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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:2, Summer 2023

Epistles: Define Intervention

Biblical Archaeology Review

What is “Dilmun”?

1. Desert oasis in Genesis

2. Mound that rose from the primordial waters

3. Island reserved for survivors of the Great Flood

4. Caravanserai on the Silk Road

5. Landing spot of Noah’s Ark

Answer: (3)

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Dilmun is the island reserved for Utnapishtim and his wife, who survived the Great Food. At the direction of the god Enki, they had built a boat which protected them from the deluge. After the waters subsided, the gods granted them immortality and placed them on Dilmun, an otherworldly place at the edge of the world, where the sun rises. When Gilgamesh travels to Dilmun, he must fight lions; convince hybrid human-scorpion creatures to let him pass; traverse a long, dark mountain tunnel; and cross the Waters of Death. The journey is not for the faint of heart.

Beyond being a mythical land, Dilmun was also a real civilization, sometimes located on the western shore of the Persian Gulf in the area of modern Bahrain, where archaeologists have found burial mounds and settlements dating back to the third millennium BCE. Its prosperity and fertility were legendary. Not only was it Utnapishtim’s home, but it also appears as the site of creation in other Mesopotamian myths.

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