TITLE: Funerary stele
CULTURE: Kingdom of Sheba (Yemen)
PERIOD: 6th-5th Century B.C.
SIZE: Height 16 cm.
PRICE: 2,700 Euros.
PROVENANCE: Private collection, England.
CONDITION: In a good state of preservation without breakage apart from a fragment from the top rear area of the head and a small chip from the neck.
This is a terracotta plaque in the form of a human head with the large eyes and eyebrows clearly incised. The prominent nose is also large. In contrast, the mouth is small and arched in a smile. On either side of the face the ears have been clearly defined.
This type of terracotta or stucco plaque can be found both in the National Museum of Sana and in the British Museum, but there are a limited number of these in existence. Pieces like this, as opposed to ones made from limestone or alabaster, would seem to serve a similar purpose as elements of somewhat large funerary steles, to which these faces were attached.
The kingdom of Sheba was a rich one, thanks in great part to the famous “Queen of Sheba” named Makeda. The extension of this kingdom is unknown, although there are hypotheses that indicate that it was in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, in what is present-day Yemen. Others suggest that it was in the Horn of Africa and still others point to its extension over both zones.
The palace of the Queen of Sheba (also known by the name of Mahram Bilqus) is in the ancient Arabian Peninsula, in present-day Yemen. This city, built between the 2nd and 1st Century B.C., is believed to be the capital of the kingdom. Erected in a strategic position, Sheba flourished through the trading of merchandise both with Africa and Asia. It had a society based on matriarchy, with political power passing through the female line to royal descendants. Most probably the population represented a mixture of Ethiopian and Arabic peoples.
With thermoluminiscence test and cultural export license.
- AA. VV. Queen of Sheba. Treasures from Ancient Yemen. The British Museum Press. 2002. p. 197.