- Museum number
Yellow calcite funerary stela part in form of female head with flat back and top; lips carved in low relief; deep oval eye-sockets, originally inlaid; eyebrows lightly incised, also originally inlaid; tall neck; deliberately carved to leave poorer-quality orange veining at the back where it would not have been visible in antiquity; surfaces polished; slightly chipped.
- Production date
- 2ndC BC-1stC (?)
Height: 32 centimetres (with stone base)
Height: 26 centimetres
Height: 11 inches
Thickness: 13.50 centimetres (with stone base)
Thickness: 11.50 centimetres
Width: 16 centimetres (with stone base)
Width: 14 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Bowers catalogue entry
Possibly 1st century BC - 1st century AD
Height 26 cm, width 16 cm, thickness 11.5 cm
Probably from Hayd ibn Aqil
ANE 1951-4-7,7 = 130888
Bequeathed to The British Museum by Sir Antonin Besse (1877-1951)
This particular sculpture has a flat back and top which were roughly trimmed in antiquity in order to easily insert it into a rectangular niche in a tomb. The deep oval eye-sockets and probably the shallow incised eyebrows were originally inlaid, although no traces of this survive. The unusually tall neck is a feature of a number of other sculptured heads of this style, some of which were excavated in the Timna cemetery at Hayd ibn Aqil. Another distinctive feature is the care with which the stone-carver has selected his material and carved it in such a way so as to hide the inferior coarse veining at the back of the head, where it would not normally have been visible.
Sir Antonin Besse was a legendary figure in the economic development of Aden between the 1920s and early 1940s. He founded a highly successful trading company which initially dealt in skins, coffee and aromatics but he soon began to diversify and he acted as an agent on behalf of Shell and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later BP) to distribute oil and kerosene in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. His other ventures included establishing factories for soap, coconut oil and glycerine in Aden, and acquiring a hotel and a floating dock. Towards the end of his life and representing a culmination of earlier philanthropic deeds, he achieved his ambition of creating a new college of further education with his £1,500,000 donation to the University of Oxford for the creation of what is now St Anthony’s College. Besse died in 1951 and bequeathed an important collection of South Arabian antiquities to the British Museum.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 17 Jan-2 Jul, Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, 'Arabia Felix: Treasures from Ancient South Arabia'
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 7 Jul-2000 9 Jan, München, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, 'Im Land der Königin von Saba'
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
- Good / fair; slightly chipped and abraded; inlays missing; small old chips and blemishes to the stone across the face; no apparent cracks.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collection deposited 13 February 1951 (WAA deposit book entry 517) and reported to Trustees on 28 March 1951 (Reports to Trustees, 1951, p. 16).
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ja 47 (siglum)