Calcite panel with bull’s head

Qatabanian, 1st century BC - 1st century AD
From Beihan, Yemen

This calcite panel is a votive object, left in a temple in the South Arabian state of Qataban to invoke the blessing of a god. The South Arabian pantheon, or group of gods, is not fully understoon. Each of the South Arabian kingdoms appears to have had its own national god. Qataban’s principal deity was 'Amm ('paternal uncle'), whereas Saba's god was Almaqah, a sun-god whose motifs included a bull’s head. Perhaps, therefore, this plaque was dedicated to Ilamqah.

The southern Arabians had the monopoly on two of the most prized materials of ancient times: frankincense and myrrh. These aromatic resins only grow in eastern Yemen and southern Oman and in some parts of Somalia. Their production and trade was in the hands of the ancient South Arabians. Every temple and wealthy home in the Mediterranean and Near East required them, and purchasers were prepared to pay their weight in gold.

The history of South Arabia was marked by constant warfare. In the last quarter of the second century BC Saba conquered western Qataban and in the second century AD what remained of Qataban was annexed by the Hadramite Empire.

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Calcite panel with bull’s head

  • The South Gate at Tamna

    The South Gate at Tamna


More information


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


Length: 33.500 cm
Width: 30.000 cm

Museum number

ME 130884


Gift of Sir Antonin Besse


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