of its pearls, and for its date-honey that were carried to other regions along the Silk Roads, including China.
These elements reveal the important role of Qal’at al-Bahrain fortress in the maritime exchanges between the Arabian Peninsula and other regions.
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