Stele
Overview
A stele also stela (plural stelae ˈ), is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes
Memorial
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief (bas-relief, sunken-relief, high-relief, and so forth), or painted onto the slab. It can also be used as a territorial marker to delineate land ownership.
Stelae were also used as territorial markers, as the boundary stelae of Akhenaton at Amarna
Amarna
Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly–established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty , and abandoned shortly afterwards...

, or to commemorate military victories.
Encyclopedia
A stele also stela (plural stelae ˈ), is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes
Memorial
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief (bas-relief, sunken-relief, high-relief, and so forth), or painted onto the slab. It can also be used as a territorial marker to delineate land ownership.

History and function

Stelae were also used as territorial markers, as the boundary stelae of Akhenaton at Amarna
Amarna
Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly–established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty , and abandoned shortly afterwards...

, or to commemorate military victories. They were widely used in the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

, Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, and, most likely independently, in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and elsewhere in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

, and, more surely independently, by Mesoamerican civilisations, notably the Olmec
Olmec
The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco....

 and Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

. The huge number of stelae surviving from ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 and in Central America constitute one of the largest and most significant sources of information on those civilisations. An informative stele of Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III was a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BC and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family...

 is preserved in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

. Two stelae built into the walls of a church are major documents relating to the Etruscan language
Etruscan language
The Etruscan language was spoken and written by the Etruscan civilization, in what is present-day Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna...

.

The erection of steles was popular in China and consisted of rectangular stone tablets usually inscribed with a funerary, commemorative, or edifying text. Although the earliest steles, inspired by Buddhists, date to the first half of the fifth century, this visual form did not come into general use until the last years of the fifth century, and this custom prevailed until the end of the sixth century. From then on the design of steles drifted away from pure Buddhist influence and became wordy displays of script mostly eulogistic or commemorative. They were placed in front of tombs to announce the name of the person buried there, often to provide details of the deceased’s life, or were provided to commemorate a particular incident or event and to give details of the purpose of the occasion.

Erecting steles at tombs or temples eventually became a widespread social and religious phenomenon. Emperors found it necessary to promulgate laws, regulating the use of funerary steles by the population. The Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 laws, instituted in the 14th century by its founder the Hongwu Emperor
Hongwu Emperor
The Hongwu Emperor , known variably by his given name Zhu Yuanzhang and by his temple name Taizu of Ming , was the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China...

, listed a number of stele types available as status symbols to various ranks of the nobility
Chinese nobility
Chinese sovereignty and peerage, the nobility of China, were an important feature of traditional social and political organization of Imperial China. While the concepts of hereditary sovereign and peerage titles and noble families were featured as early as the semi-mythical, early historical...

 and officialdom: the top noblemen and mandarins were eligible for steles installed on top of a stone tortoise
Bixi (tortoise)
Bixi , also called guifu or baxia , is a stone tortoise, used as a pedestal for a stele or tablet. Tortoise-mounted stelae have been traditionally used in the funerary complexes of Chinese emperors and other dignitaries. Later, they have also been used to commemorate an important event, such as...

 and crowned with hornless dragons
Chi (mythology)
Chi means either "a hornless dragon" or "a mountain demon" in Chinese mythology. Hornless dragons were a common motif in ancient Chinese art, and the chiwen 螭吻 Chi means either "a hornless dragon" or "a mountain demon" (namely, chimei 螭魅) in Chinese mythology. Hornless dragons were a common...

, while the lower-level officials had to be satisfied with steles with plain rounded tops, standing on simple rectangular pedestals.

A number of such stone monuments have preserved the origin and history of China's minority religious communities. The 8th-century Christians of Xi'an
Xi'an
Xi'an is the capital of the Shaanxi province, and a sub-provincial city in the People's Republic of China. One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty...

 left behind the Nestorian Stele
Nestorian Stele
The Nestorian Stele is aTang Chinese stele erected in 781 that documents 150 years of history of early Christianity in China. It is a 279-cm tall limestone block with text in both Chinese and Syriac, describing the existence of Christian communities in several cities in northern China...

, which survived adverse events of the later history by being buried underground for several centuries. Steles created by the Kaifeng Jews
Kaifeng Jews
The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for...

 in 1489, 1512, and 1663, have survived the repeated flooding of the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 that destroyed their synagogue several times, to tell us something about their world. China's Muslim
Islam in China
Throughout the history of Islam in China, Chinese Muslims have influenced the course of Chinese history. Chinese Muslims have been in China for the last 1,400 years of continuous interaction with Chinese society...

 have a number of steles of considerable antiquity as well, often containing both Chinese and Arabic text.

Thousands of steles, surplus to the original requirements, and no longer associated with the person they were erected for, have been assembled in Xi'an's "Stele Forest
Stele Forest
The Stele Forest, or Xi'an Beilin Museum , is a museum for steles and stone sculptures which is located in Xi'an, China. Founded in 1944, it was the principal museum for Shaanxi province on the site of what was formerly an 11th century Confucius Temple...

" Museum, becoming a popular tourist attraction. Elsewhere, many unwanted steles can also be found in selected places in Beijing, such as Dong Yue Miao, the Five Pagoda Temple, and the Bell Tower, again assembled to attract tourists and also as a means of solving the problem faced by local authorities of what to do with them. The long, wordy, and detailed inscriptions on these steles are almost impossible to read for most are lightly engraved on white marble in characters only an inch or so in size, thus being difficult to see since the slabs are often ten or more feet tall. Very seldom are the inscriptions memorable or of any interest.

Unfinished standing stone
Standing stone
Standing stones, orthostats, liths, or more commonly megaliths are solitary stones set vertically in the ground and come in many different varieties....

s, set up without inscriptions from Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 in North Africa to Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 were monuments of pre-literate Megalith
Megalith
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

ic cultures in the Late Stone Age
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

. The Pictish stones
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

 of Scotland, often intricately carved, date from between the 6th and 9th centuries.

An obelisk
Obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

 is a specialized kind of stele. The Insular
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 high cross
High cross
A high cross or standing cross is a free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated. There was a unique Early Medieval tradition in Ireland and Britain of raising large sculpted stone crosses, usually outdoors...

es of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 are specialized stelae. Likewise, the Totem pole
Totem pole
Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly Western Red Cedar, by cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America...

 of North and South America is a type of stelae. Gravestones with inscribed epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

 are also kinds of stelae.

Most recently, in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe , also known as the Holocaust Memorial , is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a...

in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, the architect Peter Eisenman
Peter Eisenman
Peter Eisenman is an American architect. Eisenman's professional work is often referred to as formalist, deconstructive, late avant-garde, late or high modernist, etc...

 created a field of some 2,700 blank stelae. The memorial is meant to be read not only as the field, but also as an erasure of data that refer to memory of the Holocaust.

Notable individual stelae

  • Axumite Stele
  • Stele of Naram-Sin
  • Code of Hammurabi
    Code of Hammurabi
    The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

  • Gwanggaeto Stele
    Gwanggaeto Stele
    The stele of King Gwanggaeto of Goguryeo was erected in 414 by King Jangsu as a memorial to his deceased father. It is one of the major primary sources extant for the history of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and supplies invaluable historical detail on his reign as well as insights...

  • Kul Tigin memorial stele inscribed in Chinese and Turkic
    Kul Tigin
    Kul Tigin Kul Tigin Kul Tigin (Old Turkic:, Kultegin, (闕特勒/阙特勤, Pinyin: quètèqín, Wade-Giles: chüeh-t'e-ch'in, ? - 575 AD) was a general of the Second Turkic Kaganate. He was a second son of Ilterish Shad and the younger brother of Bilge Kagan....

  • Nestorian Stele
    Nestorian Stele
    The Nestorian Stele is aTang Chinese stele erected in 781 that documents 150 years of history of early Christianity in China. It is a 279-cm tall limestone block with text in both Chinese and Syriac, describing the existence of Christian communities in several cities in northern China...

  • Ukrainian stone stela
  • Lemnos stela
  • Lapis Niger
    Lapis Niger
    The Lapis Niger is an ancient shrine in the Roman Forum. Together with the associated Vulcanal it constitutes the only surviving remnants of the old Comitium, an early assembly area that preceded the Forum and is thought to derive from an archaic cult site of the 7th or 8th century BC.The black...

  • For Israel/Egypt:
    • Merneptah Stele
      Merneptah Stele
      The Merneptah Stele — also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah — is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah , which appears on the reverse side of a granite stele erected by the king Amenhotep III...

    • Mesha Stele
      Mesha Stele
      The Mesha Stele is a black basalt stone bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC ruler Mesha of Moab in Jordan....

  • For Egypt:
    • Rosetta Stone
      Rosetta Stone
      The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek...

    • Boundary Stelae of Akhenaten
      Boundary Stelae of Akhenaten
      The Boundary Stelae at the city of Amarna were constructed between Year 5 and Year 8 in the reign of Akhenaten.-Naming:There have been fifteen stelae found at this site, each of which has been labeled with a letter. Of the fifteen, three are located on the western side of the Nile. These have been...

    • Palermo stone
      Palermo stone
      The Palermo Stone is a large fragment of a stele known as the Royal Annals of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. It contains records of the kings of Egypt from the first dynasty through the fifth dynasty....

    • The Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu
  • For Sub-Saharan Africa:
    • Axumite Stele
    • Gao-Saney
      Gao-Saney
      Gao-Saney is the medieval town close to Gao, the capital of the Gao Empire, situated on the eastern Niger Bend in the present-day Republic of Mali...

  • In the Western Hemisphere:
    • Peru: Raimondi Stela
      Raimondi Stela
      The Indigenous deity of the Chavin civilization known as Raimondi Stela is a sacred object and a major piece of art of the Chavín culture of the central Andes in present-day Peru. The stela is seven feet high, made of highly polished granite, with a lightly incised design which is almost...

    • Mexico: Stela C at Tres Zapotes
    • Mexico: Izapa Stela 5
      Izapa Stela 5
      Izapa Stela 5 is one of a number of large, carved stelae found in the ancient Mesoamerican site of Izapa, in the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico along the present-day Guatemalan border...

    • Mexico: La Mojarra Stela 1
      La Mojarra Stela 1
      La Mojarra Stela 1 is a Mesoamerican carved monument dating from the 2nd century CE. It was discovered in 1986, pulled from the Acula River near La Mojarra, Veracruz, Mexico, not far from the Tres Zapotes archaeological site. The by , four-ton limestone slab contains about 535 glyphs of the...

    • Guatemala: Stele 14 from Piedras Negras
    • Honduras: Stele H from Copan
      Copán
      Copán is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization located in the Copán Department of western Honduras, not far from the border with Guatemala. It was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD...

  • Vietnam: the Doctorate stelae at the Temple of Literature

See also

  • Hilarri
    Hilarri
    Hilarri is the name given to disk-shaped funerary steles that are typical of the Basque Country.These funerary steles present a disc-shaped head facing the rising sun on a trapezoidal stand...

     or Basque
    Basque Country (historical territory)
    The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast....

     steles
  • Inscription
  • Kurgan stelae
    Kurgan stelae
    Kurgan stelae or Balbals are anthropomorphic stone stelae, images cut from stone, installed atop, within or around kurgans , in kurgan cemeteries, or in a double line extending from a kurgan...

  • Monumental inscription
    Monumental inscription
    A monumental inscription is an inscription, typically carved in stone, on a grave marker, cenotaph, memorial plaque, church monument or other memorial....

  • Runestone
  • Stećci
    Stećci
    The Stećci , are monumental medieval tombstones that lie scattered across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the border parts of Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. An estimated 60,000 are found within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of 10,000 are found in Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro...

  • Stele Forest
    Stele Forest
    The Stele Forest, or Xi'an Beilin Museum , is a museum for steles and stone sculptures which is located in Xi'an, China. Founded in 1944, it was the principal museum for Shaanxi province on the site of what was formerly an 11th century Confucius Temple...

    , in Xi'an
    Xi'an
    Xi'an is the capital of the Shaanxi province, and a sub-provincial city in the People's Republic of China. One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty...

    , China
  • Stele of the Vultures
  • Totem pole
    Totem pole
    Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly Western Red Cedar, by cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK