Bronze statuette of a bull

Sabaean, 1st-2nd century AD
From Yemen

This bull was cast in bronze over a central core of clay. It was dedicated in a temple and was one of a pair, according to the inscription, which reads: 'To [the god] Dhat-Himyam, two bulls.' The text is in Sabaean, one of several related Semitic languages spoken in ancient South Arabia. It was written using an alphabet which changed little between its origins in the sixth century BC and its disappearance in the seventh century AD.

Himyar was one of the rival kingdoms of South Arabia and, by the first century AD, was the emerging power. It occupied large stretches of the coast. The capital at Zafar was even mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Historia Naturalis ('Natural History'), written under the Roman emperor Nero (AD 54-68).

The wealth of the kingdom was based on the control of frankincense and myrrh. These two resins only grow in eastern Yemen, southern Oman and Somaliland. Their production and trade were in the hands of the ancient South Arabians. At the time when this bull was made the shipping lanes were becoming more important than the land routes and Himyar's coastal position gave it an advantage. By the late third century AD Himyar had conquered the rival kingdom of Hadramawt and created one large, powerful empire.

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More information

Bibliography

St J. Simpson (ed.), Queen of Sheba: treasures from (London, The British Museum Press, 2002)

D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

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

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

Dimensions

Height: 21.000 cm
Length: 28.000 cm
Width: 9.700 cm
Weight: 2901.000 g

Museum number

ME 135562

WCO25168

Location

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