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Ancient South Arabian confession of sins texts

Objective

Public confession of sins is one of the less known religious practice in pre-Islamic South Arabia. It is revealed by several inscriptions on limestone tablets that were probably shown publicly inside or nearby the temple of the divinity to which the confession was directed. The vast majority of these documents comes from the northern part of South Arabia (the Jawf area). The repentant can be an individual (frequently a woman), a small group or the entire community. About 15 new confession texts were brought to light since the early 90s from the temple of Nakrah in Baraqish (ancient Minaean Yathill) by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen directed by prof. A. de Maigret. An edition of these new documents, together with those already known (that are about 30), is highly recommended in order to gain a deeper comprehension of this particular ritual. Firstly, we should analyse two main aspects: the sin itself and the punishment that the repentant felt connected with his/her sin. Confessed sins are frequently related with sexuality (e.g. intercourses with a menstruated woman) or religious sphere (e.g. not having performed the required purification rites). Consequently, punishments can be illnesses or economic difficulties. We can examine if there is a coherence between a particular kind of sin, or a particular punishment, with the divinity to whom the confession was addressed. This should clarify the function of the god itself, e.g. the god Nakrah was surely a healer divinity because admissions directed to him were made with the hope to treat a illness. These texts allow us a better knowledge of South Arabian society and of its moral and legal conceptions regarding religious practices, purity laws, sexuality and illnesses connected. This study can be strongly enriched by an observation of similarities or originalities within the other Semitic cultures of ancient Near East and with the subsequent Islamic religious tradition, whose roots can contribute to clarify.

Call for proposal

FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IEF
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Funding Scheme

MC-IEF - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)

Coordinator

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS
Address
Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris
France
Activity type
Other
EU contribution
€ 158 945,60
Administrative Contact
Alain Mangeol (Mr.)