Raqush Inscription (Jaussen-Savignac 17): The Earliest Dated Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription (267 CE)

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First Composed: 5th March 2005

Last Modified: 6th March 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

The recently re-interpreted Raqush inscription by Healey and Smith. This was hailed by them as the earliest pre-Islamic Arabic inscription corresponding to 267 CE. This inscription also shows diacritical points for د, ش and ر. Also note that there is a short summary in Thamudic written vertically to the right of the inscription.


267 CE.


There has been some disagreement about the nature of this inscription. Cantineau catalogued it as a "Nabataean" text.[1] Gruendler also classifies it as a "Nabataean" text. However, she notes that:

The text is noteworthy for its many Arabisms. O'Conner describes it as an eccentric mixture of Nabataean and Arabic... Blau labels it a border dialect...[2]

However, Healey and Smith say that this is an Arabic text with Aramaic archaisms. They have hailed it as the earliest dated Arabic document.[3]

The salient point of this inscription is that it has diacritical points on the letters د, ش and ر. The diacritical points on ش and ر are not used consistently. The Arabic article ʾl- occurs twice, once in the place name ʾl-ḥgrw (line 4) and once before a common noun ʾl-qbrw (line 7).


The inscription reads (after Healey and Smith):

This is a grave K b. H has taken care of for his mother, Raqush bint ʿA. She died in al-Hijr in the year 162 in the month of Tammuz. May the Lord of the world curse anyone who desecrates this grave and opens it up, except his offspring! May he [also] curse anyone who buries [someone in the grave] and [then] removes [him] from it! May who buries.... be cursed!

The date is equivalent to 267 CE, i.e., 162 plus 105, the Bosra era.


Mada'in Salih, Saudi Arabia.

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[1] J. Cantineau, Le Nabatéen (Choix De Textes, Lexique), 1932, Volume II, pp. 36-39 for full discussion.

[2] B. Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To The Dated Texts, 1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA), p. 10.

[3] J. F. Healey & G. R. Smith, "Jaussen-Savignac 17 - The Earliest Dated Arabic Document (A.D. 267)", Atlal (The Journal Of Saudi Arabian Archaeology), 1989, Volume 12, pp. 77-84. For picture see Pl. 46.

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