Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Center for the Study of Ancient Arabia

Courses on offer

In the following you will find a list of courses that are offered at Leiden University that are relevant to the study of Ancient Arabia.

Introduction to Ancient North Arabian, with a special focus on Safaitic

This course will be taught daily from July 13 - July 24 at the Faculty uf Humanities of Leiden University from 16.00-17.30 by Ahmad Al-Jallad. It is part of the Semitics program of the Leiden Summer School of Humanities.  

Course description

Ancient North Arabian is an umbrella term covering the pre-Islamic epigraphic material composed in the Dadanitic, Safaitic, Taymanitic, Hismaic, Hasaitic, and Thamudic (B-D, Southern) scripts. These inscriptions are concentrated in western two-thirds of the Arabian Peninsula, from the Syrian Desert to Yemen. The earliest ANA inscriptions have been tentatively dated to the middle of the first millennium BCE, based on the mentioning of Nabonidus king of Babylon, but it is impossible to say how many centuries before this period their production stretched. It is also impossible to determine when the ANA inscriptions end, but the most common guess is the 4th century CE. 


The ANA inscriptions are written in a consonantal alphabet most closely related to the Ancient South Arabian script. The language they attest, however, is varied. Taymanitic shares important isoglosses with Northwest Semitic; Dadanitic has some unique features which preclude it from being a form of Arabic, while Hismaic and Safaitic can be regarded as forms of Old Arabic, perhaps as distinct from Classical Arabic as the language of Beowulf is from Chaucer. As such, the ANA inscriptions are essential for the proper understanding of the linguistic history of Arabic and give us our only evidence-based view of the linguistic geography of pre-Islamic Central and North Arabia. Moreover, they provide a unique, first-hand view into the cultural and religious practices of the ancient nomads and oasis dwellers of the Peninsula. 

This course will introduce the scripts and writing systems, grammar, and the main textual material of the ANA corpora, with a special focus on Safaitic. Although knowledge of a Semitic language is not a prerequisite for this class, it can be helpful. Students will learn how to produce tracings from original photographs and commentaries on the inscriptions. We will also look into the matter of dialect variation within Safaitic, the largest ANA corpus. Students completing this course will have a working knowledge of the language and formulae attested in the different ANA scripts, and will have commented on inscriptions based on original photographs.


For more information and registration visit: summerschool.universiteitleiden.nl

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