South Arabian Limestone Female Idol Figure - 100 BC

A rare South Arabian limestone statue of a seated female, dating to around 100 BC.

This figure is depicted seated on a stool. The long, stylized arms are bent at the elbows with the forearms projecting forward; the incised fingers are clenched tightly into a fist. The facial features are highly abstracted, with a long, delicately carved nose running down from high upon the brow. The large eyes reflect a serene countenance, seemingly contrary to the rigidity of the body. There is a south Arabian inscription on the base, which retains some of the original ochre pigment.

Though its true role may now be hidden from us, this mysterious piece likely has its roots in the religious traditions of pre-Islamic Arabia. Some have interpreted these artifacts as votive offerings from individuals seeking assistance or protection from the gods.

Sitting at the source of a wide-ranging ancient trade network, pre-Islamic Arabia was a patchwork of competing and warlike kingdoms. The chief source of its vast wealth derived from two of the most coveted goods in ancient times, frankincense and myrrh. These resinous gums were obtained from trees that grew only in southern Arabia and were literally worth their weight in gold in the bazaars, souks and agoras of the ancient world. In order to reach the Mediterranean market they were transported north through the desert wastes by camel, a journey that could take up to three months.

Characterised by a reclusion from foreigners and visited by only the most audacious of merchants, southern Arabia remained a virtually inaccessible and semi-mythological region throughout classical antiquity.

A striking and enigmatic piece of pre-Islamic art.

For another example of this type, see item 141559 at the British Museum.

 

South Arabian Limestone Female Idol Figure - 100 BC. A rare South Arabian limestone statue of a seated female, dating to around 100 BC. This figure is depicted seated on a stool. The long, stylized arms are bent at the elbows with the forearms projecting forward; the incised fingers are clenched tightly into a fist. The facial features are highly abstracted, with a long, delicately carved nose running down from high upon the brow. The large eyes reflect a serene countenance, seemingly contrary to the rigidity of the body. There is a south Arabian inscription on the base, which retains some of the original ochre pigment. Though its true role may now be hidden from us, this mysterious piece likely has its roots in the religious traditions of pre-Islamic Arabia. Some have interpreted these artifacts as votive offerings from individuals seeking assistance or protection from the gods. Sitting at the source of a wide-ranging ancient trade network, pre-Islamic Arabia was a patchwork of competing and warlike kingdoms. The chief source of its vast wealth derived from two of the most coveted goods in ancient times, frankincense and myrrh. These resinous gums were obtained from trees that grew only in southern Arabia and were literally worth their weight in gold in the bazaars, souks and agoras of the ancient world. In order to reach the Mediterranean market they were transported north through the desert wastes by camel, a journey that could take up to three months. Characterised by a reclusion from foreigners and visited by only the most audacious of merchants, southern Arabia remained a virtually inaccessible and semi-mythological region throughout classical antiquity. A striking and enigmatic piece of pre-Islamic art. For another example of this type, see item 141559 at the British Museum.  

  • Price: $12,500.00 - In stock
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