Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips

Head of a woman (“Miriam”)

Bit by bit the earth was cleaned away until there was revealed . . . a beautifully formed and well-preserved head of a young woman, carved in translucent alabaster.

Overwhelmed by the beauty of this piece, the Arab workmen who discovered it immediately called it the “daughter” of archaeologist Alexander Honeyman and named it Miriam. The well carved, luminous alabaster head is undoubtedly the finest funerary statue from Timna cemetery. Her large eyes are inlaid with a blue material, either lapis lazuli or blue glass. The figure’s thick, swept-back hair was made separately from plaster that is still intact, a relatively rare feature. The statue’s pierced ears once held earrings, and two holes by the side of her neck were meant for a necklace. Although no inscription identifies the young woman, “Miriam” was probably a person of means and importance.

Head of a woman (“Miriam”)
Timna, 1st century BCE–first half of 1st century CE
Alabaster, plaster, lapis lazuli or glass

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