Bronze hand


British Museum

British Museum

This bronze hand was an offering left in a temple as a pious act by the donor. The inscription is in Sabaean, one of several related Semitic languages spoken in ancient south Arabia. It was written using an alphabet which changed little between its origins in the sixth century BC and its disappearance in the seventh century AD. It refers to the god Ta'lab. The ancient South Arabians had many gods. Though the pantheon, or whole group of gods, is poorly understood, it is known that several tribal groups had their own divine 'patron'. In the kingdom of Saba, Ta'lab was the patron of the tribal federation of Sum'ay. The worship of Ta'lab included pilgrimages to his shrine and a ritual meal. A rock inscription in Saba describes the rites of the Ta'lab pilgrimage to a certain mountain and lists the tithes due to the god from which meals were provided. The text also impresses the faithful to attend the annual pilgrimage to the Sabaean main temple in the capital city Marib. By the end of the fourth century AD monotheism, or the worship of a single god, developed. References in inscriptions to Ta'lab and other gods were superseded by Rahmanan, 'Lord of Heaven and Earth'. Such ideas were no doubt influenced by Jewish and Christian communities that had established themselves in Yemen at this time.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: Bronze hand
  • Date Created: 100/299
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 18.50cm; Width: 11.00cm; Thickness: 3.60cm; Weight: 979.70g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: lost-wax cast
  • Registration number: 1983,0626.2
  • Production place: Made in Yemen
  • Place: Found/Acquired Yemen
  • Period/culture: Ancient South Arabian
  • Material: copper alloy
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Spink & Son Ltd