Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures

Dhofar Epigraphic Project

Please note: The Ancient Arabia Languages and Cultures (AALC) project was a one year project funded by the University of Oxford's John Fell Fund, and came to an end in 2011. This website acts as a historical record of the project, and is no longer actively updated.

For many years, Mr ʿAlī Aḥmad ʿAlī Maḥāš al-Šaḥrī has been recording the history of Dhofar, in what is now southern Oman. In 1991, he invited Dr Geraldine King to join him in systematically recording the numerous carved and painted texts in a previously unknown script which he had discovered in the monsoon mountains of Dhofar and the desert to the north of them. Together they set up the Dhofar Epigraphic Project and spent two seasons (1991 and 1992) recording over 800 inscriptions at 90 different sites.

As well as interim reports, Geraldine King and Alī Al-Šaḥrī produced a lengthy final report on the project in which they discussed everything that was known about the inscriptions and their contexts, examined every feature of the script and created a font for it in order to produce a concordance of the texts. This makes it possible to identify recurring groups of letters and possible word patterns, an essential prerequisite for decipherment.

Unfortunately, at the time of her death this report remained unpublished. The script is still undeciphered, and we still do not know the language(s) in which these texts are written.

Now, the report on the Dhofar Epigraphic Project is made available for the first time on this website together with all the photographs and facsimiles of the inscriptions. It is hoped that this will hasten the decipherment of the script and so provide a valuable source for the history of Dhofar.


Interim report on the progress of the Dhofar Epigraphic Project (1992)

Final report on the Dhofar Epigraphic Project