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Hismaic

A Hismaic graffito from south of Tabuk, north-west Saudi Arabia, by a member of the Ḥwlt lineage group. M.C.A. Macdonald, ‘Wheels in a land of camels: another look at the chariot in Arabia’. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 20, 2009, p. 179, no. 15.Hismaic [formerly 'Thamudic E'] is the name given to texts carved largely by nomads in the Ḥismā desert of what is now southern Jordan and north-west Saudi Arabia, though they are occasionally found in other places such as northern Jordan and parts of northern Saudi Arabia outside the Ḥismā. They are thought to date from roughly the same period as the Safaitic, i.e. first century BC to fourth century AD, though there is even less dating evidence in the case of Hismaic. However, some authors of these texts bear Nabataean 'basiliophoric' names — that is personal names formed with the name of a Nabataean king, thus ʿbd-ḥrtt ('the servant of Ḥrtt/Aretas') — which suggests that at least some of them were contemporary with the Nabataean presence in what is now Jordan and north-west Saudi Arabia. The alphabet has 28 characters which are assumed to be similar to the phonemes of Arabic.

The Hismaic inscriptions (formerly called "Thamudic E") are written in an Ancient North Arabian [ANA] dialect and script both of which are related to, but distinct from, Safaitic. They are mainly found in the Hismā desert of southern Jordan and north-west Saudi Arabia, from which the name "Hismaic" is derived, though a few are found in other places such as central and northern Jordan.

Until 1990, they were included in the Ancient North Arabian "pending file" of ANA scripts — and the texts carved in them — which had not been sufficiently studied to be clearly defined and given a name of their own. Western scholars gave this "pending file" the rather confusing name of "Thamudic", even though the texts have little or no demonstrable connection with the ancient tribe of Thamūd. In 1937, Professor F.V. Winnett made a rough division of the texts in the "pending file" into five groups to which he assigned the letters A–E. Later, his detailed study of "Thamudic A" allowed it to be recognized as a distinct dialect and script with its own orthographic and stylistic conventions, and it was renamed "Taymanite" or "Taymanitic".

A second group was removed from the "pending file" in 1990, when Geraldine King submitted her doctoral thesis. This was a detailed study of the texts which had up to that time been known as "Thamudic E". This meticulous study based on some 1300 new texts, which she herself had recorded in southern Jordan, and all the material published up to that date, defined the features of the dialect, the script, the distinctive conventions employed in the texts and the historical, social and religious background of their authors. Although this seminal work remained unpublished, it was of such importance to the study of Ancient North Arabian that photocopies of it could be found throughout world in academic libraries dealing with ancient Arabia.

We are most grateful to Geraldine King's family for allowing us to make it available on the Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures website as a pdf, together, for the first time, with the photographs of the inscriptions. This will make possible searches for words and names throughout not only the 1300 inscriptions edited in her thesis, but all those previously published, for many of which she gave revised readings. It is hoped that in the near future it will be possible to add to this database all Hismaic inscriptions published since 1990 and so make it a searchable corpus of all known texts of this group.

Download 'Early North Arabian Hismaic' in pdf format (5.8mb), appendices (1.8mb), and plates (12.6mb)

Please note: by default, Adobe Acrobat ignores accents and diacritical marks for searches. Should you wish to alter this, please see the instructions on the following page: http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/tutorials/acr7ct_searchprefs/

 

The Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia,
The Khalili Research Centre, The University of Oxford,
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