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Pedestal or altar 5th-4th century BCE

The so-called al-Hamra cube was discovered in the al-Hamra Temple at Tayma, an important trading city in northwestern Arabia. Its fine decoration confirms the integration of Egyptian and Mesopotamian motifs into local religious practices, such as the worship of the local god Salm. The bull with a solar disk between its horns relates to the Egyptian bull deity Apis, while the winged disk was inspired by Mesopotamian and Iranian examples.

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Tayma, Saudi Arabia
H x W x D: 41 x 38 x 39 cm
National Museum, Riyadh, 1021
Geography Northwest Learn More
Anthropomorphic Stele Part of a Horse Pedestal or altar Statue of a Man Funerary Mask Incense Burner Head of a Man Statuette of Heracles Incense Burner Tombstone of al-Ghaliya Door of the Ka'ba
Pedestal or altar
Detail Timeline
Hamra Temple, Tayma, Saudi Arabia

Many of the incense routes to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean region passed through northwestern Arabia. One of several stations along the route was Tayma, the most ancient oasis in Arabia. Tayma's wealth and reputation was such that in the sixth century BCE, the Babylonian king Nabonidus stayed there for ten years.

Situated in the lush oasis of al-Ula, Dedan provided shelter and sustenance for caravans from the sixth to the first century BCE. Even verses in the Old Testament praise its fresh waters. The Lihyanites, who ruled the area during this period, developed a complex and original artistic tradition, including impressive monumental sculptures that are seen for the first time in this exhibition.

In the first century BCE, the Lihyanites lost power to the Nabataeans, whose kingdom centered on Petra in southern Jordan. The Nabataeans actively participated in the incense trade and made their fortune by controlling trade with the Roman Empire. Like Petra, Mada’in Saleh in northwestern Arabia features many tombs that are carved into the surrounding sandstone cliffs, creating a spectacular vista in the desert.

Head of a statue Head of a statue Tayma, Saudi Arabia
4th–2nd century BCE
H (approx): 50 cm
Tayma Museum
Al-Hamra stele Al-Hamra stele Tayma, Saudi Arabia
ca. 4th century BCE
H x W: 102 x 45 cm
National Museum, Riyadh
Stele of Nabonidus Stele of Nabonidus Tayma, Saudi Arabia
mid-6th century BCE
H x W: 60 x 50 cm
Tayma Museum