THE HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF ARABIA SHOW THAT MECCA DID NOT EXIST BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CHRISTIANITY.
By Dr. Rafat Amari
The richness of the archaeological findings and inscriptions of many regions of Arabia.
Islam claims that Mecca is an ancient historical city which existed long before Christ, dating as far back as the time of Abraham. A powerful argument against this claim is the absence of any inscriptions found on monuments, or in any archaeological records dating back to those times. The ancient cities and kingdoms of Arabia do have rich histories which survive to this day through monuments, the inscriptions they bear, and in other archaeological documents. These historical records have given archaeologists a highly-integrated and, in some cases, complete record of the names of kings who ruled these cities and kingdoms. These records have also given archaeologists important information about the history of the wars fought over the kingdoms and cities of Arabia. In most cases, inscriptions and monuments in various cities – especially in the western and southwestern portions of Arabia – even give the names of coregents who ruled with the kings. Yet, even with this rich collection of historical and archaeological information, there are no inscriptions or monuments, or other archaeological findings whatsoever, that mention Mecca.
Regarding the richness of the archaeological findings in Arabia, Montgomery says that Assyrian inscriptions did not provide as much detailed information as the Arabian inscriptions did.
If Mecca existed in ancient times, it should have more archaeological findings than did regions south and north of it, whose history is richly documented through archaeology.
This lack of mention of Mecca is especially interesting, given the fact that Mecca was built on the caravan routes between the kingdoms of Arabia, and that these kingdoms had written historical records several centuries before Christ. In fact, Mecca is built on what was the famous commercial route between southern Arabia and the northern Arabian cities of Qedar and Dedan. In addition, Mecca was built alongside the Red Sea trading route.
It is claimed by archaeologists that the Sabaeans of southwestern Arabia had utilized the skill of writing since the 10th century B.C. Inscriptions on rock formations in southwestern Yemen are among the richest archaeological finds among Middle Eastern civilizations. Many thousands of these ancient inscriptions are available to historians today. Most of these inscriptions have survived without serious degradation, due to the small amounts of rain in that area of the world.
In northern regions of Arabia, some hundreds of miles north of where Mecca was later built, many cities had rich inscriptions carved in stone, and the inscriptions give us the names of various dynasties which ruled those cities. Dedan and Teima are examples of cities situated on famous trade routes. Located north of what became the site of Mecca, their stone, rock and monumental inscriptions are enough to reflect their history since the 8th or 7th century B.C.
What about Mecca? Mecca was built on a location between the documented civilizations (the Sabaeans, Dedan and Qedar), yet these civilizations do not have any known inscriptions whatsoever which mention Mecca. Mecca, if it had existed at the time of those civilizations, would have contained more intact inscriptions than the civilizations which lived in the regions south of it – for example, in Yemen. The region around Mecca is known for its very low amounts of rain, even compared with the other regions of Arabia. The lands of Yemen have ten times more rainfall than the area around Mecca. Also, the cities of northern Arabia have much more rain than the region of Mecca. So, if Mecca existed several centuries before Christ, then its inscriptions in stone and rock would have been more intact than the thousands of inscriptions remaining from the cities to the north and south of it .
Over the years, historians and archaeologists have identified a series of rulers and kings for every Arabian kingdom before the 7th century B.C., and continuing through subsequent centuries. Based on thousands of inscriptions and other archaeological findings, historians have drawn tables listing the rulers, and the kingdoms which they controlled. We find such tables in the works of K. A. Kitchen, Von Wissmann and others.
Today, we can trace the history of each kingdom or city which existed in the first millennium before Christ, and in the years that followed. Although there are a few unattested names, for many locations we also can easily connect the names of the rulers with their cities, using virtually certain information.
NORTHWEST ARABIA IS ATTESTED TO IN ARCHAEOLOGY
The Cities of Qedar, Dedan and Teima
Let’s look first at northwest Arabia and the cities of Qedar, Dedan and Teima. The series of rulers over some of the northern cities of Arabia, such as Qedar, is almost completely documented as far back as the 9th century B.C. Major contributing factors to this are the many annals of the kings of Assyria and Babylonia who had relationships with the Arabian cities. The Assyrian and Babyl-onian kings traded with the cities of Arabia, and sometimes subdued them or had wars with them. Some of the Mesopotamian kings who occupied the cities of Qedar and Dedan had royal chronicles which provide detailed information. For example, we have the Nabonidus Chronicle, a history of the Babylonian king who occupied northern Arabia and made the city of Teima his residence for about ten years, from 550-540 B.C.
Some historical records were carved into bowls. We have one silver bowl dedicated to the shrine, Han Ilat, on which we see the name of King Qaynu of Qedar, who reigned between 430-410 B.C. Other records are provided by graffiti, with writings on the walls, such as the Graffito of Niran at Dedan, at al-Ula, where we find mention of Gashmu I, son of Shahr I, King of Qedar. This confirms the Biblical narration found in Nehemiah 6:6 about this king who opposed Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, after the Babylonian exile. In fact, the Hebrew Biblical name for this king is Gashem, a variation of the name Gashmu, who reigned from the Arabian city of Qedar from 450-430 B.C., at the same time that Nehemiah returned from the Babylonian exile to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. We know that Nehemiah took a small contingent of Jews and returned to Palestine around the year 445 B.C. This is one of hundreds of historical proofs of the accuracy of the Bible.
When we put the records together, we have a series of fourteen kings and queens who ruled in northern Arabia. Although historians are uncertain about the period between 644-580 B.C., there are no other gaps in the listing of rulers between 870-410 B.C.
The accuracy of inscriptions found at the archaeological site of El-Ula, in the area of the ancient city of Dedan, was written in Minaean language. It shows that the city was in subjection to the kings of Main. Many of these kings who were mentioned in the inscriptions were identical to the Minaean inscriptions of Yemen.
In the old ruins of Teima, there are many inscriptions, showing the names of their gods, and their wars with other cities and tribes in the region, including their wars with the city of Dedan. The moon in Teima was represented by a crescent. In the inscriptions of Teima, there is mention of a god called Lame’h. Lame’h is described as a brilliant shining star. One of their deities is given the title of Rahim, whom I believe is the star deity, Lame’h. The same title is given to Allah in the Qur’an, which shows that Islamic worship has its roots in ancient pagan Arabian worship.
The North Arabian Tribes of Thamud, Lihyan and the Nabataeans are Richly Attested to in Archaeology
Next, I want to look at the Thamud tribe of north Arabia, which appeared for the first time in the 8th century B.C. and continued until the 5th century A.D. There are hundreds of Thamudic stone or rock inscriptions found in many places in north Arabia which tell about the life of the tribe, their deities and their wars.
Second, we have the Lihyan kingdom of northern Arabia. We have an abundance of records about this kingdom. With the exception of the founder of the Lihyanite line, we have complete documentation of the rulers and the periods in which they ruled; the inscriptions also chronicle other important information about historical events concerning their reigns and their gods. Some of these records are in royal monuments, statues, dedications, tomb inscriptions, tomb-building texts, stone texts, and graffiti.
The founder of the Lihyan kingdom reigned approximately from 330-320 B.C. Information concerning the kings which followed him is well-documented. King Shahru II reigned between 320-305 B.C. The line ended with the tenth king, Mas’udu, who reigned from 120-100 B.C. There are no historical gaps in the inscriptions in this series.
The third kingdom we want to look at is the Nabataean Kingdom, which penetrated into many regions of Hijaz. It has special importance in the history of northern Arabia because it controlled the road used in the spice trade which connected the south of Arabia with Syria and other Mediterranean countries. This is the same route which passed through the region where Mecca was built in the 4th century A.D. Records of the Nabataean Kingdom are very complete, both externally and internally. In the external records, historians wrote about the Nabataeans. Some Jewish literature tells about them, and other works have been found in various archaeological sites outside Nabataean territories. Internally, an important means of identifying the rulers of the Nabataean Kingdom are from their many coins. Also, dedications of buildings, statues dedicated to kings, private and royal monuments, and tomb inscriptions all provide historical text. The inscriptions on tombs are abundant and are found in different sites, such as Petra, Madain Salih, and other places. Based on these records, historians came to understand with great detail about the series of rulers of the Nabataean Kingdom who ruled after 175 B.C. Rulers before this date are still unknown, though there are many records about the kingdom since the first stage of its dominion. With the exception of the second ruler in the series from 175 B.C., other rulers of the series are well-documented, starting from Aretas I, who ruled from175-150 B.C. until the twelfth (and last) ruler, Rabbel II, who reigned from 70-106 A.D.
After examining all the records concerning the kingdoms and cities located north of Mecca, we conclude that the reigns of most of the rulers are well-documented. We know about the wars in which they were engaged, and the names of their gods. Mecca is conspicuous by its absence. Even though Muslims claim Mecca dates back to the time of Abraham, not one record indicates its existence at any time before Christ.
It is impossible to introduce a city like Mecca and claim that it has the longest life in the history of Arabian cities, unless you have some record. In this case, the region was well-documented, even for cities which lasted only a few centuries. But, there was no record of any city called Mecca.
Did you notice that none of the kingdoms which were north of Mecca had been in existence before the 10th century B.C.? Some of them, like the Lihyanite kingdom, first appeared in the 4th century B.C. and disappeared near the end of the 2nd century B.C. Some cities had limited roles in Arabian history. Many came into existence after the 10th century B.C. and disappeared around the beginning of the 4th century B.C. All of them had an abundance of records for most of their existence, but none of these records mentions Mecca.
Muslim tradition would give an early and long life to Mecca, from before the time of Abraham, who lived around 2080 B.C. If this claim were true, then there should be many more archaeological records surviving for Mecca than for any of the northern cities and kingdoms which we have examined. In reality, there is not one known record mentioning the existence of Mecca, even for a small time, before the time of Christ. We find this lack of historical records about Mecca, in spite of its proximity to regions where, because of lack of rain, archaeological records would not be eroded by water. We find this, in spite of Mecca supposedly existing in a region and time where the historical existence of cities and kingdoms is documented in more clarity than in any other place in the ancient world. There are very few regions in Europe which have clear documentation of their rulers as far back as the 1st millennium B.C. One reason for this could be the weather conditions. Heavy European rains tend to wash away valuable ancient inscriptions. This is in stark contrast to the regions of dryer Arabia surrounding the location of Mecca, where the lines of succession are well-documented. So, with these criteria, it is impossible to claim that a city like Mecca would have existed in Arabia throughout its ancient history, without any mention of it in any of the known historical records of the region. The real history in Arabia is abundantly expressed by its records. It is impossible to introduce a city like Mecca into a history so well-documented.
According to the Muslim claim, Mecca had the longest existence of any major city in Arabia; it is claimed to have existed as a major city since the 21st century B.C., and well into the Christian era. It means Mecca existed, without historical mention, in an area where even cities with a short existence are documented in the many historical records of the region. Every city in the region has abundant historical records, while Mecca is silent. To claim Mecca’s existence since the time of Abraham, without support of the historical record, is not logical. The dating of the city of Mecca may sound like a simple thing, but it should challenge Muslims today to ask if they are following other teachings which are inaccurate, misleading and untruthful. It should also challenge Muslims to read the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and to ask themselves if what the Bible says about Jesus is true.
KINGDOMS AND CITIES SOUTH OF MECCA MAINTAINED PLENTY OF HISTORICAL RECORDS
We refer the reader to the book of Dr. Amari, Islam in light of History, for more arguments on the true history of Mecca.
Previously, we have examined the kingdoms and cities north of where Mecca was later built. We saw how some of these kingdoms as far as 500-600 miles away maintained plenty of historical records. What about the kingdoms and cities south of Mecca’s eventual location? The southwestern portion of Arabia has even clearer records than kingdoms to the north. In some cases, thousands of records, many of them stone inscriptions, have been discovered. This makes southwestern Arabia one of the most abundant archaeological regions in the world. In addition to stone inscriptions, writings have also been found on royal and private monuments, building texts, decrees, dedications, temples, and more. Based on such records, historians and archaeologists have followed the succession of rulers for each kingdom and each city. In most cases, these genealogies of the various rulers can be mapped without any gaps in the chronology.
The Rulers of the Kingdom of Main
A line of rulers for the kingdom of Main, in southern Arabia, starts with King Abkarib I, who reigned from 430-415 B.C. He began an unbroken line of 26 rulers, which ended with Ilyara’ Yashur II. He reigned from 65-55 B.C. Their records include the names of many of the kings’ brothers and sons who reigned alongside them. Consequently, we know for certain the names of rulers of the kingdom of Main for the time between 430 and 55 B.C.
Small kingdoms south of where Mecca was eventually built are documented with great accuracy in the ancient history of Arabia, yet Mecca has no records to support the Islamic claim about its ancient existence.
Many small kingdoms near the kingdom of Main also have documented royal lines with very few gaps. Some of these small kingdoms are located close to where Mecca was later built. These small kingdoms existed in the centuries before Christ as modest, but not prominent, kingdoms. Yet, there are historical and archaeological records which clearly testify about their existence and their lines of kings.
These records present an obvious challenge to the claims that Mecca existed in the centuries before Christ – because there are no such similar records for Mecca. This challenge to the existence of Mecca is further supported by the fact which I emphasized previously: the lack of rain in Arabia allows archaeological records to remain intact for long periods of time. Therefore, no city or kingdom in southern Arabia is left without a wealth of inscriptions describing it. This is true, whether the kingdom had a short or long existence, and whether it was modest or important in the region. The inscriptions bring to light the nature of the cultures, the lines of rulers, and the main wars and events in which the kingdoms were involved.
Let us look at some of the small kingdoms. First, there was the kingdom of Haram, which had a line of rulers starting with King Yaharil in 600 B.C., and ending with King Maadikarib Raydan, who ruled from 190-175 B.C. Next was the kingdom of Inabba. Its most prominent ruler was King Waqahil Yafush, who reigned from 550-530 B.C. The kingdom of Kaminahu started with King Ammiyitha, who reigned from 585-570 B.C. The line continued through eight more documented rulers to King Ilisami II Nabat, who reigned between 495–475 B.C. Records show that this kingdom flourished under the rule of Wahbu, son of Mas’ud, around 160-140 B.C. Then there was the kingdom of Nashan, whose first documented ruler was King Ab’amar Saqid. He reigned around 760 B.C. Another line of three kings is documented to have ruled between 520-480 B.C. The last of these three kings was Yadi’ab Amir, who reigned between 500-480 B.C.
Thus, we see that there is substantial documentation of the chronology of these kingdoms, even though they were small and had little influence when compared to other kingdoms in the region. This shows that even small kingdoms near where Mecca was eventually built are documented with accuracy in the ancient history of Arabia. Islamic tradition claims that Mecca was a prestigious and pre-eminent religious city throughout the history of Arabia. The tradition also claims that this pre-eminence of Mecca extended back to even before the time of Abraham. Yet there are no historical records regarding Mecca, similar to the examples above, which can support these claims of the Islamic tradition. These claims about Mecca have absolutely no support in the historical and archaeological record.
We Have an Amazing Amount of Records for the Kingdom of Qataban
But our study doesn’t stop there. In the kingdom of Qataban, we find more proof that Mecca did not exist before Christ. This kingdom was located in southwestern Arabia. We have amazing amounts of knowledge about the sequence of events and the name of the rulers of this kingdom. There is line of 31 rulers whose reign started in 330 B.C. and continued through the last ruler, Marthadum, who reigned at the very end of the Qataban kingdom (150-160 A.D.). Historians have documented all but two of these 31 rulers: they are numbers 2 and 27. This reflects the completeness of the inscriptions and records of the kingdom of Qataban.
SABA AND HIMYAR
Saba and Himyar present a series of 102 kings which started in the 9th century B.C. and ended in the 6th century A.D. This is a proof that Mecca did not exist in ancient times. If it had existed, it should have had archaeological documentation for each generation of its history.
Even more impressive than the kingdom of the north which we have studied, is the kingdom of Saba and its successor in the region, the kingdom of Himyar. Many archaeological records document a series of rulers, beginning with Karibil A., who ruled around 860 B.C. The series continues with 31 Makrab. The Makrab were kings who not only ruled Saba, but other nearby regions. The last Makrab king was Yitha’a Amar Bayyin II, who reigned between 360-350 B.C. Saba then lost control of its surrounding states, and its rulers could no longer enjoy the title of Makrab, but were kings, instead.
After the Makrab, the line of kings continued with number 32, Yadi’ubil Bayyin, who reigned between 350-335 B.C. And the line goes on to number 55, a king of Saba named Yada’il Dharih IV. He reigned between 0–15 A.D. The kings of Saba and Dhu-Radydan followed this series of rulers.
But the documentation doesn’t end here. We have continuing records of the kings of Himyar and Saba. King Dhamar’alay Warar Yahan’ifm was the 56th ruler in the series. He was followed by a line of kings which ended with ruler number 79, the last king of Saba. His name is Nasha’karib Yuhamin II Yuharhib, and he reigned between 260-275.
Then the line of rulers shifts to the first king of the empire of Himyar, Yasir Yuhan’im I, who reigned between 275-285 A.D. The kings of Himyar reigned over the kingdoms of Saba, Himyar and other states in the region. This series finally ends with Maadikarib III, who reigned between 575-577 A.D. Maadikarib was ruler number 102 in a long series of kings which covers a period of 1,437 years, starting in the 9th century B.C., just a few decades before the Queen of Saba had visited Solomon, and ending in the 6th century A.D.
A study of these kings has something significant to tell us. The abundance of records over such a long period of time shows us that southern and western Arabia are some of the most well-documented regions in the ancient world. We could not document such a series of rulers for any European country in the 1st millennium B.C. with the same degree of accuracy. Here we have a series of kings in Yemen dating back to the 9th century B.C., with very few gaps in the lines of documented rulers, especially when we look at the long series of rulers in Saba and Himyar. Therefore, the claim that a central religious city, like Mecca, could have been present, without any records to substantiate it, is implausible and unacceptable.
The Kingdom of Kinda, East of Mecca, and its Archaeological Records
We’ve looked at the north and south, now let’s come to the regions east of Mecca. We have the kingdom of Kinda, which dominated central and northern Arabia. The capital was Dhu-Kahilum, known today as Qaryat al-Fau, near the old city of Yamama, about 500 miles from Mecca. The ancient site of Dhu-Kahilum is abundant in archaeological findings from which we can discern important information about the kings of Kinda and their wars. The first king was Rabi’a, who ruled from 205 to 230 A.D. He is mentioned in the Sabaean inscriptions as “King of Kinda and Kahtan.” We know about the history of Kinda, particularly through inscriptions. For example, in the year 290 A.D., Kinda lost its domain to the kingdom of Saba. In fact, we read in Sabaean Inscriptions from Mahram Bilqis–Ma’rib, the following statement about a Sabaean king: “Saadta Iab Yatlaf, descendant of Gadanum, leader of the Arabs of the King of Saba and of Kindat …”
It is illogical to claim that an ancient Mecca existed for 2,400 years without any record in a region where every kingdom which existed in history has been attested to.
We see that the closest cities to Mecca, whether in the north, south or east, are very well-documented through archaeological findings which allow us to discover the history of the region and a majority of the names of the rulers. With such complete records from kingdoms located less than 500 miles from the location of Mecca, we see that no city could have possibly existed in that area without leaving at least some records behind to tell us its history. To claim that Mecca existed in the region for at least 2,400 years, from the time of Abraham until the 4th century A.D., without any record, would be inconsistent with everything that has been recorded by archaeologists. Not only do Greek and Roman geographers and historians fail to mention Mecca, but the archaeologists of ancient Arabia exclude its existence prior to the 4th century A.D. How, then, can we insert Abraham and monotheism into Mecca if it did not exist, not just in one period, but also in all periods of Arabia? Yet, Muslims around the world believe that Abraham and his son, Ishmael, founded a temple in Mecca. No one can rewrite history, trying to convince humanity of things which he claims happened over a land or region, whose history already has been written by historians and attested to by archaeologists.
THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF EASTERN ARABIA NEGATES THE IDEA OF AN ANCIENT MECCA
The history of ancient cities in eastern and western Arabia which existed for many millennia before Christ, and even date back to the time of Abraham, have abundant archaeological findings which unveil their history. Yet, they also prove that Mecca, without any such record, could not have existed during Abraham’s lifetime.
Eastern Arabia has a well-documented history, and it is intimately tied to ancient Mesopotamia, which is present-day Iraq. The history of eastern Arabia, which includes the Persian Gulf coastal region, is totally independent of western Arabia, mainly because eastern and western Arabia are separated by two huge desert regions: Ar’ Rub’ al-khali in the south and An Nafud in the north. We find no communication in ancient history between eastern and western Arabia. We have many archaeological findings in the Persian Gulf region which help us understand the history of eastern Arabia and its relationship to Mesopotamian dynasties, which existed several millennia before Christ. We have also learned about eastern Arabia’s golden periods of self-dominion. For help in dating the archaeological findings of eastern Arabia, we have the chronology of the events in Mesopotamia.
One of the most important ancient kingdoms of eastern Arabia was Dilmun, which ruled over the land in what is present-day Bahrain. In many epochs, Dilmun’s control extended over most of the Persian Gulf region. Dilmun has flourished since 3000 B.C., due to its trade with the Indus valley (India and Pakistan) and Mesopotamia.
Archaeological findings, such as pottery and other wares, tell us that ancient eastern Arabian civilizations are as old as ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. Contacts between Dilmun and Mesopotamia are documented from the 4th millennium through the 3rd millennium B.C. Sumerian and Akkad inscriptions also mention Dilmun throughout early history. The Dilmun Kingdom, especially in what is now Bahrain, has many archaeological sites abundant in findings which allow us, with help from the Mesopotamian inscriptions, to discover valuable information about the history of Dilmun. Scholars can attest to a line of Dilmun kings which began in 1800 B.C. Although the first king is unnamed, there are three kings documented in the line, with their names, between 1470-1320 B.C. Then the series appears again in 720 B.C. with King Uperi and continues with attested kings until the occupation of Dilmun by the Babylonian Nabonidus. Nabonidus appointed a governor over Dilmun between 550-540 B. C.
The occupation of the land of Dilmun by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greek and Persians is attested to by the local archaeological findings, and by outside inscriptions.
Another important kingdom in eastern Arabia is Magan, the present location of Oman. From the Sumerian city of Ur we have inscriptions concerning Magan, dated somewhere between 2800-2500 B.C. We have additional Magan inscriptions from the Akkadic period which began with Sargon, the person who first conquered Sumerian states in Iraq. He established the Akkad Empire around 2340 B.C. Inscriptions of King Sargon mentioned that Sargon “caused ships from Meluhha (Pakistan), ships from Magan and ships from Dilmun to moor at quay of Agade.”
Magan extended from Oman, across the Straits of Hormuz, into part of Iran, and also extended north toward what is now the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. There are many archaeological sites in Oman and the United Arab Emirates which furnish much data about the kingdom of Magan. Internal archaeological data with external inscriptions have provided scholars with valuable information. For example, there were three kings in Magan. The first was King Manitan, who ruled around 2240 B.C., 150 years before Abraham. The second was an unnamed king who ruled around 2060 B.C., and the third was King Nadubeli, who ruled around 2043 B.C. I mention these three kings because they were contemporaries of the patriarchs, especially Abraham and his sons. This is a significant finding, proving that the ancient civilizations in Arabia, at the time of Abraham and prior to his time, are not just names, but actually existed. Their ruins have remained as testimony to their presence in eastern Arabia, just like the ruins of other civilizations in the region of Mesopotamia. The ruins of these civilizations are a testimony to their existence, not just since the time of Abraham, but for thousands of years before Abraham, as we saw in the case of the civilizations of Dilmun and Magan.
As we have seen, even the names of kings of these civilizations are documented as far back as the time of Abraham, and his sons and grandchildren. As for Mecca, which is claimed by Muslims to be present at the same time as these civilizations, there are no known archaeological or historical records to vindicate such a claim.
The archaeology of Mesopotamia and Eastern Arabia demonstrates that western Arabia was unknown to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Eastern Arabia. How could Abraham, the inhabitant of Ur in Iraq, go to a place unknown in his time?
In the case of Dilmun in eastern Arabia, we see clear archaeological records of kings and related events dating from as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C., until its Islamic occupation in the 7th century A.D. On the other hand, in central western Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built, there is no record of any civilization until several centuries after the time of Christ, as we have seen from our study of the classical geographers and writers. The fact is that nobody in the ancient world recorded the existence of any civilization at the time of Abraham in western Arabia. The huge deserts which separate eastern Arabia from western Arabia were not crossable by humans at the time of Abraham. This made western Arabia a complete mystery to the inhabitants of eastern Arabia and Mesopotamia at that time. This case is similar to the way Europeans thought about what lay beyond the Atlantic Ocean before the Columbus Expedition.
Not only was western Arabia unaware of eastern Arabia, but it was also unknown to the people of Mesopotamia at the time of Abraham. You may remember from the Bible that Mesopotamia is where Abraham lived before he was called by God to set out for the Promised Land.
We have many inscriptions in the history of Mesopotamia about the Persian Gulf region in the east, including the Sumerian and Akkadic periods and their control of Abraham’s home, the city of Ur in Iraq. But we don’t have any records coming from Mesopotamia about central western Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built. The first historical records to mention western Arabia were about Yemen, located in southwestern Arabia. Yemen records have been found in Egyptian inscriptions from around the 14th century B.C., which was seven centuries after Abraham. Archaeological inscriptions in Mesopotamia, including Ur, the city of Abraham, make no mention of Yemen until the 8th century B.C. Then Assyrian inscriptions mention the king of Saba-Yemen, presenting tribute to the Assyrian king, Sargon II. This demonstrates that even Yemen, the oldest civilization of southwestern Arabia, was unknown in Mesopotamia at the time of Abraham. No Mesopotamian records at any time in ancient history mention the central western region of Arabia along the coast of the Red Sea. Why is there a lack of information about central western Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built? Simply because this region was completely uninhabited until the 3rd century B.C., when the trade routes of Yemen along the Red Sea began to flourish. Western Arabia, during the time of Abraham, was an unexplored area, and no known expeditions were made into it.
In addition to the historical events which we have been examining, there is an interesting novel written during that period. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in the city of Uruk, in Mesopotamia, around the year 2000 B.C., about 100 years after the time Abraham lived in Ur, one of the main cities in Mesopotamia. The setting for the Epic of Gilgamesh gives us some insight into life in Mesopotamia. Hommel, a scholar commenting on the ninth canto of the Epic of Gilgamesh, says:
We are told how Gilgamesh set out for the land of Mashu in central Arabia, the gate of which was guarded by legendary scorpion-like men; hence, perhaps, the name “land of darkness” is applied to Arabia in early Hebrew annals.
For 12 miles the hero had to make his way through dense darkness. At length he came to an enclosed space by the seashore where dwelt the virgin goddess, Sabitu, who tells him that “no one since eternal days has ever crossed the sea, save Shamash, the hero. Difficult is the crossing, and extremely dangerous the way, and closed are the waters of death which bolt its entrance. How then, Gilgamesh, wilt thou cross the sea?”
We understand from this epic, which came from the time of Abraham and the civilization of Mesopotamia, that men were not able to go into central Arabia because of “the gate of which was guarded by legendary scorpion-like men,” and nobody succeeded in crossing the waters that led to southwestern Arabia. So, western Arabia was an enigma to the inhabitants of Uruk and Ur (where Abraham lived), and no one had crossed to western Arabia before. If this were the case for Yemen, in southwestern Arabia, then it would be even more true in central western Arabia, the area where Mecca was built, which was not known in any Mesopotamian literature in any time.
If the area of Mashu, toward central Arabia, was an enigma for the Mesopotamians, and no one crossed this region, then west Arabia was non-existent for the inhabitants of Mesopotamia. How could a man like Abraham, who came from the city of Ur (which was one of the most civilized cities in the fertile land of Mesopotamia) leave Palestine to go into the deserts of Arabia to build a sanctuary in a place where no man in his time had ever gone to live? It’s like imagining that Napoleon went to the North Pole to build a church before anyone had yet reached the North Pole. Or, like imagining Napoleon reaching the top of Mount Everest to build a resting place there, when we know that the top of Mount Everest wasn’t even known to him. In the same way, claiming that a civilization in Yemen was in contact with kingdoms in Palestine at the time of Abraham is something we know could not have been true. The first kingdom in Yemen originated in the 14th century B.C., seven centuries after Abraham. Cities along the Yemeni trading route by the Red Sea, through central western Arabia, didn’t exist in the time of Abraham. These cities came into existence after Yemen began trading with Israel and Syria. In addition, we learned previously that Mecca was one of the later cities to be built by tribes from Yemen, several centuries after Christ.
The life of Abraham, as recorded by Moses, showed the desire of the patriarch to go to Egypt at the time of a famine which occurred in Palestine, and not in deserted and unknown places in his time, such as western Arabia.
Let us look at the history of Abraham, as revealed in the Bible. Abraham was a citizen of Ur of South Mesopotamia, who lived in one of the most fertile and civilized lands of the 21st century B.C. When a famine came to Canaan, Abraham did what any civilized man might do. He didn’t choose to travel to a land which was inferior to his homeland; instead he traveled to Egypt. Why? Because, at that time, Egypt was the only civilization which could compete with his homeland. Because of the Nile River, Egypt had an abundance of water and was known for its advanced civilization. After the famine ended, Abraham returned to Canaan, the beautiful land which God had promised to give to him and the descendants of Isaac as an inheritance. Abraham preferred the Egyptian civilization, even if it meant leaving Canaan. How, then, could he consider traveling to an unknown desert such as western Arabia, and the eventual location of Mecca?
The patriarchs who lived close to Abraham never mentioned a journey of Abraham to the unknown desert of western Arabia during his time. Neither any of the inspired prophets of the Bible, nor any literature of Abraham’s descendants, mentioned such a journey.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume Abraham would have chosen western Arabia. Why wouldn’t his descendants mention this historic journey? They recorded the rest of Abraham’s life in great detail, from the point when he began his journey to the Promised Land. Why would they omit something as important as this?
We know that Moses wrote about Abraham’s life in great detail. How could Moses have missed such a significant journey and fail to mention the Muslim claim that Abraham built a temple in Mecca? How could all the other prophets of Israel also be silent about such a significant event if it had actually occurred? Why don’t we find any clue to such a journey of Abraham anywhere in the ancient Hebrew writings? If Abraham had visited the desert, where Mecca was later built in the 4th century A.D., he would have been a pioneer. His descendants would have boasted of such an accomplishment through the prophets, historians and other writers. The temple at Mecca would have been a place of pilgrimage for the descendants of Isaac and Jacob because of the importance of Abraham as the father of their faith. Yet, we don’t see anyone in Israel, from the time of Moses through the prophets, traveling in search of a religious temple in Arabia or making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
To illustrate my point, let’s suppose the people of Alaska would claim that Shakespeare had lived among them and built a temple there. To prove such a claim, Alaskans would have to depend on historical evidence, not some claim made by a religious writer, or the testimony of someone who had lived many centuries after Shakespeare. The only authoritative source would be English history, since there are no documented writings of the Alaskan people at the time of Shakespeare which speak of a visit by Shakespeare to their land. As it is, English history has a complete account of the famous English poet, and it doesn’t mention a visit to Alaska. Therefore, we would conclude that historical resources confirm that Shakespeare never visited Alaska. The same is true in establishing if Abraham ever visited western Arabia. With the absence of documented writings in Arabia at the time of Abraham, mentioning a visit by Abraham, then it is logical that we look at all the writings of his descendants in Israel since the time of Moses. Nowhere is there any mention about this claim of Islam that Abraham visited Mecca and built a temple there. Therefore, we can see that Islamic claims about Mecca existing in the 21st century B.C., and Abraham building its temple, are fanciful and mistaken notions inserted into history. After examining the evidence, no intelligent and honest person would accept these Islamic claims.
Basing their religion on a false historical assertion, which is contradictory to true world history, is something Muslims should renounce. Muslims should be encouraged to stop trusting their eternal destiny to a religion which depends upon such enormous mistakes.
Absence of Mecca in Archaeological Records Found in the Other Ancient Cities and Kingdoms of Arabia
Although kingdoms and civilizations at the time of Abraham were few, and their inscriptions prove that they were well-known to each other, none of them mentions Mecca.
Previously, we discussed an important argument refuting the Islamic claim that Mecca has existed in Arabia since the time of Abraham. We saw that each civilization which appeared in Arabia left significant archaeological findings, proving its presence. Yet no such evidence can be found for Mecca before the 5th century A.D. We will now discuss another important archaeological argument against the idea of an ancient Mecca – namely, the absence of Mecca in archaeological records found in the other ancient cities and kingdoms of Arabia.
Abraham lived during the 21st century B.C. If Mecca had existed at the time of Abraham, it definitely would have been represented in the detailed inscriptions of the civilizations of eastern Arabia, such as inscriptions which come from the kingdoms of Dilmun and Magan, also called Oman. Furthermore, if Mecca were present in the 21st century B.C., it would have been the only kingdom to exist in western Arabia at that time. For thousands of years, Magan was known for its trade with Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, which is modern-day India and Pakistan. Dilmun was known to have rich commerce with Asia, bringing its products to Mesopotamia as far back as 1,000 years before the time of Abraham. If Mecca had existed when Abraham lived, it would have been an important market for Magan and Dilmun trade, but no mention is made of Mecca in their inscriptions.
We also know that southwestern Arabian civilizations began to appear in Yemen in the 13th century B.C., causing us to conclude that no civilizations existed for Magan and Dilmun to trade with in western Arabia at the time of Abraham. Kingdoms and civilizations in the region at the time of Abraham were few, and were all known to each other. The kingdoms which appeared in Mesopotamia were known to each other and to the rest of Middle Eastern civilizations as far back as 3,000 B.C. Many inscriptions of the eastern Arabian kingdoms, such as Magan (Oman) and Dilmun, have been found which prove the claim that they were aware of these other Middle Eastern civilizations, such as those in Mesopotamia.
If Mecca had existed in the time of Abraham, it would have been impossible for civilizations in Eastern Arabia, some of which continued more than 3,000 years, not to have been aware of another old city which would have existed parallel to them in the western part of Arabia during all these thousands of years.
It is difficult to justify such a long span of time, from 3,000 B.C. to the 3rd century A.D., without any of these eastern Arabian kingdoms mentioning a city like Mecca in their inscriptions. To continue to claim that Mecca existed in ancient times, in spite of the evidence shown, is like claiming that the royal dynasties of northern Egypt had never heard of the royal dynasties of southern Egypt during thousands of years of history. In reality, the inscriptions found in northern Egypt are full of information about southern Egypt, and vice versa. This supports our claim that Mecca was not built until after the 3rd century A.D. It’s unreasonable to claim that two civilizations, existing in the same geographical region (e.g., India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, China) for several millennia, would never have heard of each other, and would never have made mention of each other in inscriptions or other archaeological records. How could Arabia be an exception? How could Mecca have existed in western Arabia and been totally unknown to eastern Arabia for at least 2,400 years?
THE ABSENCE OF MECCA IN THE INSCRIPTIONS OF OTHER ARABIAN REGIONS
Up till now, we have been looking at eastern Arabian civilizations. Now let’s turn our attention to the civilizations of northern, southern and central Arabia.
It is significant that we find inscriptions from the various Arabian kingdoms and cities mentioned in the inscriptions of other Arabian kingdoms and cities co-existing at the same time.
The Absence of Mecca in the Yemeni Inscriptions
As I mentioned previously, the Yemeni archaeological inscriptions are among the richest discoveries in the Middle East. In them we discover much information about their kings, wars and historical events. In addition, we learn a great deal about the surrounding civilizations in Arabia, and beyond.
From Yemeni inscriptions, we find a significant amount of information about the various kingdoms of southern Arabia. For example, Kinda was a kingdom in central Arabia located about 500 miles from where Mecca was later built. It is well-represented in the Yemeni inscriptions. Likewise, the northern Arabian cities of Qedar and Dedan, which are north of today’s Mecca, are also richly represented in the Yemeni inscriptions. They confirm the commercial relationships which existed between the Yemeni kingdoms, and the Arabian cities and kingdoms east and north of Mecca’s eventual location.
Even the city of Yathrib, also called Medina, is represented in the Yemeni inscriptions. As an example, the Sabaean inscriptions report the dedication of female slaves in a Sabaean temple. According to the inscriptions, the slaves were from Gaza, Yathrib, Dedan and Egypt. So, if Yathrib (also called Medina), which did not exist before the 6th century B.C., is represented in the Yemeni inscriptions, how could Mecca have been in existence during the time of Abraham and never be found in any Yemeni inscription, even though Mecca is closer to Yemen than Yathrib is to Yemen?
We also find significant mention of the kingdoms of Axum and Habashat in the Yemeni inscriptions. These kingdoms existed in the region of Ethiopia to the west of Mecca, across the Red Sea.We find more information in the Yemeni inscriptions about kingdoms situated to the north, east and west of the location where Mecca was eventually built. Yet, with all this rich detail, we still don’t find any Yemeni inscription mentioning Mecca. Once again, if Mecca were a major city in Arabia before the 4th century A.D., as Muslims claim, it would have been mentioned in the Yemeni inscriptions even more than any of the other Arabian and Ethiopian kingdoms to which I have referred.
Proximity is also important. If it existed at all, Mecca would have been closer to Yemen than any of the other kingdoms mentioned. For the Yemeni inscriptions to simply skip over Mecca is something that cannot be justified or explained logically. It would be like the Romans mentioning Spain and Britain in their chronicles, but failing to mention France, which is far closer to Rome than these two countries. It’s illogical to claim, without any archaeological evidence or support, that Mecca, which would have bordered on Yemeni territory, was a dominant city in the ancient history of Arabia before the 4th century A.D.
Mecca is Absent in the Inscriptions of the Northern Cities of Arabia
When we look at the inscriptions found in northern Arabian cities, such as Dedan, we see the same phenomena. Their inscriptions reveal aspects of their own history and mention civilizations of western and southern Arabia. For example, we find mention of some of the kings of the Main Yemeni kingdom of southern Arabia in the inscriptions of the northern Arabian city of Dedan.
There is plenty of information about the western and southwestern Arabian kingdoms found in the northern cities’ inscriptions, yet we don’t find Mecca mentioned at all – even though it would be closer to the northern cities than the southern and western Arabian kingdoms which I mentioned. In light of this evidence, the Islamic tradition to claim that Mecca has been a major Arabian city since the 21st century B.C. is like Rome existing in Italy for centuries, but seeing no mention of it in any Italian inscriptions. In reality, Rome is the most-mentioned city in the ancient Italian inscriptions. The same logic holds true with the city of Athens in Greece, and Babel in Mesopotamia. So it would also be with Mecca, if the claims about Mecca from the Islamic tradition were true.
We have seen previously that some Muslims claim that Ptolemy’s mention of a city called Macoraba is actually a reference to Mecca. We have already proven, with Ptolemy’s longitudinal and latitudinal system, that Macoraba is not Mecca but, instead, a small settlement in Yemen, south of the old Yemeni city of Carna in the 2nd century A.D. To cling to such a claim as proof of Mecca’s existence as a major city since the time of Abraham is inadequate and illogical. So, to claim that Mecca has continually existed in Arabia since the time of Abraham, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, is inconsistent and illogical. It is a ridiculous claim. The truth is that clear archaeological and historical facts cannot be reinterpreted or ignored in order to support a claim which is inconsistent with archaeology and history.
Once again, we see the witness of history confirming our research which shows that Mecca was built long after Muslims claim it was.
The Absence of Mecca Through Studying the Records of the Nations who Occupied the Region
The absence of Mecca prior to the 4th century A.D. is a verifiable conclusion based upon the documented history and ruins of the many ancient civilizations which inhabited northern and central western Arabia, the region where Mecca was eventually built. Northern and central western Arabia was occupied by many nations throughout history, but nowhere in their chronicles do we find inscriptions and archaeological findings with any mention of Mecca.
The Kingdom of Ma’in’s Expansion
The Ma’in kingdom expanded to the north, colonizing regions and cities, but there is no mention of Mecca in their inscriptions, even though Mecca would have been the closest city to them.
Ma’in is among the kingdoms which colonized northern Arabia. It expanded from Yemen, in southwestern Arabia, to the north through their commercial colonies. These colonies facilitated their trade with Syria and Palestine. Ma’in’s colonies in northern Arabia were in existence from the Achaemenid era, which began around 559 B.C. In their northward colonization, the Minaeans occupied the northern Arabian city of Dedan. Dedan had a Minaean dynasty of kings or rulers and left a great collection of inscriptions. Minaean inscriptions are scattered in many places across northern Arabia. Minaean inscriptions were found at the site of al-Jawf, near the border with Iraq.  Minaean inscriptions are also scattered in the commercial colonies which the Minaeans established in Tran-Jordan. Minaean inscriptions were found in Jabal Ramm, about twenty miles from Aqaba. There was a very well-known colony in the city of Maan, bearing their Minaean name, which is located in the south of Jordan. Clearly, the Minaeans occupied Hijaz (north and central western Arabia) for a long period of time. As we think about it, we ask ourselves how those Minaean people who occupied Hijaz could neglect the city of Mecca, for they would have encountered it on the trip between Yemen and northern Arabia. If Mecca had existed at the time the Minaeans colonized the cities of the north, then it would have been important for them to subdue and colonize Mecca in order to protect their trade route through central Arabia. Mecca would have been a convenient city in which caravans could rest while traveling through the desert, and would have been located on the most direct route between Yemen and the cities of northern Arabia. But Minaean caravans encountered no such settlement of any kind in the region where Mecca was eventually built. Instead, caravans traveled a longer route toward the interior of Arabia, reaching the city of Yathrib, and then the city of Dedan.
Lihyan Occupied the Area Without Mentioning Mecca
Lihyan was another tribe which controlled northwestern Arabia. Their kings ruled from the city of Dedan and controlled the trade routes of northwestern Arabia. Lihyan also controlled Hegra, which is also called “Madain Salih,” extending its control south toward the central western regions of Arabia. Yet, we don’t find any inscriptions or other mentions of Mecca among the abundant Lihyanite literature.
Mas’udu, who ruled over Dedan from around 120-100 B.C., was the last king of Lihyan, according to the inscriptions of Dedan.
The Nabataean Domain
The Nabataeans colonized along the land route toward the south including the desert of central western Arabia where Mecca was eventually built.
The Nabataeans expanded toward the south and occupied the territory held by the Lihyan kingdom. Their inscriptions in north Arabia continued to be written till the beginning of the 4th century A.D. 
The Nabataeans played an important part in the history of the region. From the Roman Expedition into Arabia in 24 and 23 B.C., we know that the village of Leuce Come, on the Red Sea, was under the control of the Nabataeans at the time of the expedition. Strabo, the Greek geographer who accompanied the expedition, recorded that the control of the Nabataeans extended south to Leuce Come. In fact, he mentioned another region governed by Aretas who was related to Obodas, the king of the Nabataeans. The Nabataean influence didn’t stop there. Strabo referred to “a village in the territory controlled by Obodas;” that village was Egra, close to the Red Sea,about 62 miles from Malathan. Obodas was a Nabataean king, and Malathan, as we saw previously, was a port very close to where Mecca was later built. Strabo also reported on the size of the Nabataean caravans which came from Yemen, passing through Leuce Come on their way to Petra, the capital of the Nabataeans. Strabo wrote that these caravans traveled in such numbers that “men and camels differed in no respect from an army.” Strabo’s comments reveal that the Nabataeans, who controlled northwestern Arabia and parts of central western Arabia at the time of the Roman Expedition, used to guard their caravans all the way to Yemen as they traveled the land route along the Red Sea.
Another ancient historian, Pliny, speaks about how the Nabataeans controlled the land route “through the Nabataean Troglodytae, a colony of the Nabataeans.” This deserted segment of land in north and central Arabia lies opposite to the Troglodytic Land across the Red Sea on the African shore, confirming that the Nabataeans colonized along the land route toward the south. They controlled the central western Arabian desert, including the area where Mecca eventually was built.
Mecca was built on the heavily-traveled land route which was walked centuries before by the Nabataeans, yet the Nabataeans did not mention Mecca, even though they repeatedly mentioned the smaller cities under their control.
Considering the abundance of Nabataean inscriptions, and other archaeological findings, how could the Nabataeans have failed to mention a city like Mecca? Especially since it was claimed that Mecca was built along their heavily-traveled land routes in a territory which they controlled. Since the Nabataeans wrote in their inscriptions about even the smallest and most insignificant places under their control, how could they have missed Mecca? For a nation’s long historical records to neglect one city, when it repeatedly mentions the few villages and smaller cities under its control, is something implausible.
Kinda controlled central western Arabia. The study of their inscriptions excludes that Mecca existed during the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.
Not only did the Nabataeans control Hijaz, but there were other nations in Arabia who, at one time or another controlled the region located in northwestern and central Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built. One of these kingdoms was Kinda, which formed a confederacy in central Arabia. Kinda, at times, dominated Hijaz, including the deserts where Mecca was later built. Through its inscriptions, the documented history of Kinda dates as far back as the 2nd century A.D. Their capital, Qaryat al-Fau, was located just 500 miles east of Mecca, near the city of Yamama. There is no mention of Mecca in their inscriptions, further supporting our conclusion that Mecca did not exist in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.
The inscriptions of the Himyarites, who occupied the area where Mecca was later built, confirm that Mecca did not exist during the 3rd century A.D.
Another kingdom to occupy Hijaz was the Himyar kingdom from Yemen, which started around 115 B.C. In 275 A.D., Himyar occupied Saba, and afterward it expanded northward toward the land of the Carnaites. Himyar controlled the land route, then enforced its authority over most of Hijaz.
In spite of the abundance of Himyarite inscriptions, Mecca again is missing, suggesting that Mecca did not exist at the end of the 3rd century A.D. or at the beginning of the 4th century A.D.
It is illogical that all the nations who occupied central western Arabia would overlook Mecca, if it existed when these nations existed.
As we look at these facts, we come to the same conclusion which we reached as we examined the narrations of classical writers and others such as Ethiopians, Coptics and Christians. Mecca is missing in all the inscriptions and archaeological records of the Arabian nations who occupied Hijaz, or who controlled the land route where Mecca was eventually built. This means that Mecca did not exist prior to the 4th century A.D. It is an assertive fact. All nations which occupied central western Arabia were known for their numerous inscriptions. None of these nations failed to record a city in the area where they also mentioned smaller villages. So how can all of these nations have missed Mecca, which is closer to each of them than other small cities and villages which they recorded? It’s as though all the kingdoms in a land like Mesopotamia would fail to record the city of Babel. No one would accept this, because an ancient city of importance would have been evident, and impossible to exclude in the inscriptions of the kingdoms which occupied its territory. It would appear in their inscriptions, not only once from one nation, but hundreds of times in the inscriptions of each nation which occupied its territory, or even nations with which it came in contact.
Therefore, our Muslim friends should learn from the archaeology of the nations surrounding Arabia, even the archaeology of all countries of the world. How much proof is required to support the claim that a specific city existed 2,000 years before Christ? What are the archaeological conditions needed to make that claim acceptable? Especially in conditions like Arabia, where the area of Mecca was surrounded by kingdoms who occupied Hijaz in various eras, and whose archaeology and history are documented as well as, or better than, the surrounding countries of the Middle East.Mecca, if it existed, should surely have had a prominent place in history. But it did not. It should be the apparent reference and the essential base of its archaeology in all ages and history.
THE RECORDS OF THE GREAT NATIONS WHO OCCUPIED CENTRAL WESTERN ARABIA, AND THE ISLAMIC CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF MECCA
The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Romans all had ancient empires which occupied northern and central western Arabia. None of them mentioned the existence of Mecca.
Many great empires throughout history annexed parts of Arabia and, in particular, northwestern and central western Arabia. Interest in this desolate area was primarily due to its strategic location on the trading routes between the Far East and the Mediterranean regions. Trade from the Far East crossed the Indian Ocean to ports in southern Arabia. The trading routes then proceeded across western Arabia toward Middle Eastern countries which lay along the Mediterranean. From these, trade reached the rest of the Mediterranean region. This made control of the area essential to ancient empires.
A secondary reason empires wanted to annex northwestern and central western Arabia was for their own protection. Tribal confederations from northern and anterior Arabia were known for frequent attacks on their neighbors. Annexations provided a buffer between the great empires and the hostile tribes of Arabia.
A third reason for interest in northwestern and central Arabia was the presence of gold and other important minerals. The region of central Arabia called Yamama, about 500 miles east of where Mecca was later built, was famous for its gold and copper mines. Arabia was also known for copper mines in Oman.
The Assyrian Control
Glaser, an expert scholar of Arabian history, maintains that the Assyrians extended their control over Yamama in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. He identified locations which are referenced in the Assyrian inscriptions which tell about Assyrian wars against Arabian tribes. Of particular interest was King Assurbanipal’s campaign south of the cities of Teima and Khaybar.
The Assyrian inscriptions are significant because many describe Arabian tribes, rulers and cities. These inscriptions are very important, for they are based on first-hand knowledge which the Assyrians gained during their occupation of the area during the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. It is assumed that the Assyrian control reached south to near the area where Mecca was built; yet, we don’t see any mention in the Assyrian inscriptions about Mecca or the tribes, such as the Jurhum tribe, which Islamic tradition claims inhabited Mecca as far back as the time of Abraham.
Assyrian inscriptions mention more than one king of Saba who controlled Yemen. We are told that the kings of Saba gave tribute to Assyrian kings as a symbol of cooperation in the land trading route which reached the Fertile Crescent, including: Mesopo-tamia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Trans-Jordan, extending from the borders of Iraq and Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.
Once again, since the Assyrian inscriptions fail to mention Mecca, we can only conclude that Mecca did not exist between the 9th and 7th centuries B.C., or it would have been mentioned in the records.
The Babylonian Occupation of Hijaz
Nabonidus occupied the cities of the region close to where Mecca was eventually built. Although he lived for ten years in Teima, he never mentioned Mecca.
Not only did the Assyrians occupy northern and central Arabia, but so did the Babylonians. They occupied these portions of Arabia during the reign of Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, who reigned from 556-539 B.C. Information about this king and his occupation is found in the Harran Inscriptions (known as H2), Nabonidus and the Royal Chronicles, and the so-called Verse Account of Nabonidus.
Nabonidus left the empire to the control of his son, Belshazzar, and Nabonidus traveled to the Arabian city of Teima. Once there, he killed its king, occupied the city, made Teima his residence, and built a palace. From The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus, we know that during his sojourn in Teima, Nabonidus went further south to conquer the cities of Dedan, Fadak, Khaybar, Yadi and Yathrib (which is the Medina). The city of Yathrib, about 200 miles from Mecca’s eventual location, later played an important part in the rise of Islam.
Since Nabonidus controlled the whole region, he was assured of dominating all three land routes from Yathrib. Though he controlled the whole region, he does not mention Mecca in the inscriptions he left behind. If Mecca had existed in his time, it would have been an important target for his attacks, because it would have been the only city in the region around Yathrib which was not under his control ( see Fig. 4).
If Mecca were the influential city Islamic tradition claims, it would have been an even more important target than the other cities which Nabonidus conquered. So why would he conquer all the other cities in the region, many of which were less important than Mecca, and fail to even mention Mecca? There should have still been some mention of it, since he ruled in the area for ten years and reached the other cities nearest its location. This shows that Mecca did not exist in the area around the 6th century B.C.
The Persian Occupation
The Persians occupied many parts of Arabia and had alliances with tribes and states, but Mecca is absent in their records.
Following the Babylonians, the same area came under the control of the Persians. An examination of inscriptions found near Dedan show that they subjugated northern Arabia in the Achaemenid period at the end of the 6th century B.C. The Persians also appointed a governor to oversee Dedan. This occurred before the Lihyanite kings dominated the cities of Qedar and Dedan, and some other regions in northwestern Arabia.
In the 5th century B.C., Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells us that the Persians made alliances with the Arabians. Centuries later, the Persians occupied the region of Oman at the time of the writing of the The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. I previously mentioned that the date of the writing of The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea was about 62 A.D. In fact, in the 1st century A.D., the whole Persian Gulf area, including Oman, was under the Parthian empire, a ruling dynasty of old Iran (Persia). The land of Jerra, near the Persian Gulf, became Persian territory around 320 A.D. Today, Jerra is known as al-Qatif. The Persians made alliances with many Arabian tribes. Among them was the tribe of Kinda, which once extended its domain over central Arabia and part of Hadramaut, south of Yemen, in South Arabia. The Persians held mines in Yamama, even up until the time of Mohammed. Yamama was the area where Kinda’s capital was situated, about 500 miles from today’s Mecca. This reflects just how far the Persians penetrated and influenced the region. The Persians used the Lakhmids, who were a tribe of al-Hira situated on their borders in Mesopotamia, to protect the borders. The Lakhmids became vassal governors during the Sasanian periods. Al-Tabari says that the Arabian tribes settled in the area of Hira at the time of Ardashir, son of Papak . Ardashir was the founder of the Sassanian Kingdom. He is also known by the name “Artaxerxes.” He reigned between 226-240 A.D. Through the Lakhmids, the Persians formed tight relationships with other tribes and cities in southern and southwestern Arabia. This was in addition to their continuing influence in central Arabia.
If Mecca had existed in the 3rd century A.D., Persian records would certainly have mentioned it. Although the Persians penetrated into many parts of Arabia, we don’t find Mecca mentioned in any Persian record or literature. This is significant, because the Persians were interested in controlling all the land routes between southern Arabia and the Fertile Crescent, and Mecca was eventually built on one of the most important branches of these trading routes. Even more significant is the fact that the Persians were interested in extending their influence all over Arabia, whether through direct conquest or through alliances with existing states. We find that Mecca is absent in any official Persian records relating to the Persian plan of conquest over Arabia. This indicates that Mecca did not exist until at least the beginning of the 4th century A.D.
The Roman Expedition Into Western Arabia
During the Roman Expedition to western Arabian, they accurately documented all the villages and cities of the area. Their work demonstrates that Mecca was not in existence around the Christian era and the 1st century A.D.
We’ve written about the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians. Now we turn to the last ancient empire to occupy northern and central western Arabia, the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered this area of Arabia during their expedition under Gallus around 23 B.C. I have already discussed this expedition in detail, as to how Gallus first occupied northwestern Arabia, and then conquered all the cities in central western Arabia as far south as the city of Najran, on the border of Yemen. From there Gallus conquered cities in Yemen until he reached Ma’rib. We saw how this expedition was historically documented by Strabo, an important historian and geographer of the time. In detail, he recorded the contents of the regions of northwestern Arabia and central western Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built. But even though Strabo’s survey mentioned tiny and seemingly insignificant villages in northwestern and central western Arabia, he never mentioned Mecca.
In addition to Strabo’s writing, we have other Roman records which Pliny consulted in his survey of northwestern and central western Arabia. As in Strabo’s work, Mecca was absent from Pliny’s survey. The Romans have a reputation for great accuracy in reporting the places, cities and villages in any region which they conquered or even visited. Their work assures us that Mecca did not exist in the 1st century B.C. during the times of Strabo and Pliny.
Great empires who covered spans of thousands of years, or more, occupied central western Arabia, and mentioned the tiny villages without mentioning Mecca. How can Muslims disregard the records of these great empires?
We have examined the records of the great ancient empires who occupied portions of north and central western Arabia over the years. We’ve tried to find a case for the existence of Mecca in the writings and inscriptions of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Romans, but to no avail.
Although Mecca would have been situated at a strategic location between the northern cities of Arabia and Yemen in southern Arabia, we have no record of its existence. These regions were well known to these empires. Although controlling of the area around Mecca was strategic to controlling the trade routes and caravans traveling between Yemen, the Fertile Crescent and the rest of the Mediterranean region, we have no record of Mecca’s existence. Yemen was astrategic point in the marine trade with the Far East, especially India. It is difficult to believe that all four of these empires would neglect to mention a city like Mecca in the area, considering all of their ambitions to control this trade. To not study the records of such great empires, who all occupied and penetrated this region, is to abandon the most important historical records we have. If we were to make our judgment without taking into consideration the records of these great empires, we would certainly be amiss. By what criteria then, do Muslims assert that Mecca existed during the reign of these empires which covered the thousands of years they dominated the Middle East? What support does the Islamic claim have that Mecca actually existed? The answer is simple: Muslims do not have any historical documents from this long period which show that Mecca existed when they claim it did, yet they tenaciously hold to their teachings.
THE STUDY OF THE ASSYRIAN INSCRIPTIONS ALSO EXCLUDES AN ANCIENT MECCA
Although Muslims contend otherwise, the land along the Red Sea, containing the place where Mecca was eventually built, was uninhabited until land trading routes were established through that region in the 3rd century B.C. I mentioned previously about the absence of Mecca in the records of the nations and cities of Arabia that existed prior to the 4th century A.D. I also showed how four foreign empires occupied northwestern and central western Arabia and yet made no mention of Mecca within their records. I now will show how Mecca is absent from the records of the Mesopotamia civilizations, especially the Assyrians. I mentioned the Assyrians previously as one of the four empires which occupied northwestern and central western Arabia in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.
Mecca is Excluded From the Reports of the Second Millennium B.C.
The civilizations of Mesopotamia were very aware of the cities and the respective kingdoms which dotted the Middle East, such as Egypt and Syria. They were equally aware of those which lined eastern Arabia, such as Dilmun and Magan. The ancient nations that existed in the region are represented in their inscriptions and records. Previously, I had mentioned the connections between the civilizations of Mesopotamia and those of eastern Arabia, connections which go as far back as 3,000 B.C. For example, Magan, also called Oman, as far back as 2800 B.C. is mentioned in Akkadic inscriptions. Any western Arabian kingdom or city that existed at that time was sure to be mentioned in Mesopotamian inscriptions. History confirms that kingdoms in southwestern Arabia, such as Yemen, were represented by the Saba Kingdom, which didn’t exist before the 13th century B.C. Some scholars contend it was the 12th century B.C., and others say it was the 11th century B.C. In any case, in the 14th century B.C., the Egyptians mentioned Yemen before any kingdom or city was established and known in that region. So the silence of the Mesopotamian inscriptions pertaining to southwestern Arabia is because there were no kingdoms there to make themselves known in the area.
The cities of north Arabia began to appear after the 10th century B.C. That’s when the kingdoms of Yemen began to communicate with the Fertile Crescent through the oases of northern Arabia, where cities like Dedan, Qedar, and other cities were built. It was only in the 6th century B.C., and later, that the city of Yathrib was built, in addition to other cities. Although Muslims contend otherwise, the land along the Red Sea, containing the place where Mecca was eventually built, was uninhabited until land-trading routes were established through that region, starting from the 3rd century B.C. These coastal trading routes, which ran parallel to pre-existing inland trading routes, connected Yemen with the oases of northern Arabia, which had been established in the 8th century B.C. During these ancient times, Mecca was not mentioned among the many cities known to lie along these Arabian trading routes. We already saw this when we studied the ancient Greek and Roman geographers, and other nations which occupied north and central western Arabia.
We have constructed a historically-accurate picture of south-western Arabia, principally Yemen, and its expansion through north and central western Arabia as it traded with other Middle Eastern kingdoms such as Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. It’s important to have a historically-accurate picture if we are to discount the Qur’an’s claim that Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, traveled to Mecca, and that Abraham also visited Mecca and built a temple there. It’s abundantly clear from the history of western Arabia that there were no cities in that region which would interest Abraham, nor were there any caravans traveling through that area at the time of Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar.
The study of the ancient Assyrian inscriptions is very important because Assyria had existed in northern Iraq since the 3rd millennium B.C., along with the other kingdoms of Mesopotamia. Yet, there is no mention of western Arabia in their records and inscriptions, since there were no kingdoms in existence in western Arabia at that time.
Let us look at the history of the region. Assyria grew powerful under King Adad-Nirari II, who reigned from 911-891 B.C. Under his rule, the Assyrians occupied Babylonia, Anatolia and part of Syria. Following Adad-Nirari II, King Tukulti-Ninurta II ruled from 890-884 B.C. Then King Ashurnasirpal II reigned from 883-859 B.C. He extended Assyrian domination as far as the Mediterranean Sea. What is of interest to us is that southern and northern Arabia are not mentioned at all during the reigns of these kings who ruled while Assyria’s sphere of influence bordered on Arabia.
It is not until the reign of Shalmaneser III that we have inscriptions concerning Arabia in Assyrian records. Shalmaneser III reigned from 858-824 B.C. This is because only in the 9th century B.C. were the cities of northern Arabia constructed in the oases. Let’s look at those inscriptions. Shalmaneser III, in the inscriptions called the Monolith Inscriptions from Kurkh, mentioned that the Assyrians engaged an alliance formed of many kings in battle at Qarqar. Among the kings he lists in the alliance are: Hadadezer, king of Damascus; Ahab, the king of Israel; and Gindibu’, the Arab, whose army had 1,000 camels. In the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, who reigned from 744-727 B.C., we also find a reference to the kingdoms of northern Arabia. In these inscriptions, particularly in the annals which were removed from the walls of the palace of Shalmaneser III at Nimrud – also called Calah, the old capital of the Assyrians – we see that tribute was paid by Queen Zabibe, “Queen of the Arabs” to Shalmaneser III, around 738 B.C. More information about Queen Zabibe’s tribute is given in a stele found in Iran. (A stele is a carved stone monument, much like our grave markers.) The Qedarites are mentioned in the stele as being separated from the Arabs. By this, we assume that the Qedarites, an Ishmaelite tribe, preserved its ethnic identity as Ishmaelites until it was invaded by other Arabian tribes. As the Qedarites intermingled with other tribes, they lost their independence. However, in a short time, the invaders also took the name Qedarites. The inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III also mention the subduing of another Arabian queen named Samsi.
It is clear that the kingdom of Qedar in northern Arabia did not appear until the 8th century B.C. Although early inscriptions from Mesopotamia don’t mention any kingdoms in northern Arabia, the 858-824 B.C. inscriptions of Shalmaneser III do mention “Gindibu, the Arab.” Gindibu might be the chief of the Arabian tribe whose one thousand camels were rented by King Ahab of Israel and the King of Damascus, along with the other kings who were engaged in battle against the Assyrians.
That takes us to Sargon II, who reigned over Assyria from 721-705 B.C. Egypt was among the nations he captured. He also enforced Assyrian control over the Babylonians. From the time of Sargon II, information about Arabians increases in frequency. The inscriptions of Sargon II are famous because they contain information about tribute given to Assyria by several kings, including the King of Saba. Also, the inscriptions mention some tribes of northern Arabia.
Following Sargon II come the inscriptions of Sennacherib, who reigned from 704-681 B.C. Sennacherib is best remembered for destroying the city of Babylon. Prominent inscriptions from the time of Sennacherib were the Herper Letters, which date to the epochs of Sennacherib and Assurbanipal.
Following Sennacherib come the inscriptions of Esarhaddon, who reigned from 680-669. Then come the inscriptions of Assurbanipal, who reigned from 668- 627 B.C. Assurbanipal defeated Elam, Egypt and Lydia. The inscriptions of Assurbanipal, which concern the Arabs, date back to the year 649 B.C.
There are also many letters which furnish information about Arabs. Among them are the Herper Letters, mentioned before, and the Nimrud Letters. Nimrud Letters can be dated back to the end of the 8th century B.C. We also have other resources like the Babylonian Chronicles, which speak about the campaign of Esarhaddon in the land of Bazu in central Arabia. The Babylonian Chronicles also speak about a Babylonian attack in the Arabian desert at the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The Nabonidus Chronicle speaks about Nabonidus’ campaign in Arabia and his sojourn in Teima.
We see that Assyrian and Babylonian records contain information about west, north and central Arabia from the end of the 9th century B.C. until the 6th century B.C. This is a long period of time that exposed the tribes and kingdoms, and reigning cities in that part of Arabia to the Assyrians and Babylonians. Yet no mention of Mecca, or the tribes which Islamic tradition claims to have lived in Mecca, are found in any of these Assyrian and Babylonian records. The Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions give us five centuries of contact between this area of Arabia and these two Mesopotamian nations. Their records date from the 9th century B.C. Between the northern tribes and Saba, there is no city like Mecca mentioned in the Assyrian or Babylonian records. While in each century many records tell about nations and tribes in western and north Arabia, none mention a city like Mecca.
Mecca is absent from the Assyrian political, military and commercial scene, while other tribes of western Arabia are mentioned in the Assyrian records.
In the second part of the 8th century B.C., Assyria began to exert more influence over the Arabian tribes – tribes which attempted to avoid Assyrian occupation by paying tribute. Other Arabian tribes wanted to ensure that their trade would be protected along the spice route. This route connected Assyrian-controlled territory in Sinai and south Jordan with the regions of the Fertile Crescent, which were also under their control. All the kingdoms and cities in western Arabia were dependent upon trade for their wealth and livelihood. To maintain this trade, they paid tribute to the kings of Assyria. This was especially important for cities in this region because they had no rain to support agriculture, and they needed to trade for food. The region where Mecca was built is one of those regions with little rain. Therefore, Mecca began as a city of trade in the 4th century A.D. Its existence depended on the continuity of its trade, especially with the countries of the Fertile Crescent, such as Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. Thus, the main concerns of the commercial cities of Arabia was to build relationships with these countries where their trade was destined, and to find markets.
The Assyrians received tribute from the Qedarites, one of many historically-documented nations which presented tribute to Tiglath-Pileser III around 738 B.C. The kings of Saba also paid tribute to the Assyrians to ensure their trade. To ensure their influence and protect their trade in the region, many Arabian tribes attempted to create alliances with each other. This often led to wars and campaigns.
We find that Mecca is absent in the trade–relation records between the people who dominated the Fertile Crescent from ancient times through the time of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Not only is Mecca absent from trading records, but it is also absent in any alliance which listed the tribes and cities of western Arabia through these same eras.
In the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, dated 744-727 B.C., we find information about the wars fought by him against many of the Arabian tribes. He mentions his campaign against Samsi, “Queen of the Arabs,” in northern Arabia. Other inscriptions speak about campaigns in which the Assyrians fought against Arabian tribes. Tiglath-Pileser, in an early record, wrote :
10,000 warriors, I made bow down to my feet. The people of Massa, Teima, Saba, Hayappa, Badanu, Hatte, Idiba’ilu [I-di-ba’-il-a-a], On the border of the countries of the setting sun Of whom not one of my predecessors knew and whose place is remote, praise of my lordship.
….Camels, she camels, all kind of spices, their tribute as one, they brought before me and kissed my feet.
I appointed Idibi’ilu for the wardenship of the entrance of Egypt.
In analyzing the list of people mentioned in the Tiglath-Pileser III inscriptions, we find they lead with the names Massa, Teima and Saba. Massa is known to be an Ishmaelite tribe which existed in the Syro-Arabian desert. Teima was a northern Arabian tribe and city. Saba is well known as a kingdom that dominated Yemen at the time of Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century B.C. Many scholars consider Badanu as the tribe of Bdn, which is found in Thamud and Safaitic inscriptions. In my research, I found that Pliny mentions the city of Badanatha as located in the area of the Thamud tribe. I conclude that Badanatha may have been named after the tribe of Badanu which united with, and then was integrated into the Thamud tribe in the 8th century B.C. I assume that they were located in the same area where the city, Badanatha, was eventually built.
The I-di-ba’-il-a-a tribe is identified by many scholars as the tribe of Adbeel. Adbeel was one of the sons of Ishmael. In the Tiglath-Pileser III inscriptions, we learn that he appointed this tribe as the warden of the entrance to Egypt. The inscription says: “I appointed Idibi’ilu for the wardenship of the entrance to Egypt.” This inscription suggests that this Ishmaelite tribe was still living in the Sinai around the 8th century B.C.
A study of inscriptions confirms the accuracy of the Bible when it talks about the origin of the tribes and nations mentioned in the book of Genesis. It’s logical that people like the Assyrians would write down tribal names as they pronounced them in their own language. Thus, we have Adbeel (written as I-di-ba’-il-a-a), and Saba (written as Saab’-a-a).
In the inscriptions of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C., we encounter many of the tribes about which Moses wrote in the Bible. However, we don’t see any mention of Mecca or the other tribes, such as Jurhum, which Islamic tradition claims lived in Mecca as far back as the time of Abraham. Many of the tribes mentioned in the Bible since the 15th century B.C. are mentioned again later in other books of the Bible, shedding light on their existence, as well as their historical activities. One such tribe is Ephah, which evolved from the sons of Abraham and Keturah, the wife Abraham took after Sarah died.
The scholars think that the tribe of Hayappa, mentioned in the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, was the tribe of Ephah. In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the tribe is called Ghaiphah. The Bible helps us locate this tribe, since Genesis gives us the genealogy of the sons of Keturah. Ephah was the elder son of Midian, the father of the Midianites. Ephah became the strongest tribe of the Midianites, often representing all the Midianites. The Midianites lived in northwestern Arabia, near the Aqaba region. They united with the Ishmaelites at the time of Gideon, whose battle with the Midianites occurred around 1170 B.C. Midianite pottery has been found in Negev-Sinai, south of Jordan, and in many parts of north Arabia. It has been found as far south as Teima. The Midianite pottery in Teima is dated between the beginning of the 13th century B.C. and the middle of the 12th century B.C. We don’t find Midianite pottery south of Teima. This demonstrates that the Midianites and Ephah never reached central western Arabia, where Mecca was eventually built.
In the Bible, the book of Isaiah, we see Ephah and Midian as one group. We read in Isaiah, chapter 60, verse 6:
The multitude of camels shall cover your land. The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense.
Ephah was located in northwestern Arabia around the Gulf of Aqaba. This verse shows Ephah had a role in the trade between Yemen’s Saba, here called Sheba, and Palestine. Knowing that Isaiah began to prophesy in 739 B.C., the year that King Uzziah died, and that Tiglath-Pileser III began to reign as King of Assyria in 745 B.C., we can conclude that the Bible confirms the presence of Ephah as a trading people between Saba and Israel around the last quarter of the 8th century B.C. We read about Saba elsewhere in the Bible, as well. Some scholars think that there might have been a Sabaean tribe in the north of Arabia, toward Dedan. Those who support this idea base their hypothesis on Job 1:15, where it says that the Sabaeans raided the sons of Job and killed his servants. Other scholars think that Saba was a northern colony of the Saba of Yemen. Other Biblical verses show the existence of Saba of Yemen. The Lord Jesus Christ shows that the Queen of Sheba came from the uttermost region of the south (Matthew 12:42). Jeremiah 6:20 says:
for what purpose to me comes frankincense from Sheba, and sweet cane from a far country?Here we see a kind of poetic parallelism in which Jeremiah also speaks of Saba. First, he describes it as a place where frankincense comes from, which is historically true that Saba in Yemen was a great trader of frankincense. Then he describes it as a far off country. Even in the book of Job itself, Saba is mentioned again as a country from which travelers come, as we read in Job 6:19, “the caravans of Teima look, the travelers of Saba hope for them.” It is known that Sabaeans of Yemen were merchants who accompanied the caravans across the desert toward Palestine and Syria, and other Mediterranean countries.
Job, chapter 1, records that the Sabaeans attacked the possessions of Job. These Sabaeans are thought to be a tribe of northern Bedouins, located in the Syro-Mesopotamian desert. They were descendants of Keturah, the second wife of Abraham. Other scholars believe that the Sabaeans mentioned in Job could have been a colony of Sabaeans from Yemen who tried to control the spice trade route. They reached the place where Job lived, as they are seen in the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, having connections with areas of northern Arabia and the Sinai. Inscriptions show that Tiglath-Pileser III forced 10,000 Sabaean warriors to bow at his feet. Then he demanded “all kind of spices” in tribute, confirming that he dealt with people on the spice route, especially Saba, Teima and Ephah. The three were known for controlling the spice land route. Tiglath-Pileser III says that their lands were remote, and none of his predecessors knew about these places. Tiglath-Pileser III said in one inscription, “I made bow down to my feet the people of Massa’, Teima, and Saba” may indicate that the Assyrians were engaged in wars against these tribes. Just how much the Sabaeans were engaged is not clear from the inscriptions. Whether the Sabaeans were a colony of the Saba of Yemen, or Bedouins from the north, is not easy to establish. In either case, we know that in later times the kings of Saba offered tribute to the Assyrian kings, a sign that they recognized the supremacy of Assyrians in the region. They were also willing to allow their trade to pass through the lands under the Assyrian control.
With this historical picture at the time of Tiglath-Pileser III, who ruled from 744-727 B.C., we find historical documentation about the tribes that dominated the commercial, political and military scene in western Arabia. We saw Qedar paying tribute to the Assyrians. We also saw Ephah, the dominant Midianite tribe, paying tribute. In addition, the tribe of Badanu, which was associated with the Thamud, the tribe that appeared a decade after at the time of Sargon II (who reigned from 721-705 B.C.) paid tribute. Then we find Teima, and finally the tribe of Saba, which dominated Yemen. Also, after examining the important records of Sargon II, which I will discuss later, we find many other tribes, yet there is no mention of a city like Mecca between the northwestern tribes and Saba. Nor do we find any mention of any other tribe, like Jurhum, which Islamic tradition claims lived in Mecca and became the dominant tribe in western Arabia. Mecca is absent from the records of the nations in the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C., like it is absent from the classical records in the last half of the 1st millennium B.C. It is implausible to believe that less important tribes, like the Badanu and others in western Arabia, were recorded by the Assyrians while the city which Islamic tradition makes the center of faith and supremacy is forgotten. The Assyrian leaders recorded movements of armies and commerce in their ancient records, but they never mentioned Mecca. Muslims need to challenge their knowledge, and question the things on which they base their religious hope.
THE REIGN OF SARGON II AND ARABIA
Mecca, if existing at the time of Sargon II, would have been mentioned with the various Arabian tribes including Saba, which were all mentioned in the inscriptions of that period.
Sargon II was one of Assyria’s greatest kings. As the successor to Shalmaneser V, he reigned from 722-705 B.C., and consolidated the conquests made by Tiglath-Pileser III. Philistia, Babylonia, Kurdistan and Israel were among the lands he conquered. In 717 B.C., he deposed the king of the Hittite city of Karkemish and made the city an Assyrian colony. He put down rebellions in many cities, such as Arpad, Damascus and Hamath, and he defeated the plans of the Egyptians who supported these rebellions. After conquering a nation, Sargon would deport some of the inhabitants and mix the remnant of the population with inhabitants from other regions. Samaria is one example of this. Sargon II deported Israelites living in Samaria to the north of Assyria and then brought some Arabian tribes that were threatening his border to live in Samaria.
Excavations in Sargon’s palace and capital at Dur Sharrukin have uncovered his annals. Among the events recorded in these annals is his triumph over several Arabian tribes, such as Thamud, Marsimani, Ephah and Ibadidi. He deported part of their populations to Samaria. His annals also record tribute given to him by Pir’u, the King of Egypt; by Samsi, the Queen of northern Arabia and the desert between Arabia and Palestine; and by Ita’amra, King of Saba, who is known in the Saba inscriptions as Yathi’ amar. We also find this information about the defeat of the Arabian tribes in other Assyrian records, namely the Cylinder inscription. We also find the tributes of the kings in the Display inscription. We see that the historical events during this period are confirmed from more than one record.
The tribe of Marsimani is identified as the tribe of Mesamanes, mentioned by Ptolemy in the sixth book and seventh chapter of his work simply titled Geography. Ptolemy placed the location of this tribe close to the area of the Thamud. Thamud is mentioned in the inscriptions and is an Arabian tribe in northwestern Arabia. It’s also mentioned by Greek and Roman classical writers, and richly documented in northern Arabian inscriptions. Thamud is located between Teima and the region where Mecca was eventually built.
Ephah, which we saw participating at the time of Tiglath-Pileser III with the other Arabian northwestern tribes in an alliance against the Assyrians, is seen again here in a new alliance.
Considering the events of the 8th century B.C., including the things already recorded in inscriptions by Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, we have a clear picture of which nations and tribes dominated the scene in western Arabia. This picture contains both the military point of view and the trading activity point of view. Mecca is absent from all these records, even though it would have been near the location of tribes mentioned in the inscriptions of the 8th century B.C., like the tribes of Thamud and Mesamanes. Mecca, if it had existed at that time, would have been located between the aforementioned tribes and Saba.
THE REIGN OF SENNACHERIB
Mecca is absent from the military, trade and religious scene during Sennacherib’s reign.
Sennacherib, who ruled from 705-681 B.C., fought to maintain the empire established by his father, Sargon II. Among Sennacherib’s actions was a campaign against Babylonia. Later, he initiated campaigns against countries located on the Mediterranean coast, and supported by Egypt, two of which were Phoenicia and Philistia. Next, Sennacherib campaigned against Jerusalem. Then, he defeated the Egyptians around 701 B.C. Another important campaign that Sennacherib conducted targeted Elam around 691 B.C.
Sennacherib defeated the Arabs, who took sides with Merodach Baladan, the Babylonian king who rebelled against the Assyrians. Another campaign was against the queen of northern Arabia named Te’lhunu. The queen was defeated and she was pursued to the city of Adummatu, identified with the Dumah. Classical authors mention Dumahas. Domatha, a city of north Arabia built on an oasis. Dumahis located between al-Medina and Syria. It was known also as Dumaht al-Jandal. Dumah was known to be an important religious center for Arabian tribes. A temple to the god, Wadd, was located in Dumah. We know that in later times, a temple in the Aqaba Gulf region replaced Dumah, an important religious center. The Greek geographer, Agatharchides, attests to this religious center. We know that Sennacherib’s army captured images that the Arabians had veneered in Dumah and brought to Assyria. Later, Esarhaddon returned them to Dumah.
According to Assyrian inscriptions, around 689 B.C. the Assyrians conducted a campaign in northern Arabia against Adummatu. They fought against an alliance of two northern Arabian rulers: Telehunu, Queen of the Arabs; and Hazael, King of Qedar. The inscriptions tell us the alliance was defeated, and Hazael resumed sending tribute to Sennacherib. Through these wars, Sennacherib established himself in the lands that his father, Sargon II, had captured. Sennacherib gained notoriety beyond his borders by defeating the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Arabian Queen Te’lhunu, and Dumah. Sennacherib was also known for gaining control of the spice land routes. His fame had spread to the point that Herodotus, the Greek historian, called him “king of the Arabs and Assyrians.”
Arabian cities like Teima regularly paid tribute to Sennacherib. There was an inscription at Nineveh which describes a gate in Nineveh as “the desert gate through which gifts from the people of Teima enter.” This indicates how much the trade cities, like Teima, were at the mercy of the Assyrians if they wanted their trade to continue. These cites needed to have the favor of the Assyrians to survive.
The Assyrian annals mention gifts or tributes paid by the King of Saba named Kariba’ilu. This king is Karib’il Water, well known in the Saba inscriptions. This is because of the Assyrian control of the land route boundaries of the Fertile Crescent. King Hazael of Qedar paid tributes to the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. After the defeat of his alliance with Queen Telehunu, Hazael resumed paying tributes to Sennacherib.
Mecca, which depended for its survival upon its trade with markets controlled by Assyrians, could not have been silent in the trade relationships with the Assyrians if Mecca had existed in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.
Many nations in western Arabia are mentioned by Sennacherib, especially kingdoms trading along the spice route. Among them were Dumah, Qedar, Teima, and Saba in Yemen. Sargon II also mentions spice route cities such as Saba, Teima and Ephah. Cities which depended on their relationships with other nations couldn’t be silent in the history of empires like Assyria, when it dominated the routes that led to the markets.
Since the construction of Mecca in the 4th century A.D. in an arid area of Arabia, Mecca bought goods from Yemen and marketed them to Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia in the Fertile Crescent. Assyria controlled that land beginning with the end of the 8th century B.C. and recorded tribes of secondary importance in its trading records. How, then, could the most important and ancient city in the region, according to the Islamic claim, be missed if it existed in the 8th century B.C. and in the beginning of the 7th century B.C.?
The Religious Center of Dumah
Mecca is absent from the religious scene, when a religious city of that time like Dumah was the place of attention for the Arabian tribes.
Another important observation we also see in the Assyrian inscriptions is about Dumah, the religious center for tribes of northern Arabia. The images and gods of Dumah were of such primary importance to the Arabians that they went to Assyria begging Esarhaddon for their return. This was many years after Esarhaddon’s father had taken the images to Assyria. Dumah had religious preeminence during the Assyrian period before the Arabians built another temple in the Aqaba Gulf region. Knowing that the Arabians of the desert are faithful to the religious center they revere, if Mecca had existed in Assyrian times, then it could not have been hidden. Mecca would have been the city where people went to worship and consult their gods before battle. Mecca would have been their refuge when they suffered military defeat. Kings would have fled there like they used to flee to Dumah. They would have gone to their holy city to invoke the protection of their gods.
Yet, we see once more that Mecca is absent from the trade, military and religious records of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. To affirm a claim, like Mecca being the center of monotheism established by Abraham, and continuing to be the place where the Arabian tribes tried to have the prerogative and privilege to control through all history of Arabia, as it claimed by the Islamic tradition, is something that would make Mecca the center of interest and contentions for all Arabian tribes. It would consequently have been obvious in all epochs, and recorded historically in each of these eras. The fact of the matter is, if Mohammed had selected any city as his religious claim other than Mecca, he could have made connections to the old local pagan Arabian religious centers of the 7th century B.C., like Dumah. But Mecca has no history to support these ancient connections beyond the pagan star worship of Yemen in the 4th century A.D., for which, historically, the temple of Mecca was built.
THE REIGN OF ESARHADDON
As we continue our quest to understand the dating of the founding of the city of Mecca, we come to the reign of Esarhaddon, who followed his father Sennacherib. Esarhaddon reigned from 680-669 B.C. Among his campaigns, the most important were his invasions of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Arabian desert. Near the river Kalb, which is near Beirut, Lebanon today, one of his inscriptions was found. It records his campaigns into Egypt and Ethiopia. Egypt was under the rule of the Ethiopians when Esarhaddon invaded it. He eventually conquered all the kingdoms along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and he brought their kings to Nineveh.
The inscriptions of Esarhaddon provide us with a lot of information about his wars with the Arabs, reflecting just how much land the Assyrians controlled in some parts of Arabia at the beginning of the 7th century B.C. The annals of Nineveh reveal many such events. One event was the return of the images of the Arabian gods to Dumah. Dumah became a religious center for the Arabian tribes since the 9th century B.C.
Esarhaddon also rescued Tabua. She had been taken as a small girl from her own people, and she grew up in the court of the Assyrian kings. Then the Assyrians appointed her to be the queen of the Arabs in Dumah. For Assyrian kings to appoint rulers for some of the Arabian lands shows the influence they had over parts of Arabia at the time of Esarhaddon.
The Annals of Nineveh also report the tribute that Hazael, King of Qedar, paid to Assyria. Assyrian records describe Hazael as he came to Nineveh to express his submission to Esarhaddon:
As for Hazael, king of Arabia, the splendor of my majesty overwhelmed him, and with gold, silver, and precious stones he came into my presence and also kissed my feet.
The Annals of Nineveh also tell us about Hazael’s son, Ia’-hi-u’, who was also called Yauta’. He became king of Qedar after Hazael’s death. The Assyrian army intervened to help Ia’-hi-u’ defeat a revolt conducted by U-a-bu. U-a-bu led an Arabian alliance against Yauta’, but the Alliance was defeated by the Assyrian army. Later IA’-hi-u’ became disloyal to the Assyrians who, in turn, attacked IA’-hi-u’, who was defeated and fled. He later returned and swore a loyalty oath to Assurbanipal, the next king of the Assyrians.
These, and other examples from the inscriptions of Esarhaddon show that northern Arabia, especially Qedar, was under Assyrian rule. The Assyrians appointed kings, took tributes, and suppressed any revolts directly against them, or against any Arabian rulers who were loyal to them. The aforementioned episodes are also found in other Assyrian inscriptional documents. Also, there are other inscriptions in Nineveh and Assur reporting these same episodes. These examples testify as to how the historical events occurring during the reign of Esarhaddon are well-attested in the archaeological records. We find an interesting fact in the so-called “Fragment F” from Nineveh. When Esarhaddon’s army crossed the Sinai desert to suppress a revolt in Egypt, they used Arabian camels to supply them with water. This suggests that through the domain of Esarhaddon over the many Arabian lands, through the Arabs’ experience in the deserts, and with their camels, the Assyrian army was capable of crossing huge deserts to attack distant lands. In fact, among the episodes recorded in Esarhaddon’s inscriptions was his campaign into the land of Bazu.
The Land of Bazu
Another important argument (for the case against the existence of Mecca at the time of Esarhaddon) hinges on the fact that there were no more cities for Assyrian to conquer in northwestern Arabia, so they marched in profundity into central Arabia to the land of Bazu.
Ba’zu is considered by many scholars to have been located in central Arabia, or toward the Persian Gulf region. This supports the idea that the Assyrians controlled parts of northern and central Arabia. Details about this campaign are found in Esarhaddon’s Inscriptions, his Chronicles and some Babylonian Chronicles. Ba’zu is described as:
A distant country, beyond a salt desert, beyond sandy and thorny land, beyond the sphere of military activity of earlier Assyrian kings.
The same records describe Ba’zu as: “An arid land, saline ground, a waterless region.” Heidel Prism III speaks of a march of about 140 beru (which corresponds to 1,500 kilometers) through a region “covered with sand, thorny plants, snakes and scorpions cover the land like ants.”Another description of the land of Ba’zu says: “A district located afar off, a desert stretch of alkali, a thirsty region of sand, thorn brush and gazelle mouth, stones, 20 double hours of serpents and scorpions, with which the plain was covered as with ants.” Inscriptions name nine places the Assyrians conquered in the land of Ba’zu, and give the names of eight of their kings. Assyrian records tell us that the Assyrian army burned seven walled cities in Ba’zu. Then they appointed a local king by the name of Layale’ to rule the country. He was the king of a land near Ba’zu under the name of Ia-di.
These episodes reflect how deep the Assyrian influence was in Arabia at the time of Esarhaddon. They were able to march across a desert over a distance of 1,500 kilometers. Scholars suggest two places for the location of Ba’zu: One is in central Arabia, near the city of Khaybar and beyond, and the other is west of the Persian Gulf. The events involving Ba’zu reflect the depth of the Assyrian influence in Arabia at the time of Esarhaddon. It is significant that the Assyrian army conquered a distant and arid land like Ba’zu, instead of going west toward the area where Mecca was eventually built. This supports the fact that the classical writers found that the area in which Mecca was eventually built was uninhabitable at that time. The area divided northern Arabia from Yemen, to the point that the Assyrians possessed no more cities or kingdoms in that area. Instead, they proceeded into central and eastern Arabia to conquer new lands, such as the land of Ba’zu.
Although Assurbanipal had many contacts with Arabian tribes, and had reached the area of Teima, Mecca is absent in the Assyrian records which talk about him.
Our argument doesn’t stop with Esarhaddon. When he died, he divided the Mesopotamian territory between his two sons. He gave Babylonia to his eldest son, Shamash-shum-ukin, and he gave the throne of Assyria to his second son, Assurbanipal, who ruled Assyria from 669-626 B.C. Assurbanipal drove the Ethiopian king, Taharka, out of Egypt and appointed Necho to replace him. Then, around 660 B.C., during Assurbanipal’s campaign against Elam and the Chaldeans, Psamtik, son of Necho, rebelled and separated Egypt from Assyria. Then Shamash-shum-ukin, Assurbanipal’s elder brother and King of Babylonia, formed an alliance with several nations to make war against his brother, Assurbanipal. Assyrian records list the Arabian tribes which joined Shamash-shum-ukin. The Assyrian record reads like this:
In these days Shamash-shum-ukin, the faithless brother of mine, king of Babylon, stirred to revolt against me the people of Akkad, Chaldea, the Arameans… the Sealand from Akaba to Bab-Salimeti.(Akaba may be the actual name of Aqaba.)
He also mentioned tribes of Arabia which rebelled with Shamash-shum-ukin against Assurbanipal. Around 648 B.C., when Assurbanipal defeated the alliance and annexed Babylonia to his empire, his brother killed himself. Some years later, Nabopolassar, the leader of Chaldean dynasty, rebelled against Assurbanipal.
The inscriptions of Assurbanipal present information about the Arabs. The annals of Assurbanipal record a treaty that he made with the Qedarites prior to year 652 B.C. The annals also provide us with information about the revolt of Yauta’, the son of Hazael and King of Qedar. He attacked regions in Trans Jordan before the hostilities between Assurbanipal and his brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, King of Babylonia, began. Yauta’ was defeated and fled to the land of Nebaioth to seek refuge under their king, Natnu. Assurbanipal replaced Yauta’ with Abiyate’, son of Te’ri, who submitted to Assurbanipal and paid tribute to him. Also Natnu, King of Nebaioth, did the same. The Assyrian inscriptions show that the Qedarites had more than one leader. One of them was called Ammuladi. Ammuladi attacked the western border of the Assyrian empire and was defeated.
According to Shamash-shum-ukin’s Chronicles, the siege of the city of Babylon was in the year 650 B.C. Among the Arabians who helped Shamash-shum-ukin was Abiyate’, son of Te’ri. There was another Arabian called Uaita’, son of Birdada, king of a tribe called Su-mu-An, who sent forces to help Shamash-shum-ukin. The Su-mu-An tribe is considered one of the Qedar tribal confederations. The reason that Arabian tribes took sides with Shamash-shum-ukin against Assurbanipal was that Babylonia was closer to them, and they thought that Babylonia would win the conflict and control the land routes to the markets in the Fertile Crescent. They also thought the Babylonians would not impose heavy tributes like Assyria did.
Around the year 645 B.C., an Assyrian campaign took place against the tribes of Qedar, Su-mu-An and Nebaioth. This campaign came after the Assyrian victory against Elam. So Assurbanipal was now ready to punish the tribes who gave aid to his rebellious brother, Shamash-shum-ukin. Before Assurbanipal’s Assyrian empire declined, and was superseded by the Babylonians, Assurbanipal waged many other campaigns against the Arabs. He fought them in the Syro-Arabian desert, starting from Tadmur and moving south. In the final stage of his campaigning, according to the historian Glaser (as we mentioned previously), Assurbanipal penetrated the Arabian desert as far as Teima.
Mecca was a city built on the spice route, and it depended on the markets of the Fertile Crescent which, before the 7th century B.C., was under the Assyrian occupation for centuries. To survive, Mecca would have made itself known to traders and other cities if it had existed during that long time span.
From the study of Assyrian inscriptions of the 7th century B.C., we see in all of this that Mecca is conspicuously absent, just as it is absent from all the other Assyrian inscriptions. This long period of time spans several centuries. Each king documented his conquests and kept meticulous records. Some events appear in not only one inscription, but in many. We have seen how each tribe in north and western Arabia, even as far away as Saba, was eager to please the Assyrians in order to protect their interests. Many paid tribute annually. Some Assyrian-controlled tribes and cities at times rebelled and were punished. Still others formed alliances, hoping to occupy new regions, or have more influence over the land trading routes which influenced their markets.
Yet, there’s no explanation for the absence of Mecca in all the Assyrian records during this long period of history. The names of kingdoms and cities on the spice route appear many times, but the city of Mecca is never among them. If it had existed, as Muslims claim, Mecca would have had more reason than any other nation to build a strong relationship with the Assyrians. Mecca would need to gain Assyrian favor with tributes and gifts, because Mecca’s location would require it to be dependent on trade in order to survive.
Much later in history, the city of Mecca does appear in central western Arabia, but that’s not until the 4th century A.D. Like the nations before it, the historical record shows that Mecca was dependent on trade (after its appearance) because of its location on the spice-trading route. The silence of Mecca during the Assyrian domination of the Fertile Crescent, and its preeminence over the tribes of northern Arabia, points once again to the fact that Mecca could not have existed during the era of Assyrian control. This information would have importance only for historians who study this time period, if it were not for one thing: The followers of Islam claim that the city of Mecca began long before the time of Assurbanipal. They claim that it was founded by Abraham and Ishmael, his son by Hagar. They claim that these two men built a temple in Mecca as early as 2050 B.C. We have shown this cannot be true.
CHALDEAN RECORDS ALSO EXCLUDE ANY RECORD OF MECCA DURING THE 7TH AND 6TH CENTURIES B.C.
The Chaldeans were people of Arabian origin who settled in the region of Babylonia. After the death of Assurbanipal, the Chaldean, Nabopolassar, the ruler of Babylonia, established his independence in 625 B.C. Nabopolassar occupied the Assyrian provinces and destroyed Nineveh in the year 605 B.C. with the help of Manda, a nomad tribe from Kurdistan, which many scholars identify with the Medes. The Assyrian dynasty of Harran asked for help from Pharaoh Necho II, the ruler of Egypt who controlled Syria at that time. Nabopolassar placed his son, Nebuchadnezzar, in command of the Babylonian army. They encountered and defeated the Egyptians in the old Hittite city of Carchemish in 604 B.C. When Nebuchadnezzar heard that his father had died, he returned to Babylonia and became the king of one of the most powerful empires in the Middle East. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar occupied and destroyed Jerusalem, forcing the Jews into exile.
When Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Chaldeans, he fought many wars with Arab countries. Information regarding the Chaldean period can be found in the Babylonian Chronicles, as well as other resources. According to the Babylonian Chronicles, Nebuchadnezzar raided the Arabs several times between 599-598 B.C. The echo of such raids was recorded in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 49: 28, he writes:
Concerning Qedar, and concerning the kingdoms of Hazor which Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon shall smite, thus says the Lord: “ Arise and go to Qedar…”
Another of Nebuchadnezzar’s raids is confirmed in the apocryphal book of Judith, which was written in the 4th century B.C. In the second chapter of that book, Midian is mentioned among the tribes. It says:
he compassed about all the children of Midian and set on fire their tents, and spoiled their sheepcotes.
Some scholars think that Nebuchadnezzar reached further than Midian, all the way to Teima.
The last king of Babylonia was Nabonidus. We already have dealt, in part, with the campaigns Nabonidus waged in Arabia. He reigned from 556-539 B.C., and occupied the Arabian city of Teima, to which he transferred his residency. Nabonidus was from Harran. His mother, Addagoppe, who was a priestess of the god-moon, Sin, had a special relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. It is thought that this is the reason Nabonidus ascended to the throne of Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Labasi-Marduk, had been killed in his palace as a result of a conspiracy.
Addagoppe was born in 649 B.C., lived for 102 years, and died around 547 B.C. From Nabonidus’ Inscriptions, we learn that Addagoppe was mourned as a great queen. This incident, along with other details, supports the idea that she was married to Nebuchadnezzar.
The Inscriptions of Harran mention that Addagoppe was brought to the Babylonian court around 610 B.C., where she became very influential. When Labasi-Marduk was assassinated, and the throne became empty, she found herself in the position to name a successor, largely due to her status as the widow of Nebuchadnezzar. She replaced Labasi-Marduk with her son, Nabonidus. Some scholars believe that Nabonidus was married to the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. If so, Nebuchad-nezzar would have been a stepfather to Nabonidus and step-grandfather to Nabonidus’ son, Belshazzar; and, perhaps, the father-in-law of Nabonidus, as well. Belshazzar and his father would have been considered members of the family of the great King Nebuchadnezzar. This justifies their ascensions to the throne of Babylonia.
Nabonidus, who controlled north and central western Arabia, including the area where Mecca was eventually built, mentioned all the cities there, but he did not mention Mecca.
Nabonidus left the affairs of the kingdom to his son, Belshazzar, and traveled in Arabia to control north and central western Arabia. He marched toward Edom in southern Jordan, and then to Teima. He killed the king of Teima, subdued the inhabitants, and built a royal palace for himself. After establishing himself in Teima, Nabonidus launched campaigns to ensure his control over all northern and central western Arabia. He eventually occupied the cities of Dedan, Fadak, Khaybar, Yadi, and Yathrib, which is also called al-Medina. (See Fig. 4.)
Inscriptions which date back to the 6th century B.C. were found in Teima. These inscriptions describe wars between Teima and Dedan. This may suggest that people of Teima were used by Nabonidus in his campaigns against Dedan and other cities in the region. Historians believe cities like Khaybar and Yathrib were most probably built during the 6th century B.C. The city of Qedar, prior to the time of Nabonidus, had been subdued by Nebuchadnezzar. Thus, Nabonidus eventually controlled all the existing cities in the area. He controlled all the routes which branch from Medina to the north with the cities of Yathrib, Teima and Dedan; to the east with the city of Yathrib-Hail; and to the south of Yathrib, which is only 200 miles from where Mecca was built.
Since Nabonidus wished to control the whole area, Mecca would have been one of his main goals, if it had existed then. Nabonidus was in the area a long time. His military activity was more than one campaign lasting a few days or months. Nabonidus traveled the area for ten years. All north and central western Arabia was his province. He was there so long that he couldn’t have missed Mecca, if it were there at the time.
We see that Mecca is not mentioned at any time during the Chaldean period, even when Nabonidus made all of northern and central western Arabia, which included the area where Mecca was eventually built, into another province of his empire. This is significant, because cities that would have been less important than Mecca were mentioned as part of this province, but Mecca was not mentioned.
THE MISSING MERCHANTS OF MECCA
While the merchants of the Arabian routes were discussed in many places, no merchant from Mecca is ever mentioned.
Not only is Mecca absent from all the military campaign records during the Chaldean period, but it is also missing from the records of trading activity. Trade was important to the Babylonians as early as the 6th century B.C. We know that there was an increase in trade along the Arabian land routes to the Fertile Crescent. Babylonian records reflect increased trade activity and Babylon’s relationship with Arabian merchants, but these records don’t mention Mecca. Arab merchants were known for their trade with the Babylonians. The records show Nabonidus sending a letter to one of his assistants, instructing him to give an Arabic merchant of the tribe of Thamud (Te-mu-da-a Ar-ba-a-a) several talents of silver.
Some documents before Nabonidus show people arriving from Teima in Babylonia, mainly as merchants. Other documents also mention the Qedarites. Travelers from Teima also appear in the Assyrian and Babylonian records. One example is a letter mentioning Am-me-ni-ilu tamkaru Te-ma-a-a, and his journey to the King of Babylonia. Yet, in all these records, we see no one coming from Mecca. If Mecca had existed during the Chaldean period, it indeed would be strange not to have been listed in the Chaldean trade records of the time, especially since other cities on the northern and central western Arabian spice route were recorded as a testimony to their trade activity. The fact of the matter is that, in all historical documents, we do not see a merchant of Mecca in any place in the Middle East, while the trace of merchants of cities of western Arabia are found even as far away as Sinai. In Sinai, for example, inscriptions have been found identifying merchants belonging to the Thamud tribe. We also find Minaean merchants in various epochs traveling to the Fertile Crescent. The Minaean merchants were also involved in trade with Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. There has been a sarcophagus found of a Minaean merchant who supplied the Egyptian temples with incense. Minaean inscriptions found in Memphis, Egypt and Delos give us more activities of Minaean merchants. Minaean and Dedanite inscriptions in Jordan reflect the activity of their merchants in the Fertile Crescent. Saba merchants are mentioned in the book of Job, around the 9th through 7th centuries B.C. These merchants were traveling in the area of Palestine. Inscriptions telling us about Sabaean merchants were found in northeastern Arabia. Scholars confirm the presence of Sabaeans near Yathrib, also called Medina, in a place called Wady ash Sheba, which means the Valley of Saba. There is also a village named in a Greek inscription as “Pool of the Sabaeans.” 
With all these trade records, it is unreasonable to suggest that Mecca had existed since the time of Abraham, and was located on an ancient trading route. No archaeological or documented testimony is found anywhere which refers to even one merchant from Mecca. Yet, each kingdom and city on the same land route has many well-documented testimonies of its trade, including in places where it used to trade, or in places the caravan used to pass through. All the historical facts we have tell us that Mecca could not have existed prior to the Christian era. We hold our Muslim friends in high regard, but it is time for them to see that they have been taught a serious mistruth.
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 James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 131
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 135
 Rabinowitz, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 15 (1956),1-9, pls.6-7, quoted by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 169
 Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, Toronto, 1970, 50 f., 115-117 quoted by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994), page 169
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 237
 James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 138
 F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page 104
 F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, page 103
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 237
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 170-175;238
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 175-180; 238
 C.Robin, Inventair des Inscriptions Sudarabiques, 1ff. Paris/Rome, 1992 ff.1, 67-68, Haram 3 & 4; Repertoire d’Epigraphie Semitique, esp.V-VIII, Paris, 1929-1968, 2751/M.15; quoted by K.A. Kitchen, page 180
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 181; 239
 C.Robin, Inventair des Inscriptions Sudarabiques, 1ff. Paris/Rome, 1992 ff.,1, 5-6, pls.2b,3a; Inabba; quoted by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, page 181; see also K.A. Kitchen, page 239
 Private building-dedication, al-Harashif 3 (C.Robin, Inventair des Inscriptions Sudarabiques,1ff. Paris/Rome, 1992 ff., 1, 200-201, pl.59b); quoted by K.A. Kitchen, page 182
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, pages 181, 182; see also K.A. Kitchen, page 239
 Comptes-rendus de l’académie des Inscriptions et Belleslettres, 1992, 68; cf.C.Robin in Robin(ed.), L’Arabie Antique de Karib’il à Mahomet, Aix-en-Provence, 1993,55,128, fig.20; quoted by K.A. Kitchen, page 183
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 181, 182; see also K.A. Kitchen, page 240
 K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 181, 182; see also K.A. Kitchen, pages 183-188
 See K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, pages 181, 182; see also K.A. Kitchen, pages 90-222
 A.Jamme, W.F., Sabaean Inscriptions from Mahram Bilqis (Ma’rib), the Johns Hopkins Press,Baltimore, 1962, Volume III, page 137
 A.Jamme, W.F., Sabaean Inscriptions from Mahram Bilqis (Ma’rib), the Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1962, Volume III, page 169
 R.W. Ehrich, Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, 3rd Edition, I-II, Chicago, 1992, I, pages 67-68; see also D.T. Potts, Dilmun, New Studies in the Archaeology and Early History of Bahrain, (BBVO2), Berlin, 1983, quoted by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, page 145
 J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton, 268
 Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition, pages 35-39, cited by Wilfred Schoff on his comment on The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Munshiram Manoharial Publishers Pvt Ltd., 1995, page 134
 Halevy, nos.190, 231-234 ; Hommel, Chrestomathie, page 117; Hartmann, Die arabische Frage, pp. 206: cited by James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 182
 A. Irvine, Journal of Semitic Studies 10, (1965), pages 178-196; A.F.L.Beeston, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 17 ( 1987), pages 5-12; quoted by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 39
 James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page138
 F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page 75
 Revue Biblique, 43( 1934) pp.578-9 and 590-1; quoted by
F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page 75
 F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, page 130
 The Geography of Strabo, Book XVI .4.23
The Geography of Strabo, Volume V, Harvard University Press, 1966, page 357
 The Geography of Strabo, Book XVI .4.24
The Geography of Strabo, Volume V, page 359
 The Geography of Strabo, Book XVI. 4 . 24
The Geography of Strabo, Volume V, page 363
 The Geography of Strabo, Book XVI .4.23
The Geography of Strabo, Volume VII, page 357
 Pliny XII, 44
 D. H. Mullar in his article Yemen, Encyclopaedia Brittanic, 9th edition;
Weber, Arabien vor dem Islam in Der alte Orient, III, Leipzig, 1901; cited by Wilfred Schoff, The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Munshiram Manoharial Publishers Pvt Ltd., 1995, page 109
 See I. Eph’al, E.J.Brill, The Ancient Arabs, Leiden, 1982, page 161, note 161
 For “Verse Account of Nabonidus,” see Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. J.B. Pritchard, 2nd edition, Princeton, 1955, page 313; Sidney Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts, London, 1924, Chapter III, pp. 27-97 ;quoted by F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page 89
 See C.J. Gadd “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus,” Anatolian Studies, 8 ( 1958) page 59; cited by F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page91; The exact part in the Harran Inscriptions is (Nab. H2 I 26; ii 11) see I. Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, 180
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, 33;The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Translated by Wilfred Schoff, Munshiram Manoharial Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1995, page 35
 Wilfred Schoff, in his introduction to The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, page 16
 Hirschfeld, New Researches, 6. Frankel, Aramaisch. Fremdworter; quoted by De Lacy O’Leary, Arabia before Muhammed, D.D., London, New York: Dutton & CO., 1927, page 181
 De Lacy O’Leary, Arabia Before Muhammed, page 19
 Tarikh al-Tabari, I, page 360
 P. Michalowski, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 40 (1988), pages 156-164; citation, p. 163; cited by K.A. Kitchen, Documentation For Ancient Arabia, Part I, Liverpool University Press, 1994, page 159
 Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, I, Chicago, page 223 ; Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testaments, page 296; Barton, Archaeology and the Bible, edition 6, 1933, page 457; cited by Arabia and the Bible, James Montgomery, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 58
 A.C. Piepkorn, Historical Prism of Assurbanipal, Chicago-USA, 1933, pages 19-20
 Saggs, Iraq 17, ( 1955), pages 142-143; Von Soden, Orientalia 35, (1966), page 20; cited by I. Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1982, page 94
 P. Rost, Die Keilschrifttexte Tiglat-Pilesers III, Leipzig, 1893, pages 150-170; quoted by I. Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, page 82  The Ancient Arabs, I. Eph’al, page 36
 Winnett, Safaitic Inscriptions from Jordan, 1957, Nos. 87, 237
 Pliny, Natural History, book VI, Chapter 32
 Sawyer John and Clines David, Midian, Moab and Edom, JSOT Press , Department of Biblical Studies,University ofSheffield, 1984, page 101
 Luckenbil, op. cit., vol. II, 7; Rogers, op. cit., page 331; Barton, op. cit., page 463; quoted by James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, page 59
 Claudius Ptolemy, The Geography, Book vi, chapter VII, translated by Stevenson, Dover Publications, 1991, page 139
 Herodotus II, page 141
 Tablet of the British Museum, 103,000 vn 96-viii 1(Luckenbill, Sennacherib, 113); quoted by I. Eph’al, E.J. Brill, The Ancient Arabs, page 41
 Luckenbill, Records of Assyria II. 551.
 One such example is the Cylinder inscriptions found in the city of Nimrud, the most important of which is called Klch. A; there is also an inscription called “Trb.A- a,” cylinder inscription from Tarisu (see E. Nassouhi, Mitteilungen der altorientalischen Gesellschaft,III, 1-2, (1927), pages 22-28; quoted by , I. Eph’al, page 45
 Inscriptions from Nineveh (K 3082+ K 3086+ Sm 2027); see R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons, Konigs von Assyrien, Graz 1956, pages 112-113, quoted by I. Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, page 46
 Heidel Prism iii, 9-18, quoted by Eph’al, page 130
 The Ancient Arabs, I. Eph’al, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1982, page 132
 Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Vol. II, page 214
Nin. A.; Heidel Prism iii 21;quoted by Eph’al page 131
 Hommel, Ethnologie und Geographie des alten Orients, Munchen, 1926, pages 558-559; quoted by Eph’al.
 Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1982, page 137
 Luckenbill, op. cit., page 301; Doughty, Arabia Deserta, Volume I, page 51; quoted by Arabia and the Bible, James Montgomery, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 62
 Annals of Assurbanipal; R.F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, I XIV,(London-Chicago, 19140), 350; cited by Eph’al, page 55  A.R. Millard, Iraq ( 1964), cit. 28 ; quoted by
Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, page 154
 The Ancient Arabs, I. Eph’al, E.J. Brill,Leiden, 1982, page 168
 Judith 2:26
 Arabia and the Bible, James Montgomery, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 64
 Inscriptions found on Jabal Ghunaym, about 10 miles from Teima. See F.V. Winnett and W.L. Reed, Ancient Records from North Arabia, University of Toronto Press, 1970, page29
Harran Inscriptions Nab. H2 I 26 and Nab. H2 I 24-25; quoted by Eph’al, pages 180 and 181  E. Ebeling, Neubabylonnische Briefe, Munchen 1949, No. 276; E.W. Moore, Neo-Babylonian Documents in the University of Michigan Collection, Ann Arbor, 1939, No. 67; cited by I. Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs, page 189  R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, I, XIV, ( London – Chicago 1892-1914) quoted by Eph’al , page 190  Abdel Monem Sayed, “Reconsideration of the Minaean Inscription of Zayd ‘il bin Zayd,” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, XIV, (1984), pp.93-99; qouted by Stanley Burstein on his comment on Agatharchides of Cnidus, on the Erythraean Sea, The Hakluyt Society London, 1989, page 149  Memphis text was published by Rhodokanakis in Zeitschr.f.Semitistik, II, (1924), 113 ff; cited by James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 135; there is a dedication by two merchants of Main to the god Wadd on Delos, see Felix Durrbach, ed., Choix d’Inscriptions de Delos, (Paris, 1921-1922), page 129; cited by Stanley Burstein on his comment on Agatharchides of Cnidus, on the Erythraean Sea, page 150;  See David Graf, Dedanite and Minaean (South Arabia) Inscriptions from the Hisma’, Annual of the Department of Antiqueties, XXVII (Amman-Jordan, 1983,) pp. 563-5; cited by Stanley Burstein on his comment on Agatharchides of Cnidus, on the Erythraean Sea, page 149
 Two inscriptions were found at Taj in Kuweit, Geog. Journal, 1922, page 59; cited by James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, page 166
 A village named in a Greek inscription as ” Pool of the Sabaeans ” of Leja, Dussaud, Les Arabes en Syrie, page 10; quoted by James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1934, page 181
Copyright ã 2004 by Dr. Rafat Amari. All rights reserved
Taken from: http://religionresearchinstitute.org/mecca/archeology.htm