This bust was originally part of an idol of a
goddess, identifiable by her diadem which is
designed as two concentric circlets as well as by
her multi-stranded necklace consisting of a
series of beads. She would have originally been
standing with her feet together on an integral
plinth which may have been inscribed. She is
wearing a tightly fitting, form-revealing sheath
which in keeping with concerns for modesty
suppresses the forms of her breasts. Her arms
are bent at a right angle at the elbow and held
out in front of her body giving one the
impression that she was holding an attribute of
some kind in her hands.
Her hair is coiffed in a style popular among
Sabaean depictions of women. It is pulled back
behind the ears, giving the impression of being
closely cropped, and gathered at either side of
the neck in projecting, triangularly-shaped
tresses. The scored lines on her cheeks are to be
regarded within the context of her hair style.
Incision has also been employed to articulate her
eye brows and eyes. Those eyes are now hollow
but were originally inlaid and would have imbued
the idol with a certain degree of majesty.
The design and style of this idol conforms in
every way to a limestone statuette discovered in
the Shuka necropolis of Yemen which is
presently in the National Museum of Aden. The
excavators named that idol “the Lady of ad-
Dali,” and our idol is a second example of this
type. One prefers to identify such images as idols
of goddesses worshipped by the Yemeni
tribesmen who controlled the trade routes, but
one cannot exclude the possibility that the
statuette represents an elite member of that
society. It is important to stress that the Sabaean
Culture which flourished in the southwestern
quadrant of the present Arabian Peninsula is the
traditional homeland of the Queen of Sheba.
Such an image is a lasting reminder of the realm
of that great queen and her legendary wealth.
St. John Simpson, Queen of Sheba. Treasures
from Ancient Yemen [exhibition catalogue]
(London 2002), page 119, figure 130, for the
Lady of ad-Dali.