Yemen Expedition of the University of Heidelberg since 1998
The Heidelberg Expedition to Zafar arose from Arabia research of the 1980s and 1990s conducted together with the German Mining Museum in Bochum. To date, campaigns have taken place in 1998, 2000, and 2002 in the Yemen.
Zafar lies some 130km south-south-west of the capital, Sanaa in the mountain at 2800m altitude, blessed by rainy during the summer monsoon.
Thusfar the great historical meaning of the ruined city Zafar, capital of the Himyar empire (sovereignty 115 BCE - 525 CE) has not been adequately considered. The majority of archaeological monuments and specialist articles show ancient Yemen from the standpoint of Saba, which in the 3rd and 4th centuries Himyar had conquered. In the 6th century the 110 hectar large Zafar was one of the most important cities in the Near East. She reveals herself as a rich source shedding light on the centuries just proceeding the arrival of Islam.
Till now the expeditions have concentrated on cultural resource management: The centre of the antique capital was first mapped by surveyers from the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz. Until a reorganisation in 2000 the reliefs lay in the magazine of the 25 year old museum on the floor to a depth of 1m. In 2002 we finished the reorganisation of the museum magazine and installed an English-Arabic exhibition based on posters exhibited here. Some 1000 Himyarite inscriptions and reliefs are being catalogued. They date predominantly to the 3rd - early 6th centuries, a period at the end of which Christians and Jews took up arms against each. The reliefs show Arabian and Mediterranean incluence. The intellectual and religious history of both religions in Zafar is an object of study for us.
In 2000 and 2002 excavation took place: a cemetery of the 2nd century CE and a stone building plattform of the 3rd - 5th century.
The investigation of the late Himyarite palace Shawhatan is planned for 2003.
Paul Yule and Mohammed Maraqten
Zafar Site Museum