x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A history of the world in 100 objects: Egyptian stele

At three metres tall, this ancient Egyptian stele is one of the largest pieces in the exhibition.

Ptolemaic Stela, red granite, Italy, part of the 100 Objects exhibition in Manarat Al Saadiyat. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National
Ptolemaic Stela, red granite, Italy, part of the 100 Objects exhibition in Manarat Al Saadiyat. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National

At three metres tall, this ancient Egyptian stele is one of the largest pieces in the exhibition and one of the most difficult to transport.

It was brought in place of the Rosetta Stone, which is probably the most famous object in the British Museum and therefore not able to be loaned to Abu Dhabi for this exhibition.

Both this stele and the Rosetta Stone are important because they underline the fact that under the rule of Ptolemy at about 300BC, the language of administration in Egypt was Greek. “This particular stele commemorates a state visit,” explains Becky Allen, the exhibition’s curator. “The text itself is not that interesting, but … it is written in Greek, with hieroglyphics at the top. In terms of power and control, the two main parties that would be reading this were the Greek statesmen and the Egyptian priests, because by then only the priests were able to understand or use hieroglyphs, so this displays the dual culture at the time.”

• Each Tuesday, Arts & Life will focus on one artefact on show as part of A History of the World in 100 Objects, an exhibition running until August 1 in Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

aseaman@thenational.ae