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Gold earring of South Arabia


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The kingdoms of ancient South ArabiaGold earring

It is rare for jewellery to survive from ancient South Arabia. Stories of treasures buried in the ancient tombs of Yemen excited early Islamic authors and later folk legends described the discovery of 'jewels the like of which none had seen, and . . . gold and silver'. These reports stimulated local governors 'to send out expeditions to the tombs to secure their buried treasures, because it was customary [among the Himyarites] to entomb with the dead their riches'. The purpose of these expeditions was to plunder the tombs so that the precious metals could be melted down and the gemstones recarved.

This gold earring has a grooved reel at the top with thicker wire at each end that is attached to a square cloison; this holds a number of braided gold strands ending with cylindrical beads and seventeen hollow acorn-shaped buds (each made in two halves).

Funerary sculptures rarely, if ever, show men or women actually wearing earrings, although necklaces and bracelets are sometimes depicted; some depictions of women on funerary stela have holes just below ear level where earrings or necklaces may have originally been attached.

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