Corpus of Oasis North Arabian Inscriptions (work in progress)

Editor: Alessio Agostini

Jebel Dedan with rock tombs, al-Khurayba (al-ʿUlā)
al-Saʿīd 2010: 262


Ancient nameDdn
CountrySaudi Arabia
Geographical areaḤijāz
KingdomDadan, Liḥyān (Maʿīn), urban site.
CoordinatesLatitude: 26° 39' 21.6"    Longitude: 37° 54' 49.3"    
Coordinates accuracyapproximate
General descriptionThis important settlement is located in one of the major oases of NW Arabia. The ancient site has been identified with the ruins of Ḫurayba, about 6 km N of the modern village of al-ʿUlā and 18 km S of Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ. The ancient settlement of Dadan (Biblical Dedān) runs for 1 km alongside the sandstone cliffs of a large valley which was intensively cultivated in the past, thanks to very favourable hydrological conditions which were further enhanced by a complex system of subterranean conduits (qanāts). The oasis lies at a strategic point on the caravan routes between South Arabia and the Levant.
ChronologyIn the mid-6th century BC, Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, captured the six principal oases on the northern section of the trans-Arabian caravan route, including Dadan, the king of which he claimed to have killed. He then settled in the oasis of Taymāʾ, to the north-east of Dadan, between 552 and 543 BC. After this we hear no more about the kingdom of Dadan and instead the kingdom of Liḥyān made the oasis its capital and eventually conquered Taymāʾ. In the second half of the 1st millennium BC, there was a Minaean trading post at Dadan and its merchants and their families have left many inscriptions there. In the list at Maʿīn (Qrnw) of the foreign women married by Minaean men, those from Dadan are the second largest number (9) after those from Gaza (25). It is not known when the kingdom of Liḥyān came to an end, but by the turn of the era the Nabataeans had created the city of Ḥegrā (modern Madāʾin Ṣāliḥ) some 18 km to the north of the oasis and were already dominating the northern end of the frankincense route.
Identification1876: C. Doughty
Travellers1876: C.M. Doughty
1878–82: C. Huber
1883 / 84: C. Huber and J. Euting
1953: H.St.J.B. Philby and R. Bogue
1968: W.P. Hill [at the behest of A. Jamme]
Archaeological missions1909, 1910: A. Jaussen and R. Savignac
1962: F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed
1968: P.J. Parr, G. Lankester Harding and J.E. Dayton
1968: R. Stiehl
1978–81: ʿA.A. Naṣīf
1991–1993: Ḥ. Abū ʾl-Ḥasan
since 2004: King Saud University


[By A. Agostini] The most important remains are the funerary chambers which were cut into the sandstone cliffs running NW to SE. Several different tomb types have been discovered, but the most dramatic are those cut directly into the rock. They are plain rectangular loculi, though in two cases the entrances have been decorated with sculpted lions in relief above the upper corners of the opening. These chambers are between approximately 0.60 and 0.75 m wide and 0.75 and 0.90 m high, and generally just over 2.00 m deep. Some have Minaic inscriptions incised beside or above them, others have Dadanitic. There are also a number of cist graves.

  • photoRock Tomb at al-Khurayba
[By A. Agostini] Only the remains of two parallel walls are visible, delimiting an area at the centre of which is a huge cylindrical sandstone basin (diameter 3.7 m) which was probably positioned at the centre of the temple court. In this area, the torsos of huge ancient statues have been discovered, which suggest Egyptian influence. The recent excavations of King Saud University have clarified the distribution of three religious buildings standing on this area. The first is 15 x 11 m and was built of the local red sandstone and mud bricks. The second measures 16 x 13 m, and consists of a northern terrace, supported by 4 stone pillars, leading to the centre of the sanctuary. A smaller terrace 3 x 1.5 m was also linked to this building.

  • photoReligious Structures
  • photoMale Statue
  • photoMale Statue
  • photoMale Head
  • photoAltar or Incense Burner


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The ruins of Ḫirbat al-Ḫurayba cover an area measuring about 800 x 250 m. There are some remains of an ancient defensive structure and some scattered traces of what was probably an ancient sanctuary. The excavations by King Saud University are continuing.


south-east of al-ʿUdhayb (Unknown)




al-Saʿīd 2010: 262-269al-Saʿīd, Saʿīd F. 2010. Dedan (al-Ula). Pages 262-269 in Alī I. Al-Ghabbān, Béatrice André-Salvini, Françoise Demange, Carine Juvin and Marianne Cotty (eds). Routes d'Arabie. Archéologie et histoire du royaume d'Arabie Saoudite. Catalogue Exposition Louvre Museum (14 juillet - 27 septembre 2010). Paris: Somogy.
Farès-Drappeau 2005Farès-Drappeau, Saba 2005. Dédan et Liḥyân. Histoire des Arabes aux confins des pouvoirs perse et hellénistique (IVe-IIe s. avant l'ère chrétienne). (Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Mediterranée, 42). Lyon: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée; J. Pouilloux.
Jaussen and Savignac 1914Jaussen, Antonin J. and Savignac, M. Raphael 1914. Mission archéologique en Arabie. II. El-ʿEla, d'Hégra à Teima, Harrah de Tebouk. (Publications de la Société française des fouilles archéologiques, 2). Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner.
Nasif 1980: 75-80Naṣīf, A.A. 1980. Qanats at al-ʿUla. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 10: 75-80.
Nasif 1998Naṣīf, A.A. 1998. Al-ʿUlā. An historical and archaeological survey with special reference to its irrigation system. Riyadh: King Saud University Press.
Parr, Harding and Dayton 1970: 193-242Parr, P.J., Harding, G. Lankester and Dayton, John E. 1970. Preliminary survey in N.W. Arabia, 1968. Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, 8-9: 193-242.
Parr, Harding and Dayton 1972: 23-61Parr, P.J., Harding, G. Lankester and Dayton, John E. 1972. Preliminary survey in N.W. Arabia, 1968. Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, 10: 23-61.
Winnett and Reed 1970Winnett, Fred V. and Reed, W.L. 1970. Ancient Records from North Arabia. With contribution by Joseph Thadée Milik and Jean Starcky. (Near and Middle East series, 6). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.