Page images

the different dynasties. From the Ist-VIth dynasty stelæ are rectangular in form, and sometimes are made to resemble the outer façade of a temple. The inscriptions are comparatively short, and merely record the names of the relatives of the deceased who are represented on the stele, and the prayers to Osiris for cakes, bread, meat, wine, oil, milk, wax, bandages, ducks, oxen, etc., which are put into the mouth of the deceased. A remarkable inscription found in a tomb of the VIth dynasty is that of Unå, who was born in the reign of Tets, and held service under this king; under Pepi, the successor of Tetå, he brought stone from the quarries of Ruāu, and conducted an expedition against the nomad tribes to the east of Egypt, and in the reign of the following king, Mer-en-Rā, he died full of days and honour. During the XIth dynasty the stelæ have many of the characteristics of those of the VIth dynasty, but the execution is better. A large number Stelæ of of the stelæ of the XIIth dynasty are rounded, the inscriptions Middle and scenes are carefully executed, and are often painted with Empire. many colours; sometimes on the same stele the figures are in relief, while the inscriptions are incised. As a rule the contents of the inscriptions are repetitions of the titles of the deceased, praises of the king, bald statements of the work he has done for him, prayers to the god for sepulchral meals, and an address to those who pass by the stele to make mention of the dead man in appropriate funereal formulæ. The scenes usually represent the several members of the family of the deceased bringing to him offerings of the various things for which he prays. From the XIIth-XVIIth dynasty, biographies on stelæ 3 are rare. Stelæ of the XIIIth and XIVth dynastics are characterized by their uniformity of colour, when painted ; the workmanship is, however, poor, the inscriptions are badly cut, and the hieroglyphics are thin and small. The stelæ of the XVIIIth dynasty are usually rounded at the top, and have

1 The oldest stele known is preserved at Gîzeh and at Oxford, and was made for Shera, a priest of Senț, the fifth king oi the IInd dynasty, about B.C. 4000 ; it is figured in Lepsius, Auswahl, Pl. 9.

Compare the interesting inscription published by Schiaparelli, Una tomba egiziana inedita, Rome, 1892.

3 The inscription of Chnemu-ḥ tep, one of the most valuable of this period, is inscribed on the walls of his tomb.

Stele of

very little in common with those of older dynasties. In earlier times the deceased was represented as being surrounded by his parents, brothers and sisters, wife and servants, but at this epoch the gods take their places, and he stands alone before Osiris, god and judge of the dead. In many stelæ of this period the name of the god Åmen has been carefully chiselled out, by order of the “hcretic king,” Amenophis IV. A remarkable characteristic of stelæ at this time is the length and fulness of the inscriptions upon them. In the earlier times, private matters in the life of the deceased were passed over with little or no mention; now, however, full biographies become the rule, and the inscriptions cover not only the stelæ, but the walls of the chamber in which the mummies were laid. Sometimes such biographies are almost the only authorities for the history of a period, and the inscription of Amāsis is an example of this class of documents. Amāsis was a naval officer who was born about the time of the final war of the Egyptians against the Hyksos, and he was present at the capture of the town of Avaris, during the reign of Amāsis I., king of Egypt. He was specially honoured by this king for his prowess in battle, and he served in various campaigns undertaken by his successors, Amenophis I., and Thothmes I. The stelæ of the XIXth dynasty show a great falling off both in design and execution. The figures of men and women are poor, and their limbs are made out of all proportion to the rest of their bodies. The mode of wearing their clothes, too, has changed, a large portion of the body is entirely covered by the dress, and the figures wear a heavy head-dress, which falls squarely upon the shoulders. The hieroglyphics are carelessly engraved, and lack the spirit which indicates those of the XVIIIth dynasty. During the XXth dynasty the use of stelæ appears not to have been so general, and from about B.C. 1000–650 they almost disappear. The stelæ which belong to this period are few and small, and the designs are generally poor imitations of stelæ of an older date. The cause of this decline is not quite evident, but it may be either the result of the disquietude caused by the unsettled condition of Egypt through foreign invasions, or the consequence of some religious schism. It will be noticed that ushabtiu figures, as well as stelæ, become fewer and poorer during this same period. The stelæ of the XXVIth Stelæ of

the New dynasty exhibit the features which are characteristic of the Empire. sculptures of this period. They occur in large numbers, they are larger in size, the hieroglyphics are small, but cleanly cut, and they have a beauty which is in itself sufficient to proclaim the time to which they belong. The inscriptions are copied from ancient texts, and as neither the scribe nor the sculptor understood at times what he was writing, frequent mistakes are the result. After the XXV Ith dynasty stela were made of all possible designs and forms; the hieroglyphics are badly cut, the inscriptions are the ordinary formulæ, in which the deceased prays for sepulchral meals, and it is quite clear that the placing of a stele in the tomb had become a mere matter of form with the greater number of the Egyptians. In Ptolemaic times ancient models were copied, but the inscriptions are as often in Greek or demotic, or both, as in hieroglyphics. Stelæ bearing bilingual inscriptions, in hieroglyphics and Greek, or hieroglyphics and Phænician, are also known. Subsequently it became the fashion to make the figures of the gods on stelæ in high relief, and the attributes and costumes of Greck gods were applied to those of Egypt.

The greater number of the wooden stelæ in European museums belong to the XXVIth and subsequent dynasties. They are rounded at the top, they usually stand upon two pedestals having steps on each side, and they vary in size from 6 in. by 4 in. to 3 ft. by 20 in. The inscriptions and Ornamen.

tation of scenes upon them are usually painted in white, green, red, stelæ yellow, or black, upon a light or dark brown ground. On the of the back are at times figures of the sun shedding rays in and dynasty. standards of the east and $. The large tablets have three registers; in the first are the winged disk , with pendent uræi wearing the crowns of the north and south, the jackal-headed gods Anubis and Ap-uat, emblems of "life" and “ " boat of the sun, in which stand a number of gods, Rā, Horus, Chepers, Maāt, Anubis, etc., and the deceased, or his soul, kneeling at a table of offerings in front of the boat



Inlaid stela.

in adoration of Rā; in the third register the deceased makes adoration to a number of gods, and below this comes the inscription. The smaller, and more numerous, tablets have in the rounded part, the winged disk with pendent uræi, and the inscription

e Behutet neb pet “[Horus of] Behutet, lord of heaven." The scene which follows is divided into two parts: in the one the deceased stands or kneels by the side of an altar in adoration before Rā-Har

Below the scenes are two inscriptions which read from the middle of the tablet to the sides, and contain, the one an address or prayer to Rā when he rises, the other, an address to Rā when he sets. Frequently a tablet is inscribed with the prayer to Rā-Harmachis and Nefer-Atmu for sepulchral meals.

Wooden stelæ were sometimes inlaid with glass figures and hieroglyphics of various colours in imitation of the scenes and inscriptions on tablets of an earlier date. A remark

91 able example of this class of work is B.M. 5-—25 which,

I according to Dr. Birch, is inscribed with the name of Darius, and represents this king making offerings to Anubis, who is seated on a throne under a winged disk and stars; behind the god is Isis, with horns on her head, and a sceptre in her hand.

That sepulchral stelæ were sometimes made of glazed faïence, we know from B.M. No. 6133, a fine example of a light blue colour, in which the deceased Amen-em-åpt, a royal scribe, is standing in adoration before the god Osiris, who holds a flail and crook. This interesting object was probably made about B.C. 1000, when the art of making glazed faïence of a fine blue or green colour was at its greatest perfection.

Stelæ in glazed faïence.


The Vases found in Egyptian tombs are made of alabaster, diorite, granite, basalt and other kinds of hard stone, steatite, bronze, wood, terra-cotta, faïence, and glass. The shapes of vases are various, but the following are the most

« PreviousContinue »