Photograph of the southwest bastion viewed from the south moat
Southwest Bastion Information
Qal'at al-Bahrain's bastions are well-built and of a fine architectural quality. They made possible a coherent defense of the whole site by utilizing two levels of defensive firepower. On the lower level, cross-fire from inner casemates allowed the elimination of any blind spot inside the moat; on the upper level, the guns placed on the terraces of these bastions efficiently covered the entire surface and surrounding areas of the Qal'at al-Bahrain tell (mound). This last technique and its military advantage are notably evident when one looks at the upper platform of the Southwest bastion (the most important in size and volume, as well as the lowest in the moat), the altitude of which is just a few meters higher than the site area facing it. These three corner-bastions possess a system of two inner casemates, with gun ports strictly oriented according to the axis of the moat section they are protecting. These lowly placed casemates are accessible by steep stairways and are generally covered with cupolas, replete with a vent at the keystone to evacuate the firing smoke. In the particular case of the Southwest bastion, its western casemate displays, rather than a cupola, a semi-circular vault borne by two ceiling-beam arches. All these bastions, at last, are equipped with "ears", a masonry protrusion that protects the gun ports from the famous "embrasure shot": an oblique shot in which the attacker's projectile can ricochet off the cheek of the gun port and thus enter the casemate. According to the specialists who studied them, these three massive buildings, although designed and edified by a great Portuguese architect, also reflect the traditional Italian (and more particularly Genoese) influence of that time. They actually represent a remarkable adaptation of the theoretical principles outlined in the Italian treatises of the mid-16th century, subsequently applied to the complex fortress which crowned the Qal'at al-Bahrain site at this period.