Short Answer: Mada’in Salih is not known in the Bible but the Biblical name for the area was Dedan. It is worth noting only in Mada’in Salih (Dedan) were tombs carved by the people of Thamud. No burial sites were found from the Nabataeans, only dwellings carved into the hills. Mada’in Salih became the Southern capital for the Nabataeans while Petra was the capital for the Northern Nabataean kingdom.
Many thanks for your question(s). They are not easy to answer as there has not been a complete archaeological survey of the area. The Saudi government has been reluctant to issue permits and the area has been cursed by God. On top of that, the names of some of the places have changed.
It is unfortunate that you don’t give a reference so I don’t know how recent your information is. My major source is a Ph.D. thesis by a resident from the area who was primarily interested in the irrigation systems. I did visit the site, and the Department of Antiquities is responsible for the site. They issue a Guidebook, but unfortunately, I could not locate my copy.
There was an important trade route (for the Sabaean and Minaean culture from the South to the North; from Sana through Najran, Makkah, Madina to al-‘Ula where the trade route branched to Babylon (Babil) through Taima’. The main route continued to Petra then Gaza, and one route led off to Syria and another to Egypt. [Mustafa ‘Amir. The Ancient Trans-Peninsular Routes of Arabia, Congr. Int. George. (Cairo, 1925), Vol. V. Pp126-140]
There are three main archaeological sites in the area and some of the names have changed with time. Mada’in Salih translates as: the Cities of Salih.
- Dedan was the old name mentioned in the Bible. It is now known as Khuraibah.
- Isaiah 21:13 mentions Dedanites
- Jeremiah 25:23 mentions Dedan
- Ezekiel 25:13, 27:15, 27:30 and 38:13 all mention Dedan
Reference the Holy Bible Revised Version
- The ruins of al-Hijr known as al-Mahiyat or al-Mibyat, which was identified by Abdullah Adam Nasif as the ruins of Qurh (medieval city) in his Ph.D. thesis (these are Islamic sites).
Quoted by Abdallah Adam Nasif in: al-‘Ula An Historical and Archaeological Survey with Special Reference to Its Irrigation
System, (The book is a thesis presented to the Victoria University of Manchester for a PhD.) I obtained my copy from the Library,
King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during my stay there.
- Wadi al-Qura (Dedan and Hijr) which replaced Dedan and al-Hijr as the main town in the area.
- al-‘Ula (which has not been explored/excavated).
There have been travelers and explorers in the area including Doughty 1876; Philby; British Expedition from the University of London in 1966; Institute of Archaeology, University of London 1968. But the most detailed study was by two French Priests who visited the area in 1907, 1908 and 1910. They collected a large number of Lihyanite, Minaean, Thamudic and Nabataean inscriptions. Their work forms the basis of further studies in the area,
Mada’in Salih is not known in the Bible but the Biblical name for the area was Dedan.
“Although Albright agrees with Grimm and Winnett in saying that the Dedanite inscriptions belong to the sixth century BCE, he
opines that the passages in the Old Testament (Gen, 25:3, 10:7) take us back to a time prior to this period.” F.V. Winnett and W.I. Read. Ancient Records from North Arabia. (Toronto, 1970, p.114)
Op. Cit. Quoted by Abdallah Adam Nasif in al-‘Ula
The people of Thamud were there from the 4th century BCE or possibly earlier. The Greeks and the Nabataeans came in the first century BCE The Romans displaced the Nabataeans in the year 106 CE. Most historians today, agree that Dedan was deserted when the Nabataeans achieved hegemony over the area. The Nabataeans moved the trade route 15 km East of Dedan resulting in the decline of Dedan, The Romans overthrew the Nabataeans in 106 CE and now the trade route was changed from land to sea, Mada’in has been dated 400BCE to 50-35BCE.
The Dedanites were succeeded by the Minaeans and Lihyanites.
Al-Bakri quotes from al-Kalbi about movements of populations in Wadi al-Qura, and he says that some of the tribes of Quda’ah, among whom were the tribes of ‘Udhiah had settled in Wadi al-Qura alongside the Jews who had inhabited the area following the fall of Thamud, and who recovered the springs and cultivated the surrounding area. This agrees with your comment that other people helped develop the irrigation system. The Ph.D. is mainly focussed on al-‘Ula and its irrigation system, and al-‘Ula is considered to be in the Wadi al-Qura (Mada’in Salih).
It is worth noting only in Mada’in Salih (Dedan) were tombs carved by the people of Thamud. No burial sites were found from the Nabataeans, only dwellings carved into the hills. Mada’in Salih became the Southern capital for the Nabataeans while Petra was the capital for the Northern Nabataean kingdom.
Note: If you are interested in pursuing this further, you might be able to obtain copies of the Guidebook to Mada’in Salih from the Department of Antiquities and Museums, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and also, a copy of the Book (thesis) by Nasif, from the Library, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Thank you for your question, you have made me search a little. In sha Allah it answers your question.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
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