The Latest

Latest AC Story Map Investigates Fate of Looted and Trafficked Yemeni Inscription

March 2, 2021

Fighting between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels has “intensified” in and around the Yemeni city of Marib, Al Jazeera reported on February 28. The Houthis intend to capture Marib city from the Yemeni government and take over Marib province, which would give them control over some of the region’s most bountiful oil reserves.

Marib’s strategic value in warfare goes back millenia, to when it was the capital of the ancient Sabaean kingdom. We know of the Sabaeans thanks to archaeological sites like the Awam Temple, popularly known as the “Sanctuary of the Queen of Sheba.” However, we have been deprived of the full breadth of their rich history by the crimes of looters and thieves, as vividly showcased in the Story Map the Antiquities Coalition is releasing today.

Sometime between 2009 and 2011—after years of crisis and civil war left Yemen’s archaeological sites and museums dangerously vulnerable to criminals—thieves were able to rip an alabaster inscription right from the floor of the Awam Temple.

We highlighted this artifact last October in our first-ever Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list, an illustrated guide to some of the most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts from around the world. This accessible tool enlists the public’s help to locate these lost treasures, while raising awareness of the continuing threat that the illicit trade poses to our shared heritage.

With today’s Story Map, we continue our work to bring these antiquities home by tracing the misfortunes that have befallen the Awam Temple’s alabaster inscription.

After its theft, the inscription then disappeared into the black market, traveling through hidden channels until it eventually resurfaced at a European auction house. There, it was sold to an unknown buyer and vanished from the public eye once more. 

But where is the inscription now? Still missing, this artifact is just one example of the countless looted Yemeni antiquities that have yet to make the long journey home.

To immerse yourself in the inscription’s trafficked travels, explore the full Story Map here.

To learn more about this inscription and other pieces on our Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list—as well as how you can help with their return—please visit our campaign page here.