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South Arabian funerary stelae from the British Museum collection

South Arabian funerary stelae from the British Museum collection

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The funerary field is particularly interesting and rich in stimuli allowing us knowledge of religious thought and art of ancient civilisations.
Pre-Islamic South Arabia (8th century BC - 6th century AD) produced a large amount of objects related to this field and, among them, the funerary stelae are the most important for their large number, the variety of subjects and decorations represented on them.
Starting from the rich British Museum collection, this study organizes and classifies material for the most part from the international antique trade. Often information regarding provenance and archaeological context is lacking here. However, the analysis of these stelae allows us to reconstruct a picture rich in regional styles, with reciprocal influences.
From the archaic and more traditional stylized expressions - typical of the Minaean region - to the more recent complex and figurative representations of the Sabaean area, this book shows the originality and specificity of South Arabian art, paying particular attention to the contacts with foreign cultures, especially with the Hellenistic and Roman world.
Such foreign influences are analysed in depth in the rich Appendix, edited by Fabio E. Betti, where specific topics in relation to the changes in ancient South Arabian art during the first centuries AD are studied. They were changes of 'fashion', evident especially in decorative motifs within the architecture and the daily life of the South Arabian élites, as shown by the clothes, hairstyles and jewellery of the women of that time.


The city of dead
The memory and representation of the dead
The faith in the afterlife

Criteria of stelae presentation

Part 1 - Anthropomorphic Stelae

Chapter 1- Stelae with human faces
Stelae with eyes
Stelae with stylized human face Stelae with human face in high relief

Chapter 2 - Pillar stelae with niches and human heads
Regional traditions
Face plaques and human heads Three-dimensional heads

Chapter 3 - Stelae with female figures
Stelae with female bust
Stelae with complete female figures
Stela with two figures carved inside a niche

Chapter 4 - Stelae with narrative scenes

Chapter 5 - Aniconic stelae
The ?a?rami production

Chapter 6 - Stelae with bulls head

Chapter 7 - A nfs stela with decorated framework

Catalogue of the British Museum Stelae Collection

APPENDIX by Fabio Eugenio Betti

Appendix 1 - Architectural Elements
Fragment of pediment
Arch fragment with eagle and snake Decorated capital

Appendix 2 - South Arabian hairstyles: typologies, characteristics and influences
Female hairstyles
South Arabian types with Roman inspired coiffures

Appendix 3 - Fashion jewellery in South Arabia
Materials and techniques Bracelets and chains Finger-rings

Catalogue of the British Museum Objects Quoted in the Appendix


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