UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local adaptations of international traditions : a new analysis of the Gulf Type stamp seals from the Bahrain Charnel House Lynn, Brianne Alison


During the 1960s, fifteen stamp seals and two cylinder seals were discovered at a mass burial site in Northern Bahrain known as the Charnel House. Soon after their discovery, these seals disappeared from the public eye; however, about 50 years later, two stamp seals from this site along with several impressions of eleven of the fifteen stamp seals were donated as part of the Blackmore Collection to the Laboratory of Archaeology at the University of British Columbia. They were donated by the son of one of the original excavators of the Charnel House site, Harvey F. Blackmore. These seals belong to the Gulf Type—the first version of seals to appear on Bahrain (ancient Dilmun)—and date to Qala’at al-Bahrain Period IIa (c. 2050-1950 BCE). In addition to publishing new data about the two newly accessible stamp seals, this thesis seeks to explore how the Charnel House seals fit into the historical context of Period IIa in Dilmun and their typological context of the Gulf Type. The seals are analyzed with regard to the style and content of their obverse and reverse engravings, as well as their morphology. It is argued that the Charnel House seals—which constitute the uninscribed Gulf Type (c. 2050-2000 BCE) found almost exclusively on Bahrain Island—reflect both the social and cultural transitions taking place in Dilmun during Period IIa, as well as the transition between the initial inscribed Gulf Type (c. 2100 BCE) and the later Dilmun Type (c. 2000 BCE). They also provide insight into the way in which ancient Dilmunite seal owners understood their own identities.

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