digital archive for the study of pre-islamic arabian inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

City walls.
AA. VV. 2000: 142


Ancient nameMyfʿt
Geographical areaWādī Mayfaʿa
CoordinatesLatitude: 14° 19' 11"    Longitude: 47° 30' 00"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
Wdm bʿl Myfʿt
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Small temple
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionExtension: 6 ha. The fortified settlement stands on the upper course of wādī Mayfaʿa distant 40 km from the Indian Ocean. It extends on two mounds with a small intersecting valley, embracing an area of 330 x 150 m. Northward it faces the wādī bed and southward a large irrigated area, which was intensively exploited in ancient times.
ChronologyIn absence of archaeological excavations, it is possible to sketch an historical evolution of the settlement only with the help of the inscriptions. According to RES 3945 (7th century BC), the region underwent the conquest campaign of Karibʾīl Watār, while this site is clearly mentioned from the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC when the kings of Ḥaḍramawt promote several defensive interventions. It is probable that, in view of its strategic position, this site rapidly became a useful stronghold against Qatabān, before, and Ḥimyar, after. Moreover, after the foundation of Qanaʾ, its defence role should have been even more functional. Some inscriptions suggest that the site was inhabited at least until the first half of 1st millennium AD.
Classical sourcesClaudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.41 (2nd cent. AD): Μέφα (?)
Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 23, 6, 47 (4th cent. AD): Maephe
Identification1835: J.R. Wellsted and C. Cruttenden
Travellers1870s: H. von Maltzan; S.B. Miles; M.W. Münziger
Archaeological missions1960s: G. Lankester Harding (UK)
1970s: B. Doe (UK)
1987: Mission Archéologique Française


[By A. Agostini] The walls line is continuous and long 710 m. The structure shows two different techniques: one is based on thinner walls (0.5 m) made with roughly squared blocks jointed without mortar, the second instead is based on very thick double walls (about 3 m) with mortar. On the southern side, facing the cultivated area, ramparts and towers are more regularly positioned and more high (up to 11 m) and use more refined pecked blocks. Two gates are located in the middle of the long axis in correspondence of the central depression between the two mounds, plus a postern on the eastern edge. Two bastions are flanking the entrances, of which the South Gate was probably the main one, in view of its massive construction and bent access. A well was in use close to the North Gate: it is a stone walled circular tower, 5 m in diameter. Within the site, on the eastern slope near the North Gate, stands a small square building (10.6 x 9.3 m) with a front wall 3.6 m high, the structure was realized with very refined masonry. On the ancient silt at a short distance, SE from the site, a necropolis has been detected, formed by a group of rectangular structures of cut masonry – it is probably pre-Islamic.

  • photoSouthern walls.
  • photoSouthern gate.
  • photoWestern walls.
  • photoTower no.17.


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Epigraphs in CSAI
Objects in CSAI


Ba Makhrama and Vinogradov 1996Ba Makhrama, M. and Vinogradov, Jurij A. 1996. Discovery of the pottery from the town of Mayfaʿa (Naqb al-Hagar). Pages 162-167 in Alexander V. Sedov and Petr A. Grjaznevič (eds). Gorodishche Raybūn (Raskopki 1983-1987). Trudy Sovetsko-Yemenskoy kompleksnoy ekspedicii. (Raybūn Settlement. (1983-1987 Excavations). Preliminary Reports of the Soviet-Yemeni Joint Complex Expedition). Moscow: Vostochnaya literatura RAN. [Russian]
Beeston 1962 a: 46Beeston, Alfred F.L. 1962. Epigraphic and Archaeological Gleanings from South Arabia. Oriens Antiquus, 1: 41-52.
Breton 1994 c: 135-137Breton, 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.
Breton et al. 1987: 1-20Breton, Jean-François, Robin, Christian J., Seigne, Jacques and Audouin, Rémy 1987. La muraille de Naqab al-Haǧar (Yémen du Sud). Syria, 64: 1-20.
Brunner 1999 b: 50-51Brunner, Ueli 1999. Jemen. Vom Weihrauch zum Erdöl. Wien: Böhlau.
Doe 1971: 186-190Doe, D. Brian 1971. Southern Arabia. London: Thames and Hudson.
Doe 1983: 141-144Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
Robin and Gajda 1994: 133-134Robin, Christian J. and Gajda, Iwona 1994. L'inscription du Wādī ʿAbadān. Raydān, 6: 113-137.
Harding 1964: 44-46Harding, G. Lankester 1964. Archaeology in the Aden Protectorates. London: H.M. Stationary Off.
Macro 1990Macro, Eric 1990. The Austrians in South West Arabia, 1897-1900. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 20: 101-103.
Miles and Münziger 1871: 215-216Miles, S.B. and Münziger, M.W. 1871. Account of an Excursion into the Interior of Southern Arabia. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 41: 210-245.
Schiettecatte 2011: 199-202Schiettecatte, Jérémie 2011. D'Aden à Zafar. Villes d'Arabie du Sud préislamique. (Orient et Méditerranée, 6). Paris: de Boccard.
al-Sheiba 1987: 56al-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.
Maltzan 1873: 231-232Maltzan, Heinrich F. von 1873. Reise nach Südarabien (1870) und geographische Forschungen in und über den südwestlichen Theil Arabiens. Braunschweig: Fried. Vieweg.
Wissmann 1968: 53-55Wissmann, 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.
Wellsted 1837Wellsted, J. Raymond 1837. Narrative of a journey from the tower of Bâʾ-l-ḥaff on the southern coast of Arabia, to the ruins of Naḳab al-Ḥajar in April 1835. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 7: 20-34.
Wellsted 1838: 424-442Wellsted, J. Raymond 1838. Travels in Arabia. (2 vols), London: John Murray.