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Ikaros - Failaka Island, Kuwait

Ikaros is an ancient Greek city on Failaka Island, in the Persian Gulf.



Failaka Island is a Kuwaiti Island in the Persian Gulf. The island is 20 km off the coast of Kuwait City in the Persian Gulf.
The name "Failaka" is thought to be derived from the ancient Greek φυλάκιο(ν) - fylakio(n) "outpost".

History
The Island was first mentioned by Greek geographer Strabo (d. 25 CE). 
Aerial view of Ikaros
The Hellenes setteled in Al-Khazna Hill area on Failaka Island. BC 600 

The Greek, who had built an outpost on the island during Alexander’s conquest of Asia (336-323 BCE), called it Ikaros since its shape resembles that of Ikaria, an island in the Aegean Sea with just a similar shape, which is named after Ikaros, who, according to legend, fell upon it when the wax with which his wings had been fastened melted in the sun.


Remains of the settlement include a large Hellenistic fort and two Greek temples. It may have been a trading post (emporion) of the kingdom of Characene.
 Greek ruins on Ikaros (Failaka Island, Kuwait)



In 2000 B.C., Mesopotamians settled in Failaka at least a century before the Dilmun civilization.
Starting in the 3rd millennium BC, Failaka belonged to the Dilmun civilization. During the Dilmun era (from ca. 3000 BC), Failaka was known as "Agarum", the land of Enzak, a great god in the Dilmun civilization according to Sumerian cuneiform texts found on the island.
After the Dilmun civilization, Failaka was inhabited by the Kassites of Mesopotamia, and was formally under the control of the Kassite dynasty of Babylon.
Ikaros,Failaka, Fylakio, Kuwait

Studies indicate traces of human settlement can be found on Failaka dating back to as early as the end of the 3rd millennium BC, and extending until the 20th century AD.
Many of the artifacts found in Falaika are linked to Mesopotamian civilizations and seem to show that Failaka was gradually drawn toward the civilization based in Antioch.



At some point following Alexander the Great's initial advance through the region in 331 BC or in the period 324/3 BC when he returned to Mesopotamia, the ancient Greeks colonized the island, which they named Ikaros after the Greek island in the Aegean Sea and the mythical hero Icarus, apparently in the belief that the island had a similar shape of its Aegean counterpart. Some elements of Greek mythology were mixed with the local cults.

"Ikaros" was also the name of a prominent city situated in Failaka. Remains of the settlement include a large Hellenistic fort and two Greek temples.
Historic coins from Failaka Island



In 127 BC, the kingdom of Characene was established around the Bay of Kuwait near Failaka. Characene was centered in the region encompassing southern Mesopotamia, including Failaka island.



A Christian Nestorian settlement flourished in Failaka from the 5th century until the 9th century. Excavations have revealed several farms, villages and two large churches dating from the 5th and 6th century. Archaeologists are currently excavating nearby sites to understand the extent of the settlements that flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. An old island tradition is that a community grew up around a Christian mystic and hermit. The small farms and villages were eventually abandoned. Remains of Byzantine era Nestorian churches were found at Al-Qusur in Failaka. Pottery at the site can be dated from as early as the first half of the 7th century through the 9th century.
Archaeologists have discovered a system of 7th-9th century interior cooling during excavation works at the large settlement of Al-Qusur dating from the 7th - 9th century AD., on Kuwait's Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf.
A noteworthy discovery from this yearʼs archaeological activities were new, well-preserved spaces of a palace from the 7th - 8th century AD., built from clay bricks on foundations of masonry.

During the research, archaeologists managed to identify several valuable technical details, as well as to make out the long-term development of the housing and many partial structural renovations.
Room for processing grain in Nestorian palace, millstones left 

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the bottom part of a stone tower with a complex system of canals inside.

"According to the first analyses, we can talk of a unique architectural innovation, a so-called 'windcatcher tower', said SAV Archaeological Institute director Matej Ruttkay. "This was a clever way of cooling interiors by means of air flow, which was captured by openings in the tower's superstructure. It shows that the community there was on a high technical level." 

Monuments
Hellenistic Period: Description of the Archeological sites 
Hellenistic Fortress (Tell Sae'ed )
Tell Sae'ed is a high hill located South West of the island bordering the sea, and 200 meters away from Tell Sa'ad towards the north eastern side.

Excavations at this location revealed a Hellenistic Fortress dating back to the 3rd century BC and set as part of the Tell Sae'ed. The Hellenistic Fortress is semi square structure with approximately 60 meters long on each side, with a tower in each corner. The fortress's southern main gate was secured by a large tower, while the eastern smaller gate was secured by two towers.

The fortress included two temples; Temple A and Temple B. Temple A, built in an Ionic style structure constructed with fine cuts and imported rocks. , and was used for worshipping the God Artemis. In this temple, pillars with Persian decorated bases can be found.
In the entrance of Temple A, Ikaros’s slab-stone stands with a 44 Latin line scripted on limestone known as the source of guidance for the island's rules of the law of the land. During excavations, a U-shaped moat with sea rock paved sides that gradually tilt towards the inside of the fortress was uncovered. 

Studies conducted by archeological expeditions have shown that there were five different stages of occupation in the fortress. 

The first and second stages resembled a habitable group of buildings built with rocks and mud, and two temples.

Third and fourth stages date back to the third century BC as those stages witnessed the fortress’ expansion work. It included a new north side defensive wall with a huge defence shelter in the north western side. A number of towers were refurbished and the main east side gate was blocked.

At the same stage, the fortress was surrounded by a defensive moat, while many old houses were demolished and some were refurbished. This stage was marked by the construction of many new houses which lead to an increase in population and unorganized habitable areas within the fortress.

In the fifth stage, buildings were dilapidated and obviously abandoned militarily and defensively. Potentially, the castle was heavily populated up to the end of 1st century BC when the island formed a part of the Kingdom of Khirax. 

Al Khan or Dar Al Deyafa 
South to the Hellenistic Fortress, Tell  is a small Tell not far from the shoreline located south west of the island, between Tell Sa'ad and Tell Sae'ed.

Al Khan is a twelve room structure built with mud-brick, One of the rooms is used as a workshop for moulding Terracotta statues and storing modeling tools.  The assumed function of this building is a house of relaxation attended by ship captains and sailors. Food and water were probably served at the place.

Hellenistic Sanctuary 
The north-eastern side from the fortress, a small Tell had a profile of a two rooms building with a yard where signs of ritualistic activities could be detected. This building in particular did not last in standing condition as it was drifted by sea high waves.
Artifacts:
A.    Metal Products: silver coins with the image of Alexander the great as inscriptions, needles, rings, hooks, etc..
B.    Pottery Products: Jars glazed and non-glazed, and Vessels.
C.    Stone Products: altars, incense burners, stone inscriptions with Latin writings.
D.    Accessories and beads.
E.    Lamps and terracotta figurines.
Sheikh Ahmed Al Jaber Rest House
The Rest House was built in 1927 on Failaka Island. It is an elongated building with a double door on each side. The elevation of the building shows two intersecting passages connecting the outer doors. This creates four sections further divided into rooms. Each room has two windows for internal ventilation. The building materials consist of sea rock, mud, and wood, commonly used at that time. This design is uncommon in the Gulf region, and happens to be very effective during hot summers. It allowed cross- ventilation throughout the building by opening doors located at the end of the intersecting corridors.



Source/Photography/Bibliography

J. Hansamans, Charax and the Karkhen, Iranica Antiquitua 7 (1967) page 21-58
George Fadlo Hourani, John Carswell, Arab Seafaring: In the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times Princeton University Press,page 131
H.E. Mathiesen et al., Ikaros: The Hellenistic Settlements, 4 vols. (Copenhagen, 1982-1989).
C. Roueché and S. Sherwin-White, ‘Some aspects of the Seleucid Empire: The Greek inscriptions from Failaka in the Persian Gulf’ Chiron 15 (1985) 1-39.
Sa'ad and Sae'ed Area in Failaka Island
Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences
Courtesy Kuwaiti-Italian Mission
Υπουργείο πολιτισμού Ελλάδος
J. Naveh, 'The inscriptions from Failaka and the lapidary Aramaic script' Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 297 (1995) 1-4.

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