Dilmun Burial Mounds – Buri, Bahrain - Atlas Obscura

Dilmun Burial Mounds

Buri, Bahrain

These 4,000-year-old tombs form a surreal landscape. 


The Dilmun Burial Mounds in Bahrain stand as poignant testaments to ancient civilizations and their reverence for the afterlife. Built between 2200 and 1750 B.C., these burial sites offer a glimpse into the beliefs and customs of the Dilmun civilization, which flourished in the region during the Bronze Age. 

In total, there are 11,774 burial mounds clustered in 21 locations across the island. These structures were built using layers of limestone and earth, creating durable tombs that have withstood the test of time. Within these mounds, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, and tools, some of which are on display in museums in Bahrain and beyond. 

The size and complexity of the mounds reflect the social status of the individuals interred within. The most obvious example are the royal tombs found in Saar, which reach heights of up to 12 meters. They were constructed as fortified towers, and the building blocks are clearly visible to this day. Most ordinary tombs, in contrast, are simpler mounds of dirt. Taken individually they are unassuming, but some burial sites accommodate thousands of these ordinary tombs, turning the landscape into a surreal, undulating surface. 

Today, the Dilmun burial grounds continue to be a source of fascination for archaeologists, historians, and visitors alike. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these ancient tombs stand as reminders of Bahrain’s rich cultural heritage and its importance as a crossroads of ancient civilizations. Their conservation, however, is controversial. Some argue that these burial grounds should leave space for housing projects. It is argued that land is scarce in Bahrain, and after all, these are just remains of a non-Islamic society. Not everyone espouses these arguments, but they do represent a threat to the Dilmun Burial Mounds. 

Know Before You Go

The location provided here is for one of the largest burial grounds, in the town of A'Ali, but there are 20 other burial grounds scattered across Bahrain.

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May 7, 2024

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