Bronze incense burner

Sabaean, 3rd century BC
From Marib, Yemen

This incense burner was made by casting bronze on a clay core. On the front it depicts the figure of an ibex standing below a crescent. It comes from Marib, capital of the kingdom of Saba, which was the oldest and most powerful state in South Arabia. Although some sources perhaps refer to rulers of Saba as early as the seventh century BC, the major monuments on the site date from the middle of the first millennium BC.

The southern Arabians had the monopoly on two of the most prized materials of ancient times: frankincense and myrrh. These two resins only grow in eastern Yemen and southern Oman and in some parts of Somalia. Their production and trade were in the hands of the ancient South Arabians. Every temple and wealthy home in the Mediterranean and Near East used these precious aromatics, and purchasers were prepared to pay their weight in gold. This is the historical background to the legendary Old Testament account of the Queen of Saba (in Hebrew, Sheba) making her caravan journey to Jerusalem.

The history of South Arabia was marked by constant warfare between Saba and Hadramawt, Ausan, Qataban and Ma'in. Gradually Ma'in severed ties with Saba and, towards the end of the fifth century BC, Ma'in became independent, controlling most of the trade routes.

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Bronze incense burner

  • The south sluice at Marib

    The south sluice at Marib

  • The city of Marib

    The city of Marib


More information


W. Daum (ed.), Yemen: 3000 years of art and c (Penguin, 1988)

C.J. du Ry, Art of the ancient Near and Mi (New York, London, Abrams, 1969)

C. Robin (ed.), Yémen au pays de la reine de S (Paris, Flammarion, 1997)

St J.H. Philby, The Queen of Sheba (London, Quartet, 1981)


Height: 23.900 cm
Width: 18.000 cm
Diameter: 13.500 cm
Weight: 2388.000 g

Museum number

ME 132909


Gift of Dr Sidney E. Croskery


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