Anthropomorphic Funerary Eye Stele

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Anthropomorphic Funerary Eye Stele

4th - 3rd Century B.C.
H: 12 x W: 15.5cm



A highly striking and stylised stele, in the form of a rectangular face with large almond shaped eyes and detailed pupils. A rectangular nose joining with arched eyebrows. The forehead has been inscribed with the following: ?bs³l Grbm (Abiwasal Gharbum) The name ?bs³l (which is not attested) is probably a defective orthography of the known name?bws³l and can be compared to other known inscriptions ‘?ms³l’ and ‘?mws³l’. The ‘Gharbum’ lineage is Qatabanite. It is therefore likely that the stele comes from the necropolis of Timna which is called today ?ayd Ibn'Aqil.


David Aaron Ltd, 2020, No.5.


From Haid Bin Aqil, necropolis of Timna, capital of South Arabian Kingdom Qataban.
Private UK Collection, acquired in the early 1960’s (accompanied by export license dated 4th May 1962 from the Colony of Aden in the name of Major M.D Van Lessen, signed and translated by Donald Brian Doe, director of Antiquities, Aden).
London Art Market, 2011.
Private Collection.
ALR: S00046114.

Note on the Provenance

Major M. D Van Lessen, (1916-1992) was commissioned with the Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1936, trained at Sandhurst and served abroad throughout his career, firstly in Palestine, Egypt and Malta. Captured in Sicily, escaped but recaptured and spent the remainder of the Second World War in captivity in Germany.

The remainder of his army career was largely spent in Africa and Aden. He was taught Arabic by Mahmoud Ghul (q.v.) at SOAS from January 1957 prior to taking up the commission of Major in Second Battalion, Aden Protectorate Levies, March 1957-June 1963. It was Ghul who advised van Lessen to "keep my eyes open for South Arabian inscriptions and let him have a record of anything I discovered. I cannot be sufficiently grateful to Professor Ghul for directing my interest to such a fascinating study, which added greatly to the enjoyment of both my tours in South Arabia" (quoted by A. Jamme: 'Miscellanées d'ancient arabe III', Washington 1972, p. 3).