Work at the site of Makaynûn in eastern Hadramawt (Yemen) and surrounding territory has yielded information on ancient settlement patterns in southern Arabia. This small regional centre lay within an area marked out by a network of seasonal flood-water cultivation systems that irrigated agricultural areas. Each system was associated with one or more villages that were contemporary with the central site. As well as providing a communal refuge, the central site contained religious buildings, dwellings and doubtless the residence of the local elite, within the shelter of a defensive enclosure. This territory was overlain by a symbolic geography defined by the location of the sanctuaries and cemeteries of the Makaynûn community. This model of settlement was repeated all along the valley, where comparable systems were found at the mouths of the main tributary valleys.