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LE STELE SUDARABICHE DENOMINATE ṢWR: MONUMENTI VOTIVI O FUNERARI?

Alessandra Lombardi
Egitto e Vicino Oriente
Vol. 37 (2014), pp. 149-177
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24324131
Page Count: 29
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
LE STELE SUDARABICHE DENOMINATE ṢWR: MONUMENTI VOTIVI O FUNERARI?
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Abstract

Among the numerous South Arabian stelae, a limited group bears the designation ṣwr ("image") in the text inscribed on them. The votive or funerary function of these monuments - whose original archaeological context is unknown - is still debated in the specialized studies. The present paper analyses the complete corpus of the ṣwr-stelae: seventeen exemplars have been collected, all belonging to the Sabaean cultural area. They date back to the first centuries AD, a period during which foreign figurative influences (from the Roman and the Hellenized Orient spheres) are more evident in South Arabia. Through a punctual analysis of the texts inscribed on them, with particular attention to the curse formulae - comparable to those inscribed on others categories of funerary monuments –, their function has been clarified. They were funerary stelae, characterized by elaborate figurative subjects, depicted in some cases on two or more registers, with a clear 'narrative' intent. Their more probable location should be inside funerary temples. The various subjects show a strong symbolic value related to the afterlife, but seems to be also connected with the life of the deceased, all belonging to a high social class. Their analysis has highlighted, on the one hand, the common and recurring iconographic elements (related to funerary sphere) and, on the other hand, the evident differences and peculiarities, especially in relation with the sex of the deceased. Finally, some exemplars show a very original choice of the subjects, which are completely new and experimental in the South Arabian figurative documentation.

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