MAKKAH: Ancient inscriptions on rocks all over the Arabian Peninsula help paint a picture of early Arab cultures, including economic and social conditions – and even people’s thoughts on love, marriage, and happiness.
The engravings provide evidence of early religious and ritual beliefs, as well as details on professions, crafts and currency, and also underline the professionalism and skill of the engravers, according to Dr Salma Hawsawi, professor of ancient history at King Saud University in Riyadh.
“Writing is a human invention,” Hawsawi told Arab News. “It is a means of exchanging ideas and knowledge, as well as discussing it within societies, regardless of class, beliefs and sects.”
She added that the historical information gleaned from these inscriptions may reflect the feelings of love, fear, longing, sadness and happiness felt by people at the time.
“This is why the inscriptions are considered a true testament to what people of that time experienced, which highlights the cultural depth of the region. “
Hawsawi said writing and printmaking were considered professions. “Writing, in general, illustrates the level of civilization and education attained by Arab society, and also demonstrates the role of writing in the progress of humanity.
The existence of writing in civilizations of all kinds is proof of their importance in the codification, communication and relations between societies.
Dr Salma Hawsawi
She said that writing developed in two stages – “the pre-alphabetic stage, which is figurative writing, or the depiction of material things in the human environment to denote moral aspects through drawings. rupestral Then, afterwards, symbolic with syllabic sounds.
According to Hawsawi, cuneiform writing spread throughout Mesopotamia from around 3,200 BC.
Hieroglyphic writing was used in Egypt around 4000 BC, while Ugaritic writing was used in northern Syria. Sinaitic writing dates back to 1400 BC. AD and was invented by a group of Canaanites working in turquoise and copper mines in the Sinai desert.
Meanwhile, the Phoenician script, which dates back to 1000 BC. AD, and Punic writing spread throughout North Africa from 300 BC.
“The existence of writing in civilizations of all kinds is proof of their importance in codification, communication and relations between societies,” said Hawsawi.
Written inscriptions throughout the Arabian Peninsula offer clues to Arab communities who lived in various regions. Some of the inscriptions had a religious aspect, focusing on the names of gods and religious rituals, while others were more social, discussing personal status, marriage, divorce and the names of people.
The engravings also provided details of the names and locations of the tribes, as well as occupations and crafts, trade arrangements, currency, exports and imports.
“Politically, the inscriptions included the names of kings and rulers, wars and the rise and fall of states,” she said.
“These inscriptions are an important source of historical and cultural knowledge of the region. The dissemination of these inscriptions and their large number give us an idea of the level of knowledge and culture attained by societies and of the attention they paid to writing and documentation.
Hawsawi said the inscriptions can be found on the rocks in an arranged or random fashion, depending on the skill of the writer, as well as on the facades of temples, houses and even tombstones. Some have represented the company through famous events or the aphorisms of its leaders.
In southern Arabia, the ancient South Arabian script was used from around 800 BC.
“The Zabur script also appeared in the south and dates back to around 500 BC. Some say that the ancient South Arabic script and the Zabur script appeared around the same time,” Hawsawi said.
In the northern Arabian Peninsula, the thamudic script was used from 800 BC and consisted of 29 characters. Inscriptions have been found on rock facades along the trade route from the far south of the Arab world to the far north.
The safaitic script is similar to the thamudic script and dates back to the first century BC Dating from the 9th century, the Aramaic script contains 22 letters, taken from the Phoenician script, and widely used in the ancient world, particularly in Mesopotamia , in Iran, India, Egypt and the northern Arabian Peninsula.
Hawsawi pointed out that “the Dadanite and Lihyanite scriptures date back to the 6th or 5th centuries BC. It is written from right to left and the words are separated by a vertical line. Palmyrene and Syriac scripts derived from Aramaic date back to the 1st century BC. today.”
She said that writing in Arabian Peninsula societies differed from that in other cultures because of its distinctive scripts and range of subject matter.
“Life and related events have been recorded, unlike other civilizations which have focused on codifying political events,” she said.