Classical Period
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  • Abstract

    Ancient Arabia has promptly been pictured as a vast empty desert. Yet, for the last 40 years, by digging
    out of the sand buried cities, archaeological researches deeply renewed this image. From the second half of
    the 1st millennium BC to the eve of Islam in East Arabia, and as early as the 8th century BC in South Arabia,
    the settlement process evolved into urban societies. This study aims at reviewing this process in South and
    East Arabia, highlighting the environmental constraints, the geographical disparities and the responses of
    the human communities to ensure their subsistence and to provide for their needs.
    Evolution was endogenous, far from the main corridors of migrations and invasions. Influences from
    the periphery did not cause any prominent change in the remarkably stable communities of inner Arabia in
    antiquity. The settlement process and the way of life was primarily dictated by access to water sources and
    to the elaboration of ever-spreading irrigation systems.
    Beyond common traits, two models characterise the ancient settlement pattern on the arid margins of
    eastern and southern Arabia. In South Arabia, the settlement model for the lowland valleys and highland
    plateaus results from a long-term evolution of communities whose territorial roots go back to the Bronze
    Age. It grew out of major communal works to harness water. Into a territory of irrigated farmland, the south-
    Arabian town appeared as a central place. Settlements constituted networks spread across the valleys and
    the plateaus. Each network was dominated by a main town, the centre of a sedentary tribe, the capital of a
    kingdom.
    In East Arabia, the settlement pattern followed a different model which emerged in the last centuries BC
    along the routes crossing the empty spaces of the steppe, in a nomadic environment. Each community spread
    over no more than one, two or three settlements. These settlements never grew very large and the region was
    not urbanised to the same degree as in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula. Permanent settlements were
    places for exchanges and meetings, for craft productions, for worship, where the political elites resided,
    where the wealth from long-distance trading was gathered, and where surplus from the regional economy
    was held. Each town was isolated, like an island in an empty space.

    Dr Hdr Michel Mouton
    Archaeologist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNR S), Michel
    Mouton has been director of the French archaeological expedition in Sharjah
    from 1991 to 1997 (excavations at Mleiha and al-Madam); director of the French
    archaeological expedition in the Jawf-Hadramawt from 1995 to 2006 (excavations
    at Qan', Makaynn, and surveys of the Yemen territory) and head of the
    project "Early Petra" from the National Agency for Research (2008-2012).
    From 2000 to 2002, he has been general secretary of the French Institute in the
    Near-East (IFPO, Damascus / Beirut / Amman), and deputy director in 2003. At
    the present time, he is director of the French Research Centre for Archaeology
    and Social Sciences in the Arabian Peninsula (CEFAS, Jeddah / Sanaa).

    Dr Jérémie Schiettecatte
    Archaeologist and researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research
    (CNR S), in Paris, Jérémie Schiettecatte holds a PhD in Near-Eastern archaeology
    from the Sorbonne University. He focuses on the study of the settlement process
    in arid lands. His current interests lay in the analysis of the evolution of settlement
    patterns in the Arabian Peninsula from the Bronze Age to the Islamic period.
    Since 2000, he has been working in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and
    Saudi Arabia. After having directed the archaeological mission in Hasi, Yemen
    (2008-2011), he is heading since 2011, together with A. al-Ghazzi, the French
    Saudi Archaeological Project in al-Kharj (Riyadh Province, Saudi Arabia).

  • Table of Contents

    Table of content
    Acknowledgements
    Note
    Introduction
    Part I- East Arabia
    1. Northeast Arabia
    The island of Failaka
    The island of Ba?rayn
    Thj
    ?Ayn Jwn
    Qa?f
    Trt
    Dhahrn
    Salt Mine Site
    Al-?Uqayr
    Al-Huff oasis
    2. Southeast Arabia
    The Iron Age underground water channels
    Mleiha: a process of sedentarisation in the Oman Peninsula
    The Oman Peninsula in the early centuries AD
    Ed-Dur
    Kush
    Khatt
    Jazrat al-Ghanam
    Dibb
    Suhr
    Al-?Ayn oasis
    Central Oman
    The ?amad valley
    Other sites in the mountains and western foothills
    Sites on the eastern slope and coastal region

    Transition and cultural relationships
    From the Iron Age to the Late Pre-Islamic period
    Ancient Oman in Arab tradition
    The funerary architecture at Mleiha: an Arabian tradition
    3. The settlement of East Arabia
    A settlement model for "Arabia deserta"
    Some thoughts on the settlement of central Oman
    Part II- South Arabia: from the arid margins to the highlands
    1. Settlement of South Arabia: the need to control water
    Sketch of a hydraulic history of the lowlands
    The origins of irrigation: small-scale systems in response to a changing environment
    The extension of irrigation systems into the main valleys
    Environmental and social implications of agricultural expansion
    Appropriation of land and formation of the South Arabian kingdoms
    Politics of expansion and commercial development
    The decline of the lowland irrigated lands
    A case study: the Markha valley, territory of the kingdom of Awsn
    Sketch of a hydraulic history of the highlands
    The earliest agricultural terraces
    First millennium BC: development of terraces, emergence of the elites and appropriation of land
    Dams of the ?imyarite period: the spread of a centralised authority
    2. The urbanisation of South Arabia
    The first urban form: spontaneous towns
    The slow process of urbanisation, a fruit of the agricultural conquest
    South Arabian towns: the logic of settlement and growth
    The urbanisation of South Arabia: an endogenous process
    Case study of a spontaneous town: Makaynn and the construction of a communal space in the ?a?ramawt
    The second urbanisation: new towns
    Do defensive systems made of adjoining houses reflect urban foundations?
    Sabaean foundations
    Commercial foundations
    Urban foundations in the inscriptions
    New towns: a synthesis
    Case study: Qni?, a port foundation
    An atypical urban development: Sana'a
    3. Urbanism and urban functions in South Arabia
    Morphology of South Arabian towns
    The town's surroundings: cultivated land and necropolises
    Approaching the town
    Inside the town
    The South Arabian town, an administrative and political centre
    The seat of a ruling elite
    The town, seat of the central authority
    The place of political activity in the town and the creation of an urban framework
    table of content

    The South Arabian town as a defensive and military centre
    Defensive centres at the local level
    Between defence and ostentation
    The South Arabian town as a religious centre
    Religion in the town
    An absence of properly urban religious practices but urban centres with religious functions
    The South Arabian town as an economic and commercial centre
    Craft corporations and craft centres
    Proximity to natural resources and establishment of economic centres
    Caravan towns and sea ports: international trading posts
    The place of economic activity in the urban framework
    4. The social structure and identity of South Arabian populations
    South Arabia: a segmentary society
    The Minaean tribe
    The Qatabnian tribe
    The Sabaean tribe
    Evolution of South Arabian social structure and power
    South Arabian populations: between tribal and urban-based identity
    Between the 8th and the 2nd century BC, an identity founded on kinship
    At the turn of the 1st century BC/AD: appearance of a territory-based identity and perception of the town as such
    A hypothesis for the evolution of identity markers through time
    The urban population of South Arabia, between tribalism and urban feeling 252

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