- Museum number
Copper alloy handle of a ladle; top ending in an animal's head.
Length: 11.20 centimetres
Weight: 49.20 grammes
- Curator's comments
Dipper ladles were introduced across the Near East during the Achaemenid period as part of metal drinking sets, the ladles being used to scoop the wine into drinking bowls (Moorey 1980). This form of ladle dates between the fifth century bc and first century ad, and plain miniature bronze ladles with a total length of 56.5 cm were excavated in the cemetery at Timna (Cleveland 1965, 125, 127, pl. 93).1 Viticulture is implied by South Arabian texts (see Wilkinson 2002, 102-107) and eighteen different cultivated varieties of wine grape were described by the early Islamic author al-Hamdani (Faris 1938a, 423); remains of grapes were found, along with seed impressions of barley, broomcorn millet, corn-cockle, cumin, flax, oats, sesame and sorrel, at Hajar bin Humeid (Soderstrom 1969). Furthermore, a number of South Arabian inscriptions refer to the drinking of grape and date palm wine. Building inscriptions from Marib refer to the delivery of consignments of 200 camel-loads of date wine and 430 camel-loads of grape wine to workers repairing the dam in ad 440; a decade later, another inscription refers to the delivery of as much as 670 camel-loads of grape wine (Schippmann 2001, 85). The existence of a flourishing wine industry in ancient southern Arabia explains the reference in the Periplus to the import of wine being limited to a small quantity of high-grade wine from the Latakia region of North Syria (Casson 1989a, 20, 133). Thus the discovery of amphorae at Qana' (see Simpson StJ 2002a, cat. 116) may reflect the use of these vessels as conveniently multi-purpose transport containers for oil rather than wine.
1 A bronze dipper ladle handle terminating in an ibex head, and said to come from the Jawf region, is displayed in the Archaeology Department Museum in the University of Sanaa'. Others were found at Wadi Dura' (Breton and Bafaqih 1993, 29, figs 32, 35-8).
Breton, J.-F. and Bâfaqîh, M. A., 1993. Trésors du Wâdî Dura' (République du Yemen). Fouilles franco-yéménites de la nécropole de Hajar am-Dhabiyya (Institute français d'archéologie du Proche-Orient, Paris: IFAPO, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, vol. 141.
Cleveland, R. L., 1965. An Ancient South Arabian Necropolis. Objects from the Second Campaign (1951) in the Timna' Cemetery, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press; Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, vol. V.
Moorey, P. R. S., 1980. Metal wine-sets in the Ancient Near East', Iranica Antiqua 15, 181-97, pls I-IV.
Schippmann, K., 2001. Ancient South Arabia. From the Queen of Sheba to the Advent of Islam, Princeton: Markus Wiener (translated by Allison Brown).
Soderstrom, T. R., 1969. Impressions of Cereals and Other Plants in the Pottery of Hajar bin Humeid', Hajar bin Humeid. Investigations at a Pre-Islamic Site in South Arabia (Van Beek, G. W.), 399 - 407, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press; Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, vol. V.
2002 Agriculture and the Countryside', Queen of Sheba, Treasures from Ancient Yemen (Simpson StJ, ed), 102-107, London: The British Museum Press.
Bowers catalogue entry
Dipper ladle handles ending in ibex or calf heads
5th century BC - 1st century AD
Length 11.2 cm, 17.1 cm, 20.4 cm (max.); 49.2 g, 33 g, 86.8 g weights
ANE 1930-6-13,25 = 122029; 1930-6-13,24 = 122028; 1930-6-13,23 = 122027
Presented by Mrs H.C. Gowan
A new style of drinking set was introduced across the Near East from the 5th century BC, or Achaemenid period, as part of which ladles like these were used to scoop wine into hand-held drinking-bowls. This tradition of serving wine continued at least until the 1st century AD, and plain miniature bronze ladles with a total length of 5-6.5 cm. have been excavated in the cemetery at Timna. Viticulture is implied by South Arabian texts and eighteen different cultivated varieties of grape were described by the 10th century medieval Yemeni author al-Hamdani (al-Iklil VIII.4 = Faris ed. 1938, 42-43). The carbonised remains of grapes were found, along with seed impressions of barley, broomcorn millet, corn-cockle, imported cumin, flax, oats, sesame and sorrel, during excavations at the South Arabian town-site of Hajar ibn Humayd. Furthermore, a number of South Arabian inscriptions refer to the drinking of grape and date palm wine. Building inscriptions from Marib refer to the delivery of consignments of 200 camel-loads of date wine and 430 camel-loads of grape wine to workers repairing the dam in AD 440; a decade later, another inscription refers to the delivery of as much as 670 camel-loads of grape wine for the 20,000-strong workforce.
The existence of a flourishing wine industry in ancient southern Arabia may explain a reference in the mid-1st century AD source, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, to the import of wine being limited to a small quantity of high-grade wine from the Latakia region of North Syria. However, excavations at the ancient port-site of Qana, both on land and in the harbour, have produced evidence for large numbers of Roman amphorae not only from North Syria, but also from Italy (particularly Campania), the eastern Aegean, southern Turkey (Cilicia), the Black Sea, North Africa, Gaul and Spain. A similar range of imported amphorae were represented at the second port-site of Sumhuram at Khawr Ruri in what is now southern Oman. Surface finds and excavated examples also abound at the Hadramitic capital of Shabwa, the Sabaean capital at Marib, and the Qatabanian capital of Timna, as well as at Roman sites in the Red Sea, via which route they were transported to Southern Arabia. Some of these vessels may have served as convenient multi-purpose transport containers but the likely alternative is that diversity of production led to a connoisseurship and appreciation of fine foreign wines, which were carried in jars which were recognisably distinct packaging to the local wine transported in leatherskins and jars sealed with plaster bungs.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2002 5 Jun-13 Oct, BM, 'Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen'
2004-2005 17 Oct-13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
- Missing the ladle end
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collection presented in 1929 (Book of Presents, item 1492); reported to Trustees 11 June 1930; no correspondence found in ANE for 1930.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number