Sabaean epigraphy developed into one of the most important Semitic epigraphic disciplines. In quantity, it is defeated only by the epigraphic records in Assyro-Babylonian. The number of Sabaean inscriptions increases every day. There are over 50.000 inscriptions on stone. Recent discoveries include the inscriptions on wood, mostly on sticks of sigar-like proportions. In the inscriptions on wood, approximately 6000 and most of them unpublished, a cursive script is used, derived from the script of the monumental inscriptions on stone.

The study of Sabaean inscriptions, both on stone and on wood, is of great importance for at least two reasons. Firstly it may lead to new linguistic insights concerning the earlier stages of South Semitic languages and their relations to the modern South Semitic languages in Yemen and Oman as well as the South Semitic languages of modern Ethiopia. Secondly, these inscriptions may increase our knowledge of Arabia before the emergence of Islam. These inscriptions represent trustworthy witnesses of pre-islamic society and culture. They picture for us a society in which, eventually, Islam developed. Research made clear that a number of rituals and ceremonies in Islam can be traced back into pre-islamic society.

A course in Sabaean is given at Leiden University by Prof.dr. Harry Stroomer. The course is intended for Students of Arabic and Semitic languages, and archeologists, and comprises the following elements:

  • an introduction to Sabaean grammar.
  • linguistic and cultural analysis of published Sabaean texts.

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