Arabian art, for purposes of definition here, includes the southern portion of Arabia that is now Yemen, the Aden Protectorate, Hadhramaut and Oman. It was not until the late 1800s that archaeologists started discovering the ruins of a large civilization that included the kingdoms of Saba, Ma'in, Qataban and Hadhramaut. These people built their cities in about the fifth century B.C. These civilizations acquired their wealth through trade and through the production of aromatics. The area went from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. The Jews and Christians fought wars, as did the Ethiopians and Persians.
In northwest Arabia, archaeologists found a huge statue of a King garbed in Egyptian style. Unable to determine the exact date, archaeologists put its date sometime between the sixth century B.C. and the start of the Christian era. Southern Arabian art includes altars for incense, masks of heads used for funerals, idols of bulls or horses or camels, plaques and friezes. Persia influenced the architecture of Southern Arabia and Achaemenia. In 1952, excavations uncovered a great oval temple at Marib, the capital of Saba. The temple featured Persian-style decorations, windows of the type used in all southern Arabia and receding panels that featured bands on grooves. In the beginning of the first century AD., Arabian pre-Islamic art shows a Hellenistic influence. In the next century, finds include tall statues made of bronze, decorations showing vines and leaves, even cupids.
Two hundred years later, in the fourth century AD., a new style emerged, the forerunner of Byzantine art. Discoveries include alabaster utensils, gold jewelry, seals of various Mesopotamian styles, and small oil lamps. Scholars study of these items less than they study other artifacts.