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Where do archaeologists get the knowledge about Nabataeans?

The Nabataeans unlike Egyptians or most of the other civilizations that reached an advanced level in most aspects of life, did not leave us written description of any aspect of their life, archeologists get their information from sources that are very small to compare to what they have achieved... Most of the information comes from other people writing about them, and the inscriptions they left here and there, and the art they left behind... Here is a brief about the sources we got know Nabataeans through:


Over 6 thousand inscriptions were found in different places that date from the second century b.c. to the forth a.d., most of them date to the first and second centuries a.d. They are mainly brief, but they told us a lot about the Nabataean language, the evolution of the Nabataean letters, and other information like the names they had and their gods and kings, the places they ruled and laws and religion.

The inscriptions were found inside the Nabataean kingdom as well as outside it, the content which was almost always very brief, varied depending on the place and the time and they are sorted by place to:

-The inscriptions of Hauran, south Syria, mainly found in temples and dated to the end of the first century and the beginning of the second, they mainly only told the names of the dead.

-The inscriptions of Egra, north Saudi Arabia, most of which were about religious and legal matters, carved near the cult niches, the inscriptions mentioned the names of the sculptors who carved, and the name of the owner of the tomb or the person to be buried specifying the place in the tomb, and from the titles of the dead people they show the military history of the area. The inscriptions also contained curses and specified fines and punishment in case of messing with the tomb.

-The inscriptions of Petra, mainly written by pilgrims to the city, mentioning their names and some prayers for blessing close to religious places, and of the tomb inscriptions one is on the Turkmaniyya tomb

.inscription on the way down to Wadi Farasah

-The inscriptions of Wadi Rum and Khirbet Tannur.

-The inscriptions of Sinai, dating to the second and third century a.d. after the fall of Petra (106 a.d.).

-The inscriptions of south Palestine, they continued through a long period starting even the third century b.c. according to some archaeologists, and they documented the history of the Nabataean letters.

Other inscriptions from other places:

-The inscription of Tel el-Shuqafiya to the west of Ismailiya, Egypt, two inscriptions were found that told us about the Nabataean presence there in the first century b.c.

-The inscription of Um al-Rasas, Jordan, dates to 39 a.d. mentions one of amrat tribe working in the Nabataean army.

-The inscription of Madaba, Jordan, dates to 109 a.d., and it is in Greek and Nabataean.

-The inscription of Saida, Lebanon, dedicated to Dushara in the fifth year of the rule of Aritas the fourth.

-The inscription of Ruwwafa, Saudi Arabia, Greek Nabataean, dates to the second century a.d.

-The inscription of Melitos, Turkey, Greek Nabataean, the minister of Obodas the third, Selly, left it there on his way to Rome.

-The inscriptions of Puteoli, Italy, many were found their, one dates to 11 a.d., mentions two small golden camels as a giving to Dushara...



Nabataeans started producing there own coins at the time of Aretas the second around 100 b.c., and Obodas the second 62/61-59 b.c. was the first king to issue coins with Nabataean writing, most of the coins found date from the time of the king Aretas the fourth 8/9 b.c. - 40 a.d. To the year 106 a.d. when Petra was occupied by the Romans. Coins tell us about the big events that were going on, tell us about the kings and queens of Nibto (the Nabataeans), and also contribute in teaching us the Nabataean language.

Aretas and his wife ShakilatAretas, Shakilat

this coin has the heads of Aretas IV and his wife Shakilat, their names on the back side.



- The old testament, the Nabataeans were mentioned several times in the old testament.

- Maccabee books, that were written by the Hasmonian dynasty that took independence and started their own kingdom in Jerusalem, the Nabataeans were mentioned there as having a roll in this happening around 150 b.c.

- The Classical sources, a historic, named Diodorus of Sicily (80-21 b.c.) wrote about the Nabataeans in their early time, he had the books of Hieronymmus of Cardia as a source from which a small part still exists, so it is hard to know how accurate his writing was, what Diodorus has written is very important for being almost the only source to tell us about the early life of the Nabataeans, when they used to still have their nomadic Bedouin traditions. Other sources are the geography of Strabo (54 b.c.-25 a.d.) And the books of Josephus (37-100 a.d.), they give us more or less accurate information about the life of the Nabataeans before they lost their independence, and they tell us about the kings and the relations with the neighbors, some other classical writers mentioned petra.

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