digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

Site Plan
AA. VV. 2000: 236


Ancient nameQnʾ
Geographical areaSouthern Ḥaḍramawt
CoordinatesLatitude: 14° 00' 38"    Longitude: 48° 19' 25"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: ʾlhn
Tribe: Ḍyftn
Tribe: Rṯḥm
Tribe: Rkbn
Tribe: Mṭlftn
Tribe: S¹ʾkln
Tribe: S¹lfn
Tribe: S³krd
Tribe: Wḥẓt
Lineage: ʿqht
Lineage: Bds²
Lineage: Bs³ʾyn
Lineage: Gdnm
Lineage: Gdwyn
Lineage: Grdn
Lineage: Ġymn
Lineage: Ḥbm
Lineage: Klʿn
Lineage: Ks³rn
Lineage: Mkrbm
Lineage: Mlḥm
Lineage: Mṯln
Lineage: Qbln
Lineage: Rḫyt
Lineage: S²bḥm
Lineage: S²rgy
Lineage: S²rqn
Lineage: Ylġb
Lineage: Yrs³
Lineage: Ys²rm
Lineage: Yṣbr
Lineage: Yṯʿn
Lineage: Yzʾn
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Large temple
Paved road
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionSurface, 6 ha (ca), 500 x 300 m. The site lays along the Gulf of Aden coast. It was implanted around and above a volcanic hill, Ḥuṣn al-Ġurāb (the ancient fortress of ʿUrr Mawiyat). It was from this site that the first South Arabian inscriptions were found (CIH 621, CIH 728).
Chronology1st to 6th centuries AD.
Classical sourcesPliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. VI, 26, 104 (1st cent. AD): Cane
Periplus Maris Erythraei § 27 (1st cent. AD): Κανή
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.10 (2nd cent. AD): Κάνη
Identification1838 J.R. Wellsted
Archaeological missions1957 B. Doe (UK)
1964 G. Lankester Harding (UK)
1972 S.S. Shirinskij (URSS)
1985/90 Soviet-Yemeni Expedition (URSS)
1995,1997 Mission Archéologique Française (M. Mouton)
1996, 1998 Missione Archeologica Italiana (B. Davidde)


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Seven areas have been excavated in the Lower City which is at NW from the Ḥuṣn al-Ġurāb hill. One building dug in Area III was identified with a religious area and, according both to the findings and layout, a synagogue has been also identified, which underwent several modifications. Another temple was recognized further S in this western part of the site, and one more sacral structure has already been investigated by Shirinskij at the top of Ḥuṣn al-Gurāb. The construction technique is characterized by a combination of rough blocks of black basalt and slabs of porous limestone, together with a kind of cement. The SW and the northern districts have revealed small domestic structures (comprising 2 or 3 rooms). The NE and SE zones have traces of more imposing buildings, with several rooms and internal courts. During the first centuries AD defensive structures are implanted at the foot hill of Ḥuṣn al-Gurāb, in order to increase the protection of the citadel. In this same area an incense storehouse has been detected. At the top of Ḥuṣn al-Gurāb hill four cisterns have been realized in the rock, thus providing water for the whole settlement.
A cemetery has been also investigated outside the settlement (NE), it comprises several rectangular hypogean rooms.

The soundings carried out in the different areas allowed the identification of three main periods: the Upper Period (5th – 6th centuries AD), Middle Period (1st – 5th centuries AD) and Lower Period (1st century BC – 1st century AD). This chronological sequence is confirmed by pottery and coins, both representing the most outstanding discoveries of the site, which has consequently revealed intense and extended commercial relations. Imported pottery is up to 80 % of the whole findings. The amphorae are the most represented, such as the Gaza type (Upper Period). The imported goods are olive and sesame oil, wine. In the Middle Period coins are particularly abundant (Hadramitic and Himyaritic coinage - Bucranium series). Typical of the Lower period are Koan type amphorae (Dressel 2/4) as well as Terra Sigillata. All these data stress that Qanaʾ was an important point of international trading, and its flourishing is directly connected with the establishment of the Indo-Roman sea trade from the 1st century AD onward, and it was also part of the regional commercial network comprising Sumhuram, the other important port eastern in the coast. In the earliest phase Qanaʾ was mostly receiving goods originating from Mediterranean countries (Italy, Palestine, Asia Minor), but from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD onward contacts are stronger with North Africa and Axum.

Underwater investigation have increased the pottery findings and they have as well detected the ancient port in the northern bay, which is the most protected from winds. Remains of ancient piers or docks have not been found, but the port was nevertheless well organized for mooring. Some stone anchors found in the bay testify of this ancient activity (A. Agostini).


near Ḍalʿa (Ḍlʿt)


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


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