digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

Remains of an ancient building
Fontaine and Arbach 2006: fig. 76


Ancient nameMḏbm
Geographical areaWestern Ḥaḍramawt
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 36' 28.6"    Longitude: 48° 9' 12.3"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Rmy
Tribe: Yrmyhn (nisba for Rmy)
Lineage: ʾlḥ
Lineage: F[.]ḥm
Lineage: Hys¹n
S¹yn ḏ-Mḏbm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Dwelling isolated
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionExtension n.a.; The site is in wādī ʿAmd, one of the major tributaries of wādī Ḥaḍramawt. Like other sites of this area (e.g. Raybūn), the settlement was probably not fortified, because the geomorphology of the region permitted to efficiently control the access to the main valleys through some well fortified posts or fortresses. The site has been the first one to be scientifically excavated in former Southern Yemen.
ChronologyThe excavated temple has indicated at least three major phases, the first of which has been dated by archaeologists to the 5th century BC, but it is highly probable that this dating should be now raised up to 7th or 8th century BC, according to the recent discoveries which have helped in clarifying ancient South Arabian chronology.
Archaeological missions1937: G. Caton Thompson (UK)


The temple is dedicated to the Hadramitic principal deity and lies within a group of pre-Islamic buildings, houses and farmsteads on the northern edge of the wādī. The temple is oriented to the cardinal points and the main façade in on the SW side. The excavation has showed three major phases. In the earliest, the building consisted of a rectangular stone paved platform (about 12.5 x 9.8) on which are five roughly hewn stone plinths remaining of six original pillars, probably in wood and now disappeared. During the second phase the entrance of the temple was extended southward of 2.6 m, and again of other 2 m in the last phase. Stone blocks originating from the first phase had been roughly worked, while in the subsequent phases more refined blocks have been used, and even the older ones have been often newly chiselled along the margins and pecked in the centre. Two flights of stone steps lead up to the platform. A complete length of pavement survives outside the NW and SE retaining walls. No complete pottery have been found, but the potsherd found have been recognized as the same forms and shapes discovered in the nearby tombs (see here below). Nearby the SW side a series of small apsidal shrines have been unearthed, they probably continued to be in use after destruction of the temple.

  • photoTemple of S¹yn. General site plan.
  • photoTemple of S¹yn, phase A
  • photoTemple of S¹yn, phase B
  • photoTemple of S¹yn, phase C.
Several tombs have been positioned in the lower part of the northern cliff, they have been realized as artificial caves on the hillside, whose entrance is irregular (often oval). One of the excavated tombs seemed to be intact and not pillared (A5), the inner chamber is at 8 m of depth into the hillside, and its plan is horse-shoe in shape and the walls are curved inward. The more orderly group of burials had been arranged on a rock-cut bench on the eastern side of the tomb just inside the entrance. The tomb probably later became an ossuary for secondary burials, because bones have been found disarticulated and incomplete. Cosmetic palettes in alabaster and metal ornaments have been found amongst the burial goods together with obsidian microliths.

  • photoPlan of a cave-tomb


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Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Beeston 1962 a: 45Beeston, Alfred F.L. 1962. Epigraphic and Archaeological Gleanings from South Arabia. Oriens Antiquus, 1: 41-52.
Bowen 1958 a: 78-82Bowen, Richard LeBaron 1958. Irrigation in ancient Qatabân (Beiḥân). Pages 43-132 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.
Bowen 1958 dBowen, Richard LeBaron 1958. Appendix IV. Dating the Ḥureidha irrigation ruins. Pages 149-153 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.
Breton 1980 a: 5-17Breton, Jean-François 1980. Religious Architecture in Ancient Ḥaḍramawt (PDRY). Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 10: 5-17.
Breton 1980 b: 61Breton, Jean-François 1980. Rapport sur une mission archéologique dans le wâdî Ḥaḍramawt (Yémen du Sud) en 1979. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres: 57-80.
Breton et al. 1980: 8-9Breton, Jean-François, Badre, Leila, Audouin, Rémy and Seigne, Jacques 1980. Wādī Ḥaḍramawt. Prospections 1978-1979. Aden: Centre Culturel et de Recherches Archéologiques.
Caton Thompson 1944Caton Thompson, Gertrude 1944. The Tombs and Moon Temple of Hureidha (Hadhramaut). (Reports of the Research Committee and of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 13). Oxford: University Press.
Doe 1971: 237-240Doe, D. Brian 1971. Southern Arabia. London: Thames and Hudson.
Doe 1983: 176-178Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
Doe 1984: 25Doe, D. Brian 1984. Architectural refinements and measure in early South Arabian buildings. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 14: 21-31.
Harding 1964: 32, pls. 20-21Harding, G. Lankester 1964. Archaeology in the Aden Protectorates. London: H.M. Stationary Off.
Japp 2015: 98Japp, Sarah 2015. Pottery in sacred contexts. Everyday equipment - tableware for ritual meals - offerings?. Pages 95-106 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]
de Maigret 2002: 57-59de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
Sedov 2005Sedov, Alexander V. 2005. Temples of Ancient Ḥaḍramawt. (Arabia Antica, 3). Pisa: Edizioni Plus-Pisa University Press.
al-Sheiba 1987: 52al-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.
Wissmann 1968: 37Wissmann, 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.