Corpus of Northern Middle Sabaic Inscriptions (work in progress)

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameKmnhw
Geographical areaJawf - Wādī Madhab
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 10' 05"    Longitude: 44° 41' 21"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Ḥnkyn (nisba)
Tribe: Kmnhw
Tribe: Krryn (nisba)
Tribe: S¹bʾ
Lineage: ʾdwn
Lineage: ʿf
Lineage: Ḫṭṭ
Lineage: Ḥdd
Lineage: Ḥḍr
Lineage: Ḥṯrm
Lineage: Qrnm
Lineage: Ṣmr
Lineage: Ṯbrn
Lineage: Yhr
ʿṯtr ḏ-Rḥbh
ʿtṯr Ḥgr
ʿṯtr S²rqn
Mdhww Rdʿt
Nbʿl bʿl Ṣyrn
Nbʿl S²bʿn
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
LanguageSabaic, Minaic
Location and toponomyThis site is located in the middle valley of the Jawf, 107 km north-west of Maʾrib, 9 km west of al-Ḥazm, on the left bank of wādī Madhāb, north-east of as-Sawdāʾ, ancient Nashshān.

The name Kaminahū (Kmnhw) used to indicate at the same time a tribe, its territory and probably also its ancient capital-city, today called Kamna. For the identification of the ancient toponym: Halévy 1873: 602-603; D. H. von Müller (1880: 1004-1005); Robin 1992: 155.
Al-Hamdānī mentions Kamna twice as a maḥfad (stronghold) in the 10th century (al-Hamdānī, Sifāt, ed. Müller 1884: 167; al-Hamdānī, al-Iklīl vol. 8, ed. Faris 1940: 104).
History of researchDiscovery
J. Halévy (Halévy 1872: 79; 1873: 602-603) – or more probably his guide, H. Ḥabshūsh.

Visits and surveys
1947: A. Fakhry (1952: 147), short description.
1980's: MAFRAY: epigraphic exploration (Robin 1981a: 151-152; Robin 1992: 149-194), plan of the rampart (Breton 1994: 99-102). If epigraphic knowledge provides a first picture of the city of Kamna, the stratigraphy and remains of the site are largely unknown, apart from the rampart.
The knowledge of the site has been improved thanks to the numerous inscriptions coming from the looting of the site and reappearing today at antique markets.
2004: project for the protection of the sites and artefacts in danger from the region of Jawf (UNESCO, social development funds in Yemen): visit by R. Audouin and M. Arbach who described the area as being heavily plundered and in an alarming state of decay.
General descriptionKamna is a rectangular hillock with an elongated shape, c. 10 m high. The site is surrounded by a wall of which only isolated parts still exist, each about 30 m long. It measures 400 x 140 m.
The rampart is 1350 m long and is made of several curtain walls each being in recess to the previous one. It was built in stone and presented a large gate. Several construction phases can be identified on the rampart thanks to architectural features (Breton 1994).

The remains of dwellings are still visible. The houses were built with a wooden structure filled in with mudbricks.

Three temples are known in Kamna either thanks to their remains or by epigraphic sources:
- the intra muros temple called Ys¹mʿqhl. The deity to which it was consecrated is unknown. Some pillars decorated with reliefs provide the name of the building and that of its builder, Yhzḥ Rdʿn bn S¹mhs¹mʿ, probably a king of Kmnhw. From its decoration scheme, this temple is related to the type of temples called “Banāt ʿĀd” (Arbach, Schiettecatte 2006: 18-20).
- the temple S²bʿn dedicated to Nbʿl, the tutelary deity of the pantheon of Kmnhw.
- the extra muros temple consecrated to Mdhww. It is located in Ḥizmat an-Naṣāʾib, 1100 m from Kamna. Inscriptions grant the dating of its activity to the 8th-5th century BC. From its decoration scheme, this temple is also related to the type of temples called “Banāt ʿĀd” (Robin 1981: 151-152 ; 1992: 150, 165-166).
It is possible that the Sabaean god ʾlmqh had his own temple in the city of Kmnhw during the 7th century (Arbach & Rossi 2015). Among the other deities worshipped in Kamna, it is worth mentioning ʿṯtr Ḥgr, ʾldll, Qbḍ/Qbṭ, Wd and ʿṯtr ḏ-Rḥbh.

The site is surrounded by an ancient irrigated area witnessing a thick sedimentary accumulation. An inscription (Kamna 12) mentions the consecration of a water inlet and a channel.
ChronologyThe occupation of the site is dated to the 8th century BC at the latest (Kamna 1, Kamna 13+14). If we consider that the basis of the rampart lies on anthropogenic accumulation layers, and that the rampart dates back to the 7th century BC, the site foundation may precede the 8th century BC.
Kmnhw was the seat of an autonomous and independent political entity in the 8th-6th centuries BC, and at the end of the 1st millennium BC. The Madhābian language was spoken. The tribe had its own pantheon. In the 8th century BC, Kmnhw appeared as one of the most important political entities in the Jawf valley together with Nashshān, upon which it eventually imposed itself until, supported by the Sabaean ally, Nashshān finally stated its domination by force upon Kmnhw.
Kmnhw became an ally of the Sabaean mukarrib Krbʾl Wtr bn Ḏmrʿly. This alliance quickly took the appearance of a vassalage relationship under which Kmnhw paid tribute to the Sabaean kings (CIH 377).
With the decline, and then the disappearance of the kingdom of Maʿīn, Kmnhw flourished once again in the 2nd-1st century BC.
The identification of Caminacus, according to Pliny the Elder, with Kmnhw leads to the supposition that the site was destroyed by the expedition of Aelius Gallus, and that it never recovered from this event. No mention of the site is attested in South Arabia after the passage of the Roman expedition.
Classical sourcesPliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, VI, 32, 160: Caminacus
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.34 (2nd cent. AD): Κάρμαν βασίλειον (?)
[identification proposed by Von Wissmann (1964, p. 140-141); this identification is uncertain if we consider that there is no evidence showing that the site was occupied at that time, and if we consider that the phonetic resemblance is only approximate].


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west of Ḥizmat an-Naṣāʾib (Unknown)




Arbach and Rossi 2014Arbach, Mounir and Rossi, Irene 2014. Kamna, une cité prospère du Jawf du Yémen aux VIIIe-VIe siècles avant J.-C.. Semitica et Classica, 7: 45-61.
Arbach and Rossi 2015Arbach, Mounir and Rossi, Irene 2015. Nouveaux documents sabéens provenant de Kamna du VIIIe–VIIe siècle avant J.-C.. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 26/1: 16-27. 2015/06/02; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aae.12052/pdf. [DOI: 10.1111/aae.12052]
Arbach and Audouin 2007: 39Arbach, Mounir and Audouin, Rémy 2007. Collection of Epigraphic and Archaeological Artifacts from al-Jawf Sites. Ṣanʿâʾ National Museum. 2. Ṣanʿāʾ: UNESCO-SFD / Ṣanʿāʾ: National Museum. [Text in English and Arabic]
Breton 1994 c: 99-102Breton, Jean-François 1994. Les fortifications d'Arabie méridionale du 7e au 1er siècle avant notre ère. (Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 8). Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.
Breton and Arbach 2020Breton, Jean-François and Arbach, Mounir 2020. Kamna, une cité archaïque du Jawf (Yémen). Pages 71-102 in I. V. Zaitsev (ed.). Arabian Antiquities. Studies Dedicated to A. Sedov on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Moscow: Oriental Literature Publisher.
Breton and Bessac 2002Breton, Jean-François and Bessac, Jean-Claude 2002. Observations sur les murs de Maʿîn et de Kamna. Vestnik Drevnej Istorii, 4: 147-155.
Bron 2013Bron, François 2013. Deux nouvelles inscriptions provenant de Kamna. Raydān, 8: 45-50.
Fakhry 1952: 147Fakhry, Ahmed 1952. An archaeological Journey to Yemen (March-May 1947). (3 vols), Cairo: Government Press.
Frantsouzoff 2010Frantsouzoff, Serguei A. 2010. Once more on the interpretation of mṯl in Epigraphic South Arabian (a new expiatory inscription on irrigation from Kamna). Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 40: 161-170.
al-Garoo 1986: 266-267al-Garoo, Asmahan 1986. Les antiquités du Yémen dans l'œuvre de al-Hamdânī. (PhD, Université Paris I).
Halévy 1872: 79, 187-188Halévy, Joseph 1872. Rapport sur une mission archéologique dans le Yémen. Journal Asiatique 6e série, 19: 5-98; 129-266; 489-547.
Halévy 1873: 602-603Halévy, Joseph 1873. Voyage au Nedjrân. Bulletin de la Société de géographie 6e série, 1/6: 5-31; 249-273; 581-606.
Müller, David H. 1879-1881: 1004-1005Müller, David H. 1879-1881. Die Burgen und Schlösser Südarabiens nach dem Iklil des Hamdāni. (2 vols vols), (Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 94 and 97). Vienna: Gerold.
Prioletta 2014 aPrioletta, Alessia 2014. Nouvelles inscriptions maʿīniques de Kamna au Musée militaire de Ṣanʿāʿ. Semitica et Classica, 7: 191-201.
Robin 1992 aRobin, Christian J. 1992. Inabbaʾ, Haram, al-Kāfir, Kamna et al-Ḥarāshif. Fasc. A: Les documents. Fasc. B: Les planches. Inventaire des inscriptions sudarabiques. 1. Paris: de Boccard / Rome: Herder. [Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres; Istituto italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente]
Robin 1995 aRobin, Christian J. 1995. Des villes dans le Jawf du Yémen ?. Semitica, 43-44: 141-161.
Robin 2002Robin, Christian J. 2002. Vers une meilleure connaissance de Kaminahū (Jawf du Yémen). Pages 191-213 in John F. Healey and Venetia Porter (eds). Studies on Arabia in honour of Professor G. Rex Smith. (Journal of Semitic Studies. Supplement, 14). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schiettecatte 2011: 70-73Schiettecatte, Jérémie 2011. D'Aden à Zafar. Villes d'Arabie du Sud préislamique. (Orient et Méditerranée, 6). Paris: de Boccard.
al-Sheiba 1987: 49al-Sheiba, Abdullah Hassan 1987. Die Ortsnamen in den altsüdarabischen Inschriften (mit dem Versuch ihrer Identifizierung und lokalisierung). Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 4: 1-62.
Wissmann 1964 a: 140-141, 185Wissmann, Hermann von 1964. Zur Geschichte und Landeskunde von Alt-Südarabien. Sammlung Eduard Glaser. 3. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 246). Vienna: Böhlaus.