What Happened to The Sabean Civilization?

I was watching a show on TV, about the history of ancient Yemen. The show included the information about the excavations carried out by the late Wendell Philips, who uncovered an ancient temple, and many statues. The area is arid today, but the ancient Sabaens had built a major dam at a place called marib, which irrigated a huge area. I read also that the area was so wealthy, that in NT times, the Romans attempted an invasion of Yemen. So what happened to this civilization?An earthquake destroyed the dam, and the cities were abandoned, probably by the 6th century. Some authors have identified Saba with “Sheba”-is this accepted by archaeologists today?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabaeans
The Sabaeans(السبأيين Arabic ) were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in south west Arabian Peninsula; in the 8th century BC some Sabaean traders also lived in D’mt, located in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, due to their hegemony over the Red Sea[1]. Their ancient Sabaean Kingdom lasted from the early 1st millennium (ca. 8th century BC) to the 1st century BC. In the 1st century BC it was conquered by the Himyarites, but after the disintegration of the first Himyarite empire of the Kings of Saba’ and dhu-Raydan the Middle Sabaean Kingdom reappeared in the early 2nd century. It was finally conquered by the Himyarites in the late 3rd century. Its capital was Ma’rib. The kingdom was located along the strip of desert called Sayhad by medieval Arab geographers and that is called now Ramlat al-Sab`atayn.

The Sabaean people were South Arabian people. Each of these had regional kingdoms in ancient Yemen, with the Minaeans in the north along the Red sea, the Sabeans on the south western tip, streaching from the highlands to the sea, the Qatabanians to the east of them and the Hadramites east of them.

The Sabaeans, as were the other Arabian and Yemenite kingdoms of the same period, were involved in the extremely lucrative spice trade, especially frankincense and myrrh.[1]

Most archaeologists now believe them to be the same nation as the Biblical kingdom of Sheba.


The Marib Dam (Arabic ,سد مأرب )blocks the Wadi Adhanah (also Dhana or Adhana) in the valley of Dhana in the Balaq Hills, Yemen. The current dam is close to the ruins of the Great Dam of Marib, dating from around the seventh century BCE. It was one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world and a central part of the south Arabian civilization around Marib.

[edit] The Great Dam of Marib

The site of the great Dam of Marib (Sudd Marib) is upstream (south-west) of the ancient city of Marib, once the capital of the Kingdom of Saba’a, believed to be the kingdom of the legendary Queen of Sheba. The Kingdom of Saba’a was a prosperous trading nation, with control of the frankincense and spice routes in Arabia and Abyssinia. The Sabaens built the dam to capture the periodical monsoon rains which falls on the nearby mountains and so irrigate the land around the city.

Recent archaeological findings suggest that simple earth dams and a canal network were constructed as far back as 2000 BCE. The building of the first Marib dam began somewhere between 750 BCE and 600 BCE and took some hundreds of years to complete. (The monarch Ali Yanouf Bin Dhamar Ali had his name carved into parts of the dam to mark its completion). The dam was of packed earth, triangular in cross section, 580 m in length and 4 meters high. It ran between two groups of rocks on either side of the river and was linked to the rock with substantial stonework. The dam’s position allowed for a spillway and sluices between the northern end of the dam and the cliffs to the west. Around 500 BCE the dam height was increased to 7 meters, the upstream slope (the water face) was reinforced with a cover of stones, and irrigation was extended to include the southern side as well as the northern side.

After the end of the Kingdom of Sheba, possession of the dam came to the Himyarites in around 115 BCE. They undertook a further reconstruction, creating a structure 14 meters high with extensive water works at both the northern and southern ends - with five spillway channels, two masonry-reinforced sluices, a settling pond, and a 1000 meter canal to a distribution tank. These extensive works were not actually finalised until 325 BCE and allowed the irrigation of 25,000 acres (100 km²).

Despite the increases in height, the dam suffered numerous breaches (recorded major incidents occurred in 449, 450, 542 and 548) and the maintenance works became increasingly onerous, the last recorded repairs took place in 557. In 570 or 575, the dam was again overtopped and this time left unrepaired. The final destruction of the dam is noted in the Koran and the consequent failure of the irrigation system provoked the migration of up to 50,000 people."

Sabi’an or Harranian culture survived for a while in the Christian and Islamic Middle East but was eventually mostly integrated into one or the other of those two traditions. The Sabi’an religion involved the practice of astral magic, and some of its adherents were noted astronomers in the Arab-Islamic tradition, most famously Thabit ibn Qurra in the ninth century.