Honouring History and Heritage.

This week’s discovery of a clay tablet, with inscriptions dating back to 503-504 BC, at an archaeological site near Qalat Al Bahrain, in Karranah, surprised a lot of people.

The inscription on the tablet shows that it was a contract, written in the 19th year of reign of King Darius I.

Written in ancient cuneiform script of Akkadian, a language spoken in most parts of Middle East, it shows Bahrain’s connection with Babylon, some 2500 years ago.

I am not sure if this King Darius of Babylon is the same one who, according to the Bible, has thrown Daniel to the den of lions, but it certainly made me curious.

It made me think of the importance of preservation of historical and cultural connections between generations, and between nations.

The importance of knowing the past, and relating it to the future should not be taken lightly.

Bahrain, we know, has a great history. Being called Dilmun, Tylos, and Awal at different periods of time, it shows a strange richness of historical and cultural heritage, which is unique to the region.

And it is important, therefore, that we preserve the illustrious history of this nation; both, ancient and modern.

When it comes to modern history, many readers would be aware that, yesterday, 31 May, was the anniversary of the discovery of Oil in Bahrain – which was the first place oil was found, in the Arab world.

When it comes to ancient history, readers may be aware that Dilmun was mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations – in their books – as a trade partner, on Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route.

In the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, it is noted that Gilgamesh had to pass through Mount Mashu to reach Dilmun.

The mysterious burial mounds here, are yet another wonder that shows Bahrain’s ancient history. And it is for us to protect and preserve this nation’s heritage.

But, sometimes, nature can decide otherwise, and make us completely incapable of protecting historical sites and artefacts.

For example, among things that pained the historians and archaeologists during the earthquake in Nepal, was the destruction of beautiful structures. Some wonderful temples were reduced to rubble.

Throughout history we have seen hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and other natural calamities, taking away a much of mankind’s amazing handiwork.

But the real tragedy , I think, is when mankind itself takes away, and vandalizes beautiful works of art.

Like Taliban, which has blown away huge statues of Buddha in Bamyan in Afghanistan, and like ISIS which, just a couple of months ago, smashed priceless statues in Mosul calling them non-Islamic ideas, there were people who vandalize.

In fact ‘vandals’ – historically – were people who went about destroying other human endeavours, showing their one-upmanship and intolerance.

Now, coming back to the clay tablet discovery, I am sure that during King Darius I’s reign, neither Buddhism nor Christianity nor Islam was there. And it is important for our generation to know the history and culture and religion of that time.

I think it is not just the responsibility of UNESCO (United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation) to mark, preserve and protect historical heritage sites. It is the responsibility of all governments.

And I am glad that Bahrain is on the forefront, when it comes to giving due respect to history, culture and heritage.