Basalt tombstone of cIsa b. Ahmad al-cAkki

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

The Dahlak Archipelago (group of islands) in the Red Sea off Eritrea had been used as a place of exile by the early caliphs, but by the twelfth century they were ruled as an independent amirate. Enriched by trade and piracy, the inhabitants enjoyed a high standard of living. Local quarries provided the basalt stone for a series of tombstones, elegantly inscribed with Qur'anic inscriptions and the name of the deceased. This tombstone is inscribed with the name of cIsa b. Ahmad al-cAkki and seven of his forefathers. The inscription also includes verses from the Qur'an (51:15-19), which translate: 'Surely the godfearing shall be among gardens and fountains taking whatsoever their Lord has given them; they were good-doers before that. Little of the night would they slumber, and in the mornings they would ask for forgiveness; and the beggar and the outcast had a share in their wealth.' The craftsman, Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Harami al-Makki, came from a Meccan family specializing in carved tombstones: another tombstone dated five years after this one includes both his name and that of his nephew, presumably his apprentice.


  • Title: Basalt tombstone of cIsa b. Ahmad al-cAkki
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved
  • Registration number: 1928,0305.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Dahlak Kebir
  • Period/culture: Islamic
  • Material: basalt
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Campbell, W D

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