- Museum number
White limestone slab carved with 6 line South Arabian inscription in Sabaean language; a dedication to the sun-goddess Tanuf, mistress of Ghadaran, by Nasha'karib Yuhamin, king of Saba and son of Dhamar-alay king of Saba, of 24 statues in return for his preservation and that of the house of Salhin, its masters and their possessions and in return for her giving fullness of power and repulsing their enemies. In the name of Athtar, Almaqah and the sun-goddess Tanuf; upper part of top line missing.
- Production date
Height: 34 centimetres
Thickness: 12 centimetres
Width: 54 centimetres
- Curator's comments
A photograph of this inscription (and eight other ancient South Arabian inscriptions) was sent to The British Museum by Captain (later Sir) R. Lambert Playfair (1828-1899), then an assistant to Coghlan in Aden, when it was described as "No. 31. Marble Slab from MAREB in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Wilson, Bombay" (Central Archives; copy in ANE Archives 173.6).
The object was sent for moulding in the Cast Shop from 23 October to 12 November 1964 (WAA, 'Objects to Lab' book). A cast is listed as available in the British Museum Facsimile Service 'Catalogue of Replicas from British Museum collections' (n.d.), in the series "West Semitic Inscriptions: South Arabian".
The object was formerly mounted on a wooden base which was labelled "125034. Dedication of twenty-four statues to the sun-goddess Tanuf of Gadaran by Nasha 'karib Yuhamin, son of Damar'alay Darih, king of Saba. From Marib. End of 1st century AD" (base removed in May 2004).
Bowers catalogue entry
Sabaean dedication to the goddess Tanuf
End of 1st century AD
Height 34 cm, width 54 cm, thickness 12 cm
ANE 1863-2-16,2 = 125034
Purchased from the British and Foreign Bible Society
The six-line inscription is in Sabaean dialect; the upper part of the top line is broken but the remainder records a dedication by Nashakarib Yuhamin, king of Saba and son of Dhamaralay Darih, king of Saba, to the goddess Tanuf, “mistress of Ghadaran”. “Tanuf” means “exalted” with reference to the sun; this title was used in reference to a form of sun-goddess who was particularly revered by the Sabaean royal family and significantly “Salhin” refers to the name of the Sabaean royal palace at Marib. The full inscription can be translated as follows:
“Nashakarib Yuhamin, king of Saba, son of Dhamaralay Darih, has dedicated to his Sun [goddess] Tanuf, the mistress of Ghadaran, these twenty-four statues, on behalf of his sound condition [or innocence] and the sound condition of the house of Salhin and its masters and their possessions, and for the vouchsafing of the fullness of capacities and powers and powers and for the casting down and the breaking and the removal and the repulsion of all their public and private enemies. In the name of Athtar and Almaqah, and of their Sun [goddess] Tanuf [who is High], mistress of Ghadaran”.
The statues referred to in the inscription do not survive, but the large number referred to in the inscription suggest that they may have been small metal statuettes set up to symbolise (rather than accurately portray) the dedicant and the “house of Salhin”. Bronze dedicatory statuettes of this type are sometimes described in texts of this type, and a small number of these do survive.
A photograph of this inscription, along with eight other ancient South Arabian inscriptions, was sent to The British Museum in 1863 by Captain R. Lambert Playfair (1828-1899), when he described this object as being from Marib and being in the possession of the missionary and Orientalist Dr John Wilson (1804-1875) in Bombay. It was brought to London by one Joseph Mikal for the British and Foreign Bible Society, and from whom it was purchased by The British Museum later that year.
- Bibliographic references
Birch S & Franks A W 1863a / Inscriptions in the Himyaritic character, now deposited in the British Museum, chiefly discovered in Southern Arabia (pl. XVI, no. 32)
Derenbourg H 1891a / The Himyaritic Inscription 32 of the British Museum (Paper read before The International Congress of Orientalists held in London, Sept. 1, 1891) (pp.194-96) (author's name mis-spelt as Derembourg at the end of the article)
CIS IV/II / Inscriptiones Himyariticas et Sabaeas continens (pp.365-66, no.573, tab. XXXII)
Osiander E 1865 / Zur himjarischen Alterthumskunde (no. 31, pp.261-69)
Halévy J 1874 / Études sabéennes
Jamme 1971a / Miscellanees d'ancient arabe II (p.39, 41)
Kitchen 2000a / Documentation for Ancient Arabia (p. 30, 31, 32, 33)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2004-2005 17 Oct-13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
- Good / fair; upper part of top line missing where there are also old scratches.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Brought from Marib by Mikal Joseph (BM Return for 1864/65), p.13. See also Birch 1863, 9; Derembourg 1891, 194.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 649 ("new" exhibition number according to RES)
Miscellaneous number: CIH 573 (siglum)
Miscellaneous number: Os.31 (siglum)
Miscellaneous number: RES 2694.A.