Old Yemeni State of Qataban [Archives:2005/879/Culture]

September 22 2005

Qataban is one of the ancient Yemeni states which throve on the bank of Baihan valley on the edge of the Empty Quarter near Hadhramout, Sheba, Maeen and Awsan. The state was established with natural, climatic, social, economic circumstances similar to those of other Yemeni civilizations. Archeological expeditions have covered a number of sites showing that Sheba, Ma'een, Qataban and Hadhramout are similar in their development stages to a great extent in all aspects.

The studies conducted in Wadi Baihan and Wadi Al Joubah spells the fact that the prosperity of ancient Yemeni kingdoms including the Qatabanite must have taken place during the onset of first millennium BC. Concerning the history of Qataban as per information engraved in inscriptions, the first mention of Qataban occurs in the Sabaen inscription of King Karib-II-Water who is the last Mukarrib and the first to bear the title of king.

Qataban during that period was a vassal of Sheba which enabled it to get rid of the Awsanide control. The inscriptions confirm that Qataban was the only kingdom in the first era whose first king carried the title of Mukarrib as is the case with Sheba for this title conveys religious and political authority

The Qatabanites paid attention to agriculture as found in their construction of dams, long distance canals using cement-like substance. They drilled wells as well.

From their location on the trade route which is termed and renowned as Ollibanum Route, the Qatabanites achieved large profits. Their land served as a transit point. Then in alliance with Hadhramout Dynasty they were able to extend their domination and influence to the South, as far as the coast of the Arabian Sea and the valley of Joubah, one-day journey from Marib, the capital city of Sheba.

During the third and second century BC Qataban reached the zenith of its prosperity. Qataban paid more attention to the issuance of legislation, laws and regulations and was more orderly with regard to commerce and markets.

Tamna was the capital of Qataban and the biggest Qatabanite city in Wadi Baihan in the center between Shabwa the capitals of Hadhramout and Marib. Tamna'a is on the left bank of Wadi Bihan on the edge of the desert plain.

Some 30 kms from the city was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Qataban, which had flourished during the 4th century BC. It was an important station on the ancient incense road and was a collection point for taxes from the caravans in return for protection.

The incense caravans, after setting out from Tamna'a had to travel a distance of 1487,5 Mile (2.380km), to reach the final destination, Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast. By then, the caravan would have passed through 65 stations at which the camels would temporarily rest.

Archeological expeditions have unearthed many relics including two bronze lions, Qatabanite law Obelisk, Water canals built out of stone and cemented with substance similar to water resistant cement.

Of the remains are canals extending from Baihan over a distance of 15Miles(25km) dating back to the 5th century BC.

Another old Qatabanite town is Hajar Bin Hameed which is 15km away to the south of Tamna'a on an Oval hill lying at a height of 70 feet from the surface of the valley at the Bifurcate of the ancient Routes and is less in size than Tamna. The establishment of the city is expected to have been between 1100-900BC.

Another monument of the Qatabanite is the Mablakah route. It is a road carved in stone a mountainous route linking Baihan Valley with Hareeb Valley through Mablqah Mount which is 1000 feet (380m) above sea level, the length of the route 3miles (4.8km) in dangerous slopes and the width of the route amounted from 12 to 15 feet paved with stones and protected at the sides by walls.

The mountainous strait of Mablaqah was a conjunction point of many routes and paths of Incense/Myrrh and Ollibanum.