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Calcite-alabaster stela
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Тhis is the gravestone of a young woman named Aban. It is an example of a funerary stela known as a nefesh ('soul' or 'personality'), important for retaining identity in the next world.

Aban is portrayed in a pose characteristic of these sculptures, facing front with a raised right hand and a stylized sheaf of wheat in her left hand, a symbol of fertility. She wears bracelets on each wrist and would probably originally have had earrings attached to the holes in her ears. The statue finishes at the hairline as the hair was added in plaster, another typical feature of portrait busts from ancient South Arabia.

According to the inscription on the base of the stela, Aban was probably from Qataban in South Arabia. Like its neighbours, Qataban became rich from trade in frankincense and myrrh, two of the most prized materials of the ancient world.

Calcite-alabaster stela

Possibly from Tamna, Qataban, Yemen,
1st century Bc-2nd century
AD Ht30 cm.

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