Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Ancient North Arabian

- 6th c. BC - 4th c. AD (?)

Online resources

Online documents

  1. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy (AAE)
    Connecting from the servers of major research institutions and universities or by registering, here you can download extracts of the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, dedicated to pre-Islamic Arabia.
  2. Arabian Epigraphic Notes (AEN)
    AEN is an open-access journal, published by the Leiden Center for the Study of Ancient Arabia (LeiCenSAA). The online format provides authors the ability to publish immediately following peer-review, and offers high resolution color photographs available for download.
  3. Articles of M.C.A Macdonald on Ancient North Arabian
    From this page of the OCIANA project website you can download the PDFs of the main studies on the Ancient North Arabian languages and writings published by M.C.A. Macdonald.
  4. 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), etc.
  5. Persée
    From this website you can download articles on ancient north Arabian epigraphy published in periodicals such as Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Syria, Topoi etc.
  6. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (PSAS)
    Connecting from the server of 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.

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. Arabian Rock Art Heritage Project
    The Arabian Rock Art Heritage is a Saudi-US project with the aim of recording the countless rock scenes scattered in the Saudi landscape using advanced photographic techniques. The web site offers scientists and the public the opportunity to interactively explore the rock art, zooming and navigating around images.
  3. International Association for the Study of Arabia (IASA)
    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.
  4. 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, Chroniques Yéménites and Arabian Humanities.
  5. Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DoA)
    Founded in 1923, the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DoA) is the official institutional authority that deals with the study, preservation, protection and dissemination of cultural heritage of Jordan, from archaeological sites and monuments to traditional architecture. DoA is also responsible for the creation and direction of public museums.
  6. Institut du Proche-Orient Ancien e Bibliothèque d’études ouest-sémitiques (Collège de France - Parigi)
    The Institute of the Ancient 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 North Arabian epigraphy. The institute publishes the journals Cahiers de l’Institut du Proche -Orient Ancien du Collège de France and Semitica.
  7. Jebel Qurma Project
    The project, directed since 2012 by Peter MMG Akkermans (University of Leiden) in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DoA), aims to study the extraordinary archaeological heritage of the Black Desert and in particular in the Jebel Qurma region, bordering Saudi Arabia. The endless expanses of black basalt desert are rich in archaeological monuments: circular stone houses, tombs, cave drawings and rock inscriptions in Safaitic or Arabic writing.
  8. UMR 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 and Mediterranaean. Numerous epigraphists, historians and archaeologists specialized in Ancient Arabia are affiliated with the Institute. The laboratory publishes the journal Semitica et Classica.
  9. Leiden Center for the Study of Ancient Arabia (LeiCenSAA)
    LeiCenSAA exists since 2014 to promote research on the ancient languages and cultures of Arabia, and to disseminate knowledge to the broader public. The centre’s activities include the organization of conferences, summer schools and field work, as well as granting dissertation awards and housing a research library on Ancient Arabia. LeiCenSAA also publishes the peer-reviewed journal, Arabian Epigraphic Notes.
  10. Saudi-French Mission to Madāʾin Sāliḥ
    Created in 2002 and funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Cultural Heritage, the mission is headed by L. Nehmé (CNRS), F. Villeneuve (Université Paris 1) and D. al-Talhi (University of Ḥāil). The goal of the mission is to highlight and study the various phases of occupation of Madāʾin Sāliḥ, the ancient oasis of Hegra (registered in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list).
  11. Saudi-French Mission to Najrān
    The Saudi-French archaeological and epigraphic mission to Najrān was created in 2007 in cooperation with the Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC) and the University of King Saud in Riyadh. Directed since 2018 by Alessia Prioletta (CNRS), the MAFSN conducts research in the area of Ḥimā, located in the desert about 100 km northeast of the oasis of Najrān and registered in 2021 in the Unesco World Heritage Sites list. The mission aims to make an inventory as exhaustive as possible of the rock engravings and the archaeological structures, to contextualize this documentation chronologically, linguistically and culturally, and to identify the different peoples who settled or halted at Ḥimā during the ancient times.
  12. Saudi-French Mission at Thaj (AMThaj)
    The Thaj Archaeological Mission, established in 2015, aims to bring into the light of history the largest pre-Islamic archaeological site in eastern Arabia: Thaj. Led by the French CNRS and by the Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC), the project is directed by archaeologist Jérôme Rohmer and brings together an international team of fifteen experts from leading universities around Europe.
  13. Saudi-Italian and Saudi-French Missions at Dūmat al-Jandal
    The Saudi-Italian mission was created in 2009 by Alessandro de Maigret, a professor of Oriental Archaeology in Naples. Some years later, the Saudi-French mission was also set up. Both missions aim to study the rich heritage of the site Dumat al-Jandal in the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. They were directed by Romulo Loreto (Università l’Orientale of Naples) and Guillaume Charloux (CNRS, Paris) in cooperation with the Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC). Epigraphic surveys have also been conducted around the site. Nowadays only the Italian mission carries on research on the site.
  14. Saudi-German mission to Taymāʾ
    Archäologie der Oasenstadt Tayma: Kontinuität und Wandel der Lebensformen im ariden Nordwesten der Arabischen Halbinsel vom Neolithikum bis zur Islamisierung is a long-term joint project of the Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC) and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), and is sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Excavations have been held regularly in the oasis of Taymāʾ since 2004. The project also includes epigraphic survey campaigns around the oasis of Taymāʾ.
  15. Palaeodeserts. Climate Change and Human Evolution in the Arabian Desert
    Palaeodeserts is a five-year project (2012-2017) funded by ERC and directed by M. Petraglia (Oxford University) in cooperation with the Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC). By combining information from palaeo-environmental studies, palaeontology, geography, geochronology, animal and human genetics, archaeology, rock art and linguistic studies, the project establishes a series of six hypotheses useful to investigate the effect of climate change on the ancient peoples of the Arabian desert.
  16. Saudi Heritage Commission (SHC)
    The Saudi Heritage Commission is the main government institution that manages the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia and promotes its preservation and dissemination. The commission cooperates with a number of Saudi and foreign research centres leading epigraphic and archaeological missions on the Saudi territory.
  17. Wadi Hafir Petroglyph Survey (WHPS)
    Directed by Glenn J. Corbett (Ph.D., University of Chicago) through an agreement with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DoA) and launched in 2005, the project aimed to record and analyze the impressive remains and epigraphic art of Wadi Hafir in the desert of Hisma, in southern Jordan. Most of these graffiti are in Hismaic script (formerly defined as “Thamudic E”).


  1. Unicode font for Ancient North Arabian
    The document contains the proposal drafted by Michael Everson and Michael C. A. Macdonald, for the inclusion of the Ancient North Arabian alphabet in the Unicode Standard. The writing is now included in version 7.0 of the Unicode Standard. The document is accompanied by a useful summary of the characteristics of the alphabet and its dialectal varieties, and a list of the main references on the subject.

Museums and collections

  1. Louvre Museum - Paris
    The Department of Oriental Antiquities of the Louvre Museum has one of the richest European collections of Ancient South Arabian antiquities, 198 pieces. In addition, the museum also has 7 pieces collected by the explorer A. Hubert in Taymāʾ, in central Arabia. The Arabic collection of the Louvre has been published in a catalogue (cf. Calvet and Robin, 1997). In 2010, the Louvre hosted the "Roads of Arabia" exhibition, made up of more than 300 artefacts dating from different periods of the Saudi Arabian history and coming from the National Museum of Riyadh. The exhibition also toured several European and American museums.
  2. Museums of Jordan
    This page contains the list and information on the main museums of Jordan, such as the Jordan Museum and the Archeological Museum.
  3. Riyadh National Museum
    The National Museum of Riyadh is the main museum of Saudi Arabia. Through different types of antiquities and artefacts, the museum presents the history of this country, from ancient times to the modern age. The section on the pre-Islamic era preserves some of the most important artefacts and inscriptions from archaeological sites such as al-ʿUlā, Najrān and Qaryat al-Faw.

Collections of texts and digital libraries

  1. DASI - Digital Archive for the Study of pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions
    DASI is a five-year project (2012-2016) of the University of Pisa, directed by Alessandra Avanzini and funded by the ERC program. The second institution involved in the project was 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.
  2. OCIANA - The Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia
    OCIANA is a project started in 2012 at the Khalili Research Center at the University of Oxford under the direction of Jeremy Johns and Michael Macdonald. Its purpose is the online publication of all the ancient north Arabian inscriptions. About 40,000 inscriptions, accompanied by 80,000 photographs, are now digitized and accessible on the project website.