digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

Site Plan
de Maigret and Robin 2006: fig. 1
By kind permission of Missione Archeologica Italiana nella Repubblica dello Yemen (©MAIRY)


Ancient nameTmnʿ
Geographical areaWādī Bayḥān
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 1' 11.3"    Longitude: 45° 48' 16.3"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: ʾʾdmn (nisba)
Tribe: Ġryn (nisba)
Tribe: Mʿnm
Tribe: Qtbn
Tribe: Ṭbnn
Lineage: ʾʿs¹yfr
Lineage: ʾbm
Lineage: ʾbn
Lineage: ʾgln
Lineage: ʾgrm
Lineage: ʾḥrbn
Lineage: ʾlkr
Lineage: ʾnw
Lineage: ʿbydm
Lineage: ʿgḏ
Lineage: ʿls³n
Lineage: ʿmʾ
Lineage: ʿmrt
Lineage: ʿṯtrm
Lineage: Bws¹m
Lineage: Byḥn
Lineage: Dnm
Lineage: Ḏhbn
Lineage: Ḏmrn
Lineage: Ḏrʾn
Lineage: Ḏrḥ
Lineage: Ḏrḥn
Lineage: Fhdm
Lineage: Fqḍn
Lineage: Gʾnn
Lineage: Gʿrn
Lineage: Grbm
Lineage: Hnʿmt
Lineage: Hrmw
Lineage: Hrn
Lineage: Hs²mr
Lineage: Hṣbḥ
Lineage: Hṯʿr
Lineage: Hṯb
Lineage: Hwfʿm
Deitiesʾl S³ḥrm
ʾnby S²ymn
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm bʿl Ḥṭb
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm bʿl S³dw
ʿm ḏ-Dymt
ʿm ḏ-Lbḫ
ʿm ḏ-Mbrqm
ʿm ḏ-Rbḥw
ʿm ḏ-Rymtm
ʿm Ryʿn
ʿṯtr ḏ-S¹ʾll
ʿṯtr Mlkn bʿl Bnʾ
ʿṯtr Nwfn
ʿṯtr S²rqn
Bʿl Yfʿn
Bʿl Yġl
Bnty ʾl
ḏt-Ḥmym ʿṯtr Yġl
ḏt-Ḥmym ḏt-ʾdhnm
ḏt-Ṣntm bʿl Qlbn
Ḥwkm ḏ-ʾmr
Qny Hwrn
Wrfw ʾmr ʿm
Wrfw ḏ-Lfn
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Market place
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Pilgrimage temple
Rock inscriptions
LanguageSabaic, Qatabanic
General descriptionExtension: 23 ha. The site was encircled by a defence wall measuring about 680 x 420 m, and whose length has been estimated in 1850 m. The mound has a height of 20 m in respect to the surrounding valley (to be partly attributed to a natural elevation). It has remained abandoned since its last destruction in antiquity, and only its SE edge is now occupied by a modern settlement.
ChronologyProbes carried out by the Italian Mission have revealed that the settlement has been inhabited since the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. A hiatus has been detected and dated between the 6th and the 5th centuries BC, while the apogee was during the 5th – 1st centuries BC. During the 1st century AD Timnaʿ suffered two major destructions, all archaeologically documented (fire traces) and dated thanks to the finding of imported pottery (mainly Arretine ware and Near Eastern Sigillata). At the second half of the 1st century AD the site has probably already lost its capital status, which was transferred to the nearby site of Hajar ibn Ḥumayd. The kingdom was soon afterwards definitely conquered by Ḥaḍramawt. (A. Agostini)
Classical sourcesEratosthenes of Cyrene, in Strabo, Geogr. 16, 4, 2 (1st cent. BC): Τάμνα
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, VI, 32, 153 (1st cent. AD): Thomna
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, XII, 32, 64 (1st cent. AD): Thomna
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.31, 37 (2nd cent. AD): Θούμνα
Identification1895: E. Glaser
Travellers1899: G.W. Bury
1936: S. Perowne
Archaeological missions1950-1952: AFSM (USA)
1967: Brian Doe (UK)
1989-1992: MAFRY (France)
1999-2009: MAIRY (Italy)


South-West gate: Two massive bastions (11 x 5 m) frame the entrance. They have both an ample vane at their interior and they have been realized using imposing granite blocks (e.g. 1.70 x 2.80 m) which have been also incised with important legal inscriptions (e.g. RES 3878, 3879) or recalling construction activities. The passage is 5.50 m large (externally) and 4.20 (at the interior of the town) and was originally paved and with two benches on each lateral side, while a small staircase was put against the eastern bastion. No traces of a closing device of the doorway have been detected. North-West gate: Only construction inscriptions (MAFYS-Timna 2-5 and MAFYS-Timna 1) allow so far the reconstruction of this gate, which has not been excavated scientifically and has moreover suffered an intense pillaging. According to the texts, these gates were formed by a massive granite basement (like that still visible in the SW Gate) which sustained an upper structure made in wood and mud bricks. Limestone and calcite-alabaster blocks enriched this upper part.

  • photoSouth Gate
  • photoSouth Gate
This building is located in the NE area of the town and its basement measures about 48 x 37 m. It has rectangular plan and is made by two main structures. The first is an ample court (17 x 12 m), with a portico in two sides shading some closed rooms behind (probably storerooms), the northern side of the court has a broad limestone staircase which was the main entrance to the building. Another small entrance was through a smaller set of steps on the southern side. The main body was on a big platform realized with big irregular granite blocks (e.g. 32 x 25, 5 m height). The external walls are regularly spaced by recesses (2 for each side). The passage from the court to the main building was via a propylon with 8 pillars. These pillars, of which no trace remains, were measuring 55 x 40 cm, according to the sockets on the sustaining monolithic blocks. The basement is internally characterized by irregularly dimensioned rooms, with no reciprocal communication and which served as foundations. A long, and still open, debate was about the function of this building, since it has been identified firstly with the ʿAthtar Temple (AFSM) and with the Royal Palace (MAFRY). Recently the hypothesis has been put forward that it may have had both administrative and religious functions, thus representing together Ḥrb and Ḥṭb, as the Royal Palace and the ʿAmm Temple are respectively named in inscriptions and coins from the town (MAIRY).

  • photoAerial View of TT1
  • photoPlan of the TT1 after the study by the Italian Mission
It is located on the NW limit of the site, on a rectangular platform (23 x 20 m) made by hewn granite blocks. The access was via a long staircase, but very narrow in respect to the breadth of the façade (8 x 4.5 m). Two smaller stairs have been later added at both sides of the main one. The major structure was approached after having passed through a small antechamber, which was on the top of the main staircase. It was probably decorated by a prostylon. The main temple body was centred on a big hall with several small rooms at the lateral sides. The whole structure is however very damaged due to recent military activities carried out above this area. In front of the western wall of the façade a circular well, realized with hewn limestone blocks, was in use in an earlier phase, since it has consequently been sealed by one of the lateral stairs. The visible ruins should be dated between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD, thus concurrently with the last period of the town itself. A probe has revealed more ancient levels under a period of abandonment (between the 6th and the 5th centuries BC), in which structures had a very different orientation and different technique (e.g. mud bricks). To this earliest phase carinated pottery has been associated, thus it should be dated to the 8th or 7th centuries BC, thanks to comparison with potsherd coming from Hajar ibn Ḥumayd or Yalā. One more ancient level has been detected, which should be dated to the beginning of 1st millennium BC.

  • photoAthirat Temple
The Italian Mission has recently unearthed an ample space which is located on the western area of the settlement and which has been identified with the Market Square, mainly thanks to the presence there of the so-called 'Obelisk' where the Mercantile Code is inscribed (RES 4337). The square is encircled by several buildings, of which those standing on the southern and eastern sides have been excavated. They have been identified with private houses (Houses A-K), moreover probably belonging to a high social level engaged with commercial activities. They reveal different construction techniques. House H ('Palace' Ḫmrn), for instance, has a mighty basement made by megalithic and irregular granite blocks, while others (e.g. House I) used same material, but worked in smaller blocks, with squared sides and faces slightly domed. A big fire caused the destruction of these structures and the analysis of the collapsed materials showed that upper floors (which have been estimated to be at least two, considering the basements' dimensions) where made with a wood skeleton supporting mud bricks walls. These upper storeys were probably externally decorated by several limestone or calcite-alabaster blocks. The basement indicates also the internal plan of these houses, which were of a tripartite form, with a long paved corridor dividing opposite facing rooms. A stair leading to upper floors was probably located at the bottom of the corridor or against one of the external short walls. Other houses have been excavated by the preceding archaeological missions (e.g. Houses S²bʿn and Wṯʿn by B. Doe), but the most outstanding findings come from those dug by the American Mission in the Fifties. In houses Yfʿm and Yfs², in fact, bronze objects have been found, like two cherubs on lions and a feminine statue, all revealing a sensible influence from the Hellenistic world. Such influence has been here detectable until the last phase of the site.

  • photoHouses excavated by the Italian Mission in the Market Square


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near Ḥayd Ibn ʿAqīl (Unknown)


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Antonini 2005 aAntonini, Sabina 2005. The first two campaigns at Ḥayd ibn ʿAqīl, the necropolis of Tamnaʿ. Pages 1-12 in Amida Sholan, Sabina Antonini and Mounir Arbach (eds). Sabaean Studies (Dirāsāt Sabaʾiyya). Archaeological, epigraphical and historical studies in honour of Yūsuf M. ʿAbdallāh, Alessandro de Maigret, Christian J. Robin on the occasion of their sixtieth birthdays. Naples: Università degli studi di Napoli l'Orientale. [University of Ṣanʿāʾ; Yemeni-Italian Centre for Archeological Reserches Ṣanʿāʾ; Centre français d'archéologie et de sciences sociales de Ṣanʿāʾ]
Antonini 2005 bAntonini, Sabina 2005. al-baʿathatān al-istikshāfiyyatān al-awaliyyatān fî ʿAyd bin ʿAqīl muqabbara Tamnaʿ (2003-2004 m.). Pages 55-67 in Sālih ʿAlī Bāsurrah (ed.). Sanʿāʾ. History and Cultural Heritage. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Yemeni Civilization. (2 vols), i. Ṣanʿāʾ.
Antonini, Arbach and Sedov 2002Antonini, Sabina, Arbach, Mounir and Sedov, Alexander V. 2002. Collezioni sudarabiche inedite. Gli oggetti acquisiti dalla missione archeologica italo-francese a Tamnaʿ (Yemen) (1999-2000). Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale. [Supplemento agli Annali, 91; vol. 60-61/2000-2001]
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Avanzini 2004 aAvanzini, Alessandra 2004. Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions I-III. Qatabanic, Marginal Qatabanic, Awsanite Inscriptions. (Arabia Antica, 2). Pisa: Edizioni Plus-Università di Pisa.
Beeston 1959Beeston, Alfred F.L. 1959. The mercantile code of Qataban. Qahtan. Studies in Old Arabian Epigraphy. 1. London: Luzac and Co.
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Breton et al. 1998: 127-194Breton, Jean-François, Arramond, Jean-Charles, Coque-Delhuille, Brigitte and Gentelle, Pierre 1998. Une vallée aride du Yémen antique. Le wādī Bayhān. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.
Bron 1995Bron, François 1995. La ville dans les inscriptions qatabanites. Semitica, 43-44: 135-139.
Bron 1999 aBron, François 1999. L'inscription qatabanite de la porte nord de Timnaʿ. Pages 69-74 in Yitzhak Avishur and Robert Deutsch (eds). Michael. Historical, epigraphical and Biblical Studies in Honor of Prof Michael Heltzer. Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications / Jaffa: Archaeological Center Publications.
Cleveland 1965Cleveland, Ray L. 1965. An Ancient South Arabian Necropolis. Objects from the Second Campaign (1951) in Timnaʿ Cemetery. (Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, 4). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
Comfort 1958Comfort, Howard 1958. Imported pottery and glass from Timnaʿ. Pages 199-212 in Richard LeBaron Bowen and Frank P. Albright (eds). Archaeological Discoveries in South Arabia. With foreword by Wendell Phillips. (Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, 2). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
Doe 1971: 217-225Doe, D. Brian 1971. Southern Arabia. London: Thames and Hudson.
Doe 1983: 129-132, 172-176Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
Gentelle 1998Gentelle, Pierre 1998. La nature et l'irrigation. Pages 75-126 in Jean-François Breton, Jean-Charles Arramond, Brigitte Coque-Delhuille and Pierre Gentelle. Une vallée aride du Yémen antique. Le wādī Bayhān. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.
Harding 1964: pl. 50, 2Harding, G. Lankester 1964. Archaeology in the Aden Protectorates. London: H.M. Stationary Off.
Höfner 1961Höfner, Maria 1961. Eine qatabanische Weihinschrift aus Timnaʿ. Le Muséon, 74: 453-459.
Jamme 1952 aJamme, Albert W.F. 1952. Pièces épigraphiques de Ḥeid bin ʿAqil, la nécropole de Timnaʿ (Hagr Koḥlân). (Bibliothèque du Muséon, 30). Louvain: Publications universitaires.
Jamme 1979Jamme, Albert W.F. 1979. Miscellanées d'ancient arabe IX. Washington. 2019/07/23; https://cuislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/cuislandora%3A205328#page/1/mode/1up. [Privately printed]
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Loreto 2008Loreto, Romolo 2008. Architectural decorations from the private buildings in the Market Square at Tamnaʿ. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 19/1: 22-47.
Loreto 2011: 99-149, 178-202Loreto, Romolo 2011. L’architettura domestica e i Palazzi Reali di epoca sud arabica nello Yemen pre-islamico (VII sec. a.C. – VI sec. d.C.). With foreword by Alessandro de Maigret. (Collana di Ateneo Dissertationes, 7). Naples: Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”.
de Maigret 2002: 93-97de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
de Maigret 2003 ade Maigret, Alessandro 2003. Alla riscoperta di Tamnaʿ, antica capitale dell'Arabia del Sud. Risultati di quattro anni di scavi italo-francesi (1999-2002). Pages 259-270 in Maria Vittoria Fontana and Bruno Genito. Studi in onore di Umberto Scerrato per il suo settantacinquesimo compleanno. Naples: Università degli studi di Napoli L'Orientale. [Università degli studi di Napoli L'Orientale, Dipartimento di studi asiatici; Istituto italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente]
de Maigret 2003 bde Maigret, Alessandro 2003. Tamnaʿ, ancient capital of the Yemeni desert. Information about the first two excavation campaigns (1999, 2000). Pages 135-140 in Mario Liverani. Arid Lands in Roman Times. Papers from the International Conference (Rome, July 9th-10th 2001). (Arid Zone Archaeology, Monographs, 4). Florence: All'insegna del giglio. [Università degli studi di Roma La Sapienza; Centro interuniversitario di ricerca sulle civiltà e l'ambiente del Sahara antico e delle zone aride; Department of the antiquities of Libia]
de Maigret 2004 ade Maigret, Alessandro 2004. New stratigraphical data for the ancient chronology of Tamnaʿ. Pages 242-256 in Alexander V. Sedov (ed.). Scripta Yemenica. Issledovanija po Južnoj Aravii. Sbornik naučnyh statej v čest' 60-letija M.B. Piotrovskogo. Moscow: Vostochna.
de Maigret 2005 ade Maigret, Alessandro 2005. Recent Discoveries in the "Market Square" of Tamnaʿ. Pages 346-352 in Alexander V. Sedov and Irina M. Smilyanskaya (eds). Arabia Vitalis. Studies in honour of Vitaly V. Naumkin. Moscow: Rossiikaya Akademiya Nauk.
de Maigret 2005 bde Maigret, Alessandro 2005. Some Reflections on the South Arabian bayt. Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen, 10: 101-110.
de Maigret 2005 cde Maigret, Alessandro 2005. The Italian Archaeological Mission. An Appraisal of 25 Years Research (1980-2004). (YICAR Papers, 2). Napoli: Il Torcoliere. [Italian archaeological mission in the Republic of Yemen. Text in English and Italian]
de Maigret and Robin 2006de Maigret, Alessandro and Robin, Christian J. 2006. Tamnaʿ, antica capitale di Qatabān / Tamnaʿ, capitale antique de Qatabān. (YICAR Papers, 3). Ṣanʿāʾ: Yemeni-Italian Centre for Archaeological Research. [Italian archaeological mission in the Republic of Yemen.
Text in Italian, French and Arabic]
de Maigret and Robin 2016de Maigret, Alessandro and Robin, Christian J. (eds) 2016. Gli scavi Italo-Francesi di Tamnaʿ (Repubblica dello Yemen). Rapporto finale. (Orient & Méditerranée, 20). Paris: De Boccard.
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Perowne 1939Perowne, Stewart 1939. ʾImʿadiya and Beihan, Aden Protectorate. Antiquity, 13: 133-137.
Phillips, Wendell 1955: 177Phillips, Wendell 1955. Qataban and Sheba. Exploring ancient kingdoms on the Biblical spice routes of Arabia. New York: Harcourt Brace.
Pirenne 1961Pirenne, Jacqueline 1961. Le Royaume Sud-Arabe de Qatabān et sa Datation, d'après l'Archéologie et les Sources Classiques jusqu'au Périple de la mer Erythrée. (Bibliothèque du Muséon, 48). Louvain: Publications universitaire.
Rhodokanakis 1924 aRhodokanakis, Nikolaus 1924. Die Inschriften an der Mauer von Koḥlān-Timnaʿ. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 200/2). Vienna: Holder-Pichler-Tempsky.
Robin 1977 bRobin, Christian J. 1977. Qataban. Pages 598–601 in Henri Cazelles and André Feuillet (eds). Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible. Fasc. 50 B. Paris: Letouzey & Ané.
Robin and Vogt 1997: 110-112, 171-177Robin, Christian J. and Vogt, Burkhard (eds) 1997. 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.
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Sprenger 1875: par. 87, 202-203, 229Sprenger, Aloys 1875. Die Alte Geographie Arabiens als Grundlage der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Semitismus. Bern: Commissionsverlag von Huber & Comp.
Van Beek 1952Van Beek, Gus W. 1952. Recovering the Ancient Civilization of Arabia. Biblical Archaeologist, 15: 2-18.
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Wissmann 1962: 193Wissmann, Hermann von 1962. Al-Barīra in Ǧirdān im Vergleich mit anderen Stadtfestungen Alt-Südarabiens. Le Muséon, 75: 177-209.