|Ancient South Arabian script|
|Late 2nd millennium BCE to 6th century CE|
|Languages||Old South Arabian, Ge'ez|
|Ancient North Arabian|
|ISO 15924||Sarb (105), Old South Arabian|
|Old South Arabian|
The Ancient South Arabian script (Old South Arabian: 𐩣𐩯𐩬𐩵 ms3nd; modern Arabic: الْمُسْنَد musnad) branched from the Proto-Sinaitic script in about the late 2nd millennium BCE. It was used for writing the Old South Arabian languages Sabaic, Qatabanic, Hadramautic, Minaean, and Hasaitic, and the Ethiopic language Geʽez in Dʿmt. The earliest instances of the Ancient South Arabian script are painted pottery sherds from Raybun in Hadhramaut in Yemen, which are dated to the late 2nd millennium BCE. There are no letters for vowels, which are marked by matres lectionis.
Its mature form was reached around 800 BCE and its use continued until the 6th century CE, including Ancient North Arabian inscriptions in variants of the alphabet, when it was displaced by the Arabic alphabet. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, it evolved later into the Geʽez script, which, with added symbols throughout the centuries, has been used to write Amharic, Tigrinya and Tigre, as well as other languages (including various Semitic, Cushitic, and Nilo-Saharan languages).
|Letter||Phoneme||IPA||Corresponding letter in|
|Ancient North Arabian||Ge'ez||Phoenician||Aramaic||Arabic|
Six signs are used for numbers:
The sign for 50 was evidently created by removing the lower triangle from the sign for 100. The sign for 1 doubles as a word separator. The other four signs double as both letters and numbers. Each of these four signs is the first letter of the name of the corresponding numeral.
An additional sign (𐩿) is used to bracket numbers, setting them apart from surrounding text. For example, 𐩿𐩭𐩽𐩽𐩿
These signs are used in an additive system similar to Roman numerals to represent any number (excluding zero). Two examples:
Thousands are written two different ways:
Perhaps because of ambiguity, numerals, at least in monumental inscriptions, are always clarified with the numbers written out in words.
Zabūr, also known as "South Arabian minuscules", is the name of the cursive form of the South Arabian script that was used by the Sabaeans in addition to their monumental script, or Musnad.
Zabur was a writing system in ancient Yemen along with Musnad. The difference between the two is that Musnad documented historical events, meanwhile Zabur writings were used for religious scripts or to record daily transactions among ancient Yemenis. Zabur writings could be found in palimpsest form written on papyri or palm-leaf stalks.
Main article: Old South Arabian (Unicode block)
The South Arabian alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.
The Unicode block, called Old South Arabian, is U+10A60–U+10A7F.
Note that U+10A7D OLD SOUTH ARABIAN NUMBER ONE (𐩽) represents both the numeral one and a word divider.
|Old South Arabian|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Incense burner, from Yemen, 5th-4th century BCE. An ancient South Arabian inscription about the names of incense