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 Site excavation at Mahram Bilqis
Field Season 1 (April - June 1998)
An international team was assembled in the Spring of 1998 from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Yemen (GOAMN). AFSM set out to uncover the forty-five years of sand buildup, which had again left only the eight giany pillars and remnants of the ovoid wall visible. Employing over fifty local tribesman and many wheelbarrows instead of oxen, the first excavation ever of a portion of the interior ovoid wall was accomplished going down to a level of sixteen courses. A computer-assisted large scale topographic survey of the site was conducted by which detailed digital technical drawings were gemerated. Partial excavation of the oval wall rediscovered most of the inscriptions from the 1951-52 expedition on the exterior of the wall and discovered an important new one.

Field Season 2 (December 1999)
Many of the same team members participated with the addition of three Canadian scientists. The major focus of the work was a sub-surface survey of the Peristyle Hall, Ovoid Precinct and Outer Sanctuary using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Preliminary results of the field data suggest the presence of architectural features in the Ovoid Precinct.

A major sand clearance operation was conducted in three trenches outside and inside the Ovoid Precinct Wall revealing the precision masonry walls.

A trench was made in the spoils pile that remains from the excavation of the Peristyle Hall in 1951-1952. A large quantity of artifacts was recovered through the sifting process including pieces of alabaster. limestone, ceramic, copper, bronze, bones, charcoal, plaster, and mortar. A total of 35 new inscriptions in Epigraphic South Arabian were recovered. When this material is analyzed, it will add much to the history of the complex.

Field Season 3 (April 2000)
Excavation and artifact recovery occured at three portions of the Mahram Bilqis site during the third AFSM field season of April and May 2000.

  1. Mechanical excavation north of the Peristyle Hall.
    • Removal of the upper 2 meters of the large dune at the north side of the Oval Wall.
    • Discovery of a major new Sabaean structure with inscriptions.
    • Discovery of the first Sabaean fresco.
    • Removal of sand at the north side of the Oval Wall to expose the northwest doorway.

  2. Manual excavation on the south side of the Oval Wall
    • Clearing sand from nine courses of the outer Oval Wall.
    • Exposed section of the Oval Wall that shows major changes of construction style.

  3. Manual excavation on the south side of the Peristyle Hall
    • Removed rock pile from the 1950s excavation south of the Peristyle hall.
    • Excavated sand from the interior face of the Peristyle Hall wall to expose niches.
    • Excavated the outer face of the Peristyle Hall wall to expose buttress structure.
    • Discovery of another wall outside the south wall of the Peristyle Hall.
    • Documentation of recovered artifacts and worked stones sorted from the rock pile.

This is no ordinary project, and the results of the last three foeld seasons, 1998-2000 prove this point. Results of the AFSM's resesarch at this sanctuary complex reveal it to have been in use at least half a millennium earlier than Solomon's reign, and it was in continuous use up to the sixth century AD. The evidence of this 2,000 years use of the sanctuary complex is seen in newly discovered fragments of pottery and in inscriptions mentioning dedications to Almaqah, the primary deity worshipped here.
Copyrightę 2001 American Foundation for the Study of Man. All rights reserved. Site Design by M Hebb