- Museum number
Calcite statue of a standing woman; wearing a plain calf-length garment and heavy-soled sandals with a single thong between the big and second toes; elaborately braided hair worn in a plait down her back; hands outstretched in an attitude of offering; finger tips broken off; hollow eye sockets, originally inlaid, limestone (?) pupil of left eye eye survives but missing separate inlay in circular drilled socket for pupil; gentle swelling indicates second chin; pair of diminutive breasts; carved and polished surfaces.
- Production date
Height: 74.50 centimetres
Thickness: 24 centimetres
Width: 33 centimetres (at shoulder)
- Curator's comments
Hair carved in a similar fashion to ANE 1965-10-11,2 = 134694 (Simpson StJ ed., 'Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen', London 2002, cat. 126, p. 118). The remains of leather sandals found with highland burials confirm the use of the type of footwear depicted here and on bronze statuary from Marib (see Phillips 1955, pl. opposite p. 285; Albright 1958, 271, pl. 205).1
1 A broad typology of footwear has been devised by Antonini (2001a, 74-5, fig. 3).
Phillips, W., 1955. 'Qataban and Sheba. Exploring Ancient Kingdoms on the Biblical Spice Routes of Arabia', London: Victor Gollancz.
Albright, F. P., 1958 "Catalogue of objects found in Mârib excavations", 'Archaeological Discoveries in South Arabia' (Bowen, R. LeB. & Albright, F.P., eds), 269-75, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press; Publications of the American Foundation for the Study of Man, vol. I.
Inlaid material in the eye-socket identified by A. Middleton & C. Cartwright (DSR Project 7314, dated 17/12/03) as stone (probably a finely crystalline limestone) rather than shell or bone. The missing eyeball may have been polished obsidian judging by comparison with BM ANE 134848 and a second sculpture offered for sale at Sotheby's NY ('Antiquities', 9 December 2003, lot 65, p. 72).
Bowers Catalogue entry (unpublished):
Carved statue of a standing female figure
1st - 2nd centuries AD
Height 74.5 cm, width 33 cm, thickness 24 cm
ANE 1965-10-11,1 = 134693
Purchased from Professor Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993)
This statue shows a woman standing in a plain garment reaching to her calves, wearing heavy-soled sandals or flip-flops with open toes and a single strap running between the big and second toes. She is depicted with her hair hanging down her back in a single long plait, implying that, unlike the funerary sculptures, this sculpture was intended to be viewed from all sides rather than simply from the front. The hands are outstretched in a gesture of supplication which is typical of South Arabian statues and, unusually, survive intact in this case. The inlaid left eye survives, and microscopic examination reveals this probably to be a finely crystalline limestone, originally set with a separately inlaid circular pupil, now missing; judging by other statues and heads, the latter may have been made of polished obsidian although no relict material survives in the cavity to be certain. There are numerous sources of obsidian (a form of volcanic glass) in the Yemeni highlands, extending from Taizz to Dhamar and Jabal Nabi Shuayb in the north, and this material was extensively used for making microlithic stone tools from the Neolithic period down to the early 1st millennium BC, but also occasionally for making beads.
The figure is shown wearing a type of footwear which is also depicted on bronze statues excavated at Marib and Qaryat al-Fau. Sensational finds of mummified bodies in graves in parts of the Yemeni highlands, notably the site of Shibam al-Ghiras, confirm the existence of several types of footwear including sandals such as these. Two other varietes of open-toed sandal are depicted on the sculptures, namely with a loop around the second toe or with an additional cross-strap over the instep. Other shoes found at Shibam al-Ghiras were close-fitting and made of leather with decorated seams and soft soles, suggesting the occasional selection for burial of indoor slippers rather than outdoor shoes.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 17 Jan-2 Jul, Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, 'Arabia Felix: Treasures from Ancient South Arabia'
2007- 11 June-, BM, G53/South Arabia/1
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 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
1976-1997 BM, West Stairs: South Arabian Landing [SAL], north wall
1973 14 Feb-15 Apr, Sheffield City Museum, Weston Park, 'Pre-Islamic Art from South Arabia' (case 3)
- Hands broken off near the elbows when acquired, restored in BM; missing finger tips and inlays in right eye and eyeball in left eye; bottom right corner broken but re-attached; small old blob of whitish gallery paint on the top of the head.
NB Do not exert any pressure on the arms
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Offered by Brian Doe, where described as "I have just seen a statue of a marble female figure in sheath dress with carved hair and plaits at the back, sandals on the feet, outstretched hands broken off but there which could be fitted to arms. I have not been allowed to measure or photograph it and I have not enough in the kitty. It is of the same type of statue as the Kings of Ausan, but there is no inscription. It is quite unique. Height is about 2'6" and width about 1 foot. I have beaten the price down a bit, but it sticks at £300. I do not want it to disappear to America" (letter dated 9 December 1964), acquired by him for £300 (letter dated 28 January 1965), shipped on the SS Kenya, deposited in Doe's name on 12 July 1965 (Deposit-book entry 1897 bis) and acknowledged in letter to Doe from Barnett (dated 15 July 1965); Serjeant's name correctly given in the Report to the Trustees, July 1966, but mis-spelt as "R.B. Sargent" in the register. Acquisition reported to Trustees, 23 September 1966.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number