Ancient Yemen: Incense, Art, and Trade

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery | Gallery 22

Nestled in the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen became a major hub for the trade of incense during the first millennium BCE. This trade reached its climax between the first century BCE and the second century CE. Incense was traded by land and also by sea, reaching the Mediterranean world as well as ancient Iran and South Asia. This lucrative trade resulted in tremendous wealth and encouraged the patronage of elaborate architecture and distinctive works of art. The fine alabaster statues and metalworks display the masterful skills of artists from ancient Yemen, who blended local ideas and Greek and Roman inspirations into new creations, underscoring the region’s remarkable artistic and cultural cosmopolitanism.

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