digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

General Site View
Robin, Breton and Ryckmans, Jacques 1981: pl. 2b
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Ancient nameFṯʿn
Geographical areaSouthern Jawf
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 01' 6.4"    Longitude: 44° 46' 53.4"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteReligious area
TribeTribe: Mʿn
Lineage: ḏ-ʿqrn
Lineage: ḏ-Ġrbt
Lineage: ḏ-Ḥḏkt
Lineage: ḏ-Rdʿ
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Pilgrimage temple
Rock inscriptions
Location and toponomyThe site of Darb aṣ-Ṣabi is located less than 2 km to the west of Barāqish.
History of researchDiscovery
French Archaeological Mission in the Yemen Arab Rep. (MAFRAY), 1976

MAFRAY, 1976, 1981
Italian Archaeological Mission in the Yemen Arab Rep. (MAIRY), 2005-06
General descriptionA large surface of 500 x 300 m is delimited by nine stones marking a sacred space, a ḥaram consecrated to the divinity Nakraḥ. Over 40 buildings have been counted on the site, three have been studied (Robin, Breton, Ryckmans 1981):
- Building #1 : 40 x 50 m; is is made of three enclosed courtyards, each bordered by numerous rooms. Some of these still present some pillars and covering slabs.
- Building #2 : 19 x 22 m, this is formed by a set of three rooms and a walled court. An inscription informs that this building was a temple consecrated to Nkrḥ.
- Building #3 : group of rectangular rooms side by side with a central pillared room of 6,8 x 2,9 m.
- The other buildings, equally built in dry stones, are composed of a rectangular pillared room sometimes surrounded by one or more annexed rooms and a court.

The mention of religious prohibitions and the presence of large habitat structures show that this area was organised around the activity of the sanctuary of Nkrḥ, which included premises for housing the clergy and the pilgrims. The general organisation of this sanctuary suggests it be seen as a destination for pilgrimage (Robin, Breton, Ryckmans 1981, p. 259-61 ; Ryckmans 1985).
ChronologyThe most ancient inscription according to its script style, MAFRAY-Darb aṣ-Ṣabī 13, was composed around the 8th century BC. It mentions the building of a portico. The majority of inscriptions, in D script style (Pirenne), dates the peak of activity for the sanctuary around the Minaean period (4th-3rd centuries BC).


The Monument 1 is 40 x 50 m, many of the pillars and architraves are still preserved, they are concentrated in some sections of the building, whose plan is consequently very irregular. Some walls, badly preserved, divided the internal area in several rooms, whose function is still unknown. Considering its dimensions, it has been hypothesised to be a public building. The most important one is the Monument 2 (21.8 x 19 m), which have been identified with the temple of Nakraḥ itself, cited on one inscription found in that area. A passage, 3.1 m large, allows the access to an open court. Monument 3 is positioned in the northern area of the site. Its nucleus (6.8 x 2.9 m) is surrounded by a series of irregular rooms. One inscription defines it as a 'house' (byt, whose general meaning in ancient South Arabia does not necessarily imply a domestic function). All the other buildings have been considered as part of the same complex and, besides the temple itself, the rest of the structures could have been facilities used by pilgrims visiting the site or to host the priests. The most common design is quadrilateral building with pillars at the interior, their joints realized some times more articulated structures. The building technique is less accurate in respect to that found inside the other sites of the region, as the limestone blocks are often roughly prepared. To be noted that this temple couples with that intra-muros at Barāqish, devoted to the same divinity. The two temples, very different in their layout, had probably been used by different strata of the populations, but their function should have been however similar in accordance to the types of texts found in these two places (e.g. public confessions of sins).

  • photoMonument 1. Western Side
  • photoMonument 1
  • photoMonument 1. Covering Structures
  • photoMonument 1
  • photoWall Technique


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Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Arbach 1994Arbach, Mounir 1994. Inscriptions sudarabiques. Raydān, 6: 5-16.
Breton, Robin and Audouin 1981: 52Breton, Jean-François, Robin, Christian J. and Audouin, Rémy 1981. Nord-Yémen: un patrimoine menacé. Archéologia, 160/Novembre: 36-43.
Cleuziou 1986Cleuziou, Serge 1986. Rapport de mission en République Arabe du Yémen. Région de Marib, wadi al-Jawf (octobre 1986). Paris: Unpublished report.
Robin 1976 a: 167-188Robin, Christian J. 1976. Résultats épigraphiques et archéologiques de deux brefs séjours en République Arabe du Yémen. Semitica, 26: 167-188.
Robin 1979 a: 174-202Robin, Christian J. 1979. Mission archéologique et épigraphique française au Yémen du Nord en automne 1978. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres: 174-202.
Robin 1995 aRobin, Christian J. 1995. Des villes dans le Jawf du Yémen ?. Semitica, 43-44: 141-161.
Robin, Breton and Audouin 1979Robin, Christian J., Breton, Jean-François and Audouin, Rémy 1979. Prospection archéologique et épigraphique de la Mission archéologique française au Yémen du Nord. Syria, 56: 417-427.
Robin, Breton and Ryckmans, Jacques 1981Robin, Christian J., Breton, Jean-François and Ryckmans, Jacques 1981. Le sanctuaire minéen de Nkrḥ à Darb aṣ-Ṣabî (environs de Barâqiš). Rapport préliminaire (première partie). Raydān, 4: 249-261.
Robin, Breton and Ryckmans, Jacques 1988Robin, Christian J., Breton, Jean-François and Ryckmans, Jacques 1988. Le sanctuaire minéen de Nkrḥ à Darb aṣ-Ṣabî (environs de Barâqiš). Rapport préliminaire (seconde partie). Étude des inscriptions. Raydān, 5: 91-158.
Ryckmans, Jacques 1981 b: 260-261Ryckmans, Jacques 1981. Villes fortifiées du Yémen antique. Bulletin de la classe des lettres et des sciences morales et politiques de l'Académie Royale de Belgique, 67/5: 253-266.
Tawfīq 1951Tawfīq, Muḥammad 1951. Aṯār Maʿīn fī Ǧawf al-Yaman. (Les monuments de Maʿîn). (Publications de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire. Études sud-arabiques, 1). ʾal-Qāhira: ʾal-Maʿhad ʾal-ʿIlmī ʾal-Faransī lil- ʾĀthār ʾal-Sharqīyah.