Inscribed bronze ass

Sabaean, 2nd century AD
From Yemen

A dedicatory statuette

During the first millennium BC and into the Roman period a prosperous civilization, based largely upon trade in incense, grew up in south-west Arabia, the area of modern Yemen. Many of the objects discovered that date from this time were votive offerings, set up in temples to invoke the blessing of the gods and demonstrate the wealth of merchants and land owners.

This delicately modelled bronze ass shows the naturalistic influence of the classical world. The body is inscribed with a four-line dedicatory text in the Sabaean language, which was engraved into the wax or clay model before casting.

South Arabia was divided into a number of kingdoms, each of which spoke their own Semitic language, though the languages were related. They were written using a common alphabet. The script changed little between its origins in the sixth century BC and its disappearance in the seventh century AD. A version survives in the Ethiopian alphabet.

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More information


W. Seipel and others, Jemen: Kunst und Archäologie i (Vienna, 1999)

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

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: 7.100 cm
Length: 6.300 cm
Width: 1.800 cm
Weight: 132.500 g

Museum number

ME 132932



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