Thursday, January 29, 2015

Aramaic in ancient Arabia

ARAMAIC WATCH: A forest of crosses and names of martyrs in the desert of Saudi Arabia ( A Franco-Saudi archaeological team is responsible for the discovery. Prof Frédéric Imbert dated the graffiti to 470-475, a time when anti-Christian persecution began, culminating under the usurper Yusuf. Even the Qur'an refers to it indirectly. The findings show how far Christianity had spread at the time, until the arrival of Islam.
The area is called Bi'r Hima or Abar Hima, names "that refer to places with wells known since ancient times." According to Imbert, an epigrapher, the area is located on the route "that connected Yemen to Najran" where caravans could be resupplied in water.

Inscriptions were found with crosses, scattered over a one-square kilometre. Some inscriptions appear to be in a local version of Aramaic, a pre-Islamic form of Arabic, Nabataean-Arabic to be more precise.

The inscriptions have been dated to the reign of Shurihbil Yakkuf, who controlled southern Arabia in 470-475. The persecution of Christians appears to have started under his rule.
I have more on the slightly later history of this region here. There are past posts on Aramaic in ancient Saudi Arabia here, here, and (maybe) here and the ancient UAE here and here. And there are many more posts on Nabataean (Nabatean) and the Nabataeans in PaleoJudaica's archives.