Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

(c) Schiettecatte - CNRS


Ancient nameʿrrtm
Geographical areawādī Raġwān
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 47' 14"    Longitude: 45° 05' 13"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Rock inscriptions
Location and toponomyal-Asâḥil is located about 100 km north-east of Ṣanʿâʾ, 50 km north-west of Maʾrib, 40 km south-east of Barâqish and 3 km south-west of Kharibat Saʿûd, on the right bank of the lower course of the wâdî Raghwân. The site forms a small rectangular fortified hill that dominates the surrounding plain.
Al-Asâḥil may be identified with the ancient ʿrrtm (Wissmann 1964, p. 213).
History of researchAl Asâḥil did not catch the attention of J. Halévy. Although some inscriptions were discovered by a few intermediaries sent by E. Glaser at the end of the 19th century, the most important discovery of the site dates to 1936 with the visit by H. St J. Philby (Philby 1939, p. 398-403).
1970: some inscriptions were copied by P. A. Grjaznevic and P. Costa.
Since 1976 the site has been surveyed by the French Mission in the Yemen Arab Republic (MAFRAY), which published the inscriptions and the plan of the rampart (Robin & Ryckmans 1980; Robin & Breton 1981; Breton 1994).
No archaeological excavations were carried out.
General descriptionThe intra muros space measures 140 m (width) and 220 m (length). The surface is more than 3 ha, with a series of small mounds probably the remnant of a habitat formed by a stone basement and a superstructure in mudbricks.
Philby interpreted the presence to the north-west of the site of numerous sherds and fragments of kiln wall fragments as indicators of the presence of workshops.

The site is surrounded by a rampart with an irregular shape. It included at least two doors. Several dedicatory inscriptions allowed the dating of the construction mainly to the reign of the Sabaean mukarrib Yathaʿʾamar Bayyîn, son of Sumhuʿalî, to that of Karibʾîl Watâr, son of Dhamarʿalî, and to that of Yadaʿʾîl Yanuf, son of Karibʾîl (end of the 8th-beginning of the 7th century BC).

1,5 km east of the site of al Asâḥil there is the hamlet of al-Durayb where several inscriptions from al-Asâḥil and Kharibat Saʿûd have been reemployed. It is evident that most of the inscriptions came from the neighbouring cities and were reemployed in al-Durayb. However, the existence of an ancient settlement seems to be attested by the presence on the ground of several pottery sherds including shapes from both the Islamic and South Arabian periods. The numerous dentil friezes, as well as the alabaster altar reemployed in the construction of the hamlet, might come from al-Durayb itself. Al-Durayb was probably a pre-Islamic sanctuary consecrated to ʿAthtar, if we accept that the inscription MAFRAY-ad Durayb 7 is local. In this case, we would have an extra muros sanctuary close by al-Asâḥil.

The site is located in the middle of an important irrigated perimeter that extends over a surface of 500 ha. Several canals are visible in the aerial photographs, divided into secondary canals irrigating large parcels. These hydraulic structures are mentioned in inscriptions Gl 1563+1564 and YM 18352 from the 7th century BC.
ChronologyThe inscriptions, dated only to the period of the Sabaean mukarribs, and the archaeological vestiges suggest a brief occupation of the site. Its development continued throughout the 8th century BC, but the site was eventually abandoned around the 6th-5th century BC, if we consider the surface pottery material and the absence of later texts attesting any occupation.


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