Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning

Types of Stelae

1. Tomb stelae: stelae, usually of stone, placed into the chapel of a tomb. In the First Dynasty they seem to be attached to the facade of the mastabas. These stelae are inscribed with the name and title of the tomb owner; in later times they include a picture of him, often in connection with wife and family. In the Third Intermediate Period tomb or funerary stelae were of wood, and deposited in the burial chamber next to the coffin.

(click on the pictures to see a larger image)

UC 14444 UC 14226

2. Abydos stelae: stelae placed in an offering chapel at Abydos. They must have had the function of immortalising the presence of the person at that site, cult centre of the god Osiris. In this way the persons mentioned on the stela could be close to Osiris, the ruler of the underworld, and share in the offerings at his festivals.

(click on the pictures to see more examples)

UC 14419 UC 14358


3. Temple stelae: stelae placed in some chapels and temples. They are similar to the Abydos stelae, fulfilling the wish to be close to a certain god, goddess or holy person. They may, though, be votive stelae, in effect a tangible form of prayer, set up in thanks to a deity in relation to a more specific wish.

4. Promulgation stelae: stelae set up to to make public royal decrees and orders. Most famous are the stelae of Tutankhamun and Horemheb concerning the restoration of the cults of the gods, after the Amarna period. In effect these stelae reinforce the cult of the reigning king, as signs of the goodness of the king. Similar stelae were also set up by private individuals. Their main purpose might have been to announce to god the good deeds of a person, thereby reinforcing the eternal existence of that individual.

5. Border stelae: stelae which marked the border between two areas or the boundary of a country. The best known example of the second category is the series of inscriptions at the Second Cataract, marking the border established at the southern end of the Egyptian occupation of Lower Nubia under king Senusret III.



Copyright © 2000 University College London. All rights reserved.