Sources of modern knowledge
Their candidate site of Wadi Sayq appears to offer almost all that we could hope for in terms of marvelous, even stunning evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. The Proctors provide some additional details beyond the work of the Astons that show the plausibility of the Wadi Sayq location. Aston, where he offers some arguments against the Khor Rori site, and see the blog for Discover Nephi's Bountiful. Salalah near Khor Rori appears to offer much more in the way of fruit and timber than does Wadi Sayq, but this is largely due to recent irrigation.
Khor Rori does provide a good harbor with an ancient tradition of ship building, but there is no evidence that ship building skills were there anywhere close to Nephi's time. Wadi Sayq, on the other hand, offers an inlet that anciently may have been quite suitable for launching a ship. At Khor Rori, Potter argues that Nephi could have learned the art of ship building, could have learned how to outfit and operate a ship, could have learned how to train a crew, could have done practice runs in the harbor so his family could see that it was a good ship, could have used existing moorings and literally had his family do down into the ship, and so forth.
But Wadi Sayq has all the elements of Nephi's story--the mountain, the trees, the place to build a ship--all close together. But the path to Wadi Sayq better fits Nephi's description of being nearly due east from Nahom, while more zig-zags are needed to reach Khor Rori. Regarding the other Book of Mormon criteria for the place Bountiful, the Astons list the following, along with several others:.
Wadi Sayq appears to be the most compelling fit. Both sites are relatively close, within a journey of about two days on foot. Ore has been found at both sites. Khor Kharfot at Wadi Sayq offers the largest body of coastal fresh water on the Arabian peninsula, with a beautiful freshwater lagoon, visible on the color photo on the dust jacket of the book " In Lehi's Footsteps. Both sites have coastal areas ideal for an encampment on the seashore, and it is accessible from the interior desert.
In the Aston's book, you'll see trees, greenery, mountains, cliffs, etc. While there are two interesting candidates, I strongly favor Wadi Sayq, and this appears to be the general consensus of LDS scholars and of those who have visited both sites.
But the very fact that anything remotely close to a plausible candidate exists is in stark contrast to the oft-repeated claims of critics of the Book of Mormon. An official Web site from the Sultanate of Oman now provides a photogallery with some beautiful photos that show some of the remarkable scenes from the Omani coast, including some of the lush, green vegetation and large trees that occur near candidate sites for Bountiful Dhofar near Wadi Sayq, and the sites of Salalah and Khor Rori.
You can also see the harsh desert. The site is Omanet. After going there, click on "gallery" and then "tourism," and click through their photos. Incidentally, the recent discovery of iron ore suitable for tool making using wood-fired furnaces in the region of Bountiful is a far more impressive find than one might realize, for there are very few places in the Arabian Peninsula that have such ore, according to geology professor Ron Harris in his fascinating article, " Geologists Discover Iron Ore in the Region of Nephi's Bountiful " in Meridian Magazine at LDSmag.
His article discusses the significance of the find and confirms that the iron ore near the area can be converted to workable metal using wood-fired technology. There is simply no way that Joseph could have obtained enough information about Arabia to fabricate more than a minute fraction of the voyage described in First Nephi.
This is demonstrated in the survey of information available prior to provided by Eugene England in "Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, , pp. Kent Brown's excellent response to critics who have challenged the significance of finds in the Arabian Peninsula dealing with the place Nahom.
It is true that the name "Nehhem" or "Nehem" appear on a couple of maps of Arabia produced in Europe before the Book of Mormon was published see In the Footsteps of Lehi , pp. Danish explorer Carsten Niebuhr prepared a map in and published a book in , that was translated into English and published in England, dealing with the Arabian Peninsula.
Also of interest is a French map produced by Rigobert Bonne around , which shows "Nehem" on the map see related old maps of Arabia by searching for "Arabia" in the maps at Portsmouthbookshop. That link is to the text version. Gee found that some of the most expensive maps from the finest printing houses in Europe between and often showed Nehem, though numerous maps did not. I am not aware of any evidence that these maps were accessible to Joseph Smith.
I have searched many sources and others have, too. Part 1 " and " Part 2. Say, here's a fun challenge: See what they can come up with, and compare it to reality and the Book of Mormon.
The Arabian peninsula evidence for Book of Mormon authenticity is fascinating, though many will still dismiss it. If I asked you to write about a journey across Tasmania or through Bhutan or some other place about which you knew little, could you possibly describe a journey and its course in a way that would gain credibility with time? Is there any chance that you could even describe a reasonable general direction to travel? Could you pick a route that would later comply with routes used by others in the area?
Could you name a site and over a century later have others find a map with a similar name at that place? Could you describe an unusual place that seems entirely out of line with what little you and others knew about the area, only to have others later discover an excellent candidate for that location in a place entirely consistent with the course you describe?
To me, this is one of literally hundreds of "mundane" confirmations of the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient document. The only logical explanation for the account of Lehi's journey is that it was written by people who traveled through the Arabian peninsula, and that means Joseph Smith did not write it.
We are talking about a real ancient document that speaks to us from the dust Isaiah 29 and confirms that Jesus is the Christ. The detailed treatment, the extensive documentation, the careful consideration of numerous issues, including ocean currents for the ocean voyage eastward, for example, and the personal description of the Astons' adventures make these outstanding resources and truly enjoyable reads.
And much of the information is relevant even if Wadi Sayq is not the actual Bountiful of Nephi. I have asked many critics of the Book of Mormon to explain how Joseph Smith could have fabricated something so "laughable" yet so amazingly accurate as the place Bountiful and the burial place Nahom.
No one so far has attempted a serious explanation. Citing the earlier and now outdated work of the Hiltons, who proposed an alternative site for Nahom before the exciting discoveries of Nehem and Wadi Sayq, the Tanners make much of the Hiltons having proposed a different place than the site Nehem. Since the two sites are miles away, we are supposed to shake our heads and dismiss both due to the apparent contradiction p. Such arguments are utterly irrelevant, for the earlier tentative work of the Hiltons has been entirely superseded by more recent discoveries.
Amazingly, the Tanners go on to suggest that the ancient burial site Nehem or Nehhm, as one source misspells it, is an utterly unacceptable candidate for Nahom, since "only three of the five letters in Nehhm agree with the spelling Nahom. The second letter in Nehhm is e rather than a, and the fourth letter is h instead of o. The variant spellings of Nehem, Nehm, Nihm, Nahm, and Naham do not really help to solve the problem" p.
But surely the Tanners know the deceitfulness of their argument. Surely they have encountered enough basic Biblical and LDS commentary to know that it is the consonants and not the vowels that carry the meaning in Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Arabic. If nothing else, surely the Tanners have read that Jehovah in Hebrew is really YHWH, at which point typical commentaries explain the fluidity of vowels and the primacy of consonants in written Hebrew.
New Light from Ancient Yemen. The Tanners try to explain away the correctness of the routes described in the Book of Mormon by suggesting that some books in the s did speak of a fertile region in southern Arabia. That argument can't even come close to explaining the direct hit on Nahom, which is not mentioned in any known sources available in The sources the Tanners refer to, the works of Jedidiah Morse, speak of Arabia Felix, a fruitful place, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea , in the southwestern part of the Arabian peninsula.
Morse indicates that the rest of the Arabian peninsula was barren. Even if Joseph Smith had access to his works anti-Mormon critics are retroactively creating an ever growing library for the farm boy Joseph! Nahom, near the southwestern part of the peninsula, was far from a Bountiful-like place, but was a place of sorrow and mourning and severe hunger 1 Nephi Kent Brown provides information about what was available from ancient writers about Arabia and the incense trail in his article, " New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail " in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon , ed.
FARMS, , pp. As of , for example, neither the Manchester library nor the Dartmouth College library had any classical or contemporary works dealing in any detail with Arabia ibid. Even if Joseph had been a voracious bookworm with a huge library at hand, there is simply no way he could have generated the accurate details in the Book of Mormon based on what was available in print in the s.
Brown's article also adds many other dimensions to our appreciation of the Book of Mormon, showing that the Dhofar region of southern Oman has the features described in 1 Nephi, including the honey mentioned in 1 Nephi If the Book of Mormon is to be explained away, it won't do to simply deal with the weakest evidences for authenticity and the incompletely answered questions.
The strongest evidences must also be considered. I consider the "direct hits" in the Arabian Peninsula to be among the strongest intellectual evidences for authenticity, though many more continue to emerge. Theories that make the Book of Mormon to be a mere product of nineteenth century knowledge are immediately undermined by consideration of the Arabian Peninsula evidences along with chiasmus, Hebraisms , metal plates and scriptorio, warfare in the Book of Mormon, and many other issues.
Some critics have charged that Joseph could have found a book describing the Arabian peninsula that also had a map with the name Nehem on it. There is absolutely no support for this concept.
While obscure works had been published in Europe with a map showing Nehem, as far as we can tell it was not available anywhere near Joseph Smith in his day. A good discussion on this topic and other topics relating to Nahom is found in a message attributed to S. Kent Brown posted Feb. Modern critics with far more education and knowledge of the Arabian Peninsula than Joseph Smith ever had have scoffed at the Book of Mormon's description of the impressive Valley of Lemuel with its "river, continually running" into the Red Sea 1 Nephi 2: The story repeats itself with the place Bountiful, where initial mockery at the preposterous, uneducated fabrication of Joseph Smith was followed by relative silence in the face of impressive evidence that such a place may be plausible after all.
The critics were initially fairly silent or managed to nitpick at details or differences in views between LDS scholars, many of which have been resolved with the recent work of Aston in his book, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia. Now if the Book of Mormon were completely fabricated based on what Joseph could glean about the world from upstate New York in the late s, would we now have the luxury of discussing which actual wadi in Arabia best matches the textual details for the Valley of Lemuel and the River Laman?
Or would we be discussing the impressive merits of one candidate for Bountiful versus another, as we see below, when "everyone knows" until recently! It should give one pause, at least. The authors offer tantalizing finds, but in spite of their field work and abundant photographs and maps, they may have made some serious errors at the beginning of the path they identify. While their candidate for the Valley of Lemuel and the River Laman seem impressive, there is a good case that it is too far from the shores of the Red Sea and that the path required to reach it is implausible, as is discussed in the review, " The Wrong Place for Lehi's Trail and the Valley of Lemuel " by Jeffrey R.
Chadwick proposes that Bir Marsha, a place easily accessed from the coast of the Red Sea and not distant from Potter's candidate, may be more suitable for the Valley of Lemuel, though there may be several other good choices.
As for the River Laman, Chadwick believes that it only need have been a wadi flowing with water at the time of Lehi's sermon to his sons, and that it need not flow continuously.
Lehi said that it ran continuously to the Red Sea, not that it flowed continuously, and this can be fulfilled by a path for a wadi that goes into the Red Sea, regardless of how often the path has flowing water.
Around the region of Nahom, the authors are on more solid ground. I am also intrigued with their discussion of the place Shazer that corresponds to a specific location along the ancient incense trails, as does Nahom.
Numerous details of the journey described in the Book of Mormon are consistent with the terrain and the ways of ancient voyagers through the Arabian Peninsula.
Potter and Wellington provide a wealth of information that adds insight to Lehi's travels and to the circumstances of his group at various stages of their long sojourn. The authors then trace Lehi's probable path from Nahom eastward to the coast of Oman, and offer an interesting but possibly incorrect candidate for the place Bountiful see " Warren Aston on the Superiority of Khor Kharfot as a Candidate for Bountiful ". Here they depart from the much publicized Wadi Sayq as a candidate for Bountiful, preferring instead the region of Dhofar about 60 miles to the north, and specifically the port region of Khor Rori.
Even if some parts of their analysis are wrong, the general information about the Arabian Peninsula strengthens the case for the plausibility of First Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Regardless of which candidate is selected for Bountiful, there are many factors that supporting the record in First Nephi as an authentic ancient Semitic record from someone who actually made the journey from Jerusalem to the eastern coast of Oman.
In spite of some possibly serious errors, Potter and Wellington's book is a valuable contribution. It is available at NephiProject. Aston's article in the March issue of Wildlife Middle East vol. Warren's article, "Arabia's Hidden Valley: The article includes photos of the Khor Kharfot site at the mouth of Wadi Sayq, and also discusses biodiversity in this region. Photos of native figs and dates are included, as are some photos of the large freshwater lagoon that would have been a big part of why a weary band of travelers might call that spot Bountiful.
Knowledge of the biodiversity there helps us better appreciate what Lehi and Nephi may have found, though some things have certainly changed since B. While the once-frequent jabs at Nephi's tale of finding Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula have lost their punch with the discovery of a remarkable and hard-to-ignore candidate for Bountiful in Oman, other aspects of Nephi's story continue to draw anti-Mormon fire.
One of the most prominent targets is the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman. Anti-Mormons recently have been proclaiming that no such river exists--a "slam-dunk" argument against the entire Book of Mormon. The attack is based on the following verses from 1 Nephi chapter O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord! Sure, a few wadis might get a momentary trickle during a rainstorm, but nothing that could be the basis for Lehi's lecture to Laman. Yet the Book of Mormon has Lehi and his family stopping in an impressive valley with a river that continually year round? Slam dunk for the antis?
An excellent candidate location for the River of Laman and the Valley of Lemuel has been found in an entirely plausible location.
Photographic evidence and other documentation is provided in George D. Potter reports that in looking for a well in Arabia, about 8 miles north of Maqna on the Gulf of Aqaba, he stumbled across a magnificent narrow canyon that ended in a palm-lined cove on the coast of the Red Sea. The canyon actually has a small stream that flows continually, throughout the entire year, and is surrounded by very tall mountain walls.
I've received permission from author George Potter to display two relevant photos that he kindly sent me:. Other photos from the video on the Valley of Lemuel and other photos of interest from the Arabian Peninsula are shown in a photogallery at NephiProject.
While some of the findings reported in various videos at NephiProject. Leitwortstil is 'the purposeful repetition of words' in a given literary piece that "usually expresses a motif or theme important to the given story". This device occurs in the One Thousand and One Nights , which binds several tales in a story cycle. The storytellers of the tales relied on this technique "to shape the constituent members of their story cycles into a coherent whole. Thematic patterning is "the distribution of recurrent thematic concepts and moralistic motifs among the various incidents and frames of a story.
In a skillfully crafted tale, thematic patterning may be arranged so as to emphasize the unifying argument or salient idea which disparate events and disparate frames have in common". This technique also dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights and earlier. Several different variants of the " Cinderella " story, which has its origins in the Egyptian story of Rhodopis , appear in the One Thousand and One Nights , including "The Second Shaykh's Story", "The Eldest Lady's Tale" and "Abdallah ibn Fadil and His Brothers", all dealing with the theme of a younger sibling harassed by two jealous elders.
In some of these, the siblings are female, while in others they are male. One of the tales, "Judar and His Brethren", departs from the happy endings of previous variants and reworks the plot to give it a tragic ending instead, with the younger brother being poisoned by his elder brothers. The Nights contain many examples of sexual humour. Some of this borders on satire , as in the tale called "Ali with the Large Member" which pokes fun at obsession with human penis size.
The literary device of the unreliable narrator was used in several fictional medieval Arabic tales of the One Thousand and One Nights. Seven viziers attempt to save his life by narrating seven stories to prove the unreliability of women, and the courtesan responds back by narrating a story to prove the unreliability of viziers.
An example of the murder mystery  and suspense thriller genres in the collection, with multiple plot twists  and detective fiction elements  was " The Three Apples ", also known as Hikayat al-sabiyya 'l-maqtula "The Tale of the Murdered Young Woman" ,  one of the tales narrated by Scheherazade in the One Thousand and One Nights. In this tale, Harun al-Rashid comes to possess a chest, which, when opened, contains the body of a young woman. Thus the mystery is solved.
Another Nights tale with crime fiction elements was "The Hunchback's Tale" story cycle which, unlike "The Three Apples", was more of a suspenseful comedy and courtroom drama rather than a murder mystery or detective fiction. The story is set in a fictional China and begins with a hunchback, the emperor's favourite comedian , being invited to dinner by a tailor couple.
The hunchback accidentally chokes on his food from laughing too hard and the couple, fearful that the emperor will be furious, take his body to a Jewish doctor 's clinic and leave him there. This leads to the next tale in the cycle, the "Tale of the Jewish Doctor", where the doctor accidentally trips over the hunchback's body, falls down the stairs with him, and finds him dead, leading him to believe that the fall had killed him. The doctor then dumps his body down a chimney, and this leads to yet another tale in the cycle, which continues with twelve tales in total, leading to all the people involved in this incident finding themselves in a courtroom , all making different claims over how the hunchback had died.
Haunting is used as a plot device in gothic fiction and horror fiction , as well as modern paranormal fiction. Legends about haunted houses have long appeared in literature. Horror fiction elements are also found in "The City of Brass" tale, which revolves around a ghost town. The horrific nature of Scheherazade 's situation is magnified in Stephen King 's Misery , in which the protagonist is forced to write a novel to keep his captor from torturing and killing him.
The influence of the Nights on modern horror fiction is certainly discernible in the work of H. As a child, he was fascinated by the adventures recounted in the book, and he attributes some of his creations to his love of the Nights.
Several stories within the One Thousand and One Nights feature early science fiction elements. One example is "The Adventures of Bulukiya", where the protagonist Bulukiya's quest for the herb of immortality leads him to explore the seas, journey to Paradise and to Hell , and travel across the cosmos to different worlds much larger than his own world, anticipating elements of galactic science fiction;  along the way, he encounters societies of djinn ,  mermaids , talking serpents , talking trees, and other forms of life.
In another Nights tale, "Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman", the protagonist Abdullah the Fisherman gains the ability to breathe underwater and discovers an underwater society that is portrayed as an inverted reflection of society on land, in that the underwater society follows a form of primitive communism where concepts like money and clothing do not exist.
Other Arabian Nights tales also depict Amazon societies dominated by women, lost ancient technologies, advanced ancient civilizations that went astray, and catastrophes which overwhelmed them. Characters occasionally provide poetry in certain settings, covering many uses. However, pleading, beseeching and praising the powerful is the most significant. In a typical example, expressing feelings of happiness to oneself from Night , Prince Qamar Al-Zaman,  standing outside the castle, wants to inform Queen Bodour of his arrival.
He wraps his ring in a paper and hands it to the servant who delivers it to the Queen. When she opens it and sees the ring, joy conquers her, and out of happiness she chants this poem Arabic: And I have regretted the separation of our companionship:: You cry out of joy and out of sadness. Long, long have I bewailed the sev'rance of our loves, With tears that from my lids streamed down like burning rain And vowed that, if the days deign reunite us two, My lips should never speak of severance again: Joy hath o'erwhelmed me so that, for the very stress Of that which gladdens me to weeping I am fain.
Tears are become to you a habit, O my eyes, So that ye weep as well for gladness as for pain. The influence of the versions of The Nights on world literature is immense. Writers as diverse as Henry Fielding to Naguib Mahfouz have alluded to the collection by name in their own works. Lovecraft , Marcel Proust , A. Byatt and Angela Carter. Various characters from this epic have themselves become cultural icons in Western culture, such as Aladdin , Sinbad and Ali Baba.
Part of its popularity may have sprung from improved standards of historical and geographical knowledge.
The marvelous beings and events typical of fairy tales seem less incredible if they are set further "long ago" or farther "far away"; this process culminates in the fantasy world having little connection, if any, to actual times and places.
Several elements from Arabian mythology are now common in modern fantasy , such as genies , bahamuts , magic carpets , magic lamps, etc.
Frank Baum proposed writing a modern fairy tale that banished stereotypical elements, he included the genie as well as the dwarf and the fairy as stereotypes to go. There is little evidence that the Nights was particularly treasured in the Arab world.
It is rarely mentioned in lists of popular literature and few preth-century manuscripts of the collection exist. According to Robert Irwin, "Even today, with the exception of certain writers and academics, the Nights is regarded with disdain in the Arabic world.
Its stories are regularly denounced as vulgar, improbable, childish and, above all, badly written. Although the first known translation into a European language only appeared in , it is possible that the Nights began exerting its influence on Western culture much earlier.
Echoes in Giovanni Sercambi 's Novelle and Ariosto 's Orlando furioso suggest that the story of Shahriyar and Shahzaman was also known. The modern fame of the Nights derives from the first known European translation by Antoine Galland, which appeared in According to Robert Irwin , Galland "played so large a part in discovering the tales, in popularizing them in Europe and in shaping what would come to be regarded as the canonical collection that, at some risk of hyperbole and paradox, he has been called the real author of the Nights.
This fashion began with the publication of Madame d'Aulnoy 's Histoire d'Hypolite in D'Aulnoy's book has a remarkably similar structure to the Nights , with the tales told by a female narrator. At the same time, some French writers began to parody the style and concoct far-fetched stories in superficially Oriental settings.
They often contained veiled allusions to contemporary French society. The most famous example is Voltaire 's Zadig , an attack on religious bigotry set against a vague pre-Islamic Middle Eastern background. The Polish nobleman Jan Potocki 's novel Saragossa Manuscript begun owes a deep debt to the Nights with its Oriental flavour and labyrinthine series of embedded tales.
The work was included on a price-list of books on theology, history, and cartography, which was sent by the Scottish bookseller Andrew Millar when an apprentice to a Presbyterian minister.
This is illustrative of the title's widespread popularity and availability in the s. The Nights continued to be a favourite book of many British authors of the Romantic and Victorian eras. Byatt , "In British Romantic poetry the Arabian Nights stood for the wonderful against the mundane, the imaginative against the prosaically and reductively rational. Wordsworth and Tennyson also wrote about their childhood reading of the tales in their poetry.
It depicts the eighth and final voyage of Sinbad the Sailor , along with the various mysteries Sinbad and his crew encounter; the anomalies are then described as footnotes to the story.
While the king is uncertain—except in the case of the elephants carrying the world on the back of the turtle—that these mysteries are real, they are actual modern events that occurred in various places during, or before, Poe's lifetime.
The story ends with the king in such disgust at the tale Scheherazade has just woven, that he has her executed the very next day. Another important literary figure, the Irish poet W. Yeats was also fascinated by the Arabian Nights, when he wrote in his prose book, A Vision an autobiographical poem, titled The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid ,  in relation to his joint experiments with his wife Georgie Hyde-Lees , with Automatic writing.
The automatic writing, is a technique used by many occultists in order to discern messages from the subconscious mind or from other spiritual beings, when the hand moves a pencil or a pen, writing only on a simple sheet of paper and when the person's eyes are shut. Also, the gifted and talented wife, is playing in Yeats's poem as "a gift" herself, given only allegedly by the caliph to the Christian and Byzantine philosopher Qusta Ibn Luqa , who acts in the poem as a personification of W.
In July he was asked by Louis Lambert, while in a tour in the United States, which six books satisfied him most. The list that he gave placed the Arabian Nights, secondary only to William Shakespeare's works. The critic Robert Irwin singles out the two versions of The Thief of Baghdad version directed by Raoul Walsh; version produced by Alexander Korda and Pier Paolo Pasolini 's Il fiore delle Mille e una notte , as ranking "high among the masterpieces of world cinema.
UPA , an American animation studio, produced an animated feature version of Arabian Nights , featuring the cartoon character Mr. The animated feature film, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights , produced in Japan and directed by Osamu Tezuka and Eichii Yamamoto, featured psychedelic imagery and sounds, and erotic material intended for adults.
Shabnam Rezaei and Aly Jetha created, and the Vancouver-based Big Bad Boo Studios produced Nights , an animated television series for children, which launched on Teletoon and airs in 80 countries around the world, including Discovery Kids Asia. Arabian Nights , in Portuguese: Popular modern video games with an Arabian Nights theme include Nadirim , a game placed in a fantasy world inspired by the tales of the Nights,  Disney's Aladdin , Prince of Persia and Sonic and the Secret Rings , and Bookworm Adventures.
Many artists have illustrated the Arabian nights , including: Famous illustrators for British editions include: Others artists include John D. Heath Robinson and Arthur Szyk Harun ar-Rashid , a leading character of the Nights.
William Harvey , The Story of the Fisherman , —40, woodcut. Friedrich Gross , ante , woodcut. Short messages, such as a description of an incident, a sad evocation of a dead relative, or an invocation to a god, may follow.
Thanks to their considerable number, such texts, which may be rather insignificant in themselves, provide valuable information on the gods and their attributes and on their worshipers. The monumental inscriptions are much more elaborate and meaningful, both because they belong to the complex institutions of a sedentary culture and because they appear in an archaeological context.
They are carefully engraved, so that the state of evolution of the script allows them to be dated approximately, even when no explicit date is given. They are utilitarian in character and are usually concerned with the construction of buildings, the dedication of objects to a god, or arrangements relating to irrigation. They may also describe military campaigns. So far only traces of a true religious literature have been recovered. But several specimens of a hitherto unknown type of document, excavated since in Yemen , contradict the unilateral character of the inscriptions.
These are records from private archives personal letters, contracts, and so on , finely engraved in a cursive writing on small wooden sticks. Iconographic documents such as statues and reliefs, seals, and coins also reveal aspects of the religion. Yet another source is the Muslim tradition. External sources are scanty: Arabia has remained little known to its neighbours. From the 9th to the 7th century bc Assyrian kings report their campaigns against North Arabian kings or queens and tribes and occasionally name their gods.
The Book of Kings of the Bible describes the legendary visit in Jerusalem of a queen of Sheba, bringing presents of gold and frankincense, during the reign of Solomon 10th century bc.
It is quite probable that Jews of the Babylonian Exile were among those forced settlers and initiated at that time the Jewish presence in Arabia. Some classical authors, from Herodotus 5th century bc to Claudius Ptolemy 2nd century ad , provide information on the religion of the Arabs and on the geography of the Arabian Peninsula. Several Byzantine authors report conflicts between Jews and Christians in Yemen in the 6th century ad. For many subsequent centuries Arabia remained practically closed to European penetration.
Important discoveries of monuments and inscriptions occurred only from about the middle of the 19th century. It was only after World War II , and indeed mostly since the late s, that major archaeological surveys and excavations began in various parts of the peninsula.
From the middle of the 2nd millennium bc a sedentary agrarian civilization developed in Yemen in the oases along the edge of the desert. The people of this civilization had gradually mastered techniques enabling them to accumulate water from seasonal mountain rivers and distribute it into extensive irrigation systems. At the end of the 8th century appeared the oldest monumental inscriptions so far recorded, displayed on the walls of buildings. A total of about 8, such texts, whole or fragmentary, which correspond to 13 centuries of South Arabian history, have been discovered.
The texts from the 6th century bc mention the main South Arabian kingdoms, which were spaced out from the northwest to the southeast in the oases along the edge of the desert. About the beginning of the Common era the rise of overseas trade between Egypt and India disrupted the political and economic balance in South Arabia and resulted in a period of general conflict.
This political unification hastened the decay of the overly diversified polytheistic beliefs. These early monotheistic texts probably emanated from Jewish immigrants from the oases of the Hejaz, although Christianity had already been introduced in South Arabia by Byzantine and Syrian missionaries. He also killed Byzantine merchants elsewhere in his kingdom. Outraged by the massacre and pressed by the Christian world to intervene, the Negus of Ethiopia gathered a fleet and landed with troops in Yemen.
Somewhat later Abraha , a former Ethiopian general, took power. This was a symptom rather than the cause of the long decline of the South Arabian culture, which had led to the emigration northward of several Yemeni tribes.
About South Arabia came under Persian occupation. There are various populations to consider, differing in their languages and systems of writing, in their pantheons, and above all in their ways of life. Sedentary populations of merchants and farmers were settled in towns and oases, which were centres of developed civil and religious institutions.
In sharp contrast with them were the breeders of sheep and goats—semi-nomads living in precarious shelters in the vicinity of sedentary settlements—and true nomads: Their places of worship were rocky high places; portable idols followed the peregrinations of the tribe.
Their capital, Petra , north of the Gulf of Aqaba , is historically attested from the beginning of the 4th century bc.