Martin, Geoffrey T
Umm el-Qaab VII
Private Stelae of the Early Dynastic Period from the Royal Cemetery at Abydos
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The objects published in this catalogue by Geoffrey T. Martin are stelae (gravestones), over 350 in number, most of which commemorate administrators, priests, attendants, artisans, and others who formed part of the entourage of Egypt's earliest kings, interred in the ancestral royal cemetery at Abydos in southern Egypt at the beginning of the fourth millennium BC. A surprising number are inscribed for women, who do not for the most part have titles, though it cannot automatically be assumed that they were members of the royal harem. Most of the stelae were excavated more than a century ago, but have never received definitive publication. Others have been found more recently by German and American expeditions. The large rectangular mud-brick tombs of the early kings were enclosed by subsidiary graves, on which the stelae studied in this volume were erected. Thus, the rulers were surrounded in death as they were in life by their officials and attendants. The inscriptions on the stelae - some of the earliest in the history of mankind - are fundamental not only for the analysis of the emergence of the hieroglyphic script (some of the signs are unique to the First Dynasty) but also for the study of the development of the embryo Egyptian state following the unification of the separate kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt between 3100 and 3000 BC.