The historical value of ancient Yemen’s art of architecture
The archeological wealth of the past history of Hadramout and other parts of Arabia has not yet been explored to a great extent. But as a stage of Yemen’s history in the issue of art of architecture, one can search the monuments of ancient Yemen, one of which the construction of the buildings can be taken for consideration.
The author placed an analysis of the square-structured buildings; their technical planning; descriptive lay-outs and drawings.
Till now, what we know of ancient Yemen’s architecture that there were two types of square-structured houses. In general, this shaping can also be defined as the one of a right-angle position. From the discoveries so far found, there were built of two floors, with the front-exterior having a wide area. The upper floor had a number of windows posing towards the exterior entrance. From the vertical point of view, the first floor was usually divided by three internal passages. This vertical separation of the house’s front area was the determining factor, while the frontier portion itself was divided into three horizontal partition each extending to the front direction of the main door of the house. Such a construction pattern was found applicable to one range of houses. Another pattern of re-organized plan was also found of other houses of two floors but of a wholly extended square shapes, whereby both the floors were linked by walls of equals lengths and widths. The plan design of every house; similar to the houses built in northern lands of Arabia; were constructed of a basement situated below the first floor.
The Ottoman Museum in Istanbul (Turkey) is preserving one inscription of an exterior side of one ancient Yemeni house consisting of 14 floors, the center of which has hollow-descending passages going all through the length of that whole exterior. As from the center of each equal portion of the whole length, there were small opening serially going down in descendant. They constituted one separately isolated group of holes based on five horizontal-shaped sections, three of which were originating from the middle of that length. These five also keep the upper floor in one unifying shape through one common bridge-layer.
At the core of this group, the central hollow-opening was deepened through three smaller openings, and by which it was extending in a vertical shape. The lower opening was particularly left higher compared to the others. It was occupied by a set of six outlets (windows) which were arising out of the total 14 windows of the whole house. Those were located in the two neighboring outlets of the house. The other neighboring outlet-structure carried the base structure of the house’s ceiling (built of a pattern as a close tower). The pattern of the most-upper closing of the house may remind us of a closely confirmed prison room that resembled a defensive compartment of a tower structure. From the lower part stretched one teeth-structured extension, where on it were placed the six rooms of the house. There were rising angle-shaped structures rising right to the extending beams of the siding walls of the house. From their sides were pointing three heads of bulls with horns i.e. the three God-structures of ancient Yemen’s belief, one of which was the moon goddess. They constituted the crown-structure of the house which was considered the symbol figure of the God known in ancient Yemen. As from such foregoing description, the architecture of that specimen did place a clear marking and significance of the religiously-followed God of southern Arabia.
Having clarified the assembly of the exterior part of these houses, it is important to note their historical date to relate back to the period 300-500 B.C. Similar inscriptions on such houses were discovered in north Ethiopia which signify the strength of political and cultural relationship between ancient Sheba of Yemen and Exam dynasty of Africa. As for the statutes for prayers, these were rock structures the height of which ranged 15-30 meters, raised either in straight line or as fronts posing in bending formations.
The houses, too, each had about eleven windows for the first (ground) floor. Up the top floor a flat-surfaced area stretched with its ending a crown structure was placed with its corners featured dual folding
Isolated houses, constructed in the forms of tower structures appeared as residential entities of ancient Arabs of Yemen due to the necessity imposed by the recurring attacks of the urban tribes that lived close, by them, or by others of unknown relations. It was not due to foreign invasions that compelled ancient Yemen’s communities to build such types of houses which were thus used for pushing back expected enemies. These houses had very thick and folded walls with single entrances protective enough from all sides of each house. The upper parts were erected with strong rocky stones, with some of its parts been further strengthened with pieces of uranium metals.
Some ruins of these hones can be seen even today. Beside the stones and rocks, other materials played noticeable roles in this field of architecture-not only in joining the stones with the over-clay bricks, but also with the trees. While the towers, or fortresses, as so constituting the lay-out structures of the dwellings were integrated within the framework of the town’s defensive walls for the purpose of safeguarding it during Maeen’s dynasty, which had its capital Maeen (also known Qarnaw). Such structures were described in Maeen’s inscriptions, one of which was found on one of its walls, and near by its western gates. It specifically described the towers. Through the beginning of its text, that inscription continued the names of the builder from whom the initiative idea of the planning of such towers were derived. They belonged to the higher groups who were known as the king’s friends. They constructed six building roofs and six towers which were placed on the fencing wall of the city Qarnaw. These erections were meant be gifts for their god. Then, there were names of the sections of the construction itself, which was placed under a roof of miniature trees and stones. The inscription also provided the measurements for the area built:
47 *17feet the respective length and breath. it also indicated the source of financing and cost of construction. These were gathered from the taxes; contributions from the King’s income, nominal inputs in the form of conditional tariffs attributed to the harvest of maize and corn plantations. The latter income was spent as cost of food supplies to the workers of that construction.
Another similar inscription was also found on the eastern fencing wall of Maeen city. This contained details of one tower structure built by certain group of men from Habban known to be among the friends of Maeen’s king. Its cost was collected partially from the imposed duties been gathered by the tribal clans’ representatives, while the other parts from the customs and excise revenues imposed on the commercial transactions between the rich-class traders and other countries, such as Egypt, Gazza and Ethiopia.
A third inscription found on the wall of Naqb-al-Hajjar’s regions was said to have interesting details for the architecture from the technical point of view. Its texts mentioned the fences and gates of the towers been built of stones and tree lumps.