The Arabian Peninsula lies at the heart of the Middle East and in antiquity it stood between the mighty civilizations of Egypt and Mesapotamia. Yet, our ignorance until now of the history of Arabia before the emergence of Islam in the 7th century BC, has left a huge blank at the centre of what we know of the ancient Near East. This blank is now gradually being filled in, bringing to light not only previously little known - or even unknown - cultures spread over a vast region, but also a more complete picture of the ancient Near East as a whole.
Geographically "Ancient Arabia" refers to the Arabian Peninsula with, to the north, the Syro-Arabian desert stretching into what is modern Syria and Jordan. Chronologically, it covers all periods from the first evidence of human activity in the Peninsula, some 400,000 years ago, to the emergence of Islam...
The AALC project is creating the OCIANA, which will bring together in one corpus the almost 39,000 Ancient North Arabian inscriptions known to date. The initial phase of this project has been completed and at present the OCIANA contains 3420 previously unpublished Safaitic inscriptions recorded by the late Geraldine King in 1989 on the Basalt Desert Rescue Survey. The AALC project has also put online a downloadable pdf of Geraldine King's fundamental study of the inscriptions in a dialect and script used mainly by nomads in the Ḥismā sand desert of southern Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia, and which are therefore called "Hismaic" (formerly "Thamudic E").
In addition, the site is making available some 800 texts recorded in the mountainous region of Dhofar, in the south of modern Oman by the Dhofar Epigraphic Project. They were painted on cave walls and inscribed on stones in a script that as yet remains undeciphered and in a language that is still unknown. A concordance of the inscriptions has been provided which it is hoped will aid their eventual decipherment.
The OCIANA will be continuously updated as more inscriptions are discovered. Similarly, as more rock-art, and historical, archaeological, and linguistic material from ancient Arabia becomes available it is planned to make it accessible either on the AALC site or via links to other sites.
The AALC project also is also making available other primary sources for ancient Arabia such as Norman Lewis's previously unpublished transcription of W.J. Bankes's journal of his visit to Petra in 1818, as well as links to websites, further reading and bibliography for the study of ancient Arabia, and biographical notes on some of the scholars who have contributed most to this website and its associated projects, and to the study of ancient Arabia.
The AALC Projects
The languages and cultures of ancient Arabia have long been studied in the University of Oxford, a legacy of the pioneering work undertaken by the late Professor A.F.L. Beeston. The primary aim of the project Ancient Arabia : Languages and Cultures (AALC) is to make accessible through a single central portal a variety of resources for the study of ancient Arabia, thereby creating a global resource for the study of the languages and cultures of ancient Arabia and the Arabs before the emergence of Islam.
The Academic Director of AALC is Michael Macdonald, an expert in the languages and cultures of Ancient Arabia. AALC was initiated and is managed by The Khalili Research Centre (KRC) of the Faculty of Oriental Studies in the University of Oxford, and the Director of the KRC, Jeremy Johns, is the Administrative Director of AALC. The technical aspects of the project, including this website, are managed by Daniel Burt, and the scanning and cataloguing is the work of Jennifer Lockie.
The AALC is managed by a small committee consisting of the team members already mentioned, reinforced by Professor Robert Hoyland.
In October 2011, AALC received an initial grant from the University of Oxford's John Fell Fund. Further applications to continue the work of AALC and its associated projects are pending and in preparation.
Much of the focus of the initial year (2010–2011) of the AALC project is to digitise and publish the work undertaken by the late Dr Geraldine King, including her previously unpublished doctoral thesis on Early North Arabian Thamudic E [Hismaic], and the large amounts of epigraphic material that she recorded and had prepared for publication before her early death (including the Basalt Desert Rescue Survey and the Dhofar Epigraphic Project).
In addition to the work undertaken by Geraldine King, the site will also contain work undertaken by Michael Macdonald and his collaborators, including the massive Safaitic Database Online, alongside other primary sources for the study of ancient Arabia, such as W.J. Bankes's journal of his visit to Petra in 1818, and links to websites and bibliography for the study of ancient Arabia, and biographical notes on some of the scholars who have contributed most to this website and its associated projects and to the study of ancient Arabia.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures
Ancient Arabia: Languages and Cultures