"Stele of Witness"
Yemen 
2nd Cent BCE
35 x 17 x 7 cm ~ limestone

 

In the ancient Middle East it was customary to erect a stele, an upright stone slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface to commemorate important events. This particular stele was found in Al Ghaydah in northeastern Yemen among the ruins of a Sabaean-era barracks, and may have been inscribed by a military officer engaged in the war against the Himyarites. Quite possibly it was intended as a gravestone, although many scholars question that, as the inscription is not comparable with mortuary stelae of the same period.

The graven eyes represent spiritual questing, appropriate for a funerary image, and the fingers appear to be clasped over a wall in a manner similar to early Mithraic figures. The curiously exaggerated nose may have been an attempt to render the noseguard of a Greek helmet.

The script is in Graeco-Yemenic and appears to read: "I, Kil-royeh, was in [or upon] this place."

 

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