Stele, Sepulchral

Stele, Sepulchral These monumental slabs were generally placed at the bottom of the principal chamber of the tombs of the old dynasties of Egypt. They are square, and often of colossal proportions, with large hieroglyphics, sometimes in bas-relief, and spaced out. The representations are the facade of a building or tomb. At the time of the sixth dynasty they still have a degree of archaism. From the earliest period till the twelfth dynasty these tablets are dedicated to Anup, or Anubis, not Osiris, whose name is rarely found. Anubis is invoked as the god who presided over the funeral chapel and the embalming of the dead. The formula of dedication is short and elliptical, the usual expression "to give" is omitted, as also that of the gift; the name of Osiris is not found before that of the deceased, or the expression "justified" after the name. In the formula at this time a kind of abridgment of the calendar is often introduced, as a mention of the festivals of the beginning of the year, the new year, Thoth, that of the greater and lesser heat, the monthly and half-monthly. The numerous titles of the offices held by the deceased are given in detail. The tablets continued rude till the time of the eleventh dynasty, when the mention of the festival of the heliacal rising of Sothis, or the dog-star, is added. Under the twelfth dynasty the tablets change in shape and texts; most of them being rounded at the top, and forming the hutu of the texts. The upper part of the tablet has often the winged disk, the Hut or Tebhut. The dates of the years of the monarchs under whom the deceased was buried appear. The scenes represented are. the acts of sepulchral homage or ancestral worship made by the children or other relatives of the dead to himself and his wife, the tables before them being loaded with offerings, among which appear the head and haunch of a calf, and other joints of the same animal, ducks or geese, circular or oval loaves or cakes of bread, gourds, onions, and papyrus or lotus flowers, while jars of wine or beer of conical shape are seen placed under the tables. The name of the god Anubis, which is so prominent in the tablets of Memphis, either disappears or becomes secondary to that of Osiris, and the dedication often contains the names of other deities, as the frog-headed goddess Haka, the ram-headed god Khuum, and others; but no god is represented on the tablets. The texts themselves also differ, as, in addition to the expressions of the fourth dynasty, the verb "to give," omitted at that time, as also the subject of the gift, is introduced into the text, the deceased is called "justified," but the name of Osiris does not precede his. His merits are often told in a verbose style; to which are sometimes added the public works in which he as engaged. The contents of these texts often contain curious historical and other information, throwing much light on the mythology and ethics of the Egyptians. Under the eighteenth dynasty. the tablets changed again, and the scenes of ancestral or sepulchral worship became subordinate. The principal scene of the tablet, placed at the upper part, represents the deceased, sometimes attended by his wife, sister, son, or other member of the family, standing or kneeling in adoration to the solar boat, or deities, or Osiris, accompanied by Isis, Nephthvs, Anubis, Horus, and other deities who presided over embalming and the future state, before whom is placed a table of altar offerings. A second division generally has the scenes of family worship, while in the accompanying text the adorations to the deities occupy the most important portion; and the merits of the deceased, or his public; works, are only slightly mentioned. At the time of the nineteenth dynasty the name of Osiris appears first placed before the. name of the deceased, while the title of "justified," or makhem, always follows. These tablets were in general use during the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties, became rarer under the twentieth, exceedingly rare at the period of the twenty-sixth dynasty, and disappear after that time. They reappear, however, again under the Ptolemies, and besides the usual formula of dedication, often contain interesting notices relative to the functions and offices discharged by the deceased, and family details. They are at this period often accompanied by inscriptions in the cursive handwriting, the socalled Demotic, or Enchorial. Under the Romans the art and the inscriptions of the tablets again changed. The subjects are in bas-relief, and the deities represented in the hybrid types prevalent at the epoch. The inscriptions are in Greek, and follow the usual formulas used at that period; the older dedications to the gods being omitted, only the name of the deceased and date of his death being retained, a valedictory address being substituted. The Coptic sepulchral tablets, made after the introduction of Christianity into Egypt and at a late period, and those in Cufic, the tombstones of the Mohammedan conquerors of Egypt, follow also the forms of their respective nationalities, all trace of the old representations and formulas having been obliterated or superseded. See Birch, Guide to the British Museum (Vestibule).

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