- Museum number
Cornelian seal bezel; engraved scene shows man riding a one-humped camel to the right and holding an object in his right hand, which has been variously identified as a whip, camel-stick, torch or city-emblem; the figure wears an Arab-style "keffiyeh" headdress (or has long hair), and grasps the camel-halter with his left hand; single South Arabian letter or symbol behind; plain reverse where originally set into a finger-ring or similar.
Height: 1.60 centimetres
Thickness: 0.40 centimetres
Width: 2 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Bowers catalogue entry
Seal bezel showing a camel-rider
Width 2.0 cm, height 1.6 cm, thickness 0.4 cm
ANE 1881-12-6,5 = 120343 = S.O.C. 45
This translucent carnelian oval seal bezel, originally set in a finger ring, depicts a camel-rider. The rider is seated on or immediately behind the hump of the one-humped variety of camel known as a dromedary (Camelus dromedarius), and which is indigenous to Arabia. The rider is shown with what may be long plaited hair, but what more probably is intended to be a keffiyeh-like headdress similar to that depicted on the head of a camel-rider stela in the Musée du Louvre and still widely worn by men across the Middle East today. The rider is shown gripping the sides of the camel with his knees, as is typical of riders who do not use stirrups. He holds a stick or goad, appears to be riding bareback and is guiding the animal by a rope halter attached to its head. The lack of further detail of harness or a saddle blanket might be explained by the miniature scale of the design. A single South Arabian letter “H” is engraved behind the camel-rider, and has been interpreted as the initial of the rider; alternatively it may represent the forked lightning emblem of the South Arabian storm god Athtar.
Over 350 South Arabian seals are represented in various museum and private collections although very few come from archaeological contexts. They are therefore difficult to date exactly, although the form and style of the letters on inscribed seals offer some clues. It is also impossible to tell whether there were chronological or regional developments in the use of seals. However, it appears that seals made of copper alloy, carnelian and agate were the most popular. They were typically perforated lengthways, and some resemble sliced beads, and therefore must have been attached to a cord, perhaps worn around the neck or wrist.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2010 29 May-15 Oct, USA, Kentucky Horse Park, 'A Gift from the Desert'
2004-2005 17 Oct-13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
1976-1997 West Stairs: South Arabian Landing [SAL], wall-case 2 [WC2]
- Complete; some light old scratches on the reverse
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ja 2216 (siglum)
Miscellaneous number: SOC.45 (Semitic Old Collection registration number)