- Museum number
Copper alloy plaque; lost-wax cast; lion standing on a pedestal in front of a palm tree at the left end, presumably originally repeated on the right; only the left half survives; four line Sabaean dedicatory inscription to 'Almaqah with raised letters between horizontal incised guide lines; further guide lines incised below the row of dentils and again between the dentils and the tops of the letters; row of dentils along the top; degraded tongue ornament below; three vertical line in low relief on the reverse are the accidental product of casting.
- Production date
- 1stC BC-2ndC (probably)
Height: 3 centimetres (of letters)
Height: 20.50 centimetres
Weight: 3.60 kilograms
Thickness: 4 centimetres
Width: 55.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The decoration consists of a tongue ornament along the bottom and a row of triangular decoration above the inscription with a lion standing on a pedestal in front of a palm tree. This plaque was one of twenty-eight such panels found at 'Amran and Shabwa which were presented to The British Museum in 1862 by Brigadier-Colonel (later Brigadier-General) Coghlan and his assistant Captain (later Sir) Robert Lambert Playfair (1828-99), the latter of the Royal Artillery and later appointed Her Majesty's Consul at Algiers (see also Simpson StJ 2002a, cat. 31).1
The form of these panels imitates that of a writing tablet with a wax-filled page enclosed within a wooden frame. They were made using the lost-wax casting process, whereby the original was made by fashioning a wax panel of the same thickness as the intended plaque, adding separate threads of wax onto the face between incised rulings, shaping and correcting the letter forms with a tool before coating with clay, baking, introducing molten metal in place of the wax, removing the clay crust of the metal and polishing the surfaces. The slightly curved edges that characterise these panels resulted from the slight shrinkage of the wax original. A small number of clever forgeries are also known that were made in c. 1860 by a Jewish Yemeni metalsmith (Ryckmans 1978 = BM, ANE 1871-6-18,1-2 and 1871-11-13,1-2 = E48481-84, presented by Captain Prideaux).
1 The plaques from 'Amran, a small town north of Sana'a', appear to have been found during house construction; a number of other examples were apparently melted down (Schippmann 2001, 24-5).
Schippmann, K., 2001. Ancient South Arabia. From the Queen of Sheba to the Advent of Islam, Princeton: Markus Wiener (translated by Allison Brown).
A photo of this object was in the Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1839-1912) collection (Portfolio XVIII 8269, Special Collection, University Library, University of Birmingham) although an image of this plaque has not yet been found in any of his paintings.
Hand written description on the record card thus:
"Plaque with inscr. in raised South Arabian characters, degraded tongue ornament below, and lion passant before palm tree on right. Sabaean. Half of plaque missing. Dedication to 'Almaqah of Hirran by Yahafri' and his sons, clients of the Banu Marthadam, who are 'mr'hmw, "their lords" ".
Bowers Catalogue entry (unpublished):
Plaque dedicated to the god Almaqah
1st century BC - 3rd century AD
Height 20.5 cm, width 55.5 cm, thickness 0.5 cm; 3.6 g weight
ANE 1862-10-28,3 = E48455
Presented by Brigadier-General William Marcus Coghlan (1803-1885)
A lion stands on a pedestal in front of a palm-tree on the left side; the same motif was presumably repeated on the right but this portion is missing. At the top there is a row of dentils, which is a typical South Arabian decorative device. The inscription in the centre reads:
“Yuhafri and his sons have dedicated this inscription to the god Almaqah of Hirran, because Almaqah heard them because of their prayers to him, that he would protect them and protect their children. And may Almaqah continue to show his favour to them and protect them in their vows which they have asked of him that they may be fulfilled, and may he obtain for them the goodwill of the princes of his people of Marthadam and may he free them from the insults and the harm of all their enemies, and because this has come to pass, and that it may come to pass for the sons of Yuhafri”.
The inscription indicates that it was a dedication to the god Almaqah of Hirran by Yahafri and his sons, clients of the Banu Marthadam who are described as “their lords”. The decoration consists of a tongue ornament along the bottom and a row of triangular decoration above the inscription with a lion standing on a pedestal in front of a palm tree. Horizontal lines were incised on the front above and below the letters and below the dentils and served as a guide for the craftsman who designed the piece.
This plaque was one of 28 such plaques reportedly found at Amran and Shabwa which were presented to The British Museum in 1862 by Brigadier-General Coghlan and his assistant Captain (later Sir) Robert Lambert Playfair (1828-1899), the latter of the Royal Artillery and subsequently appointed Her Majesty’s Consul at Algiers. Those plaques said to be from Amran were apparently discovered there in or before the year 1855, and are said to have been discovered during the course of house construction; a number of others are also said to have been melted down for re-use of the metal.
The form of these plaques imitates that of a writing tablet with a wax-filled page enclosed within a wooden frame. They were made using the lost-wax casting process, whereby the original was made by fashioning a wax panel of the same thickness as the intended plaque, adding separate threads of wax onto the face between incised rulings, shaping and correcting the letter forms with a tool before coating with clay, baking, introducing molten metal in place of the wax, removing the clay crust of the metal and polishing the surfaces. The slightly curved edges which characterise these plaques resulted from the slight shrinkage of the wax original. As early as about 1860, a small number of fake plaques began to appear in Aden, several of which were offered to The British Museum by the Reverend Charles Kirk, East India Company Chaplain in Aden. The source of these appears to have been a Jewish coppersmith and dealer in Sanaa, and with whom the French Jewish traveller Joseph Halévy (1827-1917) had stayed during his travels in Yemen.
The object was sent for moulding by Mr David Giles from 10 September and 15 October 1982 (WAA, 'Objects to Lab' book).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2004-2005 17 Oct-13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
2002 5 Jun-13 Oct, BM, 'Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen'
1988-1989 14 Dec-15 Sep, Netherlands, Amsterdam, Tropenmuseum, Jemen
1987 9 Apr-Sep, Germany, Munich, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Aus dem Reich von Saba – 3000 Jahre Kunst und Kultur des Glucklichen Arabien
1976-1997 BM, West Stairs: South Arabian Landing [SAL], south wall
- Right portion missing; old scratches on the back from previous removal of hard corrosion; old crack between the second and third lines, beginning at the right edge; coated with consolidant
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This group "were discovered at Amran, near San'a, in or before the year 1855" (S. Birch, 'Inscriptions in the Himyaritic character now deposited in the British Museum, chiefly discovered in South Arabia', London 1863). Donation acknowledged with thanks by Birch, letter dated 30/12/62 (ANE Correspondence); cf. Trustees Papers, Miscellaneous Communications, 29 October 1862, no. 10172, on the presentation of "copper plates from Amran"; Report of Donations, 5/11/62 (received 6/11/62), no. 10370: report of receipt of Coghlan's suggestion that inscriptions be published; General Reports, 5/11/62, no. 10370, on the publication of Himyaritic inscriptions and a bowl [bowl not traced in BM]; 10/12/62, no. 11462, likely publication cost estimated at £100.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: CIH 72