Thousands of inscriptions and petroglyphs dating back around 2,000 years have been discovered in the Jebel Qurma region of Jordan's Black Desert. They tell of a time when the now-desolate landscape was teeming with life.Safaitic is an Old North Arabian dialect that seems to be known only from stone inscriptions. The writers knew the Nabateans (Nabataeans) and had to do with them, perhaps not always on the most positive basis:
"Nowadays, the Jebel Qurma area, and the Black Desert in general, is a highly inhospitable area, very arid and difficult to cross," said Peter Akkermans, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands who leads the Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project. Photos the team took of the modern-day landscape show little water, vegetation or wildlife.
The inscriptions are written in Safaitic, an alphabetic script used by people who lived in parts of Syria, Jordan and Arabia in ancient times. Research is ongoing, but the archaeologists say their finds indicate that around 2,000 years ago, Jebel Qurma had trees, wildlife and a sizable human population.
Some texts contain information on what people were doing, with a few hinting that the people who inhabited Jebel Qurma had conflicts with the Nabataeans, a people who built the ancient city of Petra. "I am on the lookout for the Nabataeans," one inscription reads.There's more on Safaitic at the The Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia site.