DASI

digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


The Stratified Mound of Hajar ibn Ḥumayd
Phillips, Wendell 1955: front of pag. 192
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SITE INFORMATION

Ancient nameḏ-Ġylm / ḏt-Ġyl
CountryYemen
Geographical areaWādī Bayḥān
GovernorateShabwa
KingdomQataban
CoordinatesLatitude: 14° 54' 29.7"    Longitude: 45° 45' 32.63"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribes: Ḥḍrmt
Tribe: Qtbn
Lineage: ʾlm
Lineage: Ḏrḥn
Lineage: Fqḍtn
Lineage: Hnʿmt
Lineage: Mghmm
Lineage: Ms²frt
Lineage: S³(.)ḥn
Lineage: Thṯkn
Lineage: Wdm
Lineage: Wrqn
Deitiesʾlhy Twd
ʾnby
ʾnby S²ymn
ʾṯrt
ʿm
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm
ʿm Ryʿn
ʿmm
ʿṯtr
ʿṯtr S²rqn
ʿzyn mnḍḥw Ḥrb
Bs²mm
ḏt-Ṣntm
ḏt-Ẓhrn
Ḥrmn
Ḥwkm
Ns²bt
Rbs² ḏ-Nhlb
S²ms¹-s¹my bʿlt Qly
s²ms¹m
Wrfw
Wrfw ʾmr ʿm
Wrḫ
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Rampart
Small temple
Pilgrimage temple
Graveyard
Rock inscriptions
LanguageQatabanic
General descriptionExtension: 290 x 180 m. It is an oval-shaped mound with its long axis oriented N-NE / S-SW. The site is 11.5 km S from ancient Timnaʿ, and at SW it faces to the mouth of Mablaqa Pass, which is the chief connecting link between wādī Bayḥān and wādī Ḥarīb in the direction of Mārib.
ChronologyThe archaeological levels detected go back to the 11th century BC, when the first hydraulic interventions in the area should be dated. The site showed a continuous settlement until the end of the kingdom of Qatabān and the subsequent Hadramitic conquest (3rd century AD). In the first two centuries AD this site probably became the new Qatabanian capital, at that time in fact Timnaʿ had already suffered a severe attack (1st century AD). Some inscriptions moreover clearly state that the most important administrative and religious institutions (whose buildings were named after those originally standing in the former capital) have been implanted in this more sheltered position (CIAS 47.82/o2; CIAS 95.11/o2).
Identification1948: Nigel Groom (UK)
Archaeological missions1950, 1951: AFSM (USA)

MONUMENTS

A funerary complex was investigated during the 1950 season on the silt plateau to the E of Hajar ibn Ḥumayd. The mausoleum, already pillaged in antiquity, shows a layout comparable to those in Ḥayd ibn ʿAqīl. According to the pottery found, the tomb has been considered contemporary with one of the last phases of the mound, viz. Strata D/C.

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NOTES

The site presents itself has a thick tell, 15 m high on top from the wādī's bed. A portion of the W side of the mound has been eroded in the last few centuries, probably undercut by an unusual heavy flood. This was the reason why W.F. Albright, the chief archaeologist of the AFSM, thought that this was a good spot to effectively investigate a continuous settlement going back to the most ancient South Arabian phase.
No traces of defensive structure has been found and this was probably due to the site location, naturally protected in the middle of the wādī's trait. In the later phase defensive constructions are however mentioned in inscriptions by Qatabanian and Hadramitic rulers (i.e. HI 30; Ja 2888). The main access to the site was most likely on the northern side.

Section and pottery typology
The eroded vertical scarp made possible to already excavate within the town, thus having the possibility to find the greatest amount of stratified pottery. The section was originally 18 m wide at its top, and the excavated area was then progressively reduced while going downward (extension of Stratum A: 392 m2, Stratum S: 31 m2). In this area some mud brick structure has been detected and interpreted as a private house portion.
The archaeological technique used was to distinguish the following levels not according to changes anthropically determined but by a preordained horizontal thickness (from 30 to 50 cm each). The layers so distinguished have been in fact 20 (from A to S), which should not be all considered as different occupational floors, since they only served to point out more precisely pottery evolutions and changes. In this way potential sloping levels were difficult to be detected, and this laid open to the criticism of Jacqueline Pirenne, whose chronological theory was largely disproved by the results of this investigation. In fact, in some of the most ancient strata dated to the 8th century BC (Stratum Q), inscribed pottery came to light, suggesting that the beginning of literacy in South Arabia was earlier than the 5th century BC, which was the base of Pirenne's chronological framework. The harsh debate originating from this excavation was to last for decades, until the beginning of the Eighties, when diggings in Yalā, Shabwa, Hajar ar-Rayḥānī and Raybūn definitely confirmed the Long Chronology. This pottery typology, largely based on pastes and on surface finishings, plus dated with the C14 analysis, has remained the first and only one for ancient Yemen for long time, and still a reference work for all on-going excavations (A. Agostini).

RELATED MATERIAL

Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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