This striking head is an architectural fragment from a notable public or ceremonial building, and pertains to the ancient kingdom of Saba which ruled over the lands of southwestern Arabia, centered in modern day Yemen. Technically, the Sabeans are one of four major powers in this area, also including the Minaeans, the Qatabanians and the Hadramites, but the peoples as a whole became subsumed as a single entity by the middle of the first millennium BC. Saba is perhaps better known as Sheba, whose famous Queen was recounted as having visited Solomon in the pages of the Old Testament. The wealth of the kingdom was legendary, and was primarily attributable to Saba’s position at the crossroads of the ancient world, receiving consignments (particularly of incense) from all across the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean basin. The city of Marib was also in an ideal position to control the trade route between India to Egypt, although this lucrative venture was cut short in the 1st century AD following the foundation of a nautical route from India directly to the port of Alexandria.
Ancient Near East