Calcite-alabaster stela

Calcite gravestone with woman

Calcite-alabaster stela (ANE 130880)

Height: 30.000 cm
Width: 19.010 cm
Thickness: 7.000 cm (at nose)

ME 130880

This is a beautiful example of a particular style of South Arabian dedication or commemoration. It shows the bust of a female in high relief against a rectangular plaque, with an inscription on the base naming the person who is commemorated on the stela. It reads 'Aban of the tribe of Mahdhar'.

The figure is shown in a characteristic pose, with a raised right hand and the left hand holding a stylized sheaf of wheat, a symbol of fertility. In similar examples, the right hand covers the left hand, which holds the wheat, while others show the dedicant holding a bird in the left hand. The holes in the ears were probably for attaching earrings. The figure wears bracelets on each wrist and is depicted in a short-sleeved tunic, but the neckline is not gathered, nor does she wear an elaborate necklace as is sometimes depicted on similar examples.

The statue finishes at the hairline and the top of the head and the hair is not depicted, possibly because these details were rendered in plaster, which has not survived, or the whole stela was set in some sort of niche.