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Sunday, July 14, 2024




Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia

KRC Research Archive

The OCIANA Project was an AHRC-funded research project that was based at The Khalili Research Centre and was active from October 2013 to June 2017. Note that this website is no longer updated, but all of the project outputs are available here and at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Photograph of a stele bearing an inscription in Dadanitic
Photograph of a stele bearing an inscription in Dadanitic

Dadanitic [formerly called 'Dedanite' and 'Lihyanite'] was the alphabet used by the inhabitants of the ancient oasis of Dadan (Biblical Dedān, modern al-ʿUlā in north-west Saudi Arabia), probably some time during the second half of the first millennium BC. Dadan was an important centre on the caravan route bringing frankincense from ancient South Arabia to Egypt, the Levant and the Mediterranean. Dadanitic has the same repertoire of 28 phonemes as Arabic and is the only ancient member of the South Semitic script family to use matres lectionis (i.e. some letters — h, w, and y — to represent both consonants and vowels or, in the case of y a diphthong). It was used for both monumental inscriptions and graffiti. The fact that many of the letters developed informal shapes, at the same time as the formal ones were being used — we can see both shapes in the same inscriptions — strongly suggests that the script was being used extensively to write in ink. This is because changing the shape of a letter is of no help to someone who only carves on stone. It is only when one is writing in ink that pressures of speed and ease provide the impetus for developing letter forms to make them easier and quicker to write. These new forms are then sometimes transferred to stone. Dadanitic inscriptions and graffiti are mainly concentrated in the oasis of al-ʿUlā and the mountains surrounding it, with a few distributed more widely.

OCIANA Preliminary Editions

The following pdf files contain preliminary editions of the corpora that are contained within OCIANA, and are available here as free downloads for use by researchers. Each pdf contains details of all of the inscriptions within that script family, along with their textual content and translations, commentaries, and provenance information.

Dadanitic Corpus
(858 pages, 8.3MB)

Hismaic Corpus
(1,316 pages, 9.1MB)

Safaitic Corpus
(10,105 pages, 79.8MB)

Taymanitic Corpus
(224 pages, 2.1MB)

Smaller Collections
(104 pages, 1.4MB)

Right-click on the pdf title and choose 'Save as' to download each file.