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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Calcite-alabaster panel with bull’s head

Calcite panel with bull’s head

The South Gate at Tamna

The South Gate at Tamna

Length: 33.500 cm
Width: 30.000 cm

Gift of Sir Antonin Besse

ME 130884

The kingdom of Qataban emerged in the seventh century BC and by the fifth century BC it had replaced Saba as the most powerful kingdom of South Arabia. In the early 1950s the American Foundation for the Study of Man conducted excavations at the walled city of Tamna, the capital of the Qatabanian kingdom, where they discovered spectacular alabaster and bronze artefacts and monumental buildings. They also demonstrated that the nearby settlement of Hajar ibn Humayd was occupied as early as the tenth or eleventh centuries BC.

In the centre of this panel is a bull's head carved in high relief. The bull was an especially popular motif on funerary stele at Heid ibn Aqil, the cemetery at Tamna, because it was the symbol of Amm, the patron diety of the Qatabanians, who considered themselves 'progeny of Amm'. This stela may have originally had a stone base inscribed with the name of the deceased.

The Qatabanians derived great prosperity from agriculture and the incense trade but by the end of the second century AD their kingdom had declined and collapsed.