Ahmad Al-Jallad Profile picture
Epigraphist | Philologist | Historian of Language || Ancient Near East and Pre-Islamic Arabia.
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Oct 6, 2018 4 tweets 2 min read
"Life is worthless", write Diomedes the Lyrist and Abchoros the barber in a Greek inscription found far out in the desert of eastern Jordan (at Jathum). The two went out into the desert with a Roman military unit, stationed at a place called Σιο(α) Αβγαρ 'the cairn of Abgar'. Coming from the bright lights of the Decapolis, the Basalt desert must have seemed like the end of the world. This text comes to mind as I complete edits on 2 pprs on new Greek-Safaitic inscriptions from Jordan. Teaser: we have a small new example of Old Arabic in Greek letters!
Oct 5, 2018 19 tweets 5 min read
< Part 1 – the Fals, of Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols> Let us begin with the more obscure deities. The idol called al-Fals was associated with the well-known N. Arabian tribe of Ṭayyiʾ. Their territory was located near 2 mountains, Agaʾ and Salmā. According to al-Kalbi, al-Fals was a red rock in the shape of a man located on the black mountain of Agaʾ. Its sanctuary offered immunity to men and beasts. What do we learn about Al-Fals from the epigraphic record? answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi…
Oct 5, 2018 6 tweets 2 min read
<Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols-Introduction>: Hisham ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab antiquarian born in Kufa (737–819 CE), interested in folklore re: the ancient Arabs, genealogies, and pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Pic: Nabataea.net His work kitāb al-Aṣnām ‘the book of idols’ is one of the earliest Islamic-period sources on pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Relying on folklore and quotations from poetry, Ibn Al-Kalbi lists the gods of the ancient Arabs and associated rites.
Oct 1, 2018 4 tweets 1 min read
On the topic of inscriptions of mourning, I've reached the S's and here is one of the saddest Safaitic inscriptions I know. It is by a man mourning the senseless murder of his brother by Nabataeans while he was working as a hired man, pasturing the animals of two great tribes. I translate the text as follows:
'he grieved for his brother Nūr whom the Nabataeans killed while pasturing the livestock of ʿwḏ and Ḍf so, O Allat of Mʿmn and goddess of Deṯan and Gaddoʿawīḏ and Gaddoḍayf...
Sep 30, 2018 5 tweets 2 min read
#Safaitic dictionary edit updates. At the N's, and this text it worth tweeting: Author of MAHB 2 states: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-naganna 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)'. #Safaitic naganna <ngn> is the equivalent of #Levantine inžann... The sense is of course to be Jinn possessed. There is no direct evidence for a belief in #Jinn among the pre-Islamic nomads, but this word could suggests that insanity was associated with being possessed by the supernatural creatures. There's more: related to this lemma is ...
Sep 27, 2018 11 tweets 4 min read
Hikma History asks whether there is historical evidence for #Mecca in the 6th CE or earlier. A fantastic question. Outside historical sources don't seem to mention the town. @iandavidmorris examines this material masterfully in this blog: iandavidmorris.com/mecca-before-i… But what about pre-Islamic Arabian sources? Do they give evidence for Mecca as a pilgrimage center? Most pre-Islamic texts from central Arabia are short, undated inscriptions containing personal names and enigmatic phrases. No toponyms are attested in these and therefore,..
Sep 20, 2018 19 tweets 7 min read
<The language of ancient #Tayma (mod. Saudi Arabia)> 1) mannū samiʿ li-ṣalm lā tawaya ‘whosoever heeds Ṣalm shall not perish’. This prayer is carved a number of times on stone around the oasis of Taymāʾ, in N. Saudi Arabia, in a long lost script and language called Taymanitic. 2) Its alphabet consists of 26 glyphs, and is related to, but not a descendant of, the Musnad script of Ancient Yemen. The language remains poorly understood. It nevertheless shares some interesting similarities with #Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages. Pic: WTay 20
Sep 17, 2018 9 tweets 4 min read
The general sense of kitāb meaning 'writing' is well established in the epigraphic record, attested often in Nabataean and in the Safaitic and Dadanitic inscriptions. Below are a few examples: #Safaitic C 4803 ends with this prayer: ʿawār le-ḏī yoʿawwer has-sefra wa-ḥayāy le-ḏī yeqraʾ hak-ketāba 'may he who effaces this writing go blind but long life to him who reads this writing (ketāb)'. (note, ketāba is the accusative of ketāb (ktb) and not kitābatun)
Sep 14, 2018 15 tweets 4 min read
When did speakers of Arabic start pronouncing ḏāl ذ as د dāl?: Any visitor to cities like Damascus, Beirut, or Cairo immediately notices the absence of this sound in the local vernacular, e.g. Classical Arabic hāḏā is pronounced hāda. Where does this come from and how old? Most scholars, as far back as Ibn Khaldun, saw developments in Arabic as the result of the spread of the lang. after the Islamic Conquests, and its imperfect acquisition by the conquered population. In the Levant, the ḏāl > dāl change was seen as a result of Aramaic influence.
Sep 13, 2018 7 tweets 2 min read
This account is unhinged. In addition to tweeting philology memes it has started an internet war in Quranic Studies and accusations of racism are flying. This meme, however, is too good to ignore! It concerns the mysterious Himyaritic... t.co/7mhuDePSYw A few obscure poetic texts have been discovered in ancient Yemen; these have so far resisted successful decipherment. Their difficult language led the great Ch. Robin to suggest that they were not composed in one of the well-known Ancient South Arabian languages but..
Sep 12, 2018 13 tweets 4 min read
This is an effaced #Safaitic inscription I discovered in 2017 with @QifaNabki. Elaborate curses exist to protect texts from vandalism, but this hooligan was apparently not deterred by superstition. You can, however, notice that s/he left part of the text intact. Why? Many traditions venerate the written form of a god's name. Our vandal erased the name of the author and his prayer, perhaps rendering any power the written word had void, but s/he did not hammer over the name of the invoked deity, Roḍay.
Sep 9, 2018 17 tweets 6 min read
#Crucifixion in #Safaitic and #Jesus: Crucifixion was a common method of capital punishment in the Roman Empire; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus mentions the crucifixion of thousands. Yet this terrible punishment is so far mentioned only twice in Safaitic. Both of these texts are enigmatic and have lead to creative, yet ultimately unsupported, theories about the historical event to which they refer. HaNS 660 was written by a man named Marṭ ben Yaśkor, who states: wa-ṣoleba ḥabīb-oh ‘and his beloved was crucified’.
Sep 6, 2018 6 tweets 2 min read
Arabian nomads at sea! This lovely new Safaitic inscription, discovered in the black desert of eastern Jordan, was just published by Z. al-Salameen et al. in PEQ: an ancient sea vessel with 3 men aboard. My interpretation of the text, differing slightly from the edition, follows: The text says: le-hobal ben wadam wa-nogeya be-has-safīnat wa-ʕoqeda meh-haʔ-ʔabḥarīna ṯalaṯīna sanata 'By Hobal son of Wadam and he was made (captain) of sea vessel and was seabound for thirty years'.
Aug 27, 2018 23 tweets 6 min read
<Thread> Allāh is the word for ‘God’ in Arabic. But where did this word come from? Muslim scholars have several views. Some regard it as a basic noun, others the definite form of the word “lāh”, ‘lofty’ or ‘hidden’, but most see it as a contracted form of al-ʾilāh, = ‘the deity’ Islamic tradition holds that the pre-Islamic pagans worshiped Allāh beside other gods = shirk ‘association’. Are there examples of this in the epigraphic record? Yes, but before we get to those, the corpus of 6th. CE Christian Arabic inscriptions continues to grow...
Aug 24, 2018 12 tweets 5 min read
Last week, we looked at ancient Arabian pilgrimages and sacrifice in the #Safaitic inscriptions. If you missed that, see this thread: . Now, let's have a glance at pilgrimages in the ancient Ḥigāz, represented by the Dadānitic inscriptions. Dadān was the ancient name of the oasis of al-Ula, in NW Ḥigāz. It is mentioned in cuneiform sources and the Bible, and was a center for the kings of Liḥyān, before it was eventually annexed by the Nabataeans. Pic: saminaik.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/alula_…
Aug 20, 2018 15 tweets 6 min read
@shahanSean has an excellent thread on the earliest evidence for the Ḥajj in the Islamic period. But what evidence do we have for pre-Islamic Arabian pilgrimage? Various traditions of pilgrimage are attested in the epigraphy of Arabia, dating to the early 1st millen. BC (thread) Let’s begin with Safaitic (2st BCE (maybe earlier) until at least the 3rd c. CE). The inscription B.Renv.a 1 is dated sanata baṭala ḥagg seʿīʿ ‘the year the pilgrimage to Seʿīʿ failed’. Seʿīʿ is a town in s. Syria (bit.ly/2OKAX1y). Why a pilgrimage to this place?
Aug 19, 2018 8 tweets 4 min read
A nice thread by @PhDniX on the early Arabic script. The Arabic script is the latest phase of the Nabataean script and evolved at the end of the 5th c. CE. It is an accident of history that this script became associated with the Arabic language. (short thread). Arabic was written in many scripts, depending on place, time, and tradition. Early Arabic dialects were often written in varieties of the Ancient North Arabian, related to the south Arabian musnad, as early as the first half of the 1st millennium BCE.
Aug 15, 2018 14 tweets 4 min read
What is the earliest mention of #Damascus in Arabic? In 1995, Alulu discovered a fascinating #Safaitic inscription from southern Syria containing the name of the city. The enigmatic text is known only from a crude hand copy. Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roma… The inscription is dated as to ‘the year lʾk qṣr ʾn myt ʿm rm w f t w qd dms²q; the original editor did not provide a convincing interpretation of its difficult language. The text is filled with hapax legomena (words attested only once) and Safaitic has no word dividers.
Aug 11, 2018 26 tweets 7 min read
Rainy weekend thread: I wanted to write a thread to connect to the fierce debate on Twitter regarding Arab identity, the Arabian Peninsula, and its relationship to the languages we call Arabic today. This is twitter, so it will naturally be bit superficial but I include a biblio. Let’s begin with this question: how did the Peninsula become “Arab”? Islamic-period sources contain many fantastic tales on the origins of the Arabs. Most equate Arab identity with speaking the Arabic language. There are conflicting accounts.
Aug 7, 2018 6 tweets 2 min read
Madaba, Jordan is home to two of the longest Old Arabic inscriptions to date. In the proceedings of last years Seminar for Arabian Studies, Hayajneh published a third (see bibliography). To the naked (and even enhanced!) eye, there appears to be virtually nothing on this rock. But with a little bit of computer magic, the stone speaks. While probably the longest text in terms of character count, this inscription contains mostly personal names. The first part of the text reads: ḏkrt lt kll mn ybk 'l s¹rd bn dd'l m{n} {Μ}l h{ṣ}' bn ns²l '-rḥm
Aug 1, 2018 13 tweets 5 min read
<Ancient Animals> The Syro-Arabian desert today appears barren but centuries ago the landscape was teeming with wild animals: gazelle, lions, ostriches, etc., along with domesticated horses and camels. This ancient ecosystem is preserved in the Safaitic inscriptions & rock art. This image (CEDS 237) depicts a lion, /'asad/ or /layṯ/, common in the ancient Near East but now extinct, attacking a man. Some writers mention keeping watch for lions stalking their flocks. One man remarks: wa kallama-h ha'-'asad 'the lion injured him'.