South Arabian Statue
Standing male statue lacking only its right hand and forearm with a chip to the nose. Across the front of the base in clear, sharp letters is incised ancient Arabian text reading "Ab'alay, he of (the clan) Dharih-il". Qataban was one of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms. A number of sculptures like this were discovered in the cemetery at Timna, capital of ancient Qataban. They were probably funerary monuments. The spice trade brought the people of South Arabia into regular contact with the land to the north. Frankincense and myrrh, the two main perfume-resins of the ancient world, occur naturally in south Arabia. The trading caravans took these and other spices north, forming the basis of a prosperous urban civilisation. From the 10th century BC, the kingdoms of Saba (Biblical ‘Sheba’), Himyar and Qataban were famous for their great wealth. The people of South Arabia learnt an alphabet from their northern contacts, and surviving inscriptions show that many local dialects developed.