Temple of Awwam

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Temple of Awwam, also spelled Awam, (معبد اوام) or "Mahram Bilqis" is a Sabaean temple dedicated to the principal deity of Saba, Almaqah, near Ma'rib in what is now Yemen. It was made about the time of the emergence of Sabaean culture, around the beginning of the fi rst millennium BCE. The temple continued to operate up to the end of the 4th century CE.

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The Awwam Temple, located some 600 meters east of the Bar'an Temple, is one of the most famous monument of the ancient Kingdom of Saba dating back to the first millennium BCE Marib, Yemen. Looking towards the eight pillars propylaeum marking the main entrance from within the complex. Pillars are the most widespread architectural feature used in ancient South Arabian religious structures. In the pre-Islamic times, numerous pilgrims gathered in Ma'rib city and headed to almaqah temple of Harunum to perform their cultic rituals, and continued to the sanctuary of Awwam using processional road.

The Wendell Phillips Expedition

circa 380 CE

When Wendell Phillips left for Marib in northern Yemen in the spring of 1951, only the tops of the temple’s eight massive pillars and the upper sections of an oval wall remained visible. The focus of this expedition was the Awam Temple (Mahram Bilqis), the largest of its kind on the Arabian Peninsula. Workers painstakingly removed the windblown sand before the expedition team uncovered a large hall lined with monumental pillars, stairways, impressive bronze and alabaster sculptures, and numerous inscriptions.

Archaeological Remains

circa 380 CE

Temple Complex
An aerial view of the complex with the large oval enclosure wall by Mukarrib Yada`'il Dharih I in the middle of the 7th century BCE. Indicating much earlier period of the temple's construction. The Awām temple was the centre of communication between the divinity Almaqah, and his worshippers, the Sabaean people and many inscriptions document these encounters. The temple is situated 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) southeast of ancient Marib, and was built in the city outskirt. Usually Sabaean major sanctuaries are located outside urban centers, the reason behind it, is probably for religious privacy, and to facilitate the conduct of rituals by arriving pilgrims from remote areas of Sabaean territories.

circa 380 CE

Area A: Building I
Awām Complex: Area A, Building I – Gate, staircase passage, this gate along with Building I gate had locking devices, so apparently these could be closed if necessary. A double inscription (inspect) by the ʿAmdān Bayin Yuhaqbiḍ, decorated the interior of the main staircase (pictured above: Area A, Building I – Gate, staircase passage). The inscription mentions the dedication of a horse statue to Almaqah (MB 2001 I-102). The Alhān Nahfān Gate is visible in the lower background with two podia.

circa 380 CE

Seventh Century BCE Cemetery
The 7th century BCE cemetery is attached to the Oval Sanctuary, and apparently accessed only through a gate in the western wall of the protective enclosure, and restricted to funerary rites usage. The cemetery tombs were multi-storey structures (up to four) and external walls were sometimes decorated with friezes and low relief of the dead's face.

Notable Artefacts

circa 380 CE

Bronze Statue of Ma'ad Yakrib
One of the several bronze statues (inspect) that were part of numerous discoveries by the American Foundation for the Study of Man that was led by Wendell Philips in 1951-52 excavation of Awwam peristyle. According to legend, Marib was the capital of the Sabaean kingdom, ruled by the biblical Queen of Sheba. Sabaean inscriptions refer to it as the Temple of Almaqah, the moon god who was the principal deity at Marib.

circa 380 CE

Sabaean inscription
Sabaean inscription (inspect) addressed to the god Almaqah, mentioning five ancient Yemeni gods, two reigning sovereigns and two governors, 7th century, BCE. The religion of the people was in many ways similar to that of Mesopotamia. The gods were thought to have created the world and the people and provided them with all good gifts. The Sabean moon god Almakah was the king of the gods and similar in many ways to the Mesopotamian moon god Nanna (also known as Sin, Nannar, Nanna-Suen), one of the oldest deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon.


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