Bronze incense-burner


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This cast bronze incense-burner is in the form of a bowl with a splayed foot, one wall raised to form a sort of heat-shield surmounted by spikes, with the front decorated with the standing figure of an ibex or wild goat below star and crescent moon symbols which were originally highlighted with inlay, now missing. There is a petaled motif on the right hindquarters of the ibex and a star on its right shoulder. Traces of the clay core resulting from the original lost-wax casting process are visible within the bowl and on the underside of the footed base. The animal perhaps served both as a convenient handle and as a cult object. It was obtained by the donor while she worked in Yemen as a medical doctor from 1939-1967. This is not the only such incense-burner known and even miniature versions survive. Moreover, a similar ivory container was excavated in a ninth century BC context at the site of Hama in central Syria and has been previously interpreted as an early South Arabian export to the Levant, but whether it was indeed made in southern Arabia is uncertain, as is its function, because ivory is far from suitable as a material for an incense-burner.

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  • Title: Bronze incense-burner
  • Date Created: -799/-200
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 23.90cm; Diameter: 13.50cm; Width: 18.00cm; Weight: 2388.00g; Volume: 320.00ml
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: lost-wax cast; inlaid
  • Subject: mammal; sun/moon; planet/constellation
  • Registration number: 1960,1212.1
  • Production place: Made in Yemen
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Marib
  • Period/culture: Sabaean
  • Material: bronze; fired clay
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Croskery, Sidney Elizabeth