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    Head of Young Deity

    NABATAEAN KINGDOM. Circa 50 BCE - 50 CE. Limestone bust of a young deity, perhaps Dionysus, Mithras or Yarhibol. The head and neck 6 inches (15.5 cm) high and 4.75 inches (12.1 cm) wide, depicting a moon-faced child with full cheeks, straight nose, cherubic mouth with lips slightly parted, and large, deeply drilled-out eyes; his long hair falls back from his face in parallel waves and is only roughly rendered or left unfinished in the back; attached to his forehead is a circular disk with floral petals or a stellate design. Broken at the neck, perhaps removed from a relief, the surface exhibiting light corrosion and scattered fissures, otherwise intact and highly evocative.

    From the Barakat Biblical Collection, imported prior to 1982, acquired from a Jordanian collection, originally found in Petra in the 19th Century.

    The Nabataeans were a nomadic Bedouin tribe that settled in the Negev along the top of the Red Sea, neighboring ancient Israel-Judah, creating a prosperous kingdom based on cross-desert trade and their knowledge of hidden water sources. According to the first century historian Diodorus Siculus, the Nabataeans were "exceptionally fond of freedom" and had rather advanced ideas concerning equality of the sexes. The Nabataean royal family allied itself to the Maccabees during their struggles against the Seleucid kingdom; relations with the Hasmoneans and Herodians were marked by close cooperation with bouts of warfare over controlling important trade routes. The Nabataean capital city of Petra, now in Jordan, remains one of the world's archaeological wonders.

    This remarkable limestone head displays attributes of a range of deities. The intriguing circular ornament on his head, partially damaged, could be a floral symbol, perhaps indicating the head is that of Dionysus, whose cult flourished in Nabataea. If the symbol is a stellar or solar one, the head could be that of the eastern Solar gods Mithras or Yarhibol, whose cult was centered in Palmyra, another caravan city.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2016
    16th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 949

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