Up to the mid-1970s excavation initiatives in Yemeni territory were extremely sporadic. The misadventures that occurred to the last of these rare enterprises, the American one led in the 1950s by W. Phillips and WF Albright, which was able to start (but not finish) a program of excavations in some Qatabanite sites of the Wādī Bayḥān and in the temple of Awwām of Ma’rib (ancient capital of Saba), exemplify the extent of the obstacles that archeology found itself facing in Yemen and explain the reasons for the scarcity of investigations in that region. After the mid-1970s, research has been able to go on more or less steadily. According to thereligionfaqs, a French mission has thus started, since 1975, a series of explorations in the Ḥaḍramawt and in the Wādī Ǧawf (Ch. Robin, J.-F. Breton), which led to the choice of Šabwa, the Hadramite capital, and of al-Sawdā, the ancient Minean city of Našān, as sites on which to proceed with regular excavation campaigns (from 1976 and 1988 respectively). In 1977 the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut granted the Ma’rib area under concession and immediately launched a series of multidisciplinary prospective campaigns for the study of the area formerly irrigated by the famous large dam (J. Schmidt). The Berlin institute began excavating the Baran temple in 1989, which is located outside the city walls. An Italian mission undertook its research in Yemen in 1980 (A. de Maigret), studying the prehistoric and protohistoric remains in the Ḫawlān al-Ṭiyāl region, that is, in the area between Ṣan῾ā ‘and Ma’rib. The shipment, later sponsored by the IsMEO of Rome (1983), it was able to reconstruct the local cultures (from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age) from which the great state civilizations of the 1st millennium BC (Sabei, Minei, Qatabaniti, Hadramiti, Awsaniti, Himyariti). The study of prehistory has also been extended to the coastal plain on one side (Tihāma) and to the desert on the other (Ramlat Sab῾atayn). A thriving Bronze Age culture has been identified and studied in the country’s eastern highlands. A section of the same mission also completed a complete cataloging of all the religious monuments of the Islamic period of the Yemen of the North.
After a first cycle of activities dedicated to reconnaissance, the Italian mission has chosen two of the most important sites of the classical period, in which to undertake a series of systematic excavations. Since 1987 it has been operating in the archaic Sabean city of Yalā (ancient Ḥafary), which was discovered in 1985 by the same mission, and since 1989 in the great Mine city of Barāqiš (ancient Yaṯil), which was the second most important city in the kingdom of Ma῾īn. The stratigraphic excavation of Yalā has returned very important data for a clarification of the much debated South Arabian chronology, and that of Barāqiš a temple, exceptionally preserved, dedicated to the Mineo god Nakraḥ. Research on the almost unknown Yemeni prehistory was also initiated, in the early 1980s, by a Soviet mission (P. Gryaznevich, M. Piotrovsky, AV Sedov), which has concentrated its work mainly on the Wādī Ḥaḍramawt and its southern adductors. Since 1987 the mission has also undertaken two excavations in the classical sites of Raybūn (in the Wādī Du῾ān) and in the port of Qana (near Bir ῾Alī), where the production of incense collected in the nearby Ẓufār region was concentrated in ancient times. In 1982 the American Foundation for the study of man (the same as the unfortunate expedition of W. Phillips) was able to restart a series of surveys and surveys in the Wādī Ǧuba south of Ma’rib (J. Blackely, M. Toplyn). The region, which is not very extensive, has been studied according to an interdisciplinary approach, which has yielded important results, which are readily published.
The drawbacks caused by the delay in the start of archaeological research, which, compared to the other near-eastern countries, characterized the Yemen, were compensated in some way, however, by the advantage of seeing very advanced methodologically and well-developed initiatives starting all together. mature from the point of view of the research topics. This, together with the commendable rapid publication of the preliminary reports, already allows today to open a rather broad and articulated scientific debate on Yemeni archeology. Finally, it should not be overlooked that the reunification of the two Ys into a single republic, allowing the evidence of the ancient South Arabian states to be brought back under a single political aegis, will certainly facilitate the deepening and the multiplication of researches and will be able to bring back the antiquities of the country in the foreground in the panorama of archeology of the ancient Near East.