Jewelry discovery among National Museum antiquities [Archives:2007/1031/Last Page]

March 8 2007

By: Abdulaziz Al-Jindari
Classical historians wrote about the excessive richness ancient Yemeni kingdoms enjoyed. They described their homes' ceilings as being adorned with gold due to their dominance over the spice trade, whose prices were very high at that time because they were used in performing religious rituals.

Despite such luxury and richness, as well as an abundance of mines from which minerals and gold were extracted, archeological exploration implemented by both Yemeni and foreign missions didn't yield large quantities of gold. According to Hamid Khalifa, Museum staff discovered gold antiquities are scarce in Yemen because they were melted down and reformed, particularly during the Islamic era.

A Yemeni citizen recently unearthed a treasure including various types of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets, as well as other gold pieces, while he was digging in his yard in Al-Jawf's Hamdan district, where one of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms flourished. This kingdom left behind numerous archeological traces, such as cities, temples, walls and palaces.

The discovery was brought to Sana'a and a special committee, including this writer, was formed to check them. The committee met at the National Museum and the pieces were carefully checked and studied with the help of an Italian archeologist working for the Italian archeology mission in Yemen. Additionally, the committee consulted several goldsmiths in the Old City of Sana'a.

After extensive study and comparison to similar types of jewelry existing on some ancient Yemeni artifacts and inscriptions, the committee concluded that the pieces belonged to a very important woman dating back to the first century B.C.

Aware of the precious collection's importance, together with pieces from elsewhere, President Ali Abdullah Saleh directed the National Museum to buy the pieces and add them to the museum's holdings.

All of the pieces were documented and photographed and each piece was given a separate ID, including all of the necessary information regarding its description, weight, dimensions, the source and the date it was housed in the museum. The pieces are exhibited in a special safe within the Ma'een Kingdom Hall in the pre-Islamic department.

The jewelry collection contains:

– A necklace made up of 28 conical pieces connected by small chains. In the middle are two large pieces linked with two different-shaped loops. There are animal inscriptions on the large pieces, including an ibex's head, eyes, mouth, ears and nose. The ibex's horns are long and bent toward the back. In the middle of the necklace is a circular piece made of precious stones. This necklace is important because it's a copy of one worn by a woman in a painting found in Al-Joubah. It depicts a woman named Berlet, mentioning her maternal kinship while she is worshipping. The picture is similar to that of the fertility goddess Dhat Hamim, which disappeared from Aden Museum during the events of 1994. However, the picture was found in the U.S. and handed over to President Saleh, who in his turn gave it back to Aden National Museum.

– A collection of plain, circular-shaped bracelets of various sizes; however, their ends are decorated.

– A collection of earrings, including two oval pieces connected by a curled chain ending in two semi-circular pieces with different types of decorations. There's also a rectangular piece with circular decorations in the middle and at the edges.

– A collection of short chains shaped like hair curls. The front side ends in an ibex's head with its horns bent toward the back.

– A gold ring with an oval center.

– A circular gold ring with an indented center and raised edges.

– A collection of robes made of precious stones and including various decorations ranging from man-like shapes to a man's head. They are framed with gold.

– A collection of small cylindrical gold pieces ending in dome-shaped circles with connected by small chains.

– A group of small gold pieces of various sizes and shapes.

– Another group of various-shaped gold pieces, such as conical, cylindrical, domed, etc.