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Stela: a stone or, less often, wood slab with an inscription and/or depiction at least on one side. The depictions and inscriptions form an independent unit, but the monument needs to be understood in its original architectural setting. Stelae in the classical Greek and Roman world tend to be free standing monuments. In Egypt they are most often placed in the wall of a chapel, though there are also free standing examples, sometimes with inscribed separate plinth.

Egyptian words:

The earliest stelae appear already in the First Dynasty at Abydos, where the inscriptions are restricted to title and name of tomb owners, without large depiction. In the Second Dynasty the image of the sitting stela owner with some offerings were added. After the Second Dynasty stelae seem to fall from general use, and instead the name and image of tomb owners are placed on the false doors.

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In the First Intermediate Period stelae became again common as part of the tomb decoration, perhaps because the decoration was at this time reduced to the essential (because of lack of resources?). In the Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC) stelae become much more common. They are either part of a tomb decoration, or were placed in offering-chapels at Abydos or in small sanctuaries around the country, the best examples being the stelae found in the Heqaib sanctuary at Elephantine.

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In the New Kingdom stelae were again most often placed either in tomb chapels, or in local temples. Stelae are attested into the Islamic period; the great historical and religious changes in Egypt are reflected in their appearance over time.

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Types of stelae
Dating criteria (general)
Dating criteria for the Middle Kingdom
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