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South Arabian Carved Stone Stelae w/Abstract Face

South Arabia, Yemen, Kingdom of Qataban, ca. 1st millennium BCE. A pale brown limestone slab carved into a high-relief stelae, with an abstract face presenting a triangular nose, deep set oval eyes, a small mouth, a prominent brow ridge, well-groomed eyebrows, and the suggestion of a crown or headdress. Unusually for these stelae, this example also has ears. At one time, this figure would have had inset eyes with pupils made of shell or some other soft material. This example has what appears to be red pigment on much of its surface. The full stelae would have had an inscription in the ancient Yemeni alphabet. Size: 7.9" W x 7.5" H (20.1 cm x 19 cm); 10.5" H (26.7 cm) on included custom stand.

The deceased in this part of the world were often represented by anthropomorphic funerary stelae like this one; however, the face is highly stylized and it is doubtful that this is a portrait of a known individual. They have been found in three areas, one of which was the cemetery at Tamna, the capital city of Qataban. The Kingdom of Qataban rose to prominence in the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, because it controlled the trade in frankincense and myrrh, incenses required to be burned at altars during religious rituals further north and west. A haunting and rare artifact, certain to spark conversation, and a reminder of the deeper history of the Middle East.

Condition: Piece is a fragment of a larger stelae. Expected scratching on surface. Nicely preserved features and pigment.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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