Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Ancient South Arabian

- 11th/10th c. BC - 6th c. AD

Online resources

Online documents

  1. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy (AAE)
    Connecting from the servers of major research institutions and universities or with a personal account, here you can download extracts of the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, dedicated to pre-Islamic Arabia.
  2. Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (CRAIBL)
    From the site you can download extracts of the journal Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, where many contributions have been published relating to the history, language and culture of pre-Islamic Southern Arabia.
  3. JSTOR
    Connecting from the servers of major research institutions and universities or with a personal account, on JSTOR you can download PDFs from various scientific journals, where articles have been published on pre-Islamic South Arabia: Archiv für Orientforschung (AFO), Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR), Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS), Die Welt des Orients, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (JRAS).
  4. Mediafire
    This page of Mediafire contains various monographs and articles on South Arabian epigraphy in PDF format. The page is curated by Salah al-Husaini, archaeologist of the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums of Yemen (GOAM).
  5. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (PSAS)
    Connecting from the server of the major research institutions and universities or with a personal account, from this page of JSTOR you can download extracts from the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (PSAS), the journal of the annual conference on pre-Islamic Arabia.
  6. Raydān 8 (2013)
    Page of the official website of the CEFREPA from which you can download all the contributions that appeared in the latest issue of Raydān, the journal of the studies on ancient Yemen published by the French centre.
  7. Syria
    From this page of, you can download extracts of Syria magazine, a publication of archaeology, art and history of the Near East, where in the 1960s Jacqueline Pirenne published numerous articles. In the 1990s the excavation reports of the French Mission in Shabwa, capital of the kingdom of Hadramawt, were published in Syria.

Institutions, centers for study and research

  1. Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures (Khalili Research Center, University of Oxford)
    The project Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures (AALC) makes a number of online resources for the study of language and heritage in ancient and pre-Islamic Arabia accessible via a single portal. AALC aims to continue the pioneering studies on Arabia conducted last century by Prof. Alfred Beeston at Oxford University. The scientific director for the project, which ended in 2011, is Michael Macdonald, an expert in this field.
  2. International Association for the Study of Arabia
    The International Association for the Study of Arabia, IASA, (formerly the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia) is a cultural organization created in 2010 by the merger of the Seminar for Arabian Studies and the Society for Arabian Studies. It promotes research on the Arabian Peninsula in the fields of history, archaeology, epigraphy, art, language and literature, ethnography, geography, ethnography and geology. The foundation supports research projects, produces and finances publications and organizes lectures and conferences, in particular the Seminar for Arabian Studies, the historical annual seminar that was held for the first time in 1969 and that since 2002 has been hosted by the British Museum in London.
  3. Centre Français de Recherche de la Péninsule Arabique (CEFREPA)
    The French Center for Archeology and Social Sciences (CEFAS), renamed the French Research Center for the Arabian Peninsula (CEFREPA) in early 2021, is a research center with a regional vocation, which aims to support research carried out on the entire Arabian Peninsula. The institute is headquartered in Kuwait (previously in Sanaa) and organizes conferences and seminars, supports research and publications in French and Arabic, such as the periodicals Raydān and Chroniques Yéménites.
  4. Publication of the collections of minuscule inscriptions housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (University of Jena)
    The project, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) from 2002 to 2009 and conducted at the Department of Semitic Philology and Islamic Studies at the University of Jena under the direction of Prof. Norbert Nebes had the objective of studying the collection of 380 minuscule texts, recorded on wooden sticks, kept at the State Library of Monaco of Bavaria. The work led to the publication by Peter Stein (2010) of a first volume, which collects texts dating to the middle and late Sabaean period (between the third century BC and sixth century AD). A second volume is in press, which will contain the inscriptions of the earliest period, both Sabaic and Minaic. Some specimens are dated between the tenth and ninth centuries BC and are therefore more ancient than the earliest monumental inscriptions.
  5. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut – Sana'a
    The Oriental Studies Department of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut ( DAI) has a section in Sana'a founded in 1978 and directed by Iris Gerlach, an archaeologist specialized in southern Arabia. The research focuses on the archaeology, philology and art history of south Arabia until the Islamic period. The centre promotes the publication of periodicals such as Archäologische Berichte aus dem Yemen (ABADY), Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie and Hefte zur Kulturgeschichte des Jemen (HKJ). Currently, the section is closed because of the war in Yemen and the institute conducts an archaeological excavation in the site of Yeha, in Ethiopia.

Study and research centers

  1. Institut du Proche-Orient Ancien e Bibliothèque d’études ouest-sémitiques (Collège de France – Paris)
    The Institute of the Near East (IPOA) brings together three libraries and research centres, including the library of studies of North-West Semitic. The library preserves an important fund specializing in Semitic studies and therefore also on the South Arabian epigraphy. The institute publishes the journals Cahiers de l’Institut du Proche -Orient Ancien du Collège de France and Semitica.
  2. Institute of Oriental Manuscripts (Russian Academy of Sciences - St. Petersburg)
    Official website of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The centre has hosted several editions of the conference on South Arabian studies ‘Rencontres Sabéennes’, the last of which in 2014. Serguej Frantsouzoff, scholar and epigraphist of the Russian Archaeological Mission to Raybūn, is a professor at the institute. From the scholar’s personal page you can download many of his publications in PDF format.
  3. Laboratoire Orient & Méditerranée - Mondes Sémitiques (CNRS - Paris)
    Official website of the Laboratory Orient & Méditerranée - Sémitiques Mondes, center for studies on the cultures of the Near East. Numerous epigraphists, historians and archaeologists specialized in South Arabia are affiliated with the Institute: Iwona Gajda, Alessia Prioletta, Christian J. Robin, Jérémie Schiettecatte. From their personal pages, in the “Membres” page, you can download many publications in PDF format. The laboratory publishes the journal Semitica et Classica.

Museums and collections

  1. Archaeology Museums - Istanbul
    The "Ancient Orient Museum" of the Archaeological Museum houses a large number of ancient South Arabian antiquities, brought to Istanbul during the Ottoman occupation in northern Yemen, roughly from 1830 to the beginning of 1900.
  2. British Museum - London
    The Department of the Middle East in the British Museum houses one of the richest collections of Southern Arabian objects outside Yemen. Developed after 1862 thanks to donations or purchases of British politicians and military officers based in Aden, the collection includes over 800 items: inscriptions on stone slabs or metal sculptures, funerary stelae, altars, incense burners, silver and bronze coins, gold jewellery, seals, and pottery. The collection can be visited online by searching for “Yemen” or “Ancient South Arabian” in the “Search collection online”.
  3. Kunsthistorisches Museum – Vienna
    This important collection of the Kunsthistoriches Museum includes some of the south Arabian documents known for the longest time, seen by the Austrian E. Glaser at the end of 1800, and then acquired by the museum. Perhaps the extraordinary material collected by this explorer is more important, yet to be catalogued and published in full, especially the casts of the inscriptions and his travel notes full of facsimiles and notes on inscriptions.
  4. Louvre - Paris
    The Department of Oriental Antiquities of the Louvre Museum houses one of the richest European collections of South Arabian antiquities, which includes 198 pieces. The collection was formed in the late 1800s following the journeys in Yemen of the explorers J. Halevy and E. Glaser. As a result, the museum has acquired the Parisian collections of the Cabinet des Monnaies et Medailles de la Bibliothèque Nationale and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles - Lettres. The largest number of antiquities comes from the collection of A. and P. Bardey, French traders resident in Aden at the end of 1800. The museum also houses 7 pieces collected by the explorer A. Hubert at Tayma, in central Arabia. The Arabian collection of the Louvre has been published in a catalogue (cf. Calvet and Robin 1997).
  5. Museum of Yemen
    The greatest number of inscriptions and ancient South Arabian is naturally preserved in the museums of Yemen. The most important collections are located at the National Museum and the Military Museum in Sana'a and at the National Museum in Aden. However, even smaller cities or small villages in the country possess valuable and often unpublished collections of South Arabian antiquities. Some of the most important Yemeni museum have been catalogued by the project CASIS of the University of Pisa, and their collections can be consulted in the DASI database.
  6. Museums of the USA
    Many American museums hold ancient South Arabian antiquities, brought to the United States by private collectors or from archaeological missions in the last century in Yemen. The South Arabian collections of some of these museums have been recently catalogued by the project DASI of the University of Pisa: the Penn Museum (Philadelphia), the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Peabody Museum (Cambridge) and the Museum of Yale University (New Haven).
  7. Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale ‘Giuseppe Tucci’ - Rome
    The Southern Arabian collection at MNAO was formed in the 1930s thanks to great personalities such as the physician Cesare Ansaldi and the Ethiopist Ettore Rossi. Approximately 160 pieces in this collection, including archaeological, ethnographic and documentary materials, have been shown in the exhibition “The Throne of the Queen of Sheba” (10/12/2012-13/01/2013).
  8. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
    The National Museum of Berlin, and in particular the Museum of the Ancient Near East, houses a Southern Arabian collection formed at the end of 1886 with the first inscriptions purchased by the museum from Eduard Glaser, who had just returned from his trip to Yemen. A second group of antiquities was acquired in 1910 and 1913 following the travels of H. Burchardt in Yemen. Finally, the museum also houses the inscriptions brought to Germany by Carl Rathjens and Hermann v. Wissmann after their travel to Yemen in 1927/28. The inscriptions of the National Museum of Berlin were published by J. H. Mordtmann in 1893 and, together with E. Mittwoch, in 1932.
  9. The Walters Art Museum - Baltimore
    This American museum has acquired a valuable collection of sixty South Arabian antiquities donated by Giraud and Carolyn Foster. It is made of alabaster artefacts, such as statues and stelae, mostly coming from the Qatabanian culture, and dated roughly between the third century BC and third century AD. The collection was the subject of an exhibition entitled “Faces of Ancient Arabia” (20/07/2008-07/09/2008).

Collections of texts and digital libraries

  1. CSAI - Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions
    The project CSAI was born in 2001 from the collaboration between the Department of Historical Sciences of the Ancient World at the University of Pisa (scientific direction of Alessandra Avanzini) and the laboratory Signum - Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, with the aim of publishing the entire South Arabian epigraphic corpus in electronic form. Over the years, the database has digitized about 7000 inscriptions, accompanied by photographs, translations and auxiliary information accessible through different types of both static and dynamic searches. In October 2013, CSAI was absorbed in the project DASI.
  2. DASI - Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions
    DASI is a five-year project of the University of Pisa (2012-2016), directed by Alessandra Avanzini and funded by the European Community under the Seventh Framework Programme “Ideas”, within the specific program “ERC - Advanced Grants”. The second institution involved in the project is the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. DASI is a digital archive that seeks to gather the epigraphic material from the whole of the Arabian Peninsula in pre-Islamic times. The inscriptions are divided into three major linguistic corpora: Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions, Corpus of North Arabian Inscriptions and Corpus of Aramaic Inscriptions.
  3. Sabäisches Wörterbuch
    The Department of Semitic Philology and Islamic Studies at the University of Jena has recently started a long term project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), under the direction of Prof. Norbert Nebes and the coordination of Anne Multhoff, which aims to create a complete lexicon of the Sabaic language, both online and in paper format. The project, which is based on a database of about 10,000 South Arabian inscriptions digitized since the 1990s by the German research group, published online a first lexical corpus based on the inscriptions from Ma’rib, the capital of the kingdom of Saba’. The database allows to search either by root or by lemma to get the most relevant contexts accompanied by bibliography, etymological comparisons, older translations and a newly proposed translation.


  1. DASI - Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions
    An extensive bibliography covering the South Arabian inscriptions is in the database of DASI, in the page “Bibliography” of the Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions.
  2. Sabäisches Wörterbuch
    An extensive bibliography covering the South Arabian inscriptions is in the database of the Sabäisches Wörterbuch project.