digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

General view of the area of Khor Rori.
By kind permission of Courtesy of IMTO


Ancient nameS¹mhrm / S¹mrm
Geographical areaSouthern Ẓufār
CoordinatesLatitude: 17° 2' 19"    Longitude: 54° 26' 4"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Ḥḍrmt
Tribe: ḥḍrmyhn (nisba)
Tribe: Wfryhn (nisba)
Lineage: ʾs¹lmm
Lineage: Dws¹m
Lineage: Hs²m
Lineage: Ydʿʾl
S¹yn ḏ-ʾlm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionExtension 0.7 ha. 130 x 77 m. The site stands on a natural harbour, built on a rocky hill protected by two huge natural outcrops, facing to the lagoon at the flow of wādī Darbāt. The hinterland faces into the pre-desert strip of Nejd, where the most demanded frankincense variety, Boswella Sacra, grows up. Its location in the middle of the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula permitted to control incense exchanged via the maritime routes which were connecting the Indian sub-continent, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean through the Red Sea. It was thus an important commercial site and part of a larger network comprising Qanaʾ, Aden and Adulis.
ChronologyThe site was probably founded at the end of 3rd/beginning of the 2nd century BC and gradually decayed since 4th century AD. In the 5th century AD, it was inhabited.The crisis of the settlement was caused by multiple factors, and among these there are the sanding up of the harbour, as well as the break down of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt but most important probably is the decreasing request of incense by the Mediterranean societies.
Sumhuram was a colony of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt, established in a natural harbour in Dhofar.
Initially only a commercial outpost of Ḥaḍramawt kingdom, in the middle/late 1st century BC the settlement was transformed into a fortified town, with the construction of defensive city walls, a monumental gate complex, temples, and other public and private buildings. During the centuries Sumhuram saw many changes and restoration works.
Its identification with Moscha (Limen) is hypothetical.
Classical sourcesPeriplus Maris Erythraei § 32 (1st cent. AD): Μόσχα λιμήν
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.10 (2nd cent. AD): Μόσχα
Identification1890: Th. Bent
Archaeological missions1952/53, 1958, 1962: AFSM (USA)
since 1997: IMTO (Italy)


[By A. Agostini] The site has a massive defensive structure giving it a trapezoidal shape, its length is 410 m and in some areas the walls can be more than 2 m thick. The irregularity of the curtain line is accrued by buttresses, and two towers were erected at the NE and NW corners. The main gate (1.9 m wide) opens in the centre of the northern wall, and to enter into the site is necessary to pass through a bent corridor with three subsequent doors. This gate underwent several modifications between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD, and during the all history of the site new defensive structures continued to be added.

  • photoEastern city walls.
  • photoGate complex.
  • photoGate Complex, entrance.
  • photoArea A, general view.
  • photoArea A, reconstruction.
[By A. Agostini] At the W of the Gate an imposing building was erected. The stone basement has walls of 3 to 6 m thick, which suggests a considerable development in highness for that structure. Its original function is not totally clear: inscriptions clearly state the presence of a temple dedicate to S¹yn ḏ-ʾlm inside the settlement, however its layout is closer to a defensive or administrative structure. The presence of a deep well, positioned at the centre of this structure, suggests a function related to the public management of sweet water.

  • photoArea F, Temple of S¹yn.
  • photoArea F.Temple of S¹yn.
  • photoArea F. Building BF3. 3rd Phase.
[By A. Agostini] Surveys have been carried out to better comprehend how this small site, whose inhabitants were probably not indigenous, could have been integrated socially and economically with the possibly pre-existent population.
[By A. Agostini] It is located at 300 m NW from the site. It seems to have been used only for a limited time, and contemporarily to the most ancient phase of the site, thus from the 3rd to the 1st centuries BC. It is clear, in fact, that at least in some periods, the urban community has occupied some of the extra-muros areas, as the small farms, most likely connected with agricultural practises, clearly show.

  • photoTemple extra-muros, plan.
  • photoTemple extra-muros.


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Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Albright, Frank P. 1953Albright, Frank P. 1953. The Himyaritic Temple at Khor Rory (Dhofar, Oman). Orientalia N.S., 22: 284-287.
Albright, Frank P. 1955Albright, Frank P. 1955. Explorations in Dhofar, Oman. Antiquity, 113/March 1955: 37-39.
Albright 1982Albright, Frank P. 1982. The American Archaeological Expedition in Dhofar, Oman, 1952-1953. (Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, 6). Washington: American Foundation for the Study of Man / Philadelphia, Pa.: Distributed by G. Allen, Bookseller.
Avanzini 2000Avanzini, Alessandra 2000. Il porto di Sumhuram nel Dhufâr. Pages 230-234 in Yemen. Nel paese della Regina di Saba. Catalogo della Mostra, Palazzo Ruspoli, Fondazione Memmo, Roma 6 Aprile - 30 Giugno 2000. Milan: Skira.
Avanzini 2002 aAvanzini, Alessandra (ed.) 2002. Khor Rori Report 1. (Arabia Antica, 1). Pisa: Edizioni Plus-Università di Pisa.
Avanzini 2007Avanzini, Alessandra 2007. Sumhuram: a Hadrami port on the Indian Ocean. Pages 23-28 in Eivind Heldaas Seland (ed.). The Indian ocean in the ancient times : definite places, translocal exchange. (BAR International Series, 1593). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Avanzini 2008 cAvanzini, Alessandra (ed.) 2008. A port in Arabia between Rome and the Indian Ocean (3rd C. BC-5th C. AD). Khor Rori Report 2. (Arabia Antica, 5). Rome: «L'Erma» di Bretschneider.
Avanzini 2011Avanzini, Alessandra (ed.) 2011. Along the arome and spice routes. The harbour of Sumhuram, its territory and the trade between the Mediterranean, Arabia and India.. (Bandecchi & Vivaldi).
Avanzini 2015Avanzini, Alessandra 2015. Qatabanian jars in the port of Sumhuram: notes on the trade by sea in South Arabia. Pages 13-20 in Mounir Arbach and Jérémie Schiettecatte (eds). Pre-Islamic South Arabia and its Neighbours: New Developments of Research. Proceedings of the 17th Rencontres Sabéennes held in Paris, 6–8 June 2013. (BAR International Series, 2740). Oxford: Archaeopress. [British Foundation for the Study of Arabia Monographs, 16]
Avanzini and Orazi 2001Avanzini, Alessandra and Orazi, Roberto 2001. The construction phases of Khor Rori's monumental gate. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 12/2: 249-259.
Avanzini and Sedov 2005Avanzini, Alessandra and Sedov, Alexander V. 2005. The stratigraphy of Sumhuram: new evidence. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 35: 11-17.
Avanzini et al. 1999-2000Avanzini, Alessandra, Buffa, Vittoria, Lombardi, Alessandra, Orazi, Roberto and Sedov, Alexander V. 1999-2000. Excavations and Restoration of the Complex of Khor Rori. MID's interim report (1999-2000). Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 22-23: 189-228. [With a note by Vittorio Castellani]
Avanzini et al. 2001Avanzini, Alessandra, Buffa, Vittoria, Lombardi, Alessandra, Orazi, Roberto and Sedov, Alexander V. 2001. Excavations and restoration of the Complex of Khor Rori. Interim Report (october 2000-april 2001). Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 24: 5-63.
Avanzini et al. 2002Avanzini, Alessandra, Benvenuti, Chiara, Buffa, Vittoria, Lombardi, Alessandra, Orazi, Roberto and Sedov, Alexander V. 2002. Excavations and restoration of the Complex of Khor Rori. Interim Report (october 2001-april 2002). Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 25: 109-154. [With contributions by Michael D. Bukharin, Marta Mariotti Lippi and Roberto Orazi]
Beeston 1976 cBeeston, Alfred F.L. 1976. The Settlement at Khor Rori. The Journal of Oman Studies, 2: 39-41.
Breton 1994 c: 138-139Breton, 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.
Casson 1989 a: 69-71, 170-173Casson, Lionel 1989. The Periplus Maris Erythraei. Text with introduction, translation, and commentary. Princeton: University Press.
Cleveland 1959Cleveland, Ray L. 1959. The sacred Stone Circle of Khor Rori (Dhofar). Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 153: 29-31.
Cleveland 1960Cleveland, Ray L. 1960. The 1960 American Archaeological Expedition to Dhofar. Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 159: 14-26.
Comfort 1960Comfort, Howard 1960. Some imported pottery at Khor Rori (Dhofar). Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 160: 15-20.
Darles 2011Darles, Christian 2011. Les fortifications de Khor Rorī-Sumhuram. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 41: 61-68.
Doe 1971: 15, 41Doe, D. Brian 1971. Southern Arabia. London: Thames and Hudson.
Doe 1983: 147-150, 178-179Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
Frantsouzoff 2009Frantsouzoff, Serguei A. 2009. The final passages in two Hadramitic inscriptions from Dhofar (Khor Rori 3 and 4), what do they really mean?. Semitica et Classica, 2: 141-145.
Groom 1995Groom, Nigel 1995. The Periplus, Pliny and Arabia. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 6/3: 180-195.
Hassell 2002: 157-167Hassell, Jonathan 2002. Cuboid incense-burning altars from South-Arabia in the Collection of the American Foundation for the Study of Man: some unpublished aspects. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 13/2: 157-192. 2016/07/20; http://dx.doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0471.2002.130202.x.
Hoorn and Cremaschi 2004Hoorn, Carina and Cremaschi, Mauro 2004. Late Holocene palaeoenvironmental history of Khawr Rawri and Khawr Al Balid (Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 213/1-2: 1-36. 2016/10/12; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2004.03.014.
de Maigret 2002: 105-107de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
Morandi Bonacossi 2004Morandi Bonacossi, Daniele 2004. Coloni hadramiti e popolamento indigeno nel paese dell’incenso (Dhofar, Sultanato dell’Oman) fra V sec. a.C. e VI sec. d.C. Una sintesi preliminare. Pages 179-216 in Frederick M. Fales and Daniele Morandi Bonacossi (eds). Mesopotamia e Arabia. Scavi Archeologici e Studi Territoriali delle Università Trivenete (1994-1998). Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti.
Pavan and Pallecchi 2009Pavan, Alexia and Pallecchi, Pasquino 2009. Considerazioni su alcuni frammenti di anfore con impasto a base di talco rinvenute nell’antico porto di Sumhuram (Oman). Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 32: 221–233.
Phillips, Wendell 1955: 304, 325, 337-340Phillips, Wendell 1955. Qataban and Sheba. Exploring ancient kingdoms on the Biblical spice routes of Arabia. New York: Harcourt Brace.
Pirenne 1975Pirenne, Jacqueline 1975. The Incense Port of Moscha (Khor Rori) in Dhofar. The Journal of Oman Studies, 1: 81-96.
Schiettecatte 2011: 208-214Schiettecatte, Jérémie 2011. D'Aden à Zafar. Villes d'Arabie du Sud préislamique. (Orient et Méditerranée, 6). Paris: de Boccard.
Seland 2005Seland, Eivind Heldaas 2005. Ancient South Arabia: trade and strategies of state control as seen in the "Periplus Maris Erythraei". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 35: 271–278.
al-Sheiba 1987: 34-35al-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.
Tomber 2004Tomber, Roberta 2004. Rome and South Arabia: new artefactual evidence from the Red Sea. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 34: 351–360.
Phillips, Wendell 1966Phillips, Wendell 1966. Unknown Oman. London: Longmans / New York: D. McKay.
Wissmann 1968: 32Wissmann, Hermann von 1968. Zur Archäologie und antiken Geographie von Südarabien. Ḥaḍramaut, Qatabān und das ʿAden-Gebiet in der Antike. (Uitgaven van het, Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te İstanbul, 24). Istanbul: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten.
Wissmann 1977Wissmann, Hermann von 1977. Das Weihrauchland Saʾkalān, Samārum und Mos-cha. Mit Beiträgen von Walter W. Müller. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 324). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Wissmann and Höfner 1952: 195, fig. 16, 18Wissmann, Hermann von and Höfner, Maria 1952. Beiträge zur historischen Geographie des vorislamischen Südarabien. (Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, 4). Mainz: Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur / Wiesbaden: Steiner.
Yule and Kervran 1993Yule, Paul and Kervran, Monique 1993. More than Samad in Oman: Iron Age Pottery from Suḥar and Khor Rorī. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 4/2: 69-106.