Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte

Site Plan
de Maigret and Robin 2006: fig. 1
By kind permission of Missione Archeologica Italiana nella Repubblica dello Yemen (©MAIRY)


Ancient nameTmnʿ
Geographical areaWādī Bayḥān
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 1' 11.3"    Longitude: 45° 48' 16.3"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: ʾʾdmn (nisba)
Tribe: Ġryn (nisba)
Tribe: Mʿnm
Tribe: Qtbn
Tribe: Ṭbnn
Lineage: ʾʿs¹yfr
Lineage: ʾbm
Lineage: ʾbn
Lineage: ʾgln
Lineage: ʾgrm
Lineage: ʾḥrbn
Lineage: ʾlkr
Lineage: ʾnw
Lineage: ʿbydm
Lineage: ʿgḏ
Lineage: ʿls³n
Lineage: ʿmʾ
Lineage: ʿmrt
Lineage: ʿṯtrm
Lineage: Bws¹m
Lineage: Byḥn
Lineage: Dnm
Lineage: Ḏhbn
Lineage: Ḏmrn
Lineage: Ḏrʾn
Lineage: Ḏrḥ
Lineage: Ḏrḥn
Lineage: Fhdm
Lineage: Fqḍn
Lineage: Gʾnn
Lineage: Gʿrn
Lineage: Grbm
Lineage: Hnʿmt
Lineage: Hrmw
Lineage: Hrn
Lineage: Hs²mr
Lineage: Hṣbḥ
Lineage: Hṯʿr
Lineage: Hṯb
Lineage: Hwfʿm
Deitiesʾl S³ḥrm
ʾnby S²ymn
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm bʿl Ḥṭb
ʿm ḏ-Dwnm bʿl S³dw
ʿm ḏ-Dymt
ʿm ḏ-Lbḫ
ʿm ḏ-Mbrqm
ʿm ḏ-Rbḥw
ʿm ḏ-Rymtm
ʿm Ryʿn
ʿṯtr ḏ-S¹ʾll
ʿṯtr Mlkn bʿl Bnʾ
ʿṯtr Nwfn
ʿṯtr S²rqn
Bʿl Yfʿn
Bʿl Yġl
Bnty ʾl
ḏt-Ḥmym ʿṯtr Yġl
ḏt-Ḥmym ḏt-ʾdhnm
ḏt-Ṣntm bʿl Qlbn
Ḥwkm ḏ-ʾmr
Qny Hwrn
Wrfw ʾmr ʿm
Wrfw ḏ-Lfn
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Market place
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Large hydraulic structure (ex. dam)
Wells, cisterns
Building with political function
Small temple
Pilgrimage temple
Rock inscriptions
LanguageSabaic, Qatabanic
General descriptionExtension: 23 ha. The site was encircled by a defence wall measuring about 680 x 420 m, and whose length has been estimated in 1850 m. The mound has a height of 20 m in respect to the surrounding valley (to be partly attributed to a natural elevation). It has remained abandoned since its last destruction in antiquity, and only its SE edge is now occupied by a modern settlement.
Chronology[By A. Agostini]
Probes carried out by the Italian Mission have revealed that the settlement has been inhabited since the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. A hiatus has been detected and dated between the 6th and the 5th centuries BC, while the apogee was during the 5th – 1st centuries BC. During the 1st century AD Timnaʿ suffered two major destructions, all archaeologically documented (fire traces) and dated thanks to the finding of imported pottery (mainly Arretine ware and Near Eastern Sigillata). At the second half of the 1st century AD the site has probably already lost its capital status, which was transferred to the nearby site of Hajar ibn Ḥumayd. The kingdom was soon afterwards definitely conquered by Ḥaḍramawt.
Classical sourcesEratosthenes of Cyrene, in Strabo, Geogr. 16, 4, 2 (1st cent. BC): Τάμνα
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, VI, 32, 153 (1st cent. AD): Thomna
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, XII, 32, 64 (1st cent. AD): Thomna
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.31, 37 (2nd cent. AD): Θούμνα
Identification1895: E. Glaser
Travellers1899: G.W. Bury
1936: S. Perowne
Archaeological missions1950-1952: AFSM (USA)
1967: Brian Doe (UK)
1989-1992: MAFRY (France)
1999-2009: MAIRY (Italy)


[By A. Agostini] South-West gate: Two massive bastions (11 x 5 m) frame the entrance. They have both an ample vane at their interior and they have been realized using imposing granite blocks (e.g. 1.70 x 2.80 m) which have been also incised with important legal inscriptions (e.g. RES 3878, 3879) or recalling construction activities. The passage is 5.50 m large (externally) and 4.20 (at the interior of the town) and was originally paved and with two benches on each lateral side, while a small staircase was put against the eastern bastion. No traces of a closing device of the doorway have been detected. North-West gate: Only construction inscriptions (MAFYS-Timna 2-5 and MAFYS-Timna 1) allow so far the reconstruction of this gate, which has not been excavated scientifically and has moreover suffered an intense pillaging. According to the texts, these gates were formed by a massive granite basement (like that still visible in the SW Gate) which sustained an upper structure made in wood and mud bricks. Limestone and calcite-alabaster blocks enriched this upper part.

  • photoSouth Gate
  • photoSouth Gate
[By A. Agostini] This building is located in the NE area of the town and its basement measures about 48 x 37 m. It has rectangular plan and is made by two main structures. The first is an ample court (17 x 12 m), with a portico in two sides shading some closed rooms behind (probably storerooms), the northern side of the court has a broad limestone staircase which was the main entrance to the building. Another small entrance was through a smaller set of steps on the southern side. The main body was on a big platform realized with big irregular granite blocks (e.g. 32 x 25, 5 m height). The external walls are regularly spaced by recesses (2 for each side). The passage from the court to the main building was via a propylon with 8 pillars. These pillars, of which no trace remains, were measuring 55 x 40 cm, according to the sockets on the sustaining monolithic blocks. The basement is internally characterized by irregularly dimensioned rooms, with no reciprocal communication and which served as foundations. A long, and still open, debate was about the function of this building, since it has been identified firstly with the ʿAthtar Temple (AFSM) and with the Royal Palace (MAFRY). Recently the hypothesis has been put forward that it may have had both administrative and religious functions, thus representing together Ḥrb and Ḥṭb, as the Royal Palace and the ʿAmm Temple are respectively named in inscriptions and coins from the town (MAIRY).

  • photoAerial View of TT1
  • photoPlan of the TT1 after the study by the Italian Mission
[By A. Agostini] It is located on the NW limit of the site, on a rectangular platform (23 x 20 m) made by hewn granite blocks. The access was via a long staircase, but very narrow in respect to the breadth of the façade (8 x 4.5 m). Two smaller stairs have been later added at both sides of the main one. The major structure was approached after having passed through a small antechamber, which was on the top of the main staircase. It was probably decorated by a prostylon. The main temple body was centred on a big hall with several small rooms at the lateral sides. The whole structure is however very damaged due to recent military activities carried out above this area. In front of the western wall of the façade a circular well, realized with hewn limestone blocks, was in use in an earlier phase, since it has consequently been sealed by one of the lateral stairs. The visible ruins should be dated between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD, thus concurrently with the last period of the town itself. A probe has revealed more ancient levels under a period of abandonment (between the 6th and the 5th centuries BC), in which structures had a very different orientation and different technique (e.g. mud bricks). To this earliest phase carinated pottery has been associated, thus it should be dated to the 8th or 7th centuries BC, thanks to comparison with potsherd coming from Hajar ibn Ḥumayd or Yalā. One more ancient level has been detected, which should be dated to the beginning of 1st millennium BC.

  • photoAthirat Temple
[By A. Agostini] The Italian Mission has recently unearthed an ample space which is located on the western area of the settlement and which has been identified with the Market Square, mainly thanks to the presence there of the so-called 'Obelisk' where the Mercantile Code is inscribed (RES 4337). The square is encircled by several buildings, of which those standing on the southern and eastern sides have been excavated. They have been identified with private houses (Houses A-K), moreover probably belonging to a high social level engaged with commercial activities. They reveal different construction techniques. House H ('Palace' Ḫmrn), for instance, has a mighty basement made by megalithic and irregular granite blocks, while others (e.g. House I) used same material, but worked in smaller blocks, with squared sides and faces slightly domed. A big fire caused the destruction of these structures and the analysis of the collapsed materials showed that upper floors (which have been estimated to be at least two, considering the basements' dimensions) where made with a wood skeleton supporting mud bricks walls. These upper storeys were probably externally decorated by several limestone or calcite-alabaster blocks. The basement indicates also the internal plan of these houses, which were of a tripartite form, with a long paved corridor dividing opposite facing rooms. A stair leading to upper floors was probably located at the bottom of the corridor or against one of the external short walls. Other houses have been excavated by the preceding archaeological missions (e.g. Houses S²bʿn and Wṯʿn by B. Doe), but the most outstanding findings come from those dug by the American Mission in the Fifties. In houses Yfʿm and Yfs², in fact, bronze objects have been found, like two cherubs on lions and a feminine statue, all revealing a sensible influence from the Hellenistic world. Such influence has been here detectable until the last phase of the site.

  • photoHouses excavated by the Italian Mission in the Market Square


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near Ḥayd Ibn ʿAqīl (Unknown)




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