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Work The Tayma' stone

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Arabia

Stèle de Teima

© 1999 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Arabia

Author(s):
Prévotat Arnaud, Caubet Annie

This stele, known as the Tayma' stone, was found in the oasis of that name in western Arabia, in the late nineteenth century. The front of the stele is carved with a lengthy inscription describing the arrival of a religion worshipping a new god in the town. One side of the stele is carved with a representation of the god and, below this, his priest. The inscription and decoration are valuable sources of information about the links between Arabia and Mesopotamia in the fifth century BC.

Tayma': a town on the caravan trade routes

The large town of Tayma', lying by the oasis at the junction of the caravan trading routes from southern Arabia to the Fertile Crescent, was already known by the same name in antiquity. When Charles Huber visited the region as part of his missions from 1878 to1882, then again from 1882 to 1884, he saw some monumental ruins, a rampart, and the well of Ayn Haddaj. Huber was able to collect some inscriptions, a slab carved with figurative decorations, and this stele, before he was murdered. All are vital sources of information about the history of relations between Arabia and Mesopotamia.

Worshipping a new god

The stele, carved in local stone, is in the form of a flat slab rounded at the top, as is usual with Syro-Mesopotamian steles. The whole of the front of the stele is covered with an inscription which continues on one side of the stele beneath a carved relief. The letters are carved in high relief. The text recounts the arrival of the cult of the god Salm de Hagam in Tayma', with the agreement of the gods traditionally worshipped there, in the twenty-second year of the reign of an unnamed king. The new temple was to be served by the priest Salm-Shezib, son of Petosiris, and was endowed with an annual gift of twenty-one palm trees.

The god and his priest

The scene illustrated on the side of the stele is divided into an upper and lower part, carved in a fairly unsophisticated style. The lower part shows a figure with his arms raised in adoration in front of an altar, on which lies a bucranium. His name, "Salm-Shezib the priest", is carved underneath. The upper part shows a god wearing a long robe and a conical head-dress, holding a lance. Above his head is a winged disk. This scene is inspired by Babylonian art and probably refers to a statue of the god who was thus introduced into the Arabian pantheon. This important source is often considered in relation to neo-Babylonian expansion and the visit of Nabonidus to Tayma', when Aramaic, the official language of the Babylonian empire, was adopted for writing in Arabia. The stele most likely dates from the end of the neo-Babylonian period or the start of the Achaemenid Persian period.

Technical description

  • Stèle de Teima

    VIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Teima, 'Ayn Haddaj (Arabie du Nord-Ouest)

  • Grès

    H. : 1,11 m. ; L. : 0,43 m. ; Pr. : 0,12 m.

  • Mission C. Huber, 1884 , 1884

    AO 1505

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

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