During his travels in the East in search of Arabic inscriptions and study of Islamic Archeology, Art and Architecture, Max van Berchem took squeezes of many inscriptions. It must have been assumed that most of the inscriptions which he copied were published. However, examining one of a few drawers in which these squeezes are kept in the archives of Fondation Max van Berchem, I could ascertain that most of the inscriptions kept in the drawer had not been published.

The groups of squeezes which I decided to examine were mostly taken in 1893 and 1894 in the collection of Baron Plato von Ustinow in Jaffa. The Baron died in 1913 when he was only 40 and his collection was transferred to the Institute of Classical Archeology, The University of Oslo, Norway. Most of the inscriptions according to van Berchem’s notes on the squeezes came to Ustinow’s home in Jaffa from Ascalon, Caesarea or Ramlah. In many cases the origin of the inscriptions is indicated as “Ascalon ou Caesarée.” The reason for this uncertainty is that the ruins of both these ancient and medieval towns were a source for marble used in the lime furnaces. Many ancient columns, statues and architectural remnants were dug by robbers, chipped if needed, and sold to lime producers.

The major sources for marble were Caesarea and Ascalon where abundant marble was available above the ground, and quite near the surface within the walls of the medieval cities and around them. The medieval (Muslim) cemetery of Caesarea, to the south of the walls of the late Crusader town was the richest source of marble, easy to dig, easy to transport, because of the manageable size of the marble pieces, and easy to break and use in the furnaces.

Already the Muslims in the middle ages used the ancient column-shafts and capitals, architraves, friezes, and other architectural elements, as well as sarcophagi and many other pieces of marble either as building material or for making troughs and other utensils, and for engraving inscriptions. Column-shafts were cut vertically, to supply two oblong surfaces for inscriptions, but also ready-made marble slabs used in panels and paving or cut from sarcophagi were abundantly used for the same purpose. (See CIAP 2 figs. P44 – P49).

Professional carvers and engravers used large quantities of this ancient marble for engraving epitaphs and other inscriptions. Even if only the cemeteries of Caesarea, Ascalon, Ramlah, Lydda, and a few other important medieval Muslim cities with immediate source of ancient marble had not been vandalized, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, they would have been mines of information about medieval Palestine.

Of special importance is the cemetery of medieval Muslim Caesarea, which was rich with inscriptions more than anywhere else in Palestine. This cemetery became a large quarry particularly in the 19th century. The stones with the inscriptions were broken, already on the spot, to facilitate their transportation. When it became known that the rich European from Jaffa was after antiquities, and was ready to pay for inscribed stones, some inscriptions, mainly broken fragments were brought to him. It is almost sure that he was not always informed about the origin of the inscriptions, and it is not sure that even when the vendor-robbers supplied him with such information it was true. For this reason he told van Berchem about many of the inscriptions, that they could have come from either Ascalon or Caesarea, Ramlah or Lydda, or simply: “the environs of Jaffa.”

However, when there is a choice between Caesarea and Ascalon, I tend to prefer Caesarea mainly because of the intensive activity of the marble robbers at the site, the availability of the many inscriptions in its cemetery and the proximity to Jaffa, Ustinow’s home. In addition to the inscriptions from western Palestine there are a few inscriptions in the drawer that came from northern Palestine and from Dar˓ah and its vicinity in Trans-Jordan. All in all I registered and photographed 55 squeezes of inscriptions. Each squeeze received a serial number written on its back and the following list is arranged according to these numbers. The dates of the inscriptions are according to the Hijri calendar. The inscriptions from Ascalon and Caesarea will be included in the addendum to CIAP 4. The other inscriptions will be incorporated in the following volumes. When there is more than one squeeze of an inscription the squeezes are indicated as a, b, c, etc. under the same serial number. I some cases a squeeze represents the mirror image of an inscription which can easily be flipped over both through computer imaging and traditional photography technique.

1. Abū Ghūsh. Construction text. AH881.
2. Caesarea (?) . Construction text, Sultan Sulaymān. 10th century.
3. Ascalon. Monogramm.
4. Jerusalem. Epitaph. 5th century.
5. Ascalon. Construction text; published. Pedersen 1928:66 No.22. CIAP 1, p.152.
6. a+b. Ramlah. Q, 41:30; Q, 41:31.
7. Source unknown. Beginning of Basmalah.
8. a+b+c. Origin unknown, Q,3:85. 5th century.
9. Origin unknown, a few letters. 2nd century.
10. Caesarea (?) Ascalon (?). Epitaph(?) part of Q,112. 3rd century.
11. Ramlah or Caesarea. Epitaph. AH376.
12. Caesarea. Part of Q, 9:129.
13. Epitaph. Q3:16 (beginning). 4th century.
14. Caesarea. Epitaph. AH442.
15. a+b Caesarea or Ascalon. Epitaph. AH307.
16. a+b Ramlah. Epitaph. 4th Century.
17. a+b Caesarea. Part of Q, 112. 5th century.
18. Caesarea or Ascalon. Basmalah. 5th century.
19. Ascalon or Caesarea. Epitaph. AH749.
20. Ascalon Q. 112, (beginning). 5th century.
21. Caesarea or Ascalon. Epitaph? A few words.
22. Ramlah. Unreadable.
23. Ascalon (?). Q, 2:255. 4th century.
24. Ascalon or Caesarea. Epitaph. 5th century.
25. Caesarea or Ascalon. Epitaph. AH390.
26. Origin unknown. Epitaph. 3rd century.
27. Origin unknown. Epitaph. 6th century.
28. Ascalon. Reconstruction text. AH777.
29. Origin unknown. Declaration of Faith. Modern?
30. Origin unknown. Unreadable.
31. Dar˓ah. Epitaph. AH689.
32. Hunīn. Construction text. AH1166.
33. Dar˓ah (environs). Declaration of Faith. 5th century.
34. Origin unknown. Beginning of Declaration of Faith. 2nd century.
35. Origin unknown. Unreadable.
36. a+b Ramlah or Lydda. Waqf text. 5th century.
37. Dar˓ah. Epitaph. AH773
38. Origin unknown? 5th century.
39. Jaffa(vicinity). Construction text. AH636 (?).
40. Safed. Epitaph. AH776.
41. Ramlah or Caesarea. Epitaph. AH327.
42. Origin unknown. Beginning of Q, 112.
43. Origin unknown. Syriac inscription.
44. Jerusalem. Date AH407.
45. Origin unknown. Basmalh. 5th century.
46. Acre. Epitaph. 3rd century.
47. Safed. Epitaph. AH777.
48. Kawkab al-Hawā. Construction text. 6th century
49. Safed. Epitaph. ?
50. Haifa: Tell as-Samak. Pious Declaration. 2nd century.
51. Near Dar˓ah. Epitaph. Date ?
52. Dar˓ah. Epitaph. AH154.
53. Dar˓ah. Epitaph. AH553.
54. Near Dar˓ah. Declaration of Faith. Date ?
55. Dar˓ah. Declaration of Faith. 2nd century.

From the above inscriptions I chose the following epitaph from the middle of the 8th/14th century.

Epitaph of a Muslim

15 Ṣafar 749/22 May 1348
A slab of marble or limestone, squeeze size, 0.41x0.26 m. 7 lines undefined provincial naskhī, points, no visible vowels, lines divided by strip; all incised. Ustinow collection; squeeze no. 19 in Coll. van Berchem made in 1893. Information and initial reading by van Berchem on the squeeze. The following is a fresh reading. (Pls.1, 2)


Epitaph 749

Pl. 1 Epitaph 749 (mirror image flipped over)


Epitaph 749 1348

Pl. 2 Epitaph 749/1348 (lower part)


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم ۲)كل نفس ذائقة الموت ۳)هذا قبر العبد الفقير الى الله تعالي(!) (With the points) ٤)بدر الدين حسن بن علي بن عبد العزيز ٥)إمام مشهد أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه ٦)توفي في خامس عشر شهر صفر ٧)سنة تسعة(!) وأربعين وسبعمائة

Basmalah. Every soul shall taste of death.(Q, 3:185, 21:35, 29:57. Trans. Arberry) This is the tomb of the servant who is in need of Allah the Exalted, Badr ad-Dīn Ḥasan b. ˓Alī b. ˓ِAbd al-˓Azīz the imām of the mashhad of Abū Hurayrah may Allah be pleased with him. He died on the fifteenth of the month of Ṣafar the year 749 (=22 May 1348)
Letters are very clear. In line 4 the name Ibn ˓Abd al-˓Azīz was written in such a way that the eye could be confused. On the squeeze therefore the reading was rendered like this:
بدر الدين حسن بن علي بن العزيز عثمان امام مسجد ابي هريرة
The word ˓Uthmān does not exist. My reading is the correct one. The exact origin of this inscription was clear to van Berchem since he mentions on the squeeze that it “originated from Caesarea.” (Fig. 3)


M van Berchem note
Fig 3. M van Berchem’s note


However, it is possible that Plato von Ustinow himself did not have the details about the exact origin of the inscription which decorated his garden in Jaffa at the end of the 19th century. It could have come from Ascalon, Ramlah, and Caesarea. All three places are possible though the environs of Ashqelon (Ascalon, ˓Asqalān) seem to me to be the most probable origin of the inscription, since epitaph came from the tomb of the imām of the sanctuary of Abū Hurayrah in Yabneh-Yubnā. In spite of Mujīr ad-Dīn’s (1973 (1):263) statement that: “Abū Hurayrah ... who devotedly served the Prophet... is the one who is buried in the village of Yubnā which belongs to the district of Gaza; someone of his descendants is (buried) there,” nevertheless popular legend attributed the sanctuary to the famous companion of the Prophet. Also other Muslim scholars rejected this identification, knowing very well that Abū Hurayrah died in Madīnah in 59/680, and was buried there. (Ibid; Harawī 1953:33, and particularly the notes for variants. Canaan 1925:3, 298.) The popular identification is a late development, because the sanctuary of Abū Hurayrah in Yubnā was not mentioned by the pre-Crusaders geographers; the first to mention it expressing their doubts about the accuracy of its identification were Harawī (d. 611/1214. loc. cit.) and Yaqūt (d. 626/1227. 1986: 5:428. Cf. Le Strange 1890: 553; Marmardji 1951:207;. “Abū Huraira” EI, EI 2). Mayer remarked that “as early as the eleventh century C.E. – if not earlier – cautious attempts were made to locate here the tomb of Abū Hurairah...” quoting Yāqūt as his first reference. The identification is mentioned as a “non controversial fact,” however, by Ibn Faḍl Allah al-˓Umarī

(d.1349 C.E). But Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm al-Maqdīsī the author of Muthīr al-Gharām (d. 865/1364) still casts doubt on this “fact” and offers the compromise that it was one of Abū Hurayrah’s descendents (or his son) who was buried there (Muthīr al-Gharām 1946:23, copied by Mujīr loc.cit.; Mayer 1950:21).
The imām of Yubnā most probably was buried in his town, and it is very possible that the stone with the inscription reached von Ustinow from there.
In 1348 Ashqelon, to the south west of Yubnā, had been no more than a mound of debris but the imām could have been buried in Majdal-˓Asqalān a flourishing village to the North East of the city ruins, or thereabout, which does not rule out the vicinity of Ashqelon too as the origin of the stone.
L.7: The date is clear. The word tis˓ah is very clear as can be seen in fig. 2 above, and not as it is indicated on the squeeze “تسع (sic!).” The last two letters of the word سبعماية appear in line 7 whereas the beginning of the word was inscribed under the line.

Moshe Sharon
The Hebrew University, Jerusalem


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CIAP = Sharon M. 1997 -. Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, vol. 1, 1997; vol. 2, 1999; vol.3, 2004. Leiden, E.J. Brill
Ibn Fadl Allah al-˓Umarī, Shihāb ad-Dīn Ahmad b. Yaḥyā. 1924. Masālik al Abṣār fī Mamālik al-Amṣār, 1. Ed. Zaki Pasha. Cairo.
al-Harawī, ‘Alī b. Abū Bakr. 1953. Kitāb al-Ishārāt ilā ma˓rifat az-Ziyārāt, ed. J. Sourdel-Thomine. Institut Français de Damas
Le Strange, G. 1890. Palestine Under the Moslems, A description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D.650 to 1500. Boston and New York.
Marmardji, A. S. 1951. Textes Géographiques arabes sur la Palestine. Paris.
Mayer, L.A. 1950. Some principal Muslim Religious Buildings in Israel, Jerusalem.
Mujīr ad-Dīn, ˓Abd ar-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad. 1973. al-Uns al-Jalīl bi-Ta˒rīkh al-Quds wa-al-Khalīl. ˓Ammān.
Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Maqdisī. 1946. Muthīr al-Gharāmbi-Faḍ˒āil al-Quds wa-ash-Shām,Jaffa.