views updated May 23 2018


An upright block of stone with or without an inscription, erected to commemorate an important person or event or to function as a sacred object. As a commemorative gravestone or sacred object, the more precise terms "pillar" and the Hebrew maēbâ (plural maēbôt ) are apt to be used by the archeologist, with the word "stele" reserved for the stone slab, essentially secular in character, that is inscribed with records of victories, alliances, treaties, laws, or decrees. However, the Greek word στήλη, from which the English word is derived, was used for all these meanings.

All ancient peoples of the Near East erected steles. They are found from Mesopotamia to Egypt. One of the best-known steles is the one that is inscribed with the code of laws of hammurabi (Hammurapi), in the Louvre Museum, Paris. The Egyptians were particularly fond of steles and at times went to great lengths to produce them, as is evidenced in the famous Egyptian obelisks, which are essentially steles or more technically maēbôt.

The Israelites erected memorial gravestones (Gn 35.20; 2 Sm 18.18), and frequent mention was made of sacred maēbôt that caused no end of concern for the religion of Yahweh. As yet, however, no commemorative stele, strictly so-called, of Israelite origin has been unearthed. Nevertheless, several steles have been found that have had profound effect on the understanding of the general background of the biblical period and in some cases of the biblical text itself. The importance of steles is easily appreciated because of the contribution the inscriptions have made to the fields of history, linguistics, and religion.

Important steles that have had a direct bearing on the understanding of the Bible are the following: of Egyptian originthe stele of Mer-ne-Ptah, four royal stelae from the Egyptian garrison town of Beth-San, the stele of sesac i found at mageddo, and a stele of Thutmose III or Amenhotep found at Chenereth in Galilee; of Canaanite originthe mesha inscription, known also as the Moabite stone, and the stele of Baluah; of Mesopotamian originthe stele of Hammurabi and the Black Obelisk of Salmanasar III.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 232224, with bibliog. on the individual historical steles. j. scharbert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite-Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 9:1035. k. galling, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 6:352353. k. galling, Biblisches Reallexicon (Tübingen) 500503.

[t. h. weber]


views updated May 11 2018

stele The vascular tissue of a root or stem, consisting of a xylem, phloem pericycle, and sometimes having pith and medullary rays. Morphologically, steles can be divided into 2 main categories: protostele and siphonostele, the latter possessing a pith. Either type may be a single vascular vessel (monostele) or divided into several strands (dictyostele).


views updated Jun 08 2018

stele The vascular tissue (i.e. xylem and phloem) of tracheophyte plants, together with the endodermis and pericycle (when present). The arrangement of stelar tissues is very variable. In roots the stele often forms a solid core, which better enables the root to withstand tension and compression. In stems it is often a hollow cylinder separating the cortex and pith. This arrangement makes the stem more resistant to bending stresses. Monocotyledons and dicotyledons can usually be distinguished by the pattern of their stelar tissue. In monocotyledons the vascular bundles are scattered throughout the stem whereas in dicotyledons (and gymnosperms) they are arranged in a circle around the pith.


views updated May 18 2018

stele, stela (pl. stelai). Ancient Greek monument consisting of a vertical stone carved with reliefs, inscriptions, and ornament, often a crowning anthemion, and commonly used as a gravestone. It was a form often used during the Greek Revival, and a fine example stands over Schinkel's grave in Berlin.


K&B (1971)


views updated May 11 2018

stele sculptured upright slab. XIX. — Gr. stḗlē.
So stela XVIII — L. — Gr.