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Shlomos Treasures: Guardian Lions from the Moussaieff Collection

Special Exhibit
June 5, 2016-

Location: Neighboring Cultures Hall, Bronfman Archaeology Wing

Curator: Laura A. Peri

The magnificent lions exhibited here hail from ancient Nashshan, a city-state at times ruled by the kingdom of Saba (biblical Sheba), in present-day Yemen. They bear identical inscriptions (in a Semitic language and alphabetic script) indicating that they were royal offerings to the god of war Athtar. Since their backs are hollow, we may assume that they were attached to a wall. They probably flanked the entrance to Adhanan, the temple mentioned in the inscriptions, inspiring awe and serving for protection.

The use of pairs of lions as gateway guardians originated in Mesopotamia and was common throughout the Ancient Near East. These lions are the earliest of their kind known from South Arabia. They are generously on loan from the outstanding collection of Shlomo Moussaieff, in honor of first anniversary of his death and as a fitting tribute to his memory. 

Pair of lions dedicated to the god Athtar of Adhanan by Yada‘ab and Yashhurmalik, kings of Nashshan
Inscribed in Minaeo-Sabaean in South Arabian script
Nashshan (as-Sawda, northern Yemen), ca. 6th century BCE, bronze
Shlomo Moussaieff Collection