Pagan Arabic Inscriptions Found in a Swedish Garden

Dear Reader, let me tell you about some pagan Arabic inscriptions found in a private garden near where I grew up.

In 1920 an engineer who lived in Saltsjöbaden, a leafy affluent suburb of Stockholm, donated almost a hundred pieces of inscribed stone to a museum in town. They had formed a decorative rockery in his garden. And the previous owner of the property was a famous elderly Orientalist named Count Carlo de Landberg (1849-1924).

The stones had been broken out of the living rock at a site in southern Yemen, probably in the Wadi Ar Ruqub near Aden. Count Landberg acquired them in 1898 during a scientific expedition organised by the Imperial Austrian Academy of Sciences. The Count however came into conflict with the rest of the expedition leadership and abandoned the project shortly after they arrived in Yemen. And subsequently he refused to submit the materials he brought home. The inscribed stones ended up in his garden instead.

The inscriptions are religious dedications written in Old South Arabian using the Ancient South Arabian script. They date from about 600 BC to 200 BC and invoke a god named cAmm, that is, “Uncle”. He ruled the moon and the weather and was head of the pantheon in the Kingdom of Qataban.

So if the weather is particularly fine in Saltsjöbaden, and if the moon shines particularly brightly there, then perhaps people there should thank Uncle cAmm.

My old friend Jan Peder Lamm described the find circumstances and Count Landberg in Fornvännen 1993. And Jan Retsö analysed the inscriptions.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

3 thoughts on “Pagan Arabic Inscriptions Found in a Swedish Garden”

  1. But they need to watch out for the lightning bolts if they are naughty.

    A bit weird that some of the stones, which appear to have been very substantial chunks of rock (how did he transport such a large quantity of sizeable lumps of rock from Yemen back to Sweden?) were repurposed as building material for a cellar wall, strange inscriptions be damned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m disappointed. I thought you were going to say that some Arabs had visited Sweden prior to the seventh century CE and left inscriptions.

    Liked by 1 person

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