By REBECCA TORR
Published: 21st June 2007
A SAUDI archaeologist is back in Bahrain to promote his theory that the Saar settlement holds a 4,000-year secret about the Dilmun civilisation. He claims the Dilmun civilisation marked the first day of the year by the summer solstice, which falls today and every year on June 21.
The theory is based on a discovery made by Dammam Regional Museum archaeologist Nabiel Al Shaikh in 1996, while he was conducting an excavation with a British team of archaeologists.
At the site, he found an ancient temple with an oddly positioned triangular corner room, which he claims was used as an astronomical device to measure the position of the sun.
He believes that during the summer solstice the sun would set over the corner of the temple - letting priests know it was the beginning of the New Year.
"I was familiar with the settlement and I had a good idea of astronomy and that temples around the world used the sun as a measurement of time," Mr Al Shaikh told the GDN.
"So when I noticed the sun settle above the corner of the temple I thought there must be a connection, but I couldn't be sure and had to wait until I witnessed it again the following year.
"In 1997, I went back to the site and sure enough what I saw is what the priest of Dilmun discovered 4,000 years ago - the beginning of the New Year."
Mr Al Shaikh's theory is starting to be recognised by authorities and last year Information Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for Culture and National Heritage Shaikha Mai bint Khalifa Al Khalifa witnessed the occasion.
The main obstacle to the archaeologist's theory is that the sun no longer sets over the corner of the temple, but is off by about 10 degrees.
However, Mr Al Shaikh says the discrepancy could be explained by the movement of tectonic plates, erosion and soft sand beneath the settlement.
"The British team witnessed the event but because it was 10 degrees out they said maybe it was possible, but there was no solid proof," explained Mr Al Shaikh.
"So I did more research and the proof was local movement at the settlement because of leaning walls and doorways, showing the soft ground is not stable.
"This is a major discovery. There is no evidence of how, if at all, the passage of time was measured, except for this."
If Mr Al Shaikh's theory is correct it would mean the Dilmun were using a different calendar to other civilisations of that time such as Mesopotamia, Iran and Egypt, whose first day of the year fell on March 21 according to the equinox calendar.
"The existence of a calendar shows the Dilmun were an organised civilisation able to measure the passage of time and could organise their religion and social and economic life," explained Mr Al Shaikh.
Mr Al Shaikh will give a tour of the Saar site at 5pm today. At 6.33pm, those who gather there will be able to witness the summer solstice sunset over the temple. All are welcome.
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