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A232 Ancestor Stela                                                                                                                      Fragment of stone stela showing person holding lotus (waterlily) flower. It is 10cm in height.

The inscription shows that this is an ‘ancestor stela’ dedicated to ‘the excellent spirits of Re’. Several of these have been found in homes, though others have been found in chapels and tombs. Egyptologists believe that these may well have been a way of the living contacting the dead. Most have been found at Deir el Medina and date to the Ramesside Period (1295-1069 BC) though it is probable that ours comes from Abydos.

The importance of the ancestors to the living is attested in several ways. There are letters to the dead (Donnat 2002; Wente 1990). We know from text that water was poured for the transfigured dead. The teaching of Any urges offerings to be made within the home to parents (Weiss 2009). And, there are also ancestor busts. One might even see the game of senet as a means of communicating with the dead.

The religious significance of the lotus on the stela includes the ability of its scent to revive. Scent was also associated with sanctity, the odour of the gods, and with the deceased passing into eternal life. It was a suitable offering for deities and the deceased and is important in drinking party scenes on New Kingdom tomb walls where guests of the deceased sniff lotus flowers.

Gift from University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Other items from Abydos in the Egypt Centre


Further Reading

Published in Griffin, Ken 2007. An Akh ikr n rA stela from the collection of the Egypt Centre, Swansea. In Schneider, T. and Szpakowska, K. Egyptian Stories, A British Egyptological Tribute to Alan B. Lloyd On the Occasion of His Retirement, Munster, 137–147.

Demaree, R. 1983. The Ax uqr n Ra-stelae: On ancestor worship in ancient Egypt. Egyptologische Uitgaven. Leiden.

Donnat, S. 2002. Le bol support de la Lettre au Mort: wers la mise en evidence d’un ritual magique. In Koenig, Y. (ed.), La magie en Egypte. Paris.

Weiss, L. 2009. Personal religious practice: house altars at Deir el-Medina. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 95. 193–208.


Wente, E. 1990. Letters from Ancient Egypt. Atlanta.