Editing of Ancient South Arabian minuscule inscriptions on wooden sticks from the Bavarian State Library in Munich (2002-2009)

The inscriptions carved in wooden sticks and palm-leaf stalks comprise documentary texts from southern Arabia in the pre-Islamic period (10th century BC to 6th century AD). In contrast to monumental inscriptions on stone blocks, rock and metal plaques, which were intended for public display, these handy wooden sticks were used to lay down private and business correspondence, economic accounts, contracts, and records from the religious practice – testifying for daily life activities of the Sabaeans and their neighbours. Due to their purpose and writing support, these texts are written in a particular cursive script. Several thousands of such documents, most of which originating from one public archive in the wadi al-Jawf in northern Yemen, are housed by a number of public collections in Yemen (Sanaa) and abroad (particularly in Leiden and Munich). The collection of the Bavarian State Library (BSB) in Munich, comprising about 400 texts of different genres and date, was subject of a cooperation project with the department for Semitic studies of Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena during the years 2002-2009, funded by the German Research foundation (DFG). As a result, the first part of this collection, comprising 205 Sabaic texts from the 3rd century BC to the early 6th century AD, was published in 2010 (see below). The second volume of this edition, which is devoted to the earlier Sabaic and the Minaic texts, is currently under preparation.

→ to the digital collection of Ancient South Arabian minuscule inscriptions of the BSB

Peter Stein, Die altsüdarabischen Minuskelinschriften auf Holzstäbchen aus der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in München. Band 1: Die Inschriften der mittel- und spätsabäischen Periode, Tübingen/Berlin 2010 (Epigraphische Forschungen auf der Arabischen Halbinsel, Band 5, edited by Norbert Nebes on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Orient Department). 2 Teilbände: 1. Teil (Text), 2. Teil (Verzeichnisse und Tafeln), Wasmuth Verlag, ISBN: ‎978-3803022004, 125 €

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich is in possession of about 400 Ancient South Arabian minuscule inscriptions on wooden sticks. This collection offers a representative cross-section of the material, not only in terms of content but also chronologically. Half of this collection is published here for the first time in pictorial documentation, transcription, translation and detailed commentary. This volume deals with the texts from the 4th century BC to the early 6th century AD (the second half containing editions of the older texts will follow in the foreseeable future). Expanded by an introduction on the history of research and realia, and made accessible by extensive indexes, this volume is by far the most comprehensive treatise on ancient South Arabian everyday documents on wooden sticks.


08.07.2011: Alltagssorgen einer längst vergangenen Epoche
Orientalisten der Universität Jena entschlüsseln Inschriften aus dem vorislamischen Arabien

23.05.2005: Antike Stätten im Land der Königin von Saba erforscht
Tagung "Rencontres Sabéennes" erstmals an einer deutschen Universität vom 25.-27. Mai in Jena

17.02.2003: Vom Alltag im "Glücklichen Arabien"
Orientalisten der Universität Jena erschließen Texte in altsüdarabischer Kursivschrift

project manager

Prof. Dr. Norbert Nebes

research assistant

apl. Prof. Dr. Peter Stein

Title image: The ancient city of Mārib | © Iris Gerlach

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