Stele with Bull’s Head

Historical period(s)
Kingdom of Qataban, ca. 1st century BCE
Calcite alabaster
H x W x D: 26.8 x 17.6 x 9.3 cm (10 9/16 x 6 15/16 x 3 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone


bull, Kingdom of Qataban (ca. 500 BCE - 100 CE), WWII-era provenance, Yemen

To 1972
Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981). [1]

From 1972 to 1986
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. [2]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, transferred from Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC [3]


[1] See document from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1. See also object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Joseph H. Hirshhorn


This stele, or carved and inscribed stone slab, depicts the head of a bull.  A number of similar stelae have been excavated in Yemen at the site of Timna', the ancient capital of the kingdom of Qatab¯an (ca. 500-100 B.C.E.), where they were dedicated in cult buildings that served a funerary purpose.  The inscription, written in South Arabian script, names the donor of the stela.  The animal may be the symbol of a local god.

Qatab¯an was one of several kingdoms that prospered in antiquity as they gained control over the caravan trade routes across the Arabian peninsula. Frankincense and myrrh, prized products of South Arabia, were transported along the trade routes to Mediterranean markets.

Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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