Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

3-Dimensional Measurements of Historical Islamic Tombstones in Bahrain

Research at the Bahrain National Museum

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been cooperating with the excavation survey and maintenance of historical sites in the tombs of Bahrain for many years. When we visited the site in July 2022 and met Salman Al Mahari, Director of the Bahrain National Museum, he asked us to help protect the historical Islamic tombstones that remained in the mosques and cemeteries. Currently, approximately 150 historical Islamic tombstones remain in the country, but they are deteriorating due to salt damage and other factors.
 In response to this request, as the first step of new cooperative activities, 3D measurements were taken of tombstones in the Bahrain National Museum’ collection and Al-Khamis Mosque from February 11 to 16, 2023. Structure-from-Motion/Multi-View-Stereo (SfM-MVS), a technology that creates 3D models from photographs, was used for photogrammetry to complete measurements of 20 units in the Bahrain National Museum and 27 units in the Al-Khamis Mosque’s collections. Tombstones made of limestone are highly compatible with photogrammetry, and from the 3D models created, the inscriptions on the tombstones can be seen much more clearly than from photographs or with the naked eye. These models will be made publicly available on a platform that can be accessed widely both domestically and internationally and will be used as a database for tombstones in the future.
 In the following fiscal year and beyond, we plan to further expand the scope of our 3D measurement work to other cemeteries in Bahrain.

Symposia on Archaeology and International Contribution: Japanese Cooperation for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Bahrain and the Latest Discoveries of Arabian Archaeology

Dilmun Burial Mounds remaining in Bahrain
Speakers and participants of the symposium held in Tokyo, Japan.

 The Kingdom of Bahrain in the Middle East has many interesting cultural heritage sites, despite being a small island country of the size of Tokyo’s 23 wards and Kawasaki City combined. It is known that Bahrain was called Dilmun, and prospered by monopolizing the maritime trade connecting Mesopotamia with the Indus region, approximately 4,000 years ago. As many as 75,000 burial mounds were built during that period only in Bahrain, which have attracted the attention of many researchers since the end of the 19th century. The Dilmun Burial Mounds were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019.

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been cooperating on the site management and excavations of the Dilmun Burial Mounds for a long time. From FY2022, we began cooperating on the conservation of historic Islamic gravestones in Bahrain.

 The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Japan. TOBUNKEN held the international symposia on Archaeology and International Contribution: Japanese Cooperation for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Bahrain (on December 11th, 2022 at TOBUNKEN) and the Latest Discoveries of Arabian Archaeology (on December 14th, 2022, at Kanazawa University), co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Ancient Civilizations and Cultural Resources of Kanazawa University. The Director of Archaeology and Museums of Bahrain, heads of Denmark, France, and British missions that conduct excavations in Bahrain, and archaeology and conservation science experts in Japan, gathered for the symposia.

 The history of each country’s excavations in Bahrain and the excavation, conservation, and restoration activities of Japanese experts were introduced at the symposium in Tokyo. The latest excavation survey results for each mission were introduced at the symposium in Kanazawa.

 TOBUNKEN plans to continue cooperating for the protection of cultural heritage in Bahrain in various ways.

International Symposium: Water and People of Mesopotamia and the Surrounding Area

Discussion with Iraq online

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) and Japanese-Iraqi Institute for Archaeological Education of Mesopotamia (JIAEM) co-organized an international symposium titled Water and People of Mesopotamia and the Surrounding Area: A Hopeful Way of Looking to Our Sustainable Future with Water from Viewpoints of Archaeological and Historical Heritages in the Regions held on October 22nd, 2022. This symposium activity aims to foster a deeper understanding of the Mesopotamian archaeology and livelihood of Iraqi people and resume archaeological survey as well as international cooperation in the future as the second co-organized activity by both institutes.

 The Tigris and Euphrates rivers that nurtured Mesopotamian civilization face the issue of water decrease influenced by dam construction by neighboring countries located upstream in addition to the impact of global climate change. We invited his excellency Abdul Kareem Kaab, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Tokyo. He presented a keynote lecture about the relationship with both rivers and people from ancient times, as well as the current difficult situation in the surrounding area in Iraq. Subsequently, several presentations were made from the multiple viewpoints focusing on the keyword “water” including the Water Resource Management in Transboundary Rivers, Riverine Life, and Water Supply of Ancient Mesopotamia, how to make a traditional Iraqi boat, history and current situation in Bahrain given its abundant spring water. In the second half of the symposium, Iraqi scholars were joined online, and talked on the field study of utilizing water in Eridu and Umma, and the crisis regarding buffalo in south Iraq. We discussed how they would be able to cope with their lives along with changing river conditions by overviewing what kind of water resources management were handled there from the archaeological viewpoint.

 Dealing with a wide range of issues from the ancient to the present in three different languages (Japanese, English, and Arabic) presented a valuable opportunity to discuss livelihoods of the local people, not only focusing on academic themes surrounding the keyword “water.” We hope new international cooperation issue will be recognized through such activity.

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