Documentary Film based on Gibson's book: Qur'anic Geography


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There are many things that archeologists have learned from Nabataean graffiti. They have developed a database of as much graffiti as possible and now they are beginning to compare the various messages that have been scratched in stone.

From this database, they have been able to compare the various Nabataean names. Since they are working with over 20,000 pieces of graffiti, popular names can be discovered, as well as patterns of names dealing with gods, events, and locations.

For example, a name like Paran was given to people born around Paran, the most important oasis in southern Sinai (biblical Paran). 'Adnun, a personal name, is based on the name of the first ancestor of the southern Arabian tribes. Names such as 'Amat, 'Aphityu, Hana, and Zabin might be slave names.

In Southern Sinai there are a number of names derived from Cain, such as Ibn al Cain, etc. The name Cain means smith or artisan, and can be compared with Genesis 4:22, where a man named Tubal-cain was the master of all coppersmiths and blacksmiths.

Numerous Nabataean inscriptions have been found in the vicinity of the copper smelting site at Wadi Nasb. There the name Waqilu is quite common, meaning steward, manager, or deputy. Many names seem to denote the skill or class that the person held. For instance, Nashgu is a common name, meaning weaver, and Shumrahu means branch of a palm tree laden with dates.

In the Sinai there are names including some element of the god Ba'al, such as Ushba'al (gift of Ba'al), Garm'alba'ali (Ba'al has decided), Thaim'-alba'ali (servant of Ba'al), and so on. None of these composite names occurs in any other Arabian language. There are also a couple of Ba'al names from Petra. Ba'al names are not found in the other Nabataean regions. Thus Ba'al was worshiped in the Sinai, (and from the Biblical records of history, in Palestine.)

Another god was 'Allah (perhaps a later expression of Allat). This was sometimes written as 'Illah. Some of the Nabataean names were: 'Aush'allah (Allah's faith), 'Amat-'allahi (she is a servant of Allah), Hab-allahi (beloved of Allah), Han-allahi (Allah is gracious), Abd'allah (slave of God), and Shalm-lahi (Allah is peace). The name Wahab-allah is found throughout the entire Nabataean region and means gift of Allah.

The name Kalbu is related to the word for 'dog.' Historians believe that perhaps this name was related to the ancient name for the star Sirius, which was used for navigation in the desert. It's hard to believe that someone would name his child after a dog, especially since dogs were generally considered very dirty.

Another ancient god, 'El, was once a chief god of the Semites. Such names were Wadal-l'el (friend or lover of 'El), Dani'el (judged of 'El), Waqi'ha'el ('El protects), and so on. This is found hundreds of times in Nabataean and Safaitic graffiti, but is only found once in graffiti from neighboring countries such as Moab or Edom.

One Nabataean name, Rav'el ('El is Great), is the name of two Nabataean kings, but it was never used by ordinary men. Yet, in other Arabian scripts such as Safaitic, Thamudic, Himyarite, Qatabanian, Sabaean, and Palmyrene it is found quite often. In the Greek form it became the name Rabbelos.

Strangely, Dushara, the Nabataean supreme god, is represented only a few times by two personal names - Abd Dushara (Slave of Dushara), and Tym-Dushara (servant of Dushara).

People born during religious festivals were often given one of several names relating to the festivals, such as Bahaga (born during the pilgrimage).

Counting the names
It is possible to tell something of the way people interacted with each other by examining where the names are found. For example, in the Sinai, Nabataean script graffiti included 439 personal names, which seem to be unique to the Nabataeans. Seventy of these are very frequently found in the Nabataean Sinai graffiti but unknown in most of the other language groups around.

'Ausos is found 241 times in the Sinai, and only 16 times elsewhere. Walu occurs 409 times in Sinai but only 24 times elsewhere as was 'Ammayu, used 300 times in the Sinai.

As time progressed, the Nabataeans began using Greek names, and slowly Nabataean names disappear from the graffiti. This is an important fact, as it clearly demonstrates how the Nabataean moved away from Nabataean culture, to adopting Greek classical culture.

In many instances, combinations of Nabataean, Thamudic, Safaitic and petroglyph writing are all found together in one place. These were probably all writing systems used by the various tribes. Often they all have the same gods, similar names, and other similarities that make some historians feel that they were made by people with very similar backgrounds or tribal connections.

Wadi Rumm


Writing on the wall

Old and new graffiti

The camel drawing

Above: Wadi Rumm is a rich source of Thamudic, Safiatic and Nabataean writing.

Left: The Great Camel of Thamud north of Wadi Rumm is more than four meters tall. The top of this drawing is twenty feet from the desert floor!

Finding some ancient writing on a hillside

Discoving an inscription on a hillside. (A researcher and son)

The letters are penciled in.

The inscription has been penciled in and will now be copied into the data book. It looks like either Thamudic or Safiatic.


 Nabataean Graffiti

 Writing Chart (Arabic base)

The Multi-Alphabet Theory

Writing Charts (German, English) 

The Petra Scrolls


The Cave of Letters 

Nabataean Culture   Clothing
Desert Life   Coins
 The Price of Honor   Pottery
 Honor and Shame in a Middle Eastern Setting   Writing
 Nabataean Graffiti   The Multi-Alphabet Theory
 Writing Chart (Arabic base)  Writing Charts (German, English) 
 The Petra Scrolls  The Cave of Letters 
 Nabataean Pantheon of Gods  Burial Practices
 Block Gods  Nabataean Zodiac
 Making Sense of Middle Eastern Religion  Forms of Worship
 Deifying Leaders  Pre-Islamic Gods in Arabia