digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Alessio Agostini; Jérémie Schiettecatte

The Stratified Mound of Hajar ibn Ḥumayd
Phillips, Wendell 1955: front of pag. 192
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Ancient nameḏ-Ġylm / ḏt-Ġylm
Geographical areaWādī Bayḥān
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 S²ymn
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm
ʿm Ryʿn
ʿṯtr S²rqn
ʿzyn mnḍḥw Ḥrb
Rbs² ḏ-Nhlb
S²ms¹-s¹my bʿlt Qly
Wrfw ʾmr ʿm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Pilgrimage temple
Rock inscriptions
General description[By A. Agostini]
Extension: 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.
Chronology[By A. Agostini]
The 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)


[By A. Agostini] 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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[By A. Agostini]
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.


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


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Beeston 1962 a: 47-49Beeston, Alfred F.L. 1962. Epigraphic and Archaeological Gleanings from South Arabia. Oriens Antiquus, 1: 41-52.
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Blakely and Glanzman 1996Blakely, Jeffrey A. and Glanzman, William D. 1996. From Clay to Stone? Cooking Bowls of South Arabia. Pages 3-26 in Joe D. Seger (ed.). Retrieving the past. Essays on archaeological research and methodology in honor of Gus W. Van Beek. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
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Bowen 1958 b: 6, 8-10Bowen, Richard LeBaron 1958. Archaeological survey of Beiḥân. Pages 3-33 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.
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Dayton 1981: 8Dayton, John E. 1981. Marib visited, 1979. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 11: 7-26.
De Moulins, Phillips and Durrani 2003: 217de Moulins, Dominique, Phillips, Carl S. and Durrani, Nadia 2003. The archaeobotanical record of Yemen and the question of Afro-Asian contacts. Pages 213–228 in Katharina Neumann, Ann Butler and Stephanie Kahlheber (eds). Food, Fuel and Fields. (Progress in African Archaeobotany, Africa Praehistorica, 15). Cologne: Heinrich-Barth-Institut.
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Jamme 1950Jamme, Albert W.F. 1950. A new Chronology of the Qatabanian Kingdom. Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 120: 26-27.
de Maigret 2002: 98-101de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
Pirenne 1974: 137-170Pirenne, Jacqueline 1974. Notes d'archéologie sud-arabe, IX. Hajar bin Ḥumeid. Syria, 51: 137-170.
Porter 2004: 272Porter, Alexandra 2004. Amphora trade between South Arabia and East Africa in the first millennium BC: a re-examination of the evidence. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 34: 261–275.
Robin and Vogt 1997: 98-101Robin, 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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al-Sheiba 1987: 28-29al-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.
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Wissmann 1964 a: 90, n. 38Wissmann, Hermann von 1964. Zur Geschichte und Landeskunde von Alt-Südarabien. Sammlung Eduard Glaser. 3. (Sitzungsberichte der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 246). Vienna: Böhlaus.
Wissmann and Höfner 1952: 47-49Wissmann, 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.