digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameKwrn
Geographical areaNorthern Jawf
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 09' 36"    Longitude: 45° 02' 12"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteReligious area
ʿṯtr ḏ-Ḏbn
Wdm ḏ-ʿgbm
Tʾlb Rym
ʿm ḏ-Mbrq
Ḥgrm Qḥm
ʿṯtr w-ʾlm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Byḥn w-ḏ-Ṭmm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Ṭmm
ʾlmqh ḏ-Hrn
ʾlmqh bʿl Yfʿn ḏ-Ms¹ltm
StructuresIsolated temple
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Pilgrimage temple
Paved road
Rock inscriptions
LanguageSabaic / Minaic
Location and toponomyLocation
Jabal al-Lawdh is an isolated metamorphic mountain in the northern Jawf, located 30 km east-north-east of Maʿîn. Its peak is 2150 m high and juts out about 1000 m from the plain of the Jawf. It marks its north-eastern border. From this spot, the scenery of the edge of Rubʿ al-Khâlî changes where the large calcareous plateau is superseded by metamorphic rocky ridges.
The summit of Jabal al-Lawdh is on top of an impressive mountain wall called Zuwayra, 1000 m high above the Jawf. The largest part of the construction of a pre-Islamic sanctuary can be found at the foot of this wall (16,16°N 45,0367°E); the others were built on the sloping ledge of Shiʿb Mushjiʿ, 200 m below the summit of Zuwayra (16,1726°N 45,053°E).

Place name
At the beginning of the Christian era, the deities venerated on the site were called « gods of Kawrân » [ʾlʾlt Kwrn] (MAFRAY-Mushjiʿ 2, 4, 5, 6 & 25). Jabal al-Lawdh used to bear that name. It is explicit in the inscription MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb VIIId which evokes the Mount Kwr [ʿrn Kwr].
On the other hand, the inscriptions from different periods of occupation of the site mention « fire sacrifices in Taraḥ » [hnr b-Trḥ] or « the ascension to Taraḥ » [ywm ʿly Trḥ]. This may be the name of the higher sanctuary.
In the 10th century, al-Hamdânî called the promontory Jabal al-Lawdh.
History of research1936: H.St J. Philby went to the region.
1950s: ruins are photographed by Hatim Khalidi. He conveyed the photographs to A. Condé who sent them to G. Ryckmans in 1958 (Ryckmans G. 1959). Publication of stone inscriptions Ry 584-589 and of rock inscriptions Ry 590-594.
1981: visit of J. Pirenne and R. Wade (Pirenne 1981)
1981 (Oct.-Nov.): MAFRAY: Christian Robin, Jean-François Breton and Rémy Audouin. An epigraphic analysis and an archaeological investigation are carried out.
1986: investigations by the Jawf-Ḥaḍramawt mission directed by S. Cleuziou; description of the protohistoric structures.
General descriptionProtohistoric vestiges (Cleuziou 1986)
« Au pied du Jabal al-Lawdh, les cônes d’éboulis en forte pente sont couverts par des centaines de tumuli associés à des alignements. Ceux-ci sont orientés dans le sens de la pente, ou perpendiculairement à elle, sans rapport avec les points cardinaux.»
« Au pied de la montagne, on note la présence de cairns dont la base du parement externe est formée d’un rang de pierres dressées de chant, la suite de l’élévation du mur étant faite de moellons. »

South Arabian Vestiges (Robin and Breton 1982)
The low Sanctuary, conventionally called al-Kaʿâb, is formed by several buildings, all located along the slopes above Shiʿb al-Kaʿâb, at the foot of Zuwayra. It is possible to distinguish several buildings:
- al-Kaʿâb - building no. 1 (Breton 1982: 622): dimensions: 98 x 37 m (41 m to the east) divided in two sections. Two series of benches 16,8 m long can be found; one in front of the other in the court. Access by an angled device to a vast open hall (24,2 x 52,8 m), which presents 48 stone benches;
- al-Kaʿâb - building no. 2: 50 m to the south. It is an architectural ensemble with benches.
- al-Kaʿâb - building no. 3: at the beginning of the paved road, close by an escarpment with rock inscriptions, there is a small building with two rooms measuring 16.5 x 11.5 m. The northernmost room is a construction with four pillars.
According to Robin (1982: 601), « le complexe cultuel inférieur parait avoir été ouvert à des cultes très divers puisqu’on y célébrait indistinctement ʿṯtr ḏ-Ḏbn, ʿṯtr et Smʿ à Kwrn ou encore ʾlmqh. Il ne semble pas avoir été placé sous l’autorité exclusive d’une divinité.»

A partly paved, partly excavated into the rock, path links, as a stair, the buildings of Shiʿb Mushjiʿ to those of Zuwayra. This processional path goes along the Shiʿb Mushjiʿ, crossing it sometimes. The length of the path is about 6 km, with an altitude gap of 1000 m. Midway there is a building (no. 4) with benches.

The high sanctuary, conventionally called Mushjiʿ, is not on top of the mountain but in a depression 100 m below the top. It is composed of two complexes:
- Mushjiʿ A: a building 21 x 31 m with an open air court and another court with a square aedicula of 5 m per side, next to a staircase. What remains is only the base of the wall, located on a sloping ledge of Shiʿb Mushjiʿ;
- Mushjiʿ B: group of small constructions on the side of the hill facing Zuwayra to the west, above Shiʿb Mushjiʿ.
W. Daum (2015) mentions the presence within the vestiges of several remains of cultic objects (offering tables, incense burners); Ch. Robin (1982) mentioned some stelae, offering tables, pyres, altars or simple inscribed stone blocks.
65 inscriptions were found in this area (Robin & Breton 1982: 604). When the author is known, he is always king of Sabaʾ (42 inscriptions); this led Robin to propose that the temple was only accessed by kings (1982: 604). 28 texts date back to the era of the mukarribs of Sabaʾ, 37 texts date back to the era of the kings of Sabaʾ and dhû-Raydân.

Several inscriptions were engraved on a rocky ridge 5 minutes north of the temple; among them Ry 591 and 592. According to Pirenne (1981: 244), the rocky ridge forms a rock sanctuary that existed before the temple, of which the latter is simply an extension. Between the ridge and the mountain there is a depression that forms a small lake when precipitations are high. MAFRAY found about 50 inscriptions divided into 12 sections (I to XII) and into 3 groups: names of deities; names of persons or of family followed by the indication « accompanied his lord», commemorative monuments dedicated to different deities.

The rock inscriptions mention numerous deities:
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb IIc and d: Wdm ḏ-ʿgbm
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb IVa: Tʾlb Rym, deity of the tribe S¹mʿy
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿab VIIa: memorial monument built in the period of Ḏmrʿly Ḏrḥ (1st century) by a member of the tribe of Khawlân to honour the deity ʿm ḏ-Mbrq.
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb VIIb: Ḥgrm Qḥm, a deity of the tribe Ghaymân
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb VIIId: ʿṯtr ḏ-Byḥn w-ḏ-Ṭmm, a deity of the tribe Mhqrʾm
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb IXa: ʿṯtr et ʾlm, a deity of the tribe Bakîl ; mentions ʿṯtr ḏ-Ṭmm, a deity of the tribe Mhqrʾm
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb IXb: ʾlmqh ḏ-Hrn, a deity of the tribe Bakîl
- MAFRAY-al-Kaʿâb Xa: ʾlmqh bʿl Yfʿn ḏ-Ms¹ltm
ChronologyAccording to the palaeography of inscriptions and the names of the kings mentioned in the texts, the two sanctuaries went through two main periods of occupation: the period of the mukarribs of Sabaʾ (8th-6th century BC) and the turning of the Christian era (1st century BC/AD).

The period of the mukarribs of Sabaʾ
The two temples bear inscriptions dated to the kingdoms of the mukarribs of Sabaʾ Yṯʿʾmr and Ḏmrʿly; Krbʾl Wtr bn Ḏmrʿly; S¹mhʿly Byn bn Krbʾl; S¹mhrym Ḏbyn bn Krbʾl; S¹mhʿly Ynf bn Ydʿʾl.
In this period, the sanctuary was dedicated to S¹mʿ et ʿṯtr ḏ-Ḏbn. The name of the sanctuary, Trḥ, is frequently attested.

The period of the kings of Sabaʾ (5th-1st century BC)
The activity within the sanctuary seems limited. An inscription mentions a dedication to ʾlmqh (Ry 588), another the sanctuary Trḥ (MAFRAY-Mushji 19).

At the turn of the Christian era
The activity was revamped at the beginning of the Christian era. The majority of texts were dedications of the kings of Sabaʾ and dhû-Raydân dated to the 1st century (Ḏmrʿly Wtr Yhnʿm, Krbʾl Wtr Yhnʿm, Ḏmrʿly Ḏrḥ). They mention banquets and offerings dedicated to the godʿṯtr ḏ-Ḏbn.
In the inscription MAFRAY-Mushji 3, Krbʾl Wtr bn Ḏmrʿly offers a dedication toʿṯtr, Hwbs¹ and ʾlmqh.


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Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Beeston 1939: 446-447Beeston, Alfred F.L. 1939. Appendix on the Rock Inscriptions. Pages 441-456 in Harry St John B. Philby. Sheba's Daughters. Being a record of travel in Southern Arabia. London: Methuen and Co.
Cleuziou 1986Cleuziou, Serge 1986. Rapport de mission en République Arabe du Yémen. Région de Marib, wadi al-Jawf (octobre 1986). Paris: Unpublished report.
Pirenne 1981 aPirenne, Jacqueline 1981. Au Nord-Yémen. Deux découvertes archéologiques prévues par des recherches antérieures. Raydān, 4: 241-248.
Robin 1995 aRobin, Christian J. 1995. Des villes dans le Jawf du Yémen ?. Semitica, 43-44: 141-161.
Robin 1996 a: 1226Robin, Christian J. 1996. Sheba. II. Dans les inscriptions de l'Arabie du Sud. Pages Coll. 1047-1254 in Jacques Briend and Édouard Cothenet (eds). Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible. Fasc. 70. Paris: Letouzey & Ané.
Robin and Breton 1982Robin, Christian J. and Breton, Jean-François 1982. Le sanctuaire préislamique du Gabal al-Lawd (Nord-Yémen). Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres: 590-629.
Ryckmans, Gonzague 1959Ryckmans, Gonzague 1959. Inscriptions sud-arabes. Dix-septième série. Le Muséon, 72: 159-176.
Wissmann 1982: 166-167Wissmann, Hermann von 1982. Die Geschichte von Sabaʾ II. Das Grossreich der Sabäer bis zu seinem Ende im frühen 4. Jh. v. Chr. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophischhistorische Klasse, 402). Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. [Walter W. Müller (ed.)]