Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions

Editor: Jérémie Schiettecatte


Ancient nameNs²qm
Geographical areaJawf - Wādī al-Buhayra
CoordinatesLatitude: 16° 10' 05"    Longitude: 44° 35' 55"    
Coordinates accuracyapproximate
Type of siteSettlement
TribeTribe: ʾns²qn (nisba for Ns²q)
Tribe: ʾs²qn (nisba for Ns²q)
Tribe: ʾs²s²n (nisba for Ns²n)
Tribe: Dʿmyn (nisba)
Tribe: Fys²n
Tribe: Kmnhw
Tribe: Mʾḏnyn (nisba for Mʾḏn)
Tribe: Ns²qyn (nisba for Ns²q)
Tribe: S¹bʾ
Tribe: Tnʿmm w-Tnʿmtm
Tribe: Wḍʿm
Tribe: Wnb
Tribe: Ys¹hr
Lineage: ʾrs³
Lineage: ʿblm
Lineage: ʿfm ʾmrn
Lineage: ʿqbm
Lineage: ʿṯkln
Lineage: ʿzzʾl
Lineage: ʾl Ḥmym
Lineage: Dws¹m
Lineage: Gdnm
Lineage: Glwm
Lineage: Grfm
Lineage: Ḥḍrn
Lineage: Ḥlḥlm
Lineage: Kbr-Ḫll
Lineage: Mḏb
Lineage: Mrfdm
Lineage: Mrn
Lineage: Rs²wn
Lineage: Rymn
Lineage: S¹ḥr w-Kbs¹yn
Lineage: S²llm
Lineage: Wḍʿm
Lineage: Wqr
ʾlmqh bʿl bkln Ns²qm
ʾlmqh bʿl Myfʿm
ʾlmqh bʿl S²bʿn
ʾlmqh S²ym
ʾlmqhw bʿl S²bʿn
ʾrnydʿ S²ymn
ʿṯtr S²rqn
S²ms¹ mlkn Tnf
Wdm ḏ-Myfʿ
StructuresDwelling (indeterminate)
Dwelling (concentrated)
Light hydraulic structure (ex. canal, well)
Building with political function
Small temple
Rock inscriptions
Location and toponomyThe site of al-Bayḍāʾ is located in the middle valley of the Jawf, 115 km north-west of Maʾrib, 18 km west of al-Ḥazm. It is on the left bank of the wādī al-Buhayra, an affluent of wādī Madhāb, 4 km upstream from the nearby site of as-Sawdāʾ, the ancient Ns²n.

Ancient toponymy: Ns²q
Al-Hamdānī (10th cent. AD) mentions the site with its modern name, al-Baydāʾ, but at that time, the inhabitants of the area still bear the name of an-Nashqayyūn, bearing witness to the ancient toponym.
History of researchDiscovery
1869-70: J. Halévy - it is probably the result of research by the guide H. Ḥabshūsh. Site description; copy of 74 inscriptions.

Visits and surveys
1947: A. Fakhry
1980-81: MAFRAY: survey, mapping of the rampart layout (Robin 1981: 152; Breton 1994: 95-97).
General descriptionAl-Bayḍāʾ is one of the largest archaeological sites in South Arabia. Its intra muros extension covers 15 ha. Numerous small mounds bear witness to the existence of residential structures formed by a stone basement surmounted by a super-structure in mud-bricks.

A rampart 1500 m long encloses the site. It is interrupted by a single gate. The fortification works have been attested on the site since the end of the 8th century BC; they were carried out under the king of Nashshān, Lbʾn Ydʿ bn Ydʿʾb. A generation later, other fortification works have been attested under the reign of the mukarrib of Sabaʾ Krbʾl Wtr bn Ḏmrʿly, together with the settlement of Sabaean peoples in the city.
Complementary works and restoration works are carried out shortly after. A gate is built under the reign of the mukarrib Smhʿly bn Ydʿʾl Ḏrḥ (mid-7th cent. BC). Around the 6th cent. BC, some towers are built by the king of Kmnhw, ʾlsmʿ Nbṭ bn Nbṭʿly, as tribute to the Sabaean king Ydʿʾl Byn bn Yṯʿʾmr Wtr.

Only one temple is known by its remains: it is the intra muros sanctuary belonging to the temples known as “Banāt ʿĀd”. There is nothing suggesting for which divinity this sanctuary was dedicated to.
The texts mention three main deities in the city:
- The goddess ʿṯtr ḏt-Ns²qm / ḏt-Ns²qm seems closely linked to the city of Nashq. If it is not certain that there was a temple consecrated to dhāt-Nashq in situ, the hypothesis is nonetheless highly probable.
- The cult of ʾlmqh, the tutelary deity of the Sabaean pantheon, is introduced to the city in the 7th century BC. We know of two temples dedicated to him: the temple Myfʿm and the temple S²bʿn consecrated to ʾlmqh bʿl S²bʿn. In the 1st-3rd cent. AD, this cult was the most important in the city, and it survived up to the beginning of the 4th century.
- A cult existed also for ʾrnydʿ in the 8th-7th cent. BC, and in the 1st cent. AD.

The site of al-Bayḍāʾ is encircled by a large irrigated perimeter marked by a sedimentary accumulation about 10 m thick. The numerous inscriptions recall irrigated territories (CIH 610), palm trees (Ja 555), vineyards (YM 23206), orchards and fields (RÉS 4188, DhM 208).
ChronologyThe most ancient mention of Nashq dates back to the end of the 8th century BC (AO 31930). It was then a fortified site under the authority of Nashshān. After its integration in the kingdom of Sabaʾ, the city was colonised by a Sabaean population.
In the 1st century BC, Strabo reports that the expedition of the Roman army under Aelius Gallus seized the city. Pliny recalls the destruction of the city of Nesca (Nashq).
Nashq resurrects itself and becomes a strategic Sabaean garrison against the incursions of Arabian tribes and against Ḥaḍramawt. In the 2nd century, the city grew; Claudius Ptolemy (Geogr. vi, 7, 35) qualifies it as μητρόπολις. The city becomes one of the prestigious centres of the kingdom of Sabaʾ, mentioned in the triad of the prominent Sabaean cities (Marib, Nashq et Ruḥābatān dans Ja 645 ; Marib, Ṣanʿā and Nashq in Ja 577 and Marib, Nashq and Nashshān in Fa 76).
After the annexation of the kingdom of Sabaʾ by Ḥimyar, the city becomes a military centre for a short time span (Ja 664, Ja 665, Ir 32). It is mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus (Res Gestae XXIII, 6, 47) at the end of the 4th century as one of the seven most important cities of Arabia Felix.
The word hajarayn («the two cities»), mentioned in the Book of Ḥimyarites and in the inscription RIÉth 195-II with reference to the events linked to the fall of king Yūsuf Asʾar Yathʾar (522-525), seems to define Nashq (al-Bayḍāʾ) and Nashshān (as-Sawdāʾ) (Robin 2004: 119-120). This may indicate that Nashq is still prosperous at the end of the South Arabian period.
In the 10th cent. AD, al-Hamdānī qualified the site as maḥfad (citadel).
Classical sourcesStrabo, Geogr. 16, 4, 24 (1st cent. BC): Άσκα
Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, VI, 32, 155/160 (1st cent. AD) : Nascus/Nesca
Claudius Ptolemy, Geogr. 6.7.35 (2nd cent. AD): Νάσκος
Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 23, 6, 47 (4th cent. AD): Nascos


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east of Ḥizmat aṣ-Ṣanaf (Unknown)
near Jār al-Labbā (Unknown)




Arbach and Audouin 2007: 33-38Arbach, Mounir and Audouin, Rémy 2007. Collection of Epigraphic and Archaeological Artifacts from al-Jawf Sites. Ṣanʿâʾ National Museum. 2. Ṣanʿāʾ: UNESCO-SFD / Ṣanʿāʾ: National Museum. [Text in English and Arabic]
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Doe 1983: 105-106, 112-113Doe, D. Brian 1983. Monuments of South Arabia. (Arabia past and present, 12). Naples: The Falcon Press / Cambridge: The Oleander press.
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