- Museum number
Copper alloy plaque; twelve line Sabaean inscription (raised) mentioning a battle between the Sabaeans and the Arabs in the Jawf; at the top, two rows of pairs of downward pointing hands at the top, each with the back of the hand depicted.
- Production date
- 1stC BC-2ndC (probably)
Height: 31.80 centimetres
Weight: 134.50 grammes
Thickness: 2 centimetres
Width: 17.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The top of the plaque is decorated with hands which served an apotropaic function. The frequency with which these panels were used in antiquity is not only demonstrated by the large number that survive but also by the attachment holes on the façades of buildings such as the Awwam temple at Marib and al-Hamdani's reference to the discovery as early as the tenth century of "inscribed brass [i.e. bronze] tablets" in the "wonderful palace" at Shahir (Faris 1938a, 60).
Hand written description on the card thus:
"Plate with inscription in raised Himyaritic characters. At top, two rows of pairs of hands, palms towards you and extended downwards: (originally) 4 pairs in two row, two in lower. Purport: Dedication to Ilmakkah of Hirran by Rabib Ya'zun of Akhraf because his prayers were heard, and he was protected in his dwelling place Dhu Ma'Isan: and for granting him slaughter and goodly captives in his fighting on behalf of his master Yuri' of Marthad: for liberating him (Rabib) in the charge of the Arabs in the province of Manahar; and for granting him favour in the eyes of his master Yufri' ".
Bowers catalogue entry
This text is one of a large group of inscribed bronze plaques which were originally attached to the walls or pillars of one or more buildings, probably temples, either at or close to the modern Yemeni highland town of Amran. The text was written by a local Sabaean and not only illustrates the uneasy state of relations between Saba and the Arabs of the Jawf, but is the earliest preserved explicit description of a battle between them. The Arabs are known to have migrated into Yemen during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, creating a friction recorded in a number of inscriptions between these pastoral nomads and the existing settled South Arabian communities. The Sabaean inscription on this plaque reads:
“Rabib Yazam of the tribe Akhraf has dedicated this inscription to Almaqah of Hirran, because Almaqah has demanded [it] from him in His oracle, and because He has kept him safe in his pilgrimage to dhu-Malasan, and because Almaqah has granted him trophies, spoils and captives, such as is right, on all occasions in which he paid service to his Lord Yafra ibn Marathid, and because He has saved his servant Rabib in the battle in which he faced the Arabs in the region of Manhat [modern Hizmat Abi Thawr]; and He may grant him the goodwill of his lord Yafra and the health of [his] mental and physical capacities, [and he has dedicated] for that which was favourable for the Banu Akhraf, and will be”.
The top of the plaque is decorated with two rows of pairs of hands which may have served an apotropaic function, and thus were intended to protect the inscription from bad fortune; alternatively they have been suggested to represent a “trophy” of the defeated Arabs mentioned in the inscription.
- Bibliographic references
CIS IV/I / Inscriptiones Himyariticas et Sabaeas continens (tomus I, fasc.2, 1891, no. 79)
Simpson 2002a / Queen of Sheba: Treasures from Ancient Yemen (pp.63-64, cat.31)
Gribaudo 2000a / La Regina di Saba (p.79)
Seipel 1998a / Jemen. Kunst und Archäologie im Land der Königin von Saba' (425)
Branca 2000a / Yemen, Nel paese della Regina di Saba (exhibition catalogue-Italian version) (398)
Robin & Vogt 1997a / Yémen, au pays de la reine de Saba' (pp.185, 234)
Ryckmans J 1978a / Some technical aspects of the inscribed South Arabian bronze inscriptions cast in relief
Birch S & Franks A W 1863a / Inscriptions in the Himyaritic character, now deposited in the British Museum, chiefly discovered in Southern Arabia (pl. VIII, no. 11)
Simpson 2004a / Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality. Treasures from the British Museum (pp. 70-71)
Gunter A C 2005a / Caravan Kingdoms: Yemen and the ancient incense trade (p. 31, cat. 11)
Jamme 1971a / Miscellanees d'ancient arabe II (p.38, 41)
Kitchen 2000a / Documentation for Ancient Arabia (pp. 30, 31, 33)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 17 Jan-2 Jul, Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, 'Arabia Felix: Treasures from Ancient South Arabia
2005 25 Jun-11 Sept, Washington, Smithsonian (Arthur M Sackler Gallery), 'Caravan Kingdoms: Yemen and the ancient incense trade'
2004 17 Oct-2005 13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
2002 5 Jun-13 Oct, BM, 'Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen'
2000 26 Sept-2001 7 Jan, Torino, Palazzo Bricherasio, 'La Regina di Saba, Arte e Leggenda Dallo Yemen'
2000 4 Apr-30 Jun, Rome, Fondazione Memmo, Palazzo Ruspoli, 'Nel paese della Regina di Saba'
1999-2000 7 Jul-9 Jan, München, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, 'Im Land der Königin von Saba' Not displayed
1998 9 Nov-1999 21 Feb, Vienna, Künstlerhaus, 'Jemen. Kunst und Archäologie im Land der Königin von Saba'
1997 20 Oct-1998 28 Feb, France, Paris, Musee de L’Institut du Monde Arabe, Yemen, Pays de la Reine de Saba
- Two fragments, joined in 2002; whole object slightly dented and warped; missing top left corner; bottom centre dented in antiquity; old scratches on the reverse from previous removal of hard corrosion; face cleaned and consolidated, and previously lacquered; upper strip is vulnerable and should not be handled, but has resin/glue join.
- 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). 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; 10/12/62, no. 11462, likely publication cost estimated at £100.
Donation acknowledged with thanks by Birch, letter dated 30/12/62 (ANE Correspondence).
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: CIH 79