Corpus of Early Sabaic Inscriptions (work in progress)

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameṢrwḥ
Geographical areaṢirwāḥ
CoordinatesLatitude: 15° 27' 6"    Longitude: 45° 1' 4"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: Ḍmrn
Tribe: Ḏrʾn
Tribe: Fys²n
Tribe: Ḫll
Tribe: Mydʿyn (nisba)
Tribe: Nhmynhn (nisba)
Tribe: Nzḥt
Tribe: S¹bʾ
Tribe: Ṣrwḥ; ʾṣrḥn (nisba); ṣrwḥyn (nisba)
Tribe: Ṣrwḥ w-Ḫwln Ḫḍlm
Tribe: Ṣrwḥ w-Ḫwln Ḫḍlm w-Hynn
Tribe: Ṣrw w-Ḫwln w-Ḫblm w-Ḫynn
Tribe: Yhblḥ
Lineage: ʾlḏrʾ
Lineage: ʿdʾl
Lineage: ʿnmtn
Lineage: ʿnnn
Lineage: Bʿln
Lineage: Brʾn
Lineage: Brtn
Lineage: Ḏrʾn
Lineage: Fḍḥm
Lineage: Gdnm
Lineage: Ḫlfn
Lineage: Ḫll
Lineage: Ḥbb
Lineage: Ḥḏmt
Lineage: Ḥzfrm
Lineage: Kbr Ḫll
Lineage: Mbḥrt
Lineage: Mḥfdm
Lineage: Mlḥn
Lineage: Mwnyn
Lineage: Mwqṣm
Lineage: Nzḥtn
Lineage: Qlẓn
Lineage: Rfdn
Lineage: Rglm
Lineage: S²hrʿly
Lineage: Ṯbrm
Lineage: Ṯwrnhn
Lineage: Yfʿn
Lineage: Yḥmn
Lineage: Ykrb
Lineage: Yṣr
Lineage: Zʿmm
ʾlmqh bʿl ʾwʿln
ʾlmqh(w) bʿl ʾwʿl Ṣrwḥ
ʿṯtr S²ymm
ʿṯtr S²rqn
ʾmʿṯtr bʿlt Bnn
rbʿ-hmw Yhnʿm
Ṯr Bʿlm
S²ms¹-hmw ḏt-Ḫṭbm
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Wells, cisterns
Plot of cultivated land
Building with political function
Small temple
Pilgrimage temple
Paved road
Rock inscriptions
General descriptionExtension: 3 / 4 ha. The site is located on a rocky outcrop 34 km W from Mārib. The intra muros site shows a considerable density of monumental buildings, while an urban settlement was laying in the extra muros area. The surroundings have been investigated in order to clarify the various economic sources to which the settlement was relying on. Many structural interventions were made in order to manage the hydraulic resources of the area. It is moreover clear that the calcite-alabaster extractions, from the near Jabal al-Makhdara quarry, had an important role in the commercial activities. Walled systems encircle some of the hills and mountains around the site (the longest of these is 1 km long) and, even if their function is still under debate, they have been provisionally connected with cattle farming.
ChronologyThe most ancient structures of the site date back to the end of 8th century BC (part of the city walls and oval temple). Other interventions can be dated to a later period, like the Administrative Building, whose first phase should be dated to the 2nd century BC and the last one to the first centuries AD.
Identification1843: T. Arnaud
Travellers1970: J. Halévy
1947: A. Fakhry
1955: F. Geukens
Archaeological missions1965: C. Robin (France)
1979/80; 1991/94 and since 2001: DAI (Germany)


The ancient defensive structure has been heavily damaged by intense pillage, but some preserved portions are in the NE area, and they should have been characterized by projections and recesses. Its original length should have been around 780 m. They draw a nearly quadrilateral plan measuring about 210 m for each side. Many portions of this enclosure have been erected directly on the bedrock. The oval temple apse was breaking its regularity (see below), but the structure have been moreover characterized by different techniques and materials, and even quality levels were inhomogeneous. Inscriptions record royal interventions in the city walls from the beginning of 7th century BC until the 1st century BC. Eight are the most imposing buildings detected inside the walls and, amongst these, five should be recognized as sacral structures. This identification was helped by the fact that later Islamic interventions on the site have not been much invasive (like the Islamic tower built over the temple's outer wall at S).
As the Awwām temple in Mārib, this temple is characterized by its oval wall and both were in fact destination of important pilgrimages devoted to the same principal Sabaean god. Access to the sanctuary was via two different propila, both originally with 6 pillars. Those entrances, although being in axis to each other, are both positioned northward in respect of the longitudinal axis of the oval area. These two entrances are separated by a broad rectangular courtyard, which is paved by stone slabs. The second pillared entrance leads to the oval court, again paved, which can be considered as a protruding extension from the original city walls line. Inside this area, which was the real hearth of the sanctuary, some cultic installations are preserved, like banquets, benches and altars. Several banqueting areas have been detected, one of these was realized in the southern edge of the oval court, just on the right from the second propylon. At the centre of the courtyard, on two facing walls, are located important annalistic inscriptions: the well-known RES 3945-3946 (Karibʾīl Watār son of Dhamarʿalī) and the recently discovered DAI- Ṣirwaḥ 50 (Yathaʿʾmar Watār son of Yakrubmalik). The area encircled by the oval wall measures internally about 34 x 33 m and this is realized with the casemate techniques, the stone blocks are of the highest ashlar quality, and one row of the external surface is engraved with a continuous line of ibex heads. According to excavations and textual documentation, we can observe a very long usage of this structure: from the end of the 8th century BC until the first centuries AD.

  • photoTemple of Almaqah, external view.
  • photoAlmaqah Temple, the court inside the temple.
  • photoAlmaqah Temple, internal court with Karibʾīl Watar inscription.
Of this massive structure only the stone basement remains (10 m high), though allowing a reliable reconstruction of its original layout. The plan is rectangular and shows multiple squared rooms, distributed in U-shape around an internal court surrounded by walls or a gallery, from which a podium is accessible. The building was originally erected in the 2nd or 1st century BC, but traces of a later intervention with wood pillars and mud brick have also been documented (4th – 5th century AD).
The funerary area is concentrated southward from the city walls. The stone structures so far investigated are very similar to the mausoleums which the same German Mission excavated just outside the Awwām Temple in Mārib. They are in fact rectangular multi-storey buildings with two rooms close to each other and some subterranean chambers. All of them have been found empty from human bones and grave goods.


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Further excavations will be concentrating in an ʿAthtar temple and in another structure known as 'Five Pillars Building' (A. Agostini).


west of Jabal Kawfal (Unknown)
west of al-Mashjaḥ (Unknown)




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