Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

General view of the area of Khor Rori.
By kind permission of Courtesy of IMTO


Ancient nameS¹mhrm / S¹mrm
Geographical areaSouthern Ẓufār
CoordinatesLatitude: 17° 2' 19"    Longitude: 54° 26' 4"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Ḥḍrmt
Tribe: ḥḍrmyhn (nisba)
Tribe: Wfryhn (nisba)
Lineage: ʾs¹lmm
Lineage: Dws¹m
Lineage: Hs²m
Lineage: Ydʿʾl
S¹yn ḏ-ʾlm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Large temple
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionExtension 0.7 ha. 130 x 77 m. The site stands on a natural harbour, built on a rocky hill protected by two huge natural outcrops, facing to the lagoon at the flow of wādī Darbāt. The hinterland faces into the pre-desert strip of Nejd, where the most demanded frankincense variety, Boswella Sacra, grows up. Its location in the middle of the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula permitted to control incense exchanged via the maritime routes which were connecting the Indian sub-continent, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean through the Red Sea. It was thus an important commercial site and part of a larger network comprising Qanaʾ, Aden and Adulis.
ChronologyThe site was probably founded at the end of 3rd/beginning of the 2nd century BC and gradually decayed since 4th century AD. In the 5th century AD, it was inhabited.The crisis of the settlement was caused by multiple factors, and among these there are the sanding up of the harbour, as well as the break down of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt but most important probably is the decreasing request of incense by the Mediterranean societies.
Sumhuram was a colony of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt, established in a natural harbour in Dhofar.
Initially only a commercial outpost of Ḥaḍramawt kingdom, in the middle/late 1st century BC the settlement was transformed into a fortified town, with the construction of defensive city walls, a monumental gate complex, temples, and other public and private buildings. During the centuries Sumhuram saw many changes and restoration works.
Its identification with Moscha (Limen) is hypothetical.
Classical sourcesPeriplus Maris Erythraei § 32 (1st cent. AD): Μόσχα λιμήν
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.10 (2nd cent. AD): Μόσχα
Identification1890: Th. Bent
Archaeological missions1952/53, 1958, 1962: AFSM (USA)
since 1997: IMTO (Italy)


[By A. Agostini] The site has a massive defensive structure giving it a trapezoidal shape, its length is 410 m and in some areas the walls can be more than 2 m thick. The irregularity of the curtain line is accrued by buttresses, and two towers were erected at the NE and NW corners. The main gate (1.9 m wide) opens in the centre of the northern wall, and to enter into the site is necessary to pass through a bent corridor with three subsequent doors. This gate underwent several modifications between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD, and during the all history of the site new defensive structures continued to be added.

  • photoEastern city walls.
  • photoGate complex.
  • photoGate Complex, entrance.
  • photoArea A, general view.
  • photoArea A, reconstruction.
[By A. Agostini] At the W of the Gate an imposing building was erected. The stone basement has walls of 3 to 6 m thick, which suggests a considerable development in highness for that structure. Its original function is not totally clear: inscriptions clearly state the presence of a temple dedicate to S¹yn ḏ-ʾlm inside the settlement, however its layout is closer to a defensive or administrative structure. The presence of a deep well, positioned at the centre of this structure, suggests a function related to the public management of sweet water.

  • photoArea F, Temple of S¹yn.
  • photoArea F.Temple of S¹yn.
  • photoArea F. Building BF3. 3rd Phase.
[By A. Agostini] Surveys have been carried out to better comprehend how this small site, whose inhabitants were probably not indigenous, could have been integrated socially and economically with the possibly pre-existent population.
[By A. Agostini] It is located at 300 m NW from the site. It seems to have been used only for a limited time, and contemporarily to the most ancient phase of the site, thus from the 3rd to the 1st centuries BC. It is clear, in fact, that at least in some periods, the urban community has occupied some of the extra-muros areas, as the small farms, most likely connected with agricultural practises, clearly show.

  • photoTemple extra-muros, plan.
  • photoTemple extra-muros.


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