digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameQrnw
Geographical areaJawf - Wādī Madhab
KingdomMaʿīn, capital
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 07' 41"    Longitude: 44° 48' 51"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Mʿn
Tribe: Mʿn w-Yṯl
Tribe: Mʿnm
Tribe: Mʿnm w-Yṯl
Tribe: Mʿnm w-ḏ Yṯl
Tribe: Ns²n
Tribe: S¹bʾ
Lineage: ʾbwkl
Lineage: ʾḍrʾ
Lineage: ʾṣrm
Lineage: ʾṯʾb
Lineage: ʾws¹n
Lineage: ʿd
Lineage: ʿdn
Lineage: ʿdr
Lineage: ʿhd
Lineage: ʿhr
Lineage: ʿlyʾl
Lineage: ʿmd
Lineage: ʿmm
Lineage: ʿmrtʿ
Lineage: ʿqb
Lineage: ʿrhs¹
Lineage: ʿrkt
Lineage: ʿs²r
Lineage: Bʾs¹
Lineage: Bʿdʾl
Lineage: Brr
Lineage: Bwbn
Lineage: Bws¹n
Lineage: Bẓʿ
Lineage: Dbr
Lineage: Ḏwl
Lineage: Ḍnmn
Lineage: Ḍrḥ
Lineage: Fʾd
Lineage: Fʾmn
Lineage: Fhd
Lineage: Gbʾn
Lineage: Gdrn
Lineage: Gḥḏ
Lineage: Glbn
Lineage: Gnd
Lineage: Gzyn
Lineage: Ġrbt
Lineage: Ġrn
Lineage: Grwt
Lineage: Hnwn
Lineage: Hwr
Lineage: Ḫbzn
Lineage: Ḫdmn
Lineage: Ḫḍln
Lineage: Ḫlyfʿ
Lineage: Ḫṯʿ
Lineage: Ḥdbr
Lineage: Ḥḏʾr
Lineage: Ḥḏkt
Lineage: Ḥfn
Lineage: Ḥmy
Lineage: Ḥnḏr
Lineage: Ḥrb
Lineage: Ḥrḍ
Lineage: Ḥṭṭ
Lineage: Ḥzmn
Lineage: Lġy
Lineage: Lly
Lineage: Mʾws¹
Lineage: Mʿhr
Lineage: Mḏb
Lineage: Mḫṣr
Lineage: Mḥḍr
Lineage: Mlg
Lineage: Mlhm
Lineage: Mrn
Lineage: Mtʿ
Lineage: Mwqh
Lineage: Nʿm
Lineage: Nḍf
Lineage: Nmḥn
Lineage: Nmr
Lineage: Ns¹wr
Lineage: Nyṭ
Lineage: Qbt
Lineage: Qḥl
Lineage: Qḥln
Lineage: Qlql
Lineage: Qmḥḏ
Lineage: Qrn
Lineage: Qwm
Lineage: Rbqn
Lineage: Rdʿ
Lineage: Rkl
Lineage: Rmḍn
Lineage: Rs¹fm
Lineage: Rtʿ
Lineage: Rymn
Lignage: S¹ḥr
Lineage: S¹qm
Lineage: S¹wr
Lineage: S¹yl
Lineage: S²ʿb
Lineage: S²ʿbn
Lineage: S²ʿṯm
Lineage: S²ftn
Lineage: S³ʾfg
Lineage: Ṣmʿ
Lineage: Ṯmd
Lineage: Whbʾl
Lineage: Wkl
Lineage: Ydʿ
Lineage: Yfʿn
Lineage: Yhr
Lineage: Ylqẓ
Lineage: Yṯmt
Lineage: Yṯt
Lineage: Zʿm
Lineage: Zlmn
Lineage: Zltn
Lineage: Ẓhrn
Lineage: Ẓll
Lineage: Ẓlwmn
Lineage: Ẓwnn
Lineage: Ẓyrn
Deitiesʾl Qdhm
ʾlʾlt Mʿnm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Qbḍ
ʿṯtr ḏ-Qbḍm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Qbḍm ʾl Rṣfm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Yhrq
ʿṯtr Mtbqbḍ
ʿṯtr Mtbqbḍ ʾl ʿwhn
ʿṯtr Nkrḥ
ʿṯtr S²rqn
ḏ-S¹mwy ḏ-Rgmt
Mtb Qbḍm
S²ms¹ Ḥḍr
Wdm ḏ-ʿmd
Wdm ḏ-Dwrn
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
Location and toponomyThis site is located in the lower part of the valley of the Jawf, 100 km north-west of Maʾrib and 12 km north of Barāqish. The site forms a small tell 8 m high, in the centre of the alluvial plain, on the left bank of wādī Madhāb

Qarnā (Qrnw) [vocalisation by Ch. Robin 2001: 573, 2009: 8, n. 3]
History of researchDiscovery
1870: J. Halévy (1872, p. 32-33; 1873, p. 600-601): description and copy of 68 inscriptions
1880's: envoys sent by E. Glaser, copy of inscriptions

Visits and surveys
1944-45: M. Tawfiq (Nâmî 1952; Tawfiq 1951)
1947: A. Fakhry (1952)
1954: F. Geukens
1978, 1981: MAFRAY (Breton 1994, p. 105-108; Robin 1979, 1981; Robin, Breton, Audouin 1981): plan of the rampart
1979: German archaeological mission: plan of the two sanctuaries (Schmidt 1982a; 1982b)
General descriptionMaʿīn forms a rectangle of 322 m north to south, 310 m east to west, and a perimeter of 1150 m.
A long fortified wall surrounds the site. It presents four gates located in the middle of each side of the city-wall. The western gate dominates the others by size and complexity. If we consider only the palaeographic evidence, two construction phases may be identified: the first was the realisation of the largest part of the wall between the end of the 7th century and the 5th century BC. Another restoration phase is attested under the reign of ʾbydʿ Yṯʿ, king of Maʿīn, in the middle of the 4th century BC.
The headquarters of the Minaean power resided most probably in Maʿīn (Schiettecatte 2011: 61-62).
The remains of four temples are known, two inside the site, two outside the walls. The first intra muros temple is a small hypostyle building of 9,15 x 7 m; the second, about 50 m from the first, was levelled and the only remains are the stone basement and the base of a hexastyle portico.
Actually, the inscriptions mention several temples in Maʿīn:
- the temple Wrf consecrated to Mtbqbḍ/Mtbqbt, attested since the 8th century BC and open for worship up to the 5th century BC at least.
- The temple Ṣrḥm consecrated to Wd.
- The temple Kbd consecrated to Nkrḥ.
- The extra muros temple Rṣfm consecrated to ʿṯtr ḏ-Qbḍ. This sanctuary devoted to the most important deity of the confederation of Maʿīn, is located 800 m from the city-wall of Maʿīn, in a place called al-Miḥyar. Thanks to its decorations, it belongs to the category of the “Banāt ʿĀd” temples: the temple is small, with a central courtyard surrounded by porticoes and preceded by a tetrastyle monumental portal; the pillars are decorated with female figures to which are added geometrical and zoomorphic friezes. The temple was re-founded by the king Ḫlkrb Ṣdq (c. 6th-5th cent. BC). This organisation corresponds to the second ‘life’ of the temple. Decorated blocks were reused as pillars and paving stones (Breton 1998, p. 66; Schmidt 1982, p. 151). The first ‘life’ probably dates back to an earlier period.

Very close to the site, on the south-west side, an area of 160 x 95 m is today studded with clandestine digs. It may be the location of an ancient necropolis.

Maʿīn was surrounded by large irrigated perimeter characterised by the presence of alluvial deposits of anthropogenic origin. This perimeter is interspersed with hydraulic structures and the inscriptions mention channels (Maʿīn 1, Maʿīn 44) and wells (Maʿīn 87, Maʿīn 88).
ChronologyThe accumulation of the occupation layers up to 8 m high suggests a long lasting occupation of the site, possibly before the first epigraphic mention of the site dated to the 8th century BC.
In Maʿīn no inscriptions date after the 1st century BC. The city is mentioned one last time, in CIH 609, a few decades later. The site is not mentioned in the context of the expedition of Aelius Gallus, which followed the route that links Nashq (al-Bayḍāʾ) to Yathill (Barāqish), necessarily passing close by Qarnā (Maʿīn).
Some areas have also been inhabited for some time during the Islamic period.
Classical sourcesEratosthenes of Cyrene in Strabo Géogr., 16, 4, 2 (3rd cent. BC): Κάρνα/Κάρνανα
Pliny, Nat. Hist., vi, 32, 154 (1st cent. AD): Carnus
Cl. Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.34 (2nd cent. AD): Κάρμαν
Identification1870: Halévy
Travellers[1880 (ca.): emissaries sent by E. Glaser]
1944: M. Tawfiq
1947: A. Fakhry
1954: F. Geukens
Archaeological missions1978, 1981: Mission Archéologique Française
1979: German Archaeological Mission


[By A. Agostini] The area in which the site is standing is quadrangular and encircled by a massive defensive construction. A gate opens at every side of the walls. The structures were realized mainly using local limestone and mud bricks in the inner side of the walls, connected by headers. The main gate was probably the western one, according to its complex structure. The passage to the interior of the town is about 2.70 m large. This entrance is 27.40 m long, and comprises two large bastions at each side, being in line with the rest of the city walls. A trapezoidal structure was lately added to them, its sides measuring about 11 m. The passage to the exterior of the town is defended by two other bastions, of different dimensions, and framing an entrance large 1.30 m. The northern bastion has a little staircase inside it. The southern edge of the internal area of this structure is flanked by three pillars (originally four), and they were probably linked to the wall by means of an architrave, thus forming a portico. This later adding was realized with a double curtain of blocks, and often reemploying older ones.

  • photoCity walls
  • photoEastern towers of the city walls
  • photoWestern gate
[I. Rossi] The temple of Nakraḥ was discovered on the site of Qrnw in 2007. It had been plundered by illegal excavations. It consists of 15 pillars disposed in three rows. Each pillar bears an inscription of dedication to the god Nakraḥ, written during the reign of Abīyadaʿ Yafash son of Nabaṭʾīl, king of Maʿīn, dating back to the early 7th century BCE.

  • photo
[By A. Agostini] It is formed by a rectangular building, measuring 9.15 x 7 m. The walls are realized with a double range of stones (oolithic limestone), with an interior filling. The entrance (large 1.17 m) is located at the northern corner of one of the long sides and was framed by a long corridor (9.15 m), now nearly disappeared. The sacral structure comprises only the hypostyle hall which has two ranges of three pillars, emerging nowadays more than 3 m from the soil. They were supporting at least two levels of architraves, crossing one over the other, and on top a series of covering slabs (now completely absent).
[By A. Agostini] It is situated at 50 m west from the previous one. Now it is completely destroyed, and for this reason it is not possible to recognize how the interior was originally designed (hypostyle or court). The remaining foundations encircle an area of 19.50 x 13.40 m. This basement has at W a central nave (large 4 m ca.), while the lateral aisles are divided by a series of longitudinal walls irregularly positioned. The eastern area, just near the entrance, is sustained by a wall grid which traces six foundation boxes. According to its basement blocks, it is possible to envisage an entrance with a six-pillared prostylon.
[By A. Agostini] This temple is located at north-east from the site, at a distance of 800 m (al-Miḥyar). The sacral area is delimited by an enclosure, at the centre of which the main building was erected. It measures 20 x 14 m, but the perimeter walls are now largely destroyed. A monumental prostylon with four pillars screens the entrance at W, which is well preserved. The four pillars have a monolithic architrave connected by three beams (originally four) to the door which is opened in one of the small sides. The entrance has two large door jambs which sustain a three-level architrave realized with three longitudinal stone blocks. The entrance has two projecting walls through the interior of the hall delimiting a small vane (large 2.4 m) before entering into the court. Two pillars mark this last passage and a first architrave is still in situ. This was at its turn connected with the door's architrave by stone beams. The hall (15.5 x 12.5 m) has two rows of pillars near the lateral walls of the temple which originally sustained a portico running around a large court. There were seven pillars per row but now only seven of them are still on place. A smaller portico on four pillars was standing opposite to the entrance, this was probably delimiting the main cella. The structure is realized with different techniques and materials: the perimeter walls using blocks of relatively smalls dimensions (50x10 cm), while the remaining sustaining structures are using impressive monolithic blocks. Different types of limestone are also used: oolithic, sandstone and lumachelle type. The latter was that used for engraving the decoration known as the 'Banāt ʿAd'. This reveals a very rich figurative repertoire: chevrons, ibexes, arrows, interweaved snakes and human figures standing head on. Some of them wear a long vest, with chevron decoration and a belt, other have shoulder straps crossing on the chest. They hold a long stick with one hand and a shorter bent instrument with the other. The hairstyle is defined by a central shaving and two lateral tufts. Some fragments not in situ, thus not surely connected with this structure, reveal a stronger narrative intention since they represent a procession of human figures with weapons and musical instruments (a sort of lyre). Some of the decorated blocks, which were originally visible in the portico of the entrance, were later moved and used as beams in the covering structure of this same entrance or for the eastern pillars of the court. This is a proof that this decoration motif was realized in a more ancient stage of the temple, which underwent at least one major reorganization.

  • photoEntrance of the extra muros temple (temple of ʿAthtar dhū Qabḍ)
  • photoTemple extra muros (temple of ʿAthtar dhū Qabḍ)
  • photoIncised pillar of the temple of ʿAthtar dhū Qabḍ
  • photoDecoration of a pillar of the temple of ʿAthtar dhū Qabḍ
  • photoDecoration of a pillar of the temple of ʿAthtar dhū Qabḍ
[By A. Agostini] Scarce traces of a religious structures are scattered at 300 m of distance from the site. One monolithic pillar, and some fragments of others, plus a libation altar, suggest that a sacral building was standing in this position. It was near hydraulic structures and a wall was probably protecting it from water flows.


Your browser doesn't support Google Maps or Javascript is turned off.


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Antonini 2004Antonini, Sabina 2004. I motivi figurativi delle Banāt ʿĀd nei templi sudarabici. Repertorio iconografico sudarabico. (Repertorio iconografico sudarabico, 2). Paris: de Boccard / Rome: Herder. [Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres; Istituto italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente]
Arbach 2011 bArbach, Mounir 2011. La découverte du temple intra-muros de Nakrah à Maʿîn, l'antique Qarnâ. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 22: 201-214.
Arbach 2013Arbach, Mounir 2013. La date d'apparition du royaume de Maʿīn d'après une nouvelle inscription du début du VIIe siècle avant j.-C.. Pages 15-26 in Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet, Catherine Fauveaud and Iwona Gajda (eds). Entre Carthage et l’Arabie heureuse. Mélanges offerts à François Bron. (Orient & Méditerranée, 12). Paris: de Boccard.
Arbach 2014Arbach, Mounir 2014. The origin and the emergence of the kingdom of Maʿīn in South West Arabia in the light of a new inscription from the eighth century BCE. Pages 78-88 in Mohammed Maraqten. A pioneer of Arabia. Studies in the Archaeology and Epigraphy of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula in Honor of Moawiyah Ibrahim. Ed. by Zeidan Kafafi. (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 10). Rome: La Sapienza. [Arabic]
Arbach and Audouin 2007: 52-71Arbach, Mounir and Audouin, Rémy 2007. Collection of Epigraphic and Archaeological Artifacts from al-Jawf Sites. Ṣanʿâʾ National Museum. 2. Ṣanʿāʾ: UNESCO-SFD / Ṣanʿāʾ: National Museum. [Text in English and Arabic]
Arbach and Rossi 2012Arbach, Mounir and Rossi, Irene 2012. From city-state to kingdom: history and chronology of Maʿīn between the VIII and the VI centuries BC. Orientalia, 81/4: 318-339, pls XLIX-LVI.
Audouin 1996: 121-142Audouin, Rémy 1996. Étude du décor des temples des Banāt ʿĀd. Pages 121-142 in Christian J. Robin and Iwona Gajda (eds). Arabia Antiqua. Early Origins of South Arabian States. Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Conservation and Exploitation of the Archaeological Heritage of the Arabian Peninsula held in the Palazzo Brancaccio, Rome, by IsMEO on 28th-30th May 1991. Rome: Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.
Beeston 1978 aBeeston, Alfred F.L. 1978. A Minaean market code. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 41: 142-145.
Bessac 1998 a: 172-230Bessac, Jean-Claude 1998. Techniques de construction, de gravure et d'ornementation en pierre dans le Jawf. Pages 173-230 in Jean-François Breton (ed.). Architecture et techniques de construction. Jean-François Breton (ed.), Fouilles de Shabwa. 3. (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, 154). Beirut: Institut Français d'Archéologie du Proche Orient.
Breton 1994 c: 14, 49, 62-63, 105-108Breton, Jean-François 1994. Les fortifications d'Arabie méridionale du 7e au 1er siècle avant notre ère. (Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 8). Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.
Breton 1998 aBreton, Jean-François 1998. Les Temples de Maʿīn et du Jawf (Yemen): état de la question. Syria, 75: 61-80.
Breton and Bessac 2002Breton, Jean-François and Bessac, Jean-Claude 2002. Observations sur les murs de Maʿîn et de Kamna. Vestnik Drevnej Istorii, 4: 147-155.
Bron 1991 bBron, François 1991. Deux inscriptions de la porte ouest de Maʿīn. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 21: 35-40.
Bron 1998 aBron, François 1998. Maʿīn. Fasc. A: Les documents. Fasc. B: Les planches. Inventaire des inscriptions sudarabiques. 3. Paris: de Boccard / Rome: Herder. [Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres; Istituto italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente]
Bron 2008 aBron, François 2008. Une nouvelle inscription d'un roi de Maʿīn. Aula Orientalis, 26: 298-300.
Bron 2014Bron, François 2014. Une deuxième stèle funéraire d'un roi de Maʿīn. Semitica, 56: 179-181.
Doe 1983: 126-127, 170-171Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
Fakhry 1952: 148-150Fakhry, Ahmed 1952. An archaeological Journey to Yemen (March-May 1947). (3 vols), Cairo: Government Press.
al-Garoo 1986: 270-272al-Garoo, Asmahan 1986. Les antiquités du Yémen dans l'œuvre de al-Hamdânī. (PhD, Université Paris I).
Halévy 1872: 32-33, 75-76, 529-547Halévy, Joseph 1872. Rapport sur une mission archéologique dans le Yémen. Journal Asiatique 6e série, 19: 5-98; 129-266; 489-547.
de Maigret 2002: 66-69, 350-355de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
Nāmī 1952Nāmī, Khalīl Y. 1952. Les 'monuments' de Maʿīn (Yémen). Étude épigraphique et philologique des 19 inscriptions de Maʿīn publiées par le professeur Moḥammed Tawfīḳ. (Études Sud-arabiques, 2). Cairo: Publications de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire. [In Arabic]
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 1982 bRobin, Christian J. 1982. Esquisse d'une histoire de l'organisation tribale en Arabie du Sud antique. Pages 17-30 in Paul Bonnenfant (ed.). La péninsule Arabique d'aujourd'hui. Tome II: Études par pays. Aix-en-Provence: Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur l'Orient arabe contemporain / Paris: Éditions du C.N.R.S..
Robin 1984Robin, Christian J. 1984. La cité et l’organisation sociale à Maʿīn : l’exemple de YṮL . Pages 157-162 in Abdalla Abdelgadir M., Sami Al-Sakkar and Richard Mortel (eds). Pre-Islamic Arabia. (Studies in the History of Arabia, 2). Riyadh: King Saud University Press. [Résumé en langue arabe non revu, pp. 163-164]
Robin 1995 aRobin, Christian J. 1995. Des villes dans le Jawf du Yémen ?. Semitica, 43-44: 141-161.
Robin 1997 cRobin, Christian J. 1997. La fortune de Maʿīn. Pages 102 in Christian J. Robin and Burkhard Vogt (eds). Yémen, au pays de la reine de Saba. Exposition présentée à l'Institut du monde arabe du 25 octobre 1997 au 28 février 1998. Paris: Flammarion, Institut du Monde Arabe.
Robin 1998 bRobin, Christian J. 1998. La fin du Royaume de Maʿīn. Pages 177-188 in Rika Gyselen (ed.). Parfums d' Orient. (Res Orientales, 11). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l'étude de la civilisation du Moyen-Orient.
Robin, Antonini and Bron 2005-2006Robin, Christian J., Antonini, Sabina and Bron, François 2005-2006. Nouvelles inscriptions de Maʿīn. Arabia. Revue de Sabéologie, 3: 273-280.
Ryckmans, Jacques 1961Ryckmans, Jacques 1961. Les «Hierodulenlisten» de Maʿīn et la colonisation minéenne. Pages 51-61 in Étienne van Cauwenbergh (ed.). Scrinium lovaniense. Mélanges historiques. Historische Opstelles Etienne van Cawenbergh. Louvain: Editions J. Duculot, S. A. Gembloux..
Schiettecatte 2011: 58-64Schiettecatte, Jérémie 2011. D'Aden à Zafar. Villes d'Arabie du Sud préislamique. (Orient et Méditerranée, 6). Paris: de Boccard.
Schiettecatte and Arbach 2020Schiettecatte, Jérémie and Arbach, Mounir 2020. La chronologie du royaume de Maʿīn (VIIIe-Ier s. av. J.-C.). Pages 233-284 in I. V. Zaitsev (ed.). Arabian Antiquities. Studies Dedicated to A. Sedov on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Moscow: Oriental Literature Publisher.
Schmidt 1982Schmidt, Jürgen 1982. Der ʿAṯtar-Tempel bei Maʿīn. Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 1: 143-152.
Schmidt 1982 cSchmidt, Jürgen 1982. Der Stadttempel von Maʿīn. Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 1: 153-155.
al-Sheiba 1987: 47al-Sheiba, Abdullah Hassan 1987. Die Ortsnamen in den altsüdarabischen Inschriften (mit dem Versuch ihrer Identifizierung und lokalisierung). Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 4: 1-62.
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.