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Stele with Bull's Head
ca. 1st century B.C.E.


Kingdom of Qataban

Calcite
H: 26.8 W: 17.6 D: 9.3 cm
Yemen

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution S1986.517

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This stele, or carved and inscribed stone slab, depicts the head of a bull. A number of similar stelae have been excavated in Yemen at the site of Timna', the ancient capital of the kingdom of Qatab¯an (ca. 500-100 B.C.E.), where they were dedicated in cult buildings that served a funerary purpose. The inscription, written in South Arabian script, names the donor of the stela. The animal may be the symbol of a local god. Qatab¯an was one of several kingdoms that prospered in antiquity as they gained control over the caravan trade routes across the Arabian peninsula. Frankincense and myrrh, prized products of South Arabia, were transported along the trade routes to Mediterranean markets.