DASI

digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Barāqish, aerial picture
(c) CEFAS

SITE INFORMATION

Ancient nameYṯl
CountryYemen
Geographical areaSouthern Jawf
GovernorateMaʾrib
KingdomSabaʾ
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 01' 06"    Longitude: 44° 48' 16"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Ḥḍrmt
Tribe: Mʿnm
Tribe: Mʿn Mṣrn
Tribe: S¹bʾ
Tribe: Yṯl
Lineage: ʿdr
Lineage: ʿs¹dn
Lineage: ʿys²n
Lineage: Blḥ
Lineage: Dbr
Lineage: Ḍfgn
Lineage: Ḍmrn
Lineage: Fʾmn
Lineage: Gbʾn
Lineage: Ġrbt
Lineage: Ġzr
Lineage: Ḫḏb
Lineage: Ḫḍln
Lineage: Ḫṣbr
Lineage: Ḥdṯ
Lineage: Ḥfd
Lineage: Ḥfn
Lineage: Mʾfy
Lineage: Mʿs¹
Lineage: Mʿthn
Lineage: Mḥḍr
Lineage: Mlḥ
Lineage: Mrn
Lineage: Qṭr
Lineage: Rdʿ
Lineage: Rwyn
Lineage: S¹ḥfn
Lineage: S¹tḫṯy
Lineage: S¹ylm
Lineage: S²ʿṯm
Lineage: Ydʿ
Lineage: Yfʿn
Lineage: Ygr
Lineage: Ylqẓ
Lineage: Yṯly
Lineage: Ẓlwmn
Deitiesʾlʾlt Mʿnm
ʿṯtr
ʿṯtr bʿl Ḥdṯ
ʿṯtr ḏ-Qbḍm
ʿṯtr ḏ-Yhrq
ʿṯr Yhrq
ʿṯtr S²rqn
Khln Nbṭʿṯt
ḏ-S¹mwy
ḏt-Ns²qm
Nkrḥ
Nkrḥm
Wd
Wdm
Wdm S²hrn
S²hr
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Rampart
Small temple
Large temple
Pilgrimage temple
Graveyard
Rock inscriptions
LanguageSabaic, Minaic
Location and toponomyThe site of Barāqish is located on the southern border of the plain of al-Jawf, 100 km north-east of Ṣanʿāʾ, 80 km north-west of Maʾrib, 18 km south of d’al-Ḥazm and 12 km from Maʿīn.
The surrounding plain receives the water from wādī Majzir, as well as from other secondary wādīs : wādī Shaqab, wādī Malāḥāʾ, wādī al-Farẓa, wādī Baqlān, wādī Salatān and wādī al-ʿAṭf.

The ancient name of Barāqish was Yathill (Yṯl).
History of researchDiscovery
J. Halévy in 1870 (Halévy 1872: 85, Ḥabshūsh 1995 : 121-123): « Ruine fort imposante, quoique de moindre étendue que Meʿîn. Le mur d’enceinte est en grande partie conservé et porte de nombreuses inscriptions. Des fragments de stèles se voient à profusion, aussi bien dans l’intérieur que hors de la ville. Les édifices publics ne forment qu’un tas de décombres. On sent pourtant que c’était une ville religieuse par excellence, car les vestiges de temples, reconnaissables par les débris des portes et par la disposition des stèles, abondent de tous les côtés. » (Imposing ruins, although slightly smaller than Maʿīn. The surrounding walls are largely preserved and present numerous inscriptions. Several fragments of stelae can be found here, as well as outside the city. Public buildings are only a pile of rubble. Nevertheless, it can be stated that this was the religious city par excellence, because the vestiges of the temples, which can be recognised from the ruins of doors and the distribution of stelae, are scattered everywhere.)

Visits
A. Fakhry in 1947.

Survey
French archaeological mission (MAFRAY), 1978-1981, 1986 and 1990 (Breton 1994 ; Gnoli, Robin 1992 ; Robin 1979 ; 1987 ; Robin, Breton, Audouin 1981 ; Robin, Breton, Ryckmans 1981 ; 1988 ; Ryckmans 1985) : epigraphic survey of the site and its extra muros sanctuaries of Darb aṣ-Ṣabī and Shaqab al-Manaṣṣa.

Excavation
Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen (MAIRY) : excavation of the intra muros temple of Nakraḥ, of the temple B, extra muros soundings ; study of the irrigation system, 1989-1992 and 2003-2007 (Agostini 2011; Antonini S. & Agostini A. 2010a, 2010b; Fedele 2010, 2011; Maigret 1986, 1991a, 1991b, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2010; Maigret & Robin 1993; Marcolongo 1994, 1996, 1997).
General descriptionThe fortified area is 237 x 167 m, i.e. 4.5 ha.

The rampart
A rampart about 766 m long on an approximately semi-circular shape encloses the site. It is 14 m high with three access: a main gate on the south-western side and two postern doors, one on the south-eastern side, the other on the southern one.
The most ancient indication of a fortification in Barāqish is in the inscription RÉS 3946 (7th cent. BC).
The inscriptions reveal different construction or restoration phases associated with the kingdom of a Minaean sovereign. The construction of the rampart visible today probably dates from the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 3rd cent. BC.

The temples
Two intra-muros temples have been excavated :
- temple A or Nakraḥ temple (Maigret 1991a; 1991b; 1993; 1997; 2002; 2004 ; 2010; Maigret & Robin 1993), a hypostyle temple with pillared pronaos
- temple B or ʿAthtar dhū-Qabḍ temple (Maigret 2006), another hypostyle temple with a pillared pronaos.
Moreover, two sanctuaries can be found around the large irrigated perimeter of Barāqish: one in Shaqab al-Manaṣṣa, the other in Darb aṣ-Ṣabī.

The irrigated area:
The site of Barāqish collected its resources from wādī Majzir and its tributaries to develop a large irrigated perimeter on the plain located on the southern side of the site. Numerous hydraulic structures were located there (dams, retention basins, reservoirs, channels). B. Marcolongo (1996, 1997) identified two irrigated perimeters used in two different periods. The first system covers a surface of 400 ha and was active over the 8th century BC. The other perimeter completed the first, starting from the 3rd century BC onwards. Channels separated larger plots.
ChronologyThe excavation of the Nakraḥ temple and those outside the rampart showed a constant occupation of the site from the 13th to the 1st centuries BC/AD (De Maigret 2010, Fedele 2010).
Yathill is mentioned in the 1st century (Ja 643) and in the 3rd century (Ja 619) as a shelter or a topographic reference point. The city was then probably deserted: it is not mentioned in the list of cities and tribes providing military contingents to the Sabaean king, nor as a site of origin for the dedicants in the confederal temple of Maʾrib.
In the 10th century, al-Hamdānī mentions the site, at the time known with its current name, Barāqish, as a maḥfad (citadel). The site is then repopulated between the 12th and 18th century.
Classical sourcesStrabo, Geogr. 16, 4, 24 (1st cent. BC): Άθρουλα

MONUMENTS

The perimeter of the city walls is 766 m long, it draws a moon crescent plan and it is provided with 56 towers. The ring is very well preserved in its length, but the upper portions have been rebuilt in Islamic times (Zaydite), often reutilising stones from the previous Minaean level. One of the southern towers is however preserved in its entirety till 14 m of height (T 48). Solidity to this structure was given also by a squat counter-fort in mud bricks outside the circuit. The main gate was located in the SW corner and in front of it a detached tower was standing, which was later linked to the rest of the defensive structures by a rampart. Another entrance was on the eastern side, which was besides used in Islamic times. A little door also opens in the Southern edge, which was intended to directly give access to the sacral area. The walls are built in a very refined technique: big massive rough stones have been used as foundation blocks (visible in the most eroded portion, at E). Above them, very regularly hewn limestone blocks have been positioned, and they have been marginally drafted and centrally pecked. This finishing shows different degrees of accuracy from bottom to top. According to construction inscriptions, which are very spread all along the structure, this should be the result of multiple interventions during the Minaean times. The southern edge, for instance, has been particularly interested by building activities during the 4th century BC, this is according to RES 3022, here incised, where the so called Persian-Minaean synchronism, although still under debate, allows a reliable chronological positioning. No traces have been so far detected of the more ancient defensive structure built in Sabaean times, as recalled by Karibʾīl Watār son of Dhamarʿalī in RES 3946.

  • photoView of the Walls from SE
This building is realized next to the southern edge of the city walls, and direct access from outside the site to the temple is given by a small doorway and a set of steps. It is realized with limestone ashlar masonry (of the 'lumachelle' type). The temple is on the whole very well preserved, especially the roofing and its internal furnishing. Access was via a propylon of 4 pillars over a terrace and a stepped platform on three sides. The entrance to the hypostyle hall is through a narrow entrance framed by two imposing monolithic jambs. The hall is divided into 5 naves by four rows of three pillars each (4 m high). The area opposite to the entrance is occupied by five raised rooms (the three most central were the cellae), one at the end of each nave, and they are separated by the rest of the hall by a sort of transept in which some canals have been excavated into the floor, thus indicating that this was the area in which sacrificial offerings were made. The hall has several rows of benches which have been lined against the internal perimeter and around the pillars. They served to three offering tables which where disposed in the lateral naves between the pillars. These tables were originally four, but one of them, the first on the right from the entrance, was later removed in order to create a passage to a side room which was later added outside the southern external wall of the temple. This room (the 'Sacristy') was probably a storeroom, and was made up of two storey. Here a human head in plaster, as well as incense burners and pottery, have been found. The roof of the hypostyle hall was sustained by three levels of monolithic beams, which were intersecting one over the other, thus realizing a sort of grid which sustained ultimately the stone slabs of the last covering. The gaps between the smaller beams are filled with metopes decorated by a double row of dentils. Three phases have been recognized: Minaean C (7th – 6th centuries BC), Minaean B (5th – 4th centuries BC) and Minaean A (3rd – 1st centuries BC). It was however frequented up until the 1st century AD.

  • photoNakraḥ Temple after excavations
  • photoTemple of Nakraḥ. Reconstruction.
  • photoTemple of Nakraḥ. Reconstruction.
  • photoWoman head in gypsum from the Temple of Nakraḥ
This temple stands directly on the N of Nakraḥ's. Its unveiling is still under progress but, according to the preliminary published results, it shows a similar layout to Nakraḥ temple, although with significant differences: the propylon was formed by 6 pillars (5 are totally preserved), the internal hall has a lower ground in respect to the doorstep and several steps give access to it, moreover, a staircase was realized against the southern internal wall, just on the right of the entrance, thus leading to a second storey, of which no trace is preserved. The dimensions of the building seem to be bigger, and the plan more squared in respect to the temple next to it. Traces of offering tables, with benches around them, are consistent with those also found in the temple of Nakraḥ.

  • photoPreliminary Reconstruction of the Temple of of ʿAthtar dhū-Qabḍ
  • photoThe two staircases at the entrance of the Temple of ʿAthtar dhū-Qabḍ
During the 2005 and 2006 campaigns, an external funerary area has been detected at 200 m W from the main city gate. The excavations revealed some pit graves, organized in a disorderly matter. Each burial is delimited by rough limestone blocks or by little walls in mud bricks. Their shapes vary (oval, square, circular) but the dimensions are quite small (50 x 70 cm). All of them revealed a conspicuous number of funerary stelae, with faces representations, in the style typical of the others already known from the Jawf region. The importance of this finding relies on the fact that this kind of objects is for the first time found in an archaeological context, even if this has been disturbed by different lootings, both ancient and modern. The rest of the grave goods seemed to be quite modest, and no traces of bones have been detected. For this reason they have been interpreted as cenotaphs, and they were probably connected to individuals engaged to caravan trading during the last centuries BC, thus being consistent with all the other elements which suggest people of low social class and moreover with no bound or connection with the contemporary inhabitants of Yathill.

  • photoNecropolis. General view of the excavated area and location of the pit-graves.
  • photoNecropolis. Limestone funerary stela with male face in high relief

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RELATED MATERIAL

Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Agostini 2011Agostini, Alessio 2011. Two new inscriptions from the recently excavated temple of ʿAthtar dhū-Qabḍ in Barāqish (Ancient Minaean Yathill). In memoriam Alessandro de Maigret. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 22/1: 48-58.
Antonini and Agostini 2010Antonini, Sabina and Agostini, Alessio 2010. A Minaean necropolis at Barāqish (Jawf, Republic of Yemen). Preliminary report of the 2005-2006 archaeological campaigns. With an appendix by Paola Pagano. (Reports and Memoirs. New series, 9). Rome: IsIAO.
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