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Calcite incense burner
Minaean, 4th-3rd century BC
From Al Hazm (ancient Hamrim), near Qarnaw, Yemen
A Minaean inscription describes the dedication of a pair of incense burners
This is an incense burner with an inscription in Minaean, 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. It records the dedication of a pair of incense burners to the god Athar Dhu-Qabd by Ammdhara and Hawf-Wadd. The whereabouts of the second burner is unknown.
The burner comes from the site of ancient Harim, in Ma'in, one of the rival kingdoms of South Arabia. The other kingdoms were Saba (the oldest and most powerful), Himyar, Hadramaut and Qataban. There was often warfare between them over control of frankincense and myrrh, two of the most prized materials in antiquity, which only grow in eastern Yemen and southern Oman and in some parts of Somaliland. The production and trade of these aromatics were in the hands of the ancient South Arabians, who became extremely wealthy as a result.
W. Daum (ed.), Yemen: 3000 years of art and c (Penguin, 1988)