Small Business & Entrepreneurship

Palaeography of the Ancient South Arabian script. New evidence for an absolute chronology. In: Arabian archaeology and epigraphy 24 (2013), pp. 186-195

Palaeography of the Ancient South Arabian script. New evidence for an absolute chronology. In: Arabian archaeology and epigraphy 24 (2013), pp. 186-195
of 10
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Related Documents
  Palaeography of the Ancient South Arabian script. New evidence for an absolute chronology The chronology of the Ancient South Arabian civilisation in the  fi rst millennium BChas always been based on palaeography. In the past, however, palaeographical com- parison of the extant inscriptions was in fact the only reliable tool for historical recon-struction of that period; absolute dates were con fi ned to the alleged synchronism of the Sabaean ruler Karib ʾ il Watar in Assyrian sources in the early seventh century BC.Only recently have some Ancient South Arabian inscriptions come to light, which aredated according to an absolute (foreign) era and thus allow us, for the  fi rst time, todetermine the absolute date of a particular ductus of the script in that period. Further-more, the radiocarbon analyses of a number of inscribed wooden sticks from ancient Yemen have helped to establish a reliable chronology for this particular type of docu-mentation as well (see Drewes  et al  ., this volume). Based on this new evidence, the paper gives a general overview of the development of the Ancient South Arabianscript from its emergence in the late second millennium BC up to the latest instancesin the mid-sixth century AD. The different periods of both monumental and minus-cule variants of this script are characterised by representative examples of establishedchronology in order to provide some reliable cornerstones for dating epigraphic mate-rial from pre-Islamic Yemen. Keywords:  chronology of Ancient South Arabia, Ancient South Arabian script, palaeography, monumental script ( musnad  ), minuscule script (  zab  ur  ) Peter Stein Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Theologische Fakultät,F € urstengraben 6, 07743, Jena,Germany e-mail: Irrespective of an altogether fairly long tradition of scien-ti fi c research, the penetration of central aspects of Ancient South Arabian epigraphy has been rather long in coming.Although the  fi rst inscriptions from pre-Islamic Yemenwere discovered 200 years ago, their script was entirelydeciphered only in the 1870s. 1 That the script of thesestone and rock inscriptions was only one (and probablythe smaller) part of South Arabian writing culture wasdetected again only 100 years later by the discovery of everyday correspondence on wooden sticks. Likewise, thechronological framework of the written evidence had beendisputed by generations of scholars, resulting in the estab-lishment of two main chronologies, a  ‘ long ’  and a  ‘ short  ’ one, and consequently in rather diverging proposals for the starting point of Ancient South Arabian civilisationeither in the early or in the mid- fi rst millennium BC. Thesetwo chronologies, which in fl uenced historical researchover decades during the past century, were mainly basedon two palaeographical  ‘ systems ’ : that of J. Pirenne(1956) and that of H. von Wissmann (mainly 1976 and1982).Although the so-called  ‘ long ’  chronology has mean-while prevailed, neither the starting point of Ancient South Arabian writing culture nor the exact chronologyof its early development could so far be determined. Theonly anchor in absolute chronology for the entire  fi rst millennium BC had been the alleged synchronism of theSabaean Mukarrib Karib ʾ il Watar in the early seventhcentury BC (see below, phase B). All periods prior or after this particular ruler (up to the turning point of theChristian era) had only loosely been structured by meansof internal chronology, almost exclusively based on pal- 1 For early research history in this  fi eld see Stein, forthcoming. 186   Arab. arch. epig. 2013: 186   –  195 (2013) Printed in Singapore. All rights reserved   aeographical comparison of the extant inscriptions. Thehistorical framework resulting from this internal chronol-ogy, as established by von Wissmann (1982) and nowa-days widely accepted by the scienti fi c community, hasserved as the main tool not only for dating inscriptionsand the historical events mentioned therein, but also todetermine the emergence of Ancient South Arabian civili-sation (at least as far as its identity in written sources isconcerned) about the (early) eighth  –  ninth century BC.In the past few years, however, a number of entirelynew data have come to light, which enable us not only torede fi ne the starting point of Ancient South Arabian writ-ing, but also reliably to  fi x the internal chronology of the fi rst millennium by clear absolute dates for some palaeo-graphically representative inscriptions. One part of thisevidence is the correspondence on wooden sticks, a mate-rial that is essentially ready for radiocarbon analysis andhas revealed particular data for the very early phase of writing. The other is formed by some recently publishedmonumental inscriptions, which contain foreign datingformulae. These absolute dates in the Seleucid and the Na- bataean eras, respectively, allow us for the  fi rst time reli-ably to assign the palaeographical ductus of particular inscriptions from the  fi rst millennium BC to a certain year.These spectacular new  fi ndings give reason enough toreconsider the entire chronological framework of theAncient South Arabian script.In order to give a representative picture of the develop-ment in its entirety, the generally much better documented post-Christian periods are described rather comprehen-sively, exhibiting the ductus of selected inscriptions of established date, separated from each other by about twocenturies. We thus get a sequence of a particular ductus of the monumental as well as the minuscule scripts, whichillustrates the palaeographical development of the Ancient South Arabian script overall in fairly regular stages of 200  –  300 years. Proceeding from a particular inscription,the date of which is more or less certainly established, themain characteristics of each stage in the palaeographicaldevelopment will be outlined. This description accompa-nies facsimile illustrations of the particular letter formsfrom the inscriptions in question (Figs 1  –  2). The Ancient South Arabian script: monumental andminuscule The so-called Ancient South Arabian script, consisting of twenty-nine consonant letters, was in use in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula from the late second millen-nium BC up to the late sixth century AD, just before thearrival of Islam. Although a close connection with the Northwest Semitic scripts in Ugarit and Palestine is beyond doubt, the actual genesis of the South Arabianalphabet has not yet been revealed. For a long time it wascommonly accepted that the use of script in South Arabiaarose, quite suddenly and in a rather elaborate way, in theeighth, perhaps even the ninth century BC, without anyvisible traces of primitive development or derivation. Theearliest known inscriptions, written on stone blocks or rock surfaces, present themselves in a perfectly developedshape, which had only gradually to be improved towardsthe  ‘ classic ’  style of the great monumental inscriptionsunder the Sabaean ruler Karib ʾ il Watar in the early seventhcentury BC. Apart from some isolated words painted on pottery from the late second millennium  —   their actualrelation to the later stone inscriptions could not be clari fi ed  Fig. 1. The development of the Ancient South Arabian monumental script. 187  PALAEOGRAPHY OF THE SOUTH ARABIAN SCRIPT   —   thus far there was no evidence of any primitive devel-opment in the South Arabian script.Only in the 1970s did the  fi rst evidence of everydaycorrespondence from Ancient South Arabia come to light.Unlike the inscriptions on metal or stone known so far,this correspondence was written on wood  —   in the formof cigar-like sticks, cut from palm-leaf stalks or branchesof other kinds of wood. Thanks to radiocarbon analysis,the oldest pieces can be dated to the earliest phases of Ancient South Arabian history and thus  fi ll in the gapthat was left by other epigraphical remains. Theseinscribed sticks comprise all kinds of legal and businessdocuments, correspondence, oracular requests and evenschool writing exercises. These handy sticks are the most easily prepared writing material imaginable. Just cut off the tree, the wood is ready to be inscribed immediately,without any further preparation of its surface (apart from,in some cases, stripping off the bark around it). Thescript was incised with a pointed style, a practice that isknown from wax tablets in the ancient world. Applied towood, however, this method of writing is unique in theancient Near East and beyond. A  fi rst comprehensiveinvestigation of the palaeographical development of this particular script was published by J. Ryckmans in this journal more than ten years ago (2001). The essentialaccuracy of his relative chronology would fortunatelylater be proved by the radiocarbon analysis of representa-tive sticks. It is very fortunate that the publication of these analyses coincides with that of the present paper (Drewes  et al  ., this volume).It is important to know that both types of script arealmost completely restricted to a particular writing sup- port: the cursive script to the wooden sticks and the monu-mental script to all other material. The cursive script occurs randomly on rock surfaces or stone objects, per-haps the result of a scribe writing when the mood took him. 2 The wooden sticks, however, are exclusivelyinscribed with the cursive script, with no single instance of any use of monumental letters on them. 3 Since the monu-mental script has been known for a much longer time, wewill begin with this. Palaeographical development of the monumentalscript (Fig. 1) The specimens of letter forms presented in the table here(Fig. 1) are drawn from particular authentic inscriptions.Each column represents a characteristic example of a cer-tain chronological period, separated from each other by aspan of 2  –  4 centuries. Since the letter forms are takenfrom particular inscriptions, not all positions could be fi lled in, leaving some gaps for one or other letter in a cer-tain period. The classi fi cation of the periods was made ona practical basis, by naming the main phases of Ancient South Arabian history (called Early, Middle and Late Sa- baic) simply by the capital letters B, C and D. The letter Astands for the oldest phase of the script, called  ‘ archaic ’ . It should be emphasised that this classi fi cation system is not compatible with other systems in the older literature, suchas those of H. von Wissmann and J. Pirenne, mentionedabove; similarly, any confusion with the chronologically  Fig. 2. The development of the Ancient South Arabian minuscule script. 2 For the few instances, see the references in Stein 2010: 18 n. 15;47 n. 204 (for ThUM 34). 3 That the minuscule script in its earliest phases clearly resemblesthe letter forms of the monumental script is self-evident, due to thecommon srcin of both types of script. 188 P. STEIN  different phases of the minuscule script should beavoided. 4 As for absolute chronology, spectacular newdata is presently available for the phases named C1 andC2. The particular inscriptions are dated to a foreign eraand thus allow, for the  fi rst time, an absolute dating of theAncient South Arabian script in the second half of the  fi rst millennium BC. A1 : the oldest instances of Ancient South Arabian script are painted pottery sherds from Rayb  un in  Ḥ a ḍ ramawt,which are commonly dated to the late second millenniumBC. 5 These contain isolated words (proper names) or evensingle letters, so that it has been impossible to determinethe language behind them. The connection of these isolateditems with the much more elaborate inscriptions of the fol-lowing periods had remained unclear for a long time. Onlythe consistent sequence of the minuscule script in the early period (see below) could substantiate the assumption of anunbroken continuity between these early letter forms andthe writing ductus of the following stage A2. A2 : the second column in Figure 1 contains samples of the letter shapes of several inscriptions that are certainlylater than those under A1, but palaeographically older thanthe following period B. 6 The actual age of these forms isnot   fi rmly established; traditionally they have been datedup to a few generations before Karib ʾ il Watar, hence intothe eighth, perhaps even the (late) ninth, century BC (vonWissmann 1982: 145  –  147). They just   fi ll in the gap between the early sherds from Rayb  un (phase A1) and the ‘ classical ’  period  c. 700 BC (B), and may thus be attributedto the tenth  –  eighth centuries BC. Together with phase A1,this pre-classical stage may be called  ‘ archaic ’ . B : the  fi rst phase of script that can be dated with cer-tainty is shown in the third column of Figure 1. These areletters from one of the largest texts from Ancient Arabia  —   the famous  res gestae  of the Sabaean ruler Karib ʾ il Wa-tar, son of   Ḏ amar  ʿ al  ī  , written on two 7 m-long stone blocksin the temple of the main Sabaean deity Almaqah in the cityof   Ṣ irw  a ḥ , 40 km west of M  arib (RES 3945 + 3946, see photographs in Robin & Vogt 1997: 96  –  97). Thanks to asynchronism with Assyria, this inscription can be dated tothe early seventh century BC. 7 The shape of the letters inthis text is extraordinarily well developed, keeping strictlyto the following geometric rules:  —  The script is strictly rectangular and of constant and parallel lineation. Within one text the width of alllines is identical. The round letters and segments, in particular the  w , are perfectly circular.  —  The letters ’  proportion (von Wissmann:  ‘ H € ohen-Brei-ten-Index ’ ) is 3:1, i.e. the height of each letter is threetimes its width (the circle-shaped letters  ʿ  and  w  donot follow this rule, of course).  —  Theverticalstructureofthelettersisalsointhreeparts:except for clearly symmetrical letters (such as  m ,  n ,  f  ,  ḍ  and the like and, again, the circle-shaped  ʿ   and  w ), thesigns are divided into three parts, each  fi lling a squareof equal size. Thus the upper parts of   h  and  ḥ  (the ‘ cup ’ )aswellasof  ʾ and  s ,forexample,areexactlyhalf thelengthofthelowerpartoftherespectiveletters.This plain and somehow perfect ductus, based on astrict geometrical system, has consequently been consid-ered a  ‘ standard ’  of script in the scholarly world, and takenas a measure for evaluating all other periods of Ancient South Arabian writing. C1 : the next palaeographical step with an absolute dateis marked by two inscriptions put up in the Sabaean cities 4 As long as there is no direct chronological correlation betweenthe palaeographical phases of monumental and minuscule script,they should not be numbered by the same system. Since a convinc-ing numbering system (with Roman numbers) was established for the minuscule script by J. Ryckmans, we prefer an alternative classi- fi cation system by letters for the monumental script. These lettersmust not be confused with the classi fi cation of the early South Ara- bian script by J. Pirenne (1956), who distinguished her phases of thescript of the  fi rst millennium BC by the letters A  –  E and respectivesubcategories. 5 For the evidence and its dating, see Sedov 1997: 43  –  47 and 94  –  95.  —  The ceramics found in Yal  a, a small site not far south of theSabaean capital M  arib, which are usually referred to as a chronolog-ical parallel to the early Rayb  un pottery (see e.g. Simpson 2002:157), are in fact of much later date (in his publication Garbini[1992] speaks of a span between 850 and 580 BC, given by radio-carbon data). The particular script these sherds are incised withforms not part of the earliest traces of writing in South Arabia, but rather resembles an advanced stage of the minuscule script (phaseII, see below). 6 The examples are collected from different inscriptions (Pirenne1956: pl. II and table 2; von Wissmann 1982: 64  –  75). 7 A Sabaean ruler of this name is mentioned in an inscription bySennacherib  c. 685 BC. This synchronism, established by von Wiss-mann (1982: 147  –  149, referring to an observation previously made by F. Hommel 1927: 75  –  86) and followed by most scholars (see e.g.Robin 1996: 1113  –  1114), is now supported by a second inscriptionof comparable size at the same site. This inscription, written in asimilar ductus as that of Karib ʾ il Watar, was set up by Yi  ṯ  a ʿʾ amar Watar, son of Yakrubmalik, who could be identi fi ed with a Sabaeanruler of the same name mentioned in the annals of Sargon II in 715BC (see Nebes 2007). The fact that the only two Sabaean rulersmentioned in Assyrian sources bear the names of the authors of byfar the two largest monumental Sabaic inscriptions from that periodmakes the proposed synchronism highly probable. 189 PALAEOGRAPHY OF THE SOUTH ARABIAN SCRIPT  of M  arib and probably Na  squm, but commissioned by for-eign traders from East Arabia. Both inscriptions are dated,according to the Seleucid Era, to  c. 300 BC. 8 The thirdcentury BC marks the transition from the so-called EarlySabaic towards the Middle Sabaic period, a transition that corresponds with far-reaching political as well as linguisticchanges. 9 The script of the texts in question already showsthe characteristics of the palaeographical development dur-ing the Middle Sabaic period, such as  —  the use of acute angles instead of the strictly rectangu-lar formation of the classical style B (particularlyremarkable with the letters  ʾ   and  n );  —  thecompleteabandonmentofany fi xedletterproportion;  —  a distinct thickening of the extremities of all lines,which will develop later on into regular serifs. In conse-quence, the borders of all straight lines of the letters areno longer parallel (as they had been in the older script);  —  the shift from the former vertical three-part structuretowards a bipartite form: from now on, the upper ele-ments of letters such as  h  and  ḥ ,  ʾ   and  s  have the samelength as their lower parts;  —  the opening of the letters  m  and  š   towards curvedstructures (instead of the former triangular shape);  —  the twofold curving of the formerly crescent-like  r  towards a boomerang form;  —  the increasing  fl attening of the circled letter   w  towardsan ellipse. Apart from this, elliptic forms are occa-sionally also found with other circle-shaped elements,namely letters such as  y  and  ṯ  . C2 : three centuries later, the characteristics of the Mid-dle Sabaic script, as outlined above, have fully developed.The table shows specimens from a Sabaic-Nabataean bilin-gual inscription from  Ṣ irw  a ḥ  which was written, accordingto a date in the Nabataean part, in the year 7  –  6 BC. 10 C3 : from the mid- fi rst century AD onwards, the palaeo-graphy of Sabaic monumental inscriptions is more or lessreliably established due to a certain relative chronology of the Sabaean kings. Column 6 in our table presents character-istic letter forms from inscriptions under the rule of Il  sara ḥ Ya ḥḍ ib and his brother Ya ʾ zil Bayyin, kings of Saba ʾ  and Ḏ  u Rayd  an, who reigned in the mid-third century AD. 11 D1  –  2 : the latest phase of Sabaic, and of Ancient SouthArabian writing culture in general, is called Late Sabaic. It is characterised by the political hegemony of the  Ḥ imyar, aconfederation from the southern Yemeni highlands, and bythe predomination of a monotheistic faith. Many inscrip-tions are dated according to a  fi xed era. In palaeography, aconsequent development of the Middle Sabaic features can be observed, resulting in the following modi fi cations:  —  serifs become more and more prominent;  —  the formerly elliptic letter   w  is stretched to such anextent that it   fi nally appears as two separate circles;  —  there is a strong tendency to cut the inscriptions inrelief. In relief inscriptions, the letters are generally of a rather compact shape with thick lines, often result-ing in an almost square proportion of the width andheight of each letter. The last column (D2) shows thecharacteristic forms of the Late Sabaic relief script.The samples in Figure 1 are taken from inscriptions fromthe late fourth (D1) and the mid-sixth century AD (D2). 12 8 The specimens presented here are taken from the M  arib inscrip-tion. This text consists of two fragments, the  fi rst of which, RES3605bis = Ry 547, has already been known for a long time. Thedate  ‘ year two of King Seleucos (I.) ’  in line 1 of the text, however,has only recently been established with the help of a second, stillunpublished, fragment (DAI M  arib Oase 2007-1), which was dis-covered by the German Archaeological Institute. The joined textsand the chronological results were presented by Norbert Nebes at the Seminar for Arabian Studies in July 2007 in London and a publi-cation is in preparation. I am very much indebted to my colleaguefor providing me with drafts of all the relevant material.  —  The second inscription of similar content and palaeography, but probably put up in Na  squm in the Wadi al- Ǧ awf, is dated to theseventh year of the very same king (see Prioletta 2011). The exact absolute dates of the given years are, however, not quite certain because of the dispute in reckoning the  fi rst years of the king ’ s reign(Prioletta 2011: 288  –  289). 9 As for the latter, some marked differences in the grammar of Sa- baic between the Early and Middle periods have been observed (seeStein 2011: 1046  –  1047 and  passim ; for more details see Stein2005). 10 DAI  Ṣ irw  a ḥ  2004-12 + Fragm., dated in the year 3 of ArethasIV (see the preliminary treatment in Nebes 2006). Again, my thanksto Norbert Nebes for allowing me to use his unpublished materials. 11 This date in con fi rmed by the inscription al-Mi ʿ s  al 2, datedaccording to an absolute era to the year AD 253, which refers to amilitary campaign under the rule of those two kings (see Robin1981: esp. 323 and 334  –  335, and most recently M € uller 2010: 25  –  26). The inscriptions the samples were taken from are the dedicatorytexts E 69 and J 576 + 577, the latter being the longest inscriptionfrom pre-Islamic times ever found on the Arabian Peninsula (see photographs of the inscriptions in al- ʾ Iry  an  ī   1988: 16 and Bron1992: 84  –  87, respectively). 12 D1: Gar B. A  swal 1, a building inscription from the Ḥ imyarite cap-ital  Ẓ af   ar, written under king  Ḏ ara ʾʾ amar Ayman ( c . AD 400; see Robin2008: 184, 200); D2: C 541, the large stela erected in M  arib by kingAbreha in the year 548 (dated 658  Ḥ imyarite era; this is one of the latest dated texts from Ancient South Arabia). Good photographs of the latter are published in Daum  et al.  1999: 270. 190 P. STEIN


Dec 13, 2018

sdsfd sdf

Dec 13, 2018
Related Search
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks