A South Arabian Funerary Stele Representing a Priestess or Goddess, Qatabān, circa late 1st century B.C.
- A South Arabian Funerary Stele Representing a Priestess or Goddess, Qatabān
- 42.7 by 29.5 cm.
Captain John Aylward (1929-1986), R.A., F.I.C.S., Birmingham, acquired in South Arabia in 1958 (Sotheby & Co., London, July 13th, 1970, no. 16, illus.)
Paul Delplace, Antiquités. Bijoux-objets de collection, 30, rue de Namur, Brussels, acquired at the above sale
acquired from the above by the current owner's father
by descent to the present owner
Birmingham City and Art Museum Gallery, 1960-1970
In Celebration: Works of Art from the Collections of Princeton Alumni and Friends of The Art Museum, Princeton University, February 22nd-June 8th, 1997
Corpus of South Arabian Inscriptions, no. I, 270 (http://dasi.humnet.unipi.it/index.php?id=80&prjId=1&corId=14&colId=0&navId=617265948&recId=4347)
The position of the proper right arm, with the palm of the hand facing out, is a common gesture in Near Eastern and Mediterranean civilisations; it is a sign of protection specific to deities, but it was also customary among men and women, ministers of worship and kings, as a way to express veneration and adoration. The ears of grain held in the left hand are a symbol of fertility. On the upper part of the frame is a frieze of nine ibex heads (the sacred animal par excellence in South-Arabian culture), flanked by “false window” architectural motifs made of concentric recessing rectangles.
Fayšat is a female name (see Ja 160); Naḍḥān is a family name, already recorded on other steles found at Ḥayd bin'Aqīl (see Ja 351, RES 3902), the necropolis of Tamna', capital of the Kingdom of Qatabān.
Two holes, one on each side of the figure's neck, still contain bronze pins, which were probably used to fasten the stele to a wall.
For related examples and discussions of the type see R. Cleveland, An Ancient South Arabian Necropolis. Objects from the Second Campaign (1951) in the Timna‘ Cemetery (PAFSM IV), Baltimore, 1965, p. 22, pl. 41 (inv. nos. TC 553, 648, 709, and 726), p. 23, pl. 41 (TC 1358), p. 24, pl. 41 (TC 1662), and p. 26-27, pl. 51 (TC 2530), J. Pirenne, "Notes d'archéologie sud-arabe, I: Stèles à la déesse Dhât Ḥimyam (Ḥamîm)," Syria, vol. 37, 1960, pp. 326-347, A. Avanzini, "The 'stèles à la déesse': problems of interpreting and dating," Egitto e Vicino Oriente, vol. 27, 2004, pp. 145-152, and S. Antonini de Maigret, South Arabian Art. Art History in Pre-Islamic Yemen (Orient & Méditerranée 10), Paris, 2012, pp. 99-101.