History of archaeological research in Yemen Sabaean Studies the study of the cultures of Ancient South Arabia, belong to the younger branches of archaeology, since in Europe ancient South Arabia remained unknown for much longer than other regions of the Orient. In 1504 a European, namely the Italian Lodovico di Varthema, first managed to venture into the interior. Two Danish expeditions, contributed to by Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) and Carsten Niebuhr (1733–1815) among others, contributed to scientific study, if only in a modest way. In the first half of the 19th century other European travelers brought back over one hundred inscriptions. This stage of investigation reached its climax with the travels of the Frenchman Joseph Halévy 1869/70 and the Austrian Eduard Glaser 1882–1894, who together either copied or brought back to Europe some 2500 inscriptions. On the basis of this epigraphical material Glaser and Fritz Hommel especially began to analyse the Old South Arabian language and history. After the First World War excavations were finally carried out in Yemen. From 1926 Syrians and Egyptians also took part in the research into ancient South Arabia. The Second World War brought in a new phase of scientific preoccupation with ancient Yemen: in 1950–1952 the American Foundation for the Study of Man, founded by Wendell Phillips, undertook large-scale excavations in Timnah and Ma’rib, in which William Foxwell Albright and Fr. Albert Jamme, who published the corpus of inscriptions, were involved. From 1959 Gerald Lankaster Harding began the first systematic inventories of the archaeological objects in the then British Protectorate of Aden. At this time Hermann von Wissmann was particularly involved with the study of the history and geography of ancient South Arabia. In addition the French excavations from 1975–1987 in Shabwah and in other locations, the Italian investigations of Paleolithic remains and the work of the German Archaeological Institute in the Ma’rib area are particularly noteworthy. --- Written sources The body of source material for Old South Arabia is sparse. Apart from a few mentions in Assyrian, Persian, Roman and Arabic sources, as well as in the Old Testament, which date back to the 8th century BCE right up to the Islamic period, the Old South Arabian inscriptions are the main source. These are however largely very short and as a result limited in the information they provide. The predominant part of the inscriptions originate from Saba’ and from the Sabaeo-Himyaritic Kingdom which succeeded it, the least come from Awsān, which only existed as an independent state for a short time. Most of the extant texts are building inscriptions or dedications; it is rare for historical texts to be found. --- Chronology Although the Kingdom of Saba' already appears in Assyrian sources in the 8th century BCE, this benchmark is not sufficient to date the early history of ancient South Arabia, because the first absolutely reliable dating starts with the military campaign of Aelius Gallus in 25 BCE, and the mention of the king Ilasaros. For earlier times the chronology must be established on the basis of a comparison of the Old South Arabian finds with those from other regions, through palaeography, on the basis of the reconstructed sequence of kings and by radio carbon dating. Here two schools of thought have essentially evolved: the “Short Chronology” and the "Long Chronology". At the end of the 19th century Eduard Glaser and Fritz Hommel dated the beginning of the Old South Arabian Civilisation to the late 2nd century BCE, a dating that persisted for many years. In 1955 Jacqueline Pirenne published a comparison of Old South Arabian and Greek art and came to the conclusion that the South Arabian Civilisation first developed in the 5th century BCE under Greek influence. She also supported this new "Short Chronology" by means paleaeographic analysis of the forms Old South Arabian letters. Based on the American excavations in Timnah and Ma’rib in 1951–52 another “Intermediary Chronology” came into being at about the same time, which merely set the beginning of Qatabān and Ma'īn at a later time than in the “Long Chronology”. On the basis of the study of a rock inscription at Ma’rib (“Glaser 1703”) A. G. Lundin and Hermann von Wissmann dated the beginning of Saba’ back into the 12th or the 8th century BCE. Even if their interpretation was later demonstrated to be partially incorrect, the "Short Chronology" is not proven, in more recent times many more arguments have been brought against it. Above all because of the results of new archaeological research, such as that carried out by the Italians in Yala / Hafari and by the French in Shabwah the "Long Chronology" attracts more and more supporters. Meanwhile, the majority of experts in Sabaean studies adhere to Wissman’s Long Chronology, which is why the dates in this article have been adjusted in accordance with it.

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