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The Place—or the Tribe—Called Nahom? NHM as Both a Tribal and Geographic Name in Modern and Ancient Yemen

TitleThe Place—or the Tribe—Called Nahom? NHM as Both a Tribal and Geographic Name in Modern and Ancient Yemen
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsRappleye, Neal
JournalBYU Studies
Volume62
Issue2
Pagination49–72
KeywordsArabia; Nahom; Nihm Region; Toponym; Yemen
Abstract

Nihm has been the name of both a tribe and an administrative district in the Sana a governate since the formation of the Republic of Yemen in 1990, but some believe “it is doubtful that this later use of tribal names to refer to geographical entities can be retrojected onto much earlier periods.” Such skepticism is based, at least in part, on the belief that “careful examination of South Arabian inscriptions indicates that the names of tribes were essentially social-political in orientation,” and therefore carried no geographic meaning.

This paper aims to address this issue by (1) reviewing the historical use of the name Nihm for both a tribe and place, documented back to the early Islamic period; (2) examining the historical relationship between tribes and their territories in northern Yemen, going back to antiquity; (3) assessing the use of nhmyn in the ancient inscriptions, as interpreted by scholars of ancient South Arabia. As will be shown, the use of Nihm as a toponym (the name of a place or region) does indeed go back to significantly earlier times, and general use of tribal names as toponyms in Yemen goes back earlier still. This is a natural consequence of the strong connection between tribe and territory in northern Yemen that has existed since pre-Islamic times. When understood in this context, the inscriptions referring to nhmyn can reasonably be understood as evidence for both a tribe and place called NHM going back to the early first millennium BC.

URLhttps://byustudies.byu.edu/article/the-place-or-the-tribe-called-nahom/