In the end of April, the sixth season of archaeological excavations at the site of Kharaib el-Desht on Failaka Island (Kuwait) came to a close. One of the structures excavated this year could be interpreted as remains of a mosque.
Kharaib el-Desht lies on the north-western coast of Failaka Island. The excavations at the site conducted by the KPAM led to uncovering of a fishing settlement preliminary dated to the Late Islamic period (from the end of the 16th century to the end of the 19th century). The discoveries made by the Kuwaiti-Polish team include two houses and over a hundred small clay ovens. The presence of the ovens was related to the main activity of the settlement’s inhabitants – fishing. The archaeologist also uncovered many other artefacts attesting to the fishermen’s occupation, for instance various types of stone anchors, fishing hooks and fishing net weights.
Apart from these remains of modest village life, there is another structure located within the settlement which proved to be a remarkable discovery. It is a monumental building, the outline of which approximates a square, with the length of its sides about 20 m each. The building consists of a large courtyard (almost 200 m2 in area) which led to the main room. Inside the room, there remains of four large pillars that supported the roof were unearthed. Following a thorough cleaning, two niches were uncovered more or less at mid-length of the south-western wall. The wall closing the larger niche protrudes beyond the outline of the structure, creating a semi-circular projection. The smaller niche fits entirely within the width of the wall.
Analysis of the structure’s layout shows a plan typical for mosques. The discovery of the niches oriented to the south-east strengthens the excavators’ hypothesis. The larger of which is most likely the “mihrab“, the smaller – the “mimbar”, it seems therefore likely that the discovered building was a Friday mosque.
The research at the site of Kharaib el-Desht has been conducted since 2013 by the Kuwaiti–Polish Archaeological Mission (KPAM) composed of a team of archaeologists of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw led by Dr Agnieszka Pieńkowska in co-operation with Dr Sultan al-Duweish and Dr Hamid al-Mutairi from the NCCAL. The works are carried out under the “Kuwait Failaka Archeological Research Project – comparative study of the settlement patterns on Failaka Island. Investigations of Kharaib el-Desht Settlement Complex”. Apart from the excavations conducted on land, the project also includes underwater research along the coast of the island, which located over a dozen stone fishing structures, known as fish traps.