digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions


Ancient nameTaymāʾ
CountrySaudi Arabia
Geographical areaNorthwestern Arabia Saudi
CoordinatesLatitude: 27° 37' 40.1"    Longitude: 38° 33' 00"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteModern site with reemployed inscriptions or artefacts
DeitiesṢlm of Mḥrm, Ṣlm of Hgm, Šnglʾ, ʾšmʾ (Aramaic stele), Wadd, the god known also at Dūmat al-Ǧandal (Ibn al-Kalbi, Kitāb al-Asnam). Theses gods are called "gods of Taymāʾ" (ʾlhy Tymʾ) (inscriptions Taymāʾ 1 and Taymāʾ 20).
The goddess Mnwh is called "the highest goddess" (Mnwh ʾlht ʾlhtʾ) (Taymāʾ 28).
StructuresTower house
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Rock inscriptions
Undetermined structure
Location and toponomyTaymāʾ lays in the Northern Hejaz, in the ancient al-Maḥaǧiǧāt, at the centre of an elongated depression bounded on the North by a sand-stone ridge-system (ar-Ribʾa hills). To the South of these hills, there is an extensive salty area (sebkha), which was occupied by a lake some ten thousands years ago. Some 10km to the South East of Taymāʾ, there is the massive Ǧabal Ġunaym.
Taymāʾ is located at halfway between Sinai and Babylon, at about 370 km north of Yaṯrib (Medina) and at a distance of 300km southwest of Dūmat al-Ǧandal, 220 km southeast of Tabouk, 150 km northeast of al-ʿUla.
The modern town lies to the north of the al-Madina-Tabuk asphalt road, enclosed on three sides by the ancient city wall which extends 8km in lenght.
The name Taymāʾ is spelled in the cuneiform tablets Te-ma, Tema-a, Te-ma-ʿ. In the Hebrew Bible, its name is spelled Tēymāʾ (Is 21, 14; Je 25, 23; Gn 25, 15), Tēmāʾ (1 Ch 1, 30, Job 6, 19).
General descriptionIt is a oasis abundently supplied in water, situated in a flat basin, surrounded by several mountainous heights. Its sourrounding walls delimit an area of about 8 square km. Its characteristic environment is best represented by the Bʾīr Hadaǧ well, of 18 m diameter.
The most important ruines are that of Qaṣr al-Ḥamrāʾ (north-west) and Qaṣr al-Raḍm (West, North-west), Qaṣr al-Ablaq (South)
The story of Taymāʾ is believed to go back to the Bronze age and even before it. Taymāʾ has been an important station on the caravan routes leading from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Persian Gulf. From the written evidence, it is clear that the North-West Arabia was dominated by two oases, Taymāʾand Dedan, which fulfilled complementary functions on the two branches of the main trade-route from North to South, Dedan controlling the West, Taymāʾ the eastern branch. Trade with the Red Sea is indicated by shells.

Taymāʾ was also know for its products of dates and salt.
The interior city wall appears to have been erected in the middle of the 1st millenium BC (Eichmann et al. 2006, p. 166-7).
ChronologyThe earliest remains of settlement consiste of a silex industry for the production of beads (4th millenium BC). Mentions are made of Taymāʾ in some records in the time of Tiglath-pileser III (744-27) (who claimed to have recieved tribute from the pople of the oasis), and of Sennakerib and of his son Asarhaddon (late 8th-7th BCE). Further Assyrian and biblical sources recognise the role of Taymāʾ as a trading post.

In the mid 6th century BC, the last king of Babylon, Nabonidus (556-39), retired to Taymāʾ for worship, obeying to some oracles, entrusting the kingship of Babylon for ten years to his son Belshazzar. He settled in Taymāʾ during ten years, betwwen 552-43 BC. It appears from an inscription of Nabonidus and another of his mother, found in Ḥarrān (Turkey) (Gadd 1958), that his ten-years residence at Taymāʾ had something to do with a violent opposition of the Babylonian priests of the god Marduk, hostiles to his plan to rebuilt the temple of the Moon-god, Sin, in Ḥarrān. The Aramaic inscription found in Taymāʾ records the establishement of a new cult in Taymāʾ by a priest Ṣlmšzb. It is probably at the beginning of his stay in Taymāʾ that Nabonidus fighted against Dedan, the king of which is killed by Nabonidus.
He returned to Babylon in october 543.
No textual references prove the extension of the Hellenistic states as far as Taymāʾ after the destruction of the Achaemenid Empire. The following centuries relations between Taymāʾ and its neighbouring cities like Dedan were characterised by rivalry.
A North Arabian political dominance is plausible (of the Lihyanite and Nabataean kingdoms), but there is no clear record of Taymāʾ having formed part neither of the Nabataean state nor of the Roman empire. There is no evidence that it was dominated by Romans, Byzantins, Parthians or Sassians.
Taymāʾ was inhabited by Jews during the late classical period, either descendants of exiled Judaean, after the fall of Jerusalem (according to Josephus), or of converts. Yāqūt evokes the "Taymāʾ of Jews" (Muʿǧam al-buldān, p. 67).
In early Arab times, scattered information is made about Taymāʾ by Arab authors.
Classical sourcesIn the Bible, Taymāʾ appears in the list of the "sons of Ismael" (Gn 25,15; 1 Chr 1,30); twice it is related to Dedan (in prophetical oracles against Arabia: Is 21,14; Jr 25,23). In the book of Job, the caravans of Taymāʾ are associated with those of Sabaʾ.
Imruʾ l-Qays (Muʿallaqa, verse 76) mentions Taymāʾ.
The castle al-Ablaq al-Fard of the Jew Samawʾal b. ʿĀdiyā is mentioned by Arab poets (al-Aʿšā).
Mention is made by al-Balāḏurī (Futūḥ, 34-5), Ibn Ḥawqal, al-Ḥamdānī (Ṣifa I, 131, ed. Müller), al-Muqaddasī, al-Bakrī (I, 208-9, ed. Wüstenfeld)
Travellers1877: Ch. M. Daughty
1883-4: Ch. Huber and J. Euting
1907: J.A. Jaussen and R. Savignac
1951: H. St J. Philby
Archaeological missions1909-1910: J.A. Jaussen, R. Savignac
1979-1980: Saudi Arabian Deprtment of Antiquities
2004-2006: Oriental Department of the German Archaeological Institute and the Saudi Arabian Deprtment of Antiquities


Discovered in 1979. It lies on a ridge which marks the N-W end of the main city wall of Taymāʾ. The remains consist of a complex of walls which form a rectangle ca 35m in lenght (southern axis) and 10m
It is situated in the N-W part of Taymāʾ, on a flat area. To the West of Qaṣr al-Raḍm, the great wall of the city runs at ca. 100m in the N-E to the S-W. It is a rectangular shaped stone structure (34m by 25m), containing interior and exterior structures.
Qraya is the central elevation of Tayma. Five building levels of the occupation have been identified above the bedrock. The middle building level is characterised by remains of a large representative building used as a temple. The period can be dated of the period Liḥyanite dynasty until the Nabataeans (4th-2nd Century BC). Pillars with Aramaic inscriptions of the 20th, 30th and 40th years (TA 2382 =Taymāʾ 32, TA 4916, TA 4915) of the reign of Tlmy king of Liḥyan may show that periodaical depositions were done in Taymāʾ.
Remains of the ancient wall of Tayma are preserved up to a length of fifteen km. Its height cannot be surely estimated, but there are part wehre the wall is preserved up to 8 m in height. Some towers seem to have a rectangular section. Staircases and corridors were built in the interior side of the walls.


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A palace of Nabonidus has not yet been found.
The latest date the external mud-brick city wall could have been constructed is the late second millenium. The interior city wall appears to have been constructed in the middle of the 1st millenium BC.
In 2004, in the stone debris outside the large building at the northern part of the mound of Taymāʾ, named Qraya, was found a fragment of a royal stele with a sculptured rounded top and which was inscribed on the front in Neo-Babylonian cuneiform writing and Akkadian language. Only a small part of the inscription remains. The begining containing the name of the king is lost. About 15 lines are preserved. It is a typical votive inscription which deals with several offerings made of precious stones and gold, dedicated to Babylonian deities such as Marduk, Nabû, Tašmētu and Nanāya. The profile of the king is standing on the left side looking to right, wearing a long garment. From the top centre to the right three symbols are depicted: the moon crescent (left), the sun disc (centre) and the star (right) (Eichmann et al. 2006).


Huber 1891: p. 316-26Huber, Charles. Journal d'un voyage en Arabie (1883-1884). Paris: Imprimerie nationale.
Euting 1896-1914: vol. 2, p. 107-63Euting, Julius 1896 (vol. 1), 1914 (vol. 2). Tagbuch eine Reise in Inner-Arabien. (2 vols), Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Jaussen and Savignac 1914: p. 109-65Jaussen, Antonin J. and Savignac, M. Raphael 1914. Mission archéologique en Arabie. II. El-ʿEla, d'Hégra à Teima, Harrah de Tebouk. (Publications de la Société française des fouilles archéologiques, 2). Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner.
Winnett and Reed 1970: p. 23-31, 89-112Winnett, Fred V. and Reed, W.L. 1970. Ancient Records from North Arabia. With contribution by Joseph Thadée Milik and Jean Starcky. (Near and Middle East series, 6). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Bawden, Edens, Miller 1980Bawden, Garth, Edens, Christopher and Miller, Robert 1980. Preliminary archaeological investigations at Tayma. Atlal. Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology, 4: 69-106.
ʾIbrahīm ʾAbū-Duruk 1986Ḥamīd ʾIbrahīm ʾAbū-Duruk 1986. A critical and comparative discussion of certain ancient monuments (part of the city wall, Qaṣr al-Raḍm and Qaṣr al-Ḥamrāʾ), in the North Arabian city of Taymāʾ in the light of evidence furnished by excavations. Riyād: The Department of Antiquities and Museums.
Eichmann et al. 2006Eichmann, Ricardo, Schaudig, Hanspeter and Hausleiter, Arnulf 2006. Archaeology and epigraphy at Tayma (Saudi Arabia). Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 17: 163-176.