digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

Site view.
Sedov 1997: pl. 2a


Ancient nameRybn [oasis]
Geographical areaCentral Ḥaḍramawt
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 34' 6.3"    Longitude: 48° 18' 15.3"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: ʾrmyn (nisba)
Lineage: Brl
Lineage: Gnzn
Lineage: Yhbʾl
ʿs³trm ḏt-Ḥḍrn
ḏt-Ḥmym ḏt-Rḥbn
ḏt-Ṣhrn ; zt-Ṣhrn
S¹yn ḏ-ʾlm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
Isolated temple
LanguageSabaic, Ḥaḍramitic
General descriptionExtension: 18 ha. This site comprises several distinct settlements which are located on the lowest reaches of wādī Dawʿan, one of the biggest western tributaries of wādī Ḥaḍramawt. The valley, large about 2 km, is encircled by Ḥaḍramawt limestone highlands.
ChronologyThe most ancient settlements, dating to the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC, are those of Raybūn XXXII and Raybūn XXXIII which were located at the SW corner of the valley. At the end of the 1st millennium BC the urbanized settlement seems to concentrate in the most centrals Raybūn I and II. The archaeological sequence shows a permanent occupation of the ancient site where structures of different phases were built above each other. The period of larger extension of the oasis falls within the 3rd and the 1st centuries BC. A destruction of the whole site has been detected and dated to the middle of the 1st century BC, and the fire traces have been then associated to the struggles opposing Ḥaḍramawt to Qatabān at that period. Some limited portions however continued to be inhabited for some more time, but probably the vast majority of the population later moved in the nearby, where the modern town of al-Hajarayn is situated.
Identification19th century: A. von Wrede
Travellers1893: L.Hirsch
1900: Th. and M.V. Bent
1929: M.J.Boscawen
1931: H. von Wissmann and D. van der Meulen
1934: W.H. Ingrams
1935: F. Stark
1937: G. Caton Thompson and S.A. Ḥuzayyn
Archaeological missions1959: A.F.L. Beeston (UK) [survey]
1959: G. Lankester Harding (UK)
1961: G. van Beek (USA)
1978: Mission Archéologique Française
1983-1990: EPSY (USSR) dirs. P.A. Grijaznevitch, M.B. Piotrovskij
since 1993: Russian Archaeological Mission, dir. A.V. Sedov.


The main urban settlement has a triangular plan, measuring 460 x 400 m and it probably had not a real defensive structure, since only a limited fortification has been so far recognized in the southern part of the site. It is the largest of the all settlements, having moreover a central position inside the whole area. The subsistence of the site has been centred in the agricultural exploitation, since the natural environment, together with a strong human intervention with hydraulic structures and canalisations, assured a good economic maintenance. The buildings that have been investigated showed two different techniques: the bigger structures, often comprising more than one floor, have a stone basement which is raised up by a wood skeleton completed by mud bricks. The smaller and more modest structures, which probably were limited to the ground floor, have been erected using only mud bricks. In the lateral sides of the valley some cave necropolises has been detected (Raybūn XV), together with several surface tombs and burials of sacrificed animals (camels) in the surroundings. They seem to be more concentrated in the slopes at the SW edges of the valley, between Raybūn I and II.

  • photoRaybūn Necropolis XVII, Tomb 6.
  • photoRaybūn. Cave Tomb.
This temple has been devoted to the cult of the supreme Hadramitic deity, S¹yn. It was built 1.5 km south of Raybūn I, on a platform high 8.5 m with a central stone building, whose entrance was through two lateral staircases and a four-pillared propylon. It was surrounded in the interior by a gallery delimited by ten pillars, and on the opposite of the entrance a big altar was positioned (1.8 x 2.2 x 0.5 m). A second colonnaded building was erected together with a second staircase on the northern side of the same platform.

  • photoRuins of the temple S¹yn Dhū Mayfaʿān.
This is a sacred complex comprising 4 buildings overlooking the site. Inscriptions evidenced that it was dedicated to goddess Dhāt Ḥimyām. Of the principal building, the largest one, only the stone socle has been preserved. The second building has revealed another altar, thus probably having a sacral function too. Building 3 had a central colonnaded hall with a large bench and has been interpreted as a refectory, while the fourth one has been considered to be priests' quarters. All the complex was probably founded in the 10th century BC, but its more intense life should be concentrated between 8th and 1st centuries BC.

  • photoTemple of Dhāt Ḥimyam dhāt Raḥban.
It was located southern from Raybūn I and, like the previous one, it was dedicated to the goddess Dhāt Ḥimyām (this led to think that this oasis was the main centre for the worship of this divinity). It comprised three buildings, each on a stone basement 1 m high. The central building, with rectangular plan, had the entrance with a four-pillared portico. The hypostyle room (11 x 12 m) was divided in three naves by 10 pillars and the altar was positioned at the centre. A second building was formed by two adjacent structures, one probably a refectory and the other for the performing of some ceremony. The last building was probably left for the housing of the priests. One big stone stela has been discovered on a hill at the NW from the sanctuary.

  • photoTemple Kafas-Naʿmān. Plan.
  • photoDhāt Ḥimyam dhāt Kafas.
  • photoTemple Kafas-Naʿmān. Podium.
  • photoTemple of Dhāt Ḥimyam dhāt Kafas. Reconstruction.
  • photoTemple Kafas-Naʿmān. Reconstruction.
Dedicated to the goddess ʿAthtarum (ʿAśtarum), this temple was erected on an imposing stone basement of 13.1 x 15. 3 m at the N of Raybūn I. The access was via a monumental staircase at S and a tetrapylon. One lateral staircase was on the western limit of the area. The main room was an hypostyle hall sustained by 8 pillars. This structure is probably a second phase of the temple whose first level was later included in the stone basement, this was in fact erected at the end of the 6th century BC and lasted until the 1st century BC.

  • photoTemple of ʿAthtar dhāt Ḥaḍrān
  • photoTemple of Ḥaḍrān, reconstruction.
Large religious complex located 700 m NE of Raybūn I. Built on a natural hillock, the complex stands on a T-shaped platform accessible by a elbow, 18.5 m long staircase. A courtyard bounded by a portico with pillars and an altar in the center precedes the temple. A 5.4 x 7.4 m hall for worship provided with columns stands also on the podium. The temple was dedicated to S¹yn ḏ-Ws¹ṭhn. Raybūn VI was occupied from Early Raybūn III (c. 800 BC) to the end of Late Raybūn II (late 1st cent. BC) (Sedov 2003: 196).
Raybūn XXXIV is located down the cone of debris, in the bottom of the cliff, at the confluence of the Wādīs Marāfiḥ and al-ʿAyn, a tributary of the Wādī Dawʿan. The site has an extension of 3.5 ha. About 40 housing structures testify for a dense occpuation. On the eastern edge of the site the remains of a 70 m long wall are visible, maybe a fortified or a divider wall. Two structures stands out and maybe pertain to two temples. An inscription mentioning S¹yn has been found in one of them (SOYCE 934). Raybūn XXXIV was occupied at the end of the 1st mill. BC and possibly in the 1st cent. AD.


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The pottery sequence is of the greatest interest, because has allowed to clarify the long and continuous evolution of the Hadramitic culture. It can be subdivided into three main phases. Early Raybūn Complex (1200 – 700 BC): burnished red, dark-red or red-brown slipped surfaces, various types of applied, incised and painted decoration combined with certain types of vessels. This phase shows parallelism with the Levantine wares going back to the end of 2nd millennium BC, but it is also consistent with some of the findings coming from Hajar ibn Ḥumayd and Yalā. Middle Raybūn Complex (700 – 400 BC): the preceding paintings disappears and a new painted decoration appears, the light creamish paste, slipped with whitish engobe, is now painted with geometrical designs in red, in this period also carinated bowls and vessels with amphora-like body are introduced. Late Raybūn Complex (400 BC – 100 AD): wavy rim bowls and storage jars with thick walls manufactured of porous yellowish or greenish paste are now common. This last cultural frame shows wide connections with the rest of contemporary South Arabian pottery production (A. Agostini).


near al-Mashhad (Unknown)


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


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