Kingdom of Awsan
The ancient Kingdom of Awsan in South Arabia (modern Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

), with a capital at Hagar Yahirr in the wadi Markha, to the south of the wadi Bayhan, is now marked by a tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

 or artificial mound, which is locally named Hagar Asfal. Once it was one of the most important small kingdoms of South Arabia. The city seems to have been destroyed in the 7th century BCE by the king and mukarrib of Saba
The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.Some scholars suggest a link between the Sabaeans and the Biblical land of Sheba....

 Karib'il Watar, according to a Sabaean text that reports the victory in terms that attest to its significance for the Sabaeans.

First impressions in the mid 1990s, based on ceramics found by M. Saad Ayoub at the unexcavated site, date a resurgence of the city to the end of the 2nd century BCE lasting until the beginning of the 1st century CE (which corresponds quite well to the epigraphic data attesting the only deified South Arabian king that was just the king of Awsan precisely around this time). About 160,000 m² were encircled by walls, and the foundations of dwellings built of fired brick have been noted. Culture depended on annual flood irrigation in spring and summer, when flash floods down the wadis temporarily flooded the fields, leaving light silt that has since been wind-eroded, revealing the ancient patterns of fields and ditches. Radiocarbon dating of irrigation sediments in the environs suggest that essential irrigation was abandoned in the first half of the 1st century CE, and the population dispersed. This time the site was never rebuilt.

Hagar Yahirr was the center of an exceptionally large city for South Arabia
South Arabia
South Arabia as a general term refers to several regions as currently recognized, in chief the Republic of Yemen; yet it has historically also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and Dhofar presently in Oman...

, influenced by Hellenistic culture, with temples and a palace structure surrounded by mudbrick dwellings, with a probable site for a souq or market and a caravanserai
A caravanserai, or khan, also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey...

 serving camel caravans. One of its kings at this period was the only Yemeni ruler to be accorded divine honours; his surviving portrait statuette is dressed in Greek fashion, contrasting with those of his predecessors who are dressed in Arabian style, with kilt and shawl. There are Awsan inscriptions, in the Qatabanian language.

The siting of Hagar Yahirr is consonant with other capitals of petty kingdoms, at the mouths of large wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

s: Ma`in in the wadi Jawf, Marib in the wadi Dana, Timna in the wadi Bayhan, Hagar Yahirr in the wadi Markha and Shabwa in the wadi Irma.

External links

  • Télédetection archéologique dans la Wadi Markha (in French)
  • Caravan Kingdoms: Yemen and the Ancient Incense Trade Freer Gallery, Washington, 2005. Exhibition of archeological objects from Yemen, setting Awsan in context. Catalogue.
  • Robert Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam (series Ancient Peoples)
  • Freya Stark
    Freya Stark
    Dame Freya Madeline Stark, Mrs. Perowne, DBE was a British explorer and travel writer. She wrote more than two dozen books on her travels, which were mainly in Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan....

    and Jane Geniesse The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut

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