Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips

Excavations: Timna

Timna (or Tamna‘) was the capital of Qataban, one of the five kingdoms that included Ma’in, Saba, Himyar, and Hadhramaut in southern Arabia. According to the Roman author Pliny the Elder, who died in 79 CE, Timna was a bustling city with some sixty-five temples. For hundreds of years it maintained a monopoly on the cinnamon trade and levied taxes on caravans carrying incense. The city flourished as Qataban’s main commercial and religious center from the early seventh century BCE until the last quarter of the first century CE. Excavations conducted by AFSM suggest a major fire at Timna forced its inhabitants to abandon the city sometime in the first century CE. Commercial and religious activities apparently were transferred to nearby Hajar bin Humeid, where they continued for at least another century.

In 1950 and 1951, Wendell Phillips and his team succeeded in excavating several important sites at Timna. These include its South Gate, several private residences, a large structure that the team identified as a temple complex to Athtar (Venus), and the cemetery, locally known as Haid bin Aqil, just outside the city walls.

Statue of a Seated Woman Head of a woman (“Miriam”) Necklace Stele with the figure of a woman Head of a Woman


Stele Stele with head of a bull Incense burner Fragment of a frieze carved with ibex heads Plaque with inscription and phiale


Pair of lions with ridersR.L. Shalkop Finds in Timna cemetery