5th- 4th Century B.C
Hasean Funerary Stone for ‘Matmat’
Large funerary stone, inscribed in the Hasaean dialect using a variety of South Arabian monumental script, with three inscribed lines for the man Matmat, recording both patrilineal and matriarchal descent. Translated by Dr. A. Jamme, it reads:
nfs/wqbr/mtmt/ 1: Tombstone and grave of Matmat,
bn/zrbbt/’lt/’h/ 2: son of Zurubbat, those of ‘Ah-
ns/d’t/’b/s’d 3: nas, her of the father of Sa’ad-
‘b/ 4: ‘ab.
The southern Arabian states organized the ancient trade routes which traversed the western coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the eastern expanses.
A number of inscriptions discovered on the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf, mainly in Hasa’ province in Saudia Arabia, but also in southern Iraq, are regarded as forming a distinct ensemble because they are written in a distinct variety of the Sabaean alphabet. ((D.T.Potts, The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, Vol.IIFrom Alexander the Great to the Coming of Islam, Oxford, 1990,pp.69-85) To which can be added a few coins with the caption”Abiyatha”. The content of these inscriptions, all on funerary stelae, is very poor: only a few words and proper names can be recognized (cat.228). The article, used only with people’s names, is ‘han-‘.
These inscriptions, called “Hasaean”, after the name of the Saudi province were they were found, could be better described as “Hagaric” because they were probably written by inhabitants of the kingdom of Hagar, better known by the Greek name of Gerrha.” (p.122).
D.T.Potts writes on page 379, “More importantly, however, over thirty inscriptions written in monumental South Arabian letters have been found at Thaj, Ayn Jawan, Qatif, Abqqaiq and al-Hinna.[all near the Arabian gulf] Typically, these inscriptions are funerary in character, appearing on grave stelae. Most of them follow the formula “memorial/monument and tomb (nfs wqbr) [[note the wording on your inscription]] of PN1[[personal name]], son of PN2, of the group A, of the group B”. Called Hasaean or Hasaitic after al-Hasa, a traditional Arabic term for the Eastern Province, the inscriptions employ a script developed from the South Arabian Sabaic script with some peculiar letter forms. Their language, however, is not a South Arabian one but rather a dialect of Ancient North Arabian. The names in these texts are Semitic. Although most of the Hasaitic inscriptions have been found out of context, one example of this type, found interestingly enough at Uruk in southern Iraq, shows us how they were originally placed. Discovered in 1857 by William Kennet Loftus, the Uruq exemplar(CIH699) stood at one end of a small burial chamber, the inscription facing inward.”
Abdullah S. Al-Saud (p.399 ) writing about the site of Ayn Jawan, northwest of the Gulf of Tarut, not far from Bahrain, writes: “The site was discovered in 1943 before the end of the Second World War when the Saudi Aramco company decided to convert the land next to the port of Ras Tanura into a quarry. In the course of the operation, the Aramco workmen found mysterious constructions buried under mounds of sand. In 1945 a fragment of an inscription in South Arabic was unearthed, revealing the presence of the tomb of a woman named Ghatham bint Oumrat ibn Tahiou…. In 1952 put the archaeologist F.S. Vidal in charge of the survey and excavations [[of Ayn Jawan]]; he worked for twenty-two months and unearthed a monumental tomb. p.400, “The dating of the tomb [[at Ayn Jawan]] is still very uncertain as it was looted several times and, above all, because we have no terminus ante quem for proposing an accurate date. Nevertheless, considering the grave contents, we can assume that it goes back to the 1st century AD……. Many coins were found as well….and several Hasaean inscriptions which probably marked the location of the graves. One of them commemorated the deceased woman: “Nefesh and tomb of Ghatham daughter of Oumrut son of Tahiou of the family of[…], of the clan of ‘Uwaayr, of the Chadab tribe. We miss her”.”
Sabean and Hasaean Inscriptions from Saudi Arabia, A. Jamme, W. F., 1966, Instituto Di Studi Del Vicino Oriente, Universuta di Roma, pg. 74, pl. XVII, Ja 1048.
Reputedly discovered by Aramco workers.
The stone inscription was photographed at the company camp at Ras Tanura not far from Jawan so it’s possible it came from there. The 1966 publication refers to a letter dated 10th January 1962 by J.P. Mandaville which references this object.
Private Collection, Virginia, USA, since 1974, acquired on the trade.
US Art Market