digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameUnknown
Geographical areawādī Yalā
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 12' 56.2"    Longitude: 45° 8' 25.45"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Rock inscriptions
Location and toponomyAl-Jafna is located 2 km away from Yalâ, 100 km to the east of Ṣanʿâʾ and 30 km south-west of Maʾrib.
History of research1985: Italian archaeological mission in the Yemen Arab Republic (MAIRAY): discovery of the site of d-al-Jafna in July 1985 during research in the wâdî Yalâ. The mission is followed by two surveys of the area (mapping of the structures and of the surroundings) in August and September 1985.
General descriptionThe site of al-Jafna is an ancient village with about 20 houses and warehouses distributed on the rocky outcrops along a cultivable sedimentary accumulation. The houses, built with dry masonry, sometimes preserved over 3 m high, are generally composed of two or three rooms of about 10 to 25 m². The houses were occasionally enlarged with a closed court. Some houses were often grouped by two or three units and sometimes linked to one another, all facing a large common court (house F).
A large complex (structure G) formed by a court of about 400 m² and by seven rectangular rooms of 9 to 35 m² together with an annex is described by A. de Maigret (1988) as a building with a public function (administrative, commercial or religious building).
The small houses are considered by A. de Maigret (1988) to be a settlement of farmers, given the presence of a warehouse area, their distribution along a fertile plain, and the numerous threshing areas.

The alluvial zone near the site was cultivated thanks to the deviation of the course of the wâdî where the flow was weakest: the wâdî was crossed by a dam of which only its extremities are still visible. The dam was built with large stone blocks 2 to 6 m thick, and 350 m long.
The dam was limited on its south-western side by a walled area of 65 x 70 m divided into four enclosures. Each enclosure presents an access in bayonet or straight line shape, flanked by two rectangular rooms (20 to 30 m²). The function of this large, mainly open-air, complex is difficult to define.
300 m north-west of the dam, on a rocky cliff, there are the vestiges of a fortified rectangular structure. It may have been used as garrison throughout the South Arabian and Islamic periods.

Probably, the site had been abandoned due to the ruin of the dam; waters did not reach the valley any more.
ChronologyThe surface pottery is identical to that found on the site of Yalâ, indicating an evidently contemporary occupation period (12th-7th century BC). All inscriptions on the site present an archaic palaeography (8th-6th century BC).


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near Shiʿb al-ʿAql (Dnm (?) / ʾrydy (?))


Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


de Maigret 1988 a: 5-10de Maigret, Alessandro (ed.) 1988. The Sabaean archaeological complex in the Wādī Yalā (Eastern Hawlān at-Tiyāl, Yemen Arab Republic). A preliminary report. (Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Centro studi e scavi archeologici. Reports and memoirs, 21). Rome: IsMEO.
de Maigret 2002: 273-285de Maigret, Alessandro 2002. Arabia Felix. An exploration of the Archaeological history of Yemen. London: Stacey International.
de Maigret et al. 1985de Maigret, Alessandro, Bulgarelli, Grazia Maria, Costantini, Lorenzo, Cuneo, P., Fedele, Francesco G., Francaviglia, Vincenzo M., Marcolongo, Bruno, Palmieri, Alba, Scerrato, Umberto, Tosi, Maurizio and Ventrone, G. 1985. Archaeological activities in the Yemen Arab Republic. East and West, 35: 344-352.
de Maigret and Robin 1989: 280-291de Maigret, Alessandro and Robin, Christian J. 1989. Les fouilles italiennes de Yalâ (Yémen du Nord): nouvelles données sur la chronologie de l'Arabie du Sud préislamique. Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres: 255-291.
Robin and Vogt 1997: 50Robin, 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.