Dilmun or Telmun1 (Arabic: دلمون) is a Persian Gulf civilization mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations as a trade partner, a source of the metal copper, and an entrepôt of the Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route. Although the central location of Dilmun is unclear, the current scholarly consensus is that Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Kuwait23 and the coastal regions of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.4
It is also noted that Gilgamesh had to pass through Mount Mashu to reach Dilmun in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is usually identified with the whole of the parallel Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, with the narrow gap between these mountains constituting the tunnel.5 Others believe Mount Mashu was one of two ("twin") mountains that held up the sky at the eastern and western extremities of the world. The Sumerian versions of the Gilgamesh epic demonstrate that the earlier versions of the myth sited the Cedar Mountain to the east, in the direction of the rising of Utu, the Sumerian sun god.6
Dilmun appears first in Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets dated to the late third millennium BC, found in the temple of goddess Inanna, in the city of Uruk. The adjective Dilmun is used to describe a type of axe and one specific official; in addition there are lists of rations of wool issued to people connected with Dilmun.7
Dilmun was mentioned in two letters dated to the reign of Burnaburiash (c. 1370 BC) recovered from Nippur, during the Kassite dynasty of Babylon. These letters were from a provincial official, Ilī-ippašra, in Dilmun to his friend Enlil-kidinni, the governor of Nippur. The names referred to are Akkadian. These letters and other documents, hint at an administrative relationship between Dilmun and Babylon at that time. Following the collapse of the Kassite dynasty, Mesopotamian documents make no mention of Dilmun with the exception of Assyrian inscriptions dated to 1250 BC which proclaimed the Assyrian king to be king of Dilmun and Meluhha, as well as Lower Sea and Upper Sea. Assyrian inscriptions recorded tribute from Dilmun.
There are other Assyrian inscriptions during the first millennium BC indicating Assyrian sovereignty over Dilmun.9 One of the early sites discovered in Bahrain suggests that Sennacherib, king of Assyria (707–681 BC), attacked northeast Arabia and captured the Bahrainian islands.10 The most recent reference to Dilmun came during the Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Neo-Babylonian administrative records, dated 567 BC, stated that Dilmun was controlled by the king of Babylon. The name of Dilmun fell from use after the collapse of Babylon in 538 BC.9
There is both literary and archaeological evidence of trade between Ancient Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilization (probably correctly identified with the land called Meluhha in Akkadian). Impressions of clay seals from the Indus Valley city of Harappa were evidently used to seal bundles of merchandise, as clay seal impressions with cord or sack marks on the reverse side testify. A number of these Indus Valley seals have turned up at Ur and other Mesopotamian sites.
The "Persian Gulf" types of circular, stamped (rather than rolled) seals known from Dilmun, that appear at Lothal in Gujarat, India, and Failaka, as well as in Mesopotamia, are convincing corroboration of the long-distance sea trade. What the commerce consisted of is less known: timber and precious woods, ivory, lapis lazuli, gold, and luxury goods such as carnelian and glazed stone beads, pearls from the Persian Gulf, shell and bone inlays, were among the goods sent to Mesopotamia in exchange for silver, tin, woolen textiles, olive oil and grains.
Copper ingots from Oman and bitumen which occurred naturally in Mesopotamia may have been exchanged for cotton textiles and domestic fowl, major products of the Indus region that are not native to Mesopotamia. Instances of all of these trade goods have been found. The importance of this trade is shown by the fact that the weights and measures used at Dilmun were in fact identical to those used by the Indus, and were not those used in Southern Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamian trade documents, lists of goods, and official inscriptions mentioning Meluhha supplement Harappan seals and archaeological finds. Literary references to Meluhhan trade date from the Akkadian, the Third Dynasty of Ur, and Isin-Larsa Periods (c. 2350–1800 BC), but the trade probably started in the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2600 BC). Some Meluhhan vessels may have sailed directly to Mesopotamian ports, but by the Isin-Larsa Period, Dilmun monopolized the trade. The Bahrain National Museum assesses that its "Golden Age" lasted ca. 2200-1600 BC. Discoveries of ruins under the Persian Gulf may be of Dilmun.11
Dilmun, sometimes described as "the place where the sun rises" and "the Land of the Living", is the scene of some versions of the Sumerian creation myth, and the place where the deified Sumerian hero of the flood, Utnapishtim (Ziusudra), was taken by the gods to live forever. Thorkild Jacobsen's translation of the Eridu Genesis calls it "Mount Dilmun" which he locates as a "faraway, half-mythical place".12
Dilmun is also described in the epic story of Enki and Ninhursag as the site at which the Creation occurred. The later Babylonian Enuma Elishmyth, speaks of the creation site as the place where the mixture of salt water, personified as Tiamat met and mingled with the fresh water of Abzu or Apsu. Bahrein in Arabic means "the twin waters", where the fresh water of the Arabian aquifer mingles with the salt waters of the Persian Gulf. The promise of Enki to Ninhursag, the Earth Mother:
For Dilmun, the land of my lady's heart, I will create long waterways, rivers and canals, whereby water will flow to quench the thirst of all beings and bring abundance to all that lives.
However, in the early epic "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta", the main events, which center on Enmerkar's construction of the ziggurats in Uruk and Eridu, are described as taking place in a world "before Dilmun had yet been settled".
As of 2008, archaeologists have failed to find a site in existence during the time from 3300 BC (Uruk IV) to 556 BC (Neo-Babylonian Era), when Dilmun appears in texts. According to Hojlund, no settlements exist in the Gulf littoral dating to 3300-2000 BC. Thus in 2008, archaeologists failed to find a site for Dilmun dating to the time period in which Dilmun first appears in ancient texts (3300-2000 BC). However recently, it was discovered that in 2000 B.C., Mesopotamians inhabited Failaka island.13 Failaka had many Mesopotamian-style buildings typical of those found in Iraq dating from around 2000 B.C.13
In Sumerian mythology regarding the Sumerian god "Enki of Eridu", mythology speaks of Enki "assaulting and deflowering Dilmun's maidens as they stand by a river bank, he reaching out of nearby marsh to clasp them to his bosom". Bahrain and the eastern littoral of Arabia do not possess marshes and a riverbank. However, Failaka island does possess marshes.14
Furthermore, Dilmun is said to lie "in the east where the sun rises," a situation that does not apply to the eastern Arabian littoral, Failaka or Bahrain, all of which lie south of Sumer and Eridu.
Despite the scholarly consensus that ancient Dilmun encompasses three modern locations - the eastern littoral of Arabia from the vicinity of modern Kuwait to Bahrain; the island of Bahrain; the island of Failaka east of Kuwait - few researchers have taken into account the radically different geography of the basin represented by the Persian Gulf before its reflooding as sea levels rose about 6000 BCE.15
In 1987, Theresa Howard-Carter proposed that Dilmun of this era might be a still unidentified tell near the Shatt al-Arab between modern-day Qurnah and Basra in modern day Iraq.16 In favor of Howard-Carter's proposal, it has been noted that this area does lie to the east of Sumer ("where the sun rises"), and the riverbank where Dilmun's maidens would have been accosted aligns with the Shat al-Arab which is in the midst of marshes. The "mouth of the rivers" where Dilmun was said to lie is for her the union of the Tigris and Euphrates at Qurnah.
Some scholars maintain that the Sumerians may have originated from the mountainous regions of southwestern Iran, since their epic poems refer several times to western part of Iran as their original homeland. Samuel Noah Kramer, a renowned expert in Sumerian history says, "There is some reason to believe that their original home had been in the neighborhood of a city called Aratta, which may have been near the Caspian sea: Sumerian epic poets say something of Aratta, and its people were said to speak the Sumerian language". Martha Lamberg Karlovsky, notes the "The kingdom of Elam and its somewhat better-known neighbor, Sumer, were the two earliest urban states to arise in the Mesopotamian area during the fourth millennium B.C. Proto-Elamite inscriptions and early Sumerian ones are the earliest known Mesopotamian writings, which are the oldest known anywhere".17
- Dilmun Burial Mounds
- Majan (civilization)
- History of Bahrain
- History of Iran
- Garden of Eden
- The former is the reconstructed Sumerian pronunciation; the latter, the reconstructed Semitic.
- "The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer". Jean-Jacques Glassner. 1990. p. 7.
- "Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States". Richard F. Nyrop. 2008. p. 11. "From about 4000 to 2000 B.C. the civilization of Dilmun dominated 250 miles of the eastern coast of Arabia from present-day Kuwait to Bahrain and extended sixty miles into the interior to the oasis of Hufuf (see fig. 2)."
- "Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain". M. A. Nayeem. 1990. p. 32.
- P. T. H. Unwin; Tim Unwin (18 June 1996). Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade. Psychology Press. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-0-415-14416-2. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Tigay, Jeffrey H. (2002) "The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Myth" (http://books.google.de/books?id=cxjuHTH6I2sC&pg=PA78&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.) accessed 2.09.2013
- Crawford, Harriet E. W. (1998). Dilmun and its Gulf neighbours. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-521-58348-9.
- The Sumerians: their history, culture, and character p. 308, Samuel Noah Kramer, 1963.
- Larson, Curtis E. (1983). Life and land use on the Bahrain Islands: The geoarcheology of an ancient society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-226-46905-0.
- Mojtahed-Zadeh, Pirouz (1999). Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political Geography. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1098-1.
- The UK Register, Science, Lost ancient civilisation's ruins lie beneath Gulf, By Lewis Page Science, December 9, 2010
- Thorkild Jacobsen (23 September 1997). The Harps that once--: Sumerian poetry in translation, p. 150. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07278-5. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
- "Traders from Ur?". Archaeology Magazine. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Failaka Island development project moves at high speed". Nawara Fattahova. 2010. "Much of the rest is marshland, with residential areas only accounting for 1.7 percent of the island’s area."
- "8000 years BP": Jeffrey Rose, "New light on human prehistory in the Arabo-Persian Gulf oasis" Current Anthropology 51.6 (December 2010)
- Howard-Carter, Theresa (1987). "Dilmun: At Sea or Not at Sea? A Review Article". Journal of Cuneiform Studies 39 (1): 54–117. JSTOR 1359986.
- "Dilmun, the land of the living":  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (December 1944)
- Telmun language Telugu: the Untold Legacy (in Russian)
- Indus Valley - Mesopotamian trade passing through Dilmun
- Bahrain National Museum's hall of Dilmun
- Greek inscriptions found on Bahrein (a pdf-file)
- Dilmun Calendar Theory Backed, Gulf Daily News, 11 July 2006
- Dilmun Site Al-Khidr, Failaka Island, State of Kuwait
- Lost ancient civilisation's ruins lie beneath Gulf, says boffin