|2nd century BC to 4th century AD|
|ISO 15924||Nbat (159), Nabataean|
Final Accepted Script Proposal
The Nabataean script is an abjad (consonantal alphabet) that was used to write Nabataean Aramaic and Nabataean Arabic from the second century BC onwards. Important inscriptions are found in Petra (now in Jordan), the Sinai Peninsula (now part of Egypt), and other archaeological sites including Abdah (in Israel) and Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia.
Nabataean is only known through inscriptions and, more recently, a small number of papyri. It was first deciphered in 1840 by Eduard Friedrich Ferdinand Beer. 6,000 – 7,000 Nabataean inscriptions have been published, of which more than 95% are extremely short inscriptions or graffiti, and the vast majority are undated, post-Nabataean or from outside the core Nabataean territory. A majority of inscriptions considered Nabataean were found in Sinai, and another 4,000 – 7,000 such Sinaitic inscriptions remain unpublished. Prior to the publication of Nabataean papyri, the only substantial corpus of detailed Nabataean text were the 38 funerary inscriptions from Hegra (Mada'in Salih), published by Julius Euting in 1885.
The alphabet is descended from the Aramaic alphabet. In turn, a cursive form of Nabataean developed into the Arabic alphabet from the 4th century, which is why Nabataean's letterforms are intermediate between the more northerly Semitic scripts (such as the Aramaic-derived Hebrew) and those of Arabic.
As compared to other Aramaic-derived scripts, Nabataean developed more loops and ligatures, likely to increase speed of writing. The ligatures seem to have not been standardized and varied across places and time. There were no spaces between words. Numerals in Nabataean script were built from characters of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 20, and 100.
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See also: Nabataean (Unicode block)
The Nabataean alphabet (U+10880–U+108AF) was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Sinai, for example, is a major source of Nabataean inscriptions: the corpus of M. E. Stone contains 3,851 Nabataean items! But most were written by individuals who had no connection with Nabataea itself during the period of the Nabataean kingdom or its immediate aftermath and they may not normally have spoken Aramaic. The texts have generally been thought to have been written long after Nabataea as such disappeared.