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Pages and Files
The Egyptian Deities
The Animals of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian Food
The Flowers, Herbs, and Trees of Ancient Egypt
Perfumes and Cosmetics
Gemstones and Materials
Quotes from the Book of the Dead
A Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Timeline of Ancient Egypt
Stela worshipping the Apis Bull
If the typical Egyptian stela looks suspiciously like a traditional tombstone, the reason is because traditional tombstones are a modern rendition of these ancient markers. Stela (pl. stelae) is a Latin word derived from the Greek
, which means "pillar" or "vertical tablet." In English, the usual forms are stele and steles. In ancient Egypt, stelae were slabs of stone or wood, of many different shapes, usually bearing inscriptions, reliefs, or paintings. There are several ancient Egyptian expressions for the term stela, which reflect its different purposes.
Stelae were used in ancient Egypt from the
onward until the
. Stelae usually have both depictions and inscriptions, executed in raised or sunken relief, or painted onto the surface. Typical elements used in the decoration of stelae were the
Eye of Horus
, floral elements, stars,
, and deities. As tombstones, they were originally erected outside the
, to mark the offering place and to name the tomb owner. Those traditions hold over into our modern times, with the food offerings now most often being replaced with
One type of stela was the boundary stela, which was used to mark the edges of estates, administrative districts, or even cities, stemming from stones that marked the edges of fields. Another type was the commemorative stela, which were usually erected by kings or noblemen and recorded special events, such as successful expeditions in the desert, victories over foreign powers, royal building activities, dynastic marriages, or royal decrees.
A boundary stela marking fields
A great number of
stelae have been discovered, set up by individuals to worship
. Votive stelae were presented to
or were part of small altars erected in private homes. "Magic" stelae were also erected in houses and
as protection against dangerous animals, such as
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