History of Mada'in Salih

The Lihyans

Lihyan is an ancient Arab kingdom. It was located in Mada'in Saleh, and is known for its Old North Arabian inscriptions dating to ca. the 6th to 4th centuries BCE.Dedanite is used for the older phase of the history of this kingdom since their capital name was Dedan (see Biblical Dedan), which is now called Al-`Ula oasis located in north-western Arabia, some 110 km southwest of Teima.

The Lihyanites later became allies of the Nabataeans. Little is known about the Lihyan kingdom. Arab genealogies consider the Banu Lihyan to be descended from Ishmael.

Pre-Nabatean vestiges

Archaeological traces of cave art on the sandstones and epigraphic inscriptions, considered by experts to be Lihyanite script, on top of the Athleb Mountain, near Mada'in Saleh, have been dated to the 3rd–2nd century BCE, indicating the early human settlement of the area, which has an accessible source of freshwater and fertile soil. The settlement of the lihyans became a centre of commerce, with goods from the east, north and south converging in the locality.

Nabatean settlements

The extensive settlement of the site took place during the 1st century CE, when it came under the rule of the Nabatean king Al-Harith IV (9 BCE –40 CE), who made Mada'in Saleh the kingdom's second capital, after Petra in the north. The place enjoyed a huge urbanization movement, turning it into a city. Characteristic of Nabatean rock-cut architecture, the geology of Mada'in Saleh provided the perfect medium for the carving of monumental and settlements, with Nabatean scripts inscribed on their façades. The Nabateans also developed oasis agriculture—digging wells and rainwater tanks in the rock and carving places of worship in the sandstone outcrops. Similar structures were featured in other Nabatean settlements, ranging from southern Syria to the north, going south to the Negev, and down to the immediate area of Hedjaz. The most prominent and