For over a thousand years, from around 800 B.C.E. to 600 C.E., the kingdoms of Qataban, Saba (biblical Sheba), and Himyar grew fabulously wealthy from their control over the caravan routes of the southern Arabian peninsula and, in particular, from the international trade in frankincense and myrrh. Excavations at the capitals of these ancient kingdoms have yielded spectacular examples of architecture, distinctive stone funerary sculpture, elaborate inscriptions on stone, bronze, and wood, and sophisticated metalwork.
Drawn from the collections of the Republic of Yemen, the American Foundation for the Study of Man, the British Museum, and Dumbarton Oaks, this exhibition of approximately 200 objects explored the unique cultural traditions of these ancient kingdoms. It gave special emphasis to the rich artistic interaction that resulted from overland and maritime contacts linking the southern Arabian peninsula with the eastern Mediterranean, northeastern Africa, and south and southwest Asia.