Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia

From the early first millennium BC to around the fourth century AD, literacy was extremely widespread among both the settled and nomadic populations of the Arabian Peninsula and they have left us tens of thousands of inscriptions and graffiti. Since the late nineteenth century, approximately 48,000 of these have been recorded by travellers and scholars and have appeared in hundreds of articles, books, and unpublished dissertations in a number of different languages. This makes it extremely difficult for all but a handful of specialists to keep track of and use the rich material they contain. Moreover, any visit to the deserts of southern Syria, eastern and southern Jordan and the western two-thirds of Saudi Arabia reveals that there are thousands more inscriptions waiting to be recorded.

The OCIANA project, was based at the Khalili Research Centre, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, and directed by Professor Jeremy Johns and Michael Macdonald. The primary output of the project was an online Corpus of all the pre-Islamic inscriptions of north and central Arabia, both those in the various Ancient North Arabian dialects and scripts, and those in Old (i.e. pre-Islamic) Arabic. In 2012, the first phase of OCIANA, funded by a grant from the John Fell Fund, launched a demonstration site in which a corpus of 3,420 previously unpublished Safaitic inscriptions was made available online with readings, translations, commentaries, ancillary information, tracings, and photographs. In January 2013, the project received a large grant from the AHRC for Phase II which lasted three and a half years from October 2013, and in which the Dadanitic, Taymanitic, the rest of the Safaitic, Hismaic, and Old Arabic inscriptions were entered and tagged, with all available ancillary information and with photographs whenever these were available.

The project database is freely available online via: http://krcfm.orient.ox.ac.uk/fmi/webd/ociana, and there is a dedicated website for the project, which can be accessed via: http://krc.orient.ox.ac.uk/ociana.

In addition to the online database of inscriptions, the project team were also able to create preliminary editions of the corpora that are contained within OCIANA, and these are available in pdf format as free downloads for use by researchers. Each pdf contains details of all of the inscriptions within that script family, along with their textual content and translations, commentaries, and provenance information.

Dadanitic Corpus
(858 pages, 8.3MB)

Hismaic Corpus
(1,316 pages, 9.1MB)

Safaitic Corpus
(10,105 pages, 79.8MB)

Taymanitic Corpus
(224 pages, 2.1MB)

Smaller Collections
(104 pages, 1.4MB)

The entire corpus is also available in xml format via the Bodleian Library's Research Archive (ORA): https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:08a60ae8-e61d-486e-9ef1-836ca71d904c

The following KRC staff and affiliates were involved in the OCIANA Project:

  • Dr Ali Al-Manaser
  • Jennifer Brooke Lockie
  • Daniel Burt
  • Dr María del Carmen Hidalgo-Chacón Díez
  • Professor Jeremy Johns
  • Michael Macdonald