MENCAWAR [Mediterranean Network for Cataloguing and Web Fruition of Ancient Artworks and Inscriptions]: Cataloguing the ancient South Arabia collection in the British Museum

Project leader: St John Simpson

Department: Middle East

Project start: January 2007
End date: January 2009

External partners:

Professor A. Avanzini, University of Pisa, Italy:
Dr H. Hayajneh, Yarmouk University, Jordan:
Dr Suzy Hakimian, University of St Joseph, Lebanon:

Project funded by:

The European Union (EU)


This is a four-way international collaboration between the British Museum and the University of Pisa (main partner), Yarmouk University, Jordan and the University of St Joseph, Lebanon, within a framework referred to as the Mediterranean Network for Cataloguing and Web Fruition of Ancient Artworks and Inscriptions [MENCAWAR]. The MENCAWAR network has the following top-level aims and objectives:

  • To disseminate information on ancient Near Eastern artworks and inscriptions;
  • To identify opportunities for further collaboration between EU members and south basin Mediterranean countries;
  • To foster knowledge among researchers on the digitisation of ancient artworks and inscriptions in the Mediterranean region;
  • To identify best practices and common understanding on cataloguing and digitisation processes;
  • To create a network with informatics tools that can be used for cataloguing and extending its application to inscriptions and other artefact categories beyond ancient South Arabia;
  • To facilitate the digital cataloguing of artworks and inscriptions;
  • To promote cultural heritage.

The specific aims of the partners are to integrate specific collections into a new web-based corpus of inscriptions and artworks, offer training on the use of this for the better understanding of these research areas and collaborate through regular workshops. As part of this project, the British Museum therefore aims to fully catalogue and make available its Ancient South Arabian collection. This is the largest and most important collection of such antiquities outside Yemen and has been highlighted through recent temporary and loan exhibitions on the Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen (BM 2002; Bowers Museum, 2004).


The specific objectives are:

  • To prepare a full catalogue of the Ancient South Arabia collections in the British Museum, including new translations of the inscriptions;
  • To publish this with full transliterations and images on the Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions website held at Pisa ( and the BM website as part of Web Merlin
  • To publish a printed version of this handlist, including include relevant parts of the BM archive dealing with the history of the collection
  • To facilitate all of the above and the collaboration with the MENCAWAR partners through workshops and other events, including the annual Seminar for Arabian Studies held at the British Museum in 2007 and 2008, and a final MENCAWAR workshop to be held at the British Museum in November 2008.

More information:

Download the project brochure (pdf 5Mb)


The catalogue is now being edited for publication, but online records are available: