Painted limestone stele fragment

Egyptian stelae

An interdisciplinary examination into the materiality, production, and decoration of ancient Egyptian stelae

About the project

This interdisciplinary project examines 20 ancient Egyptian stelae, made from limestone, pottery and wood, in the Chau Chak Wing Museum that were produced and decorated between the New Kingdom (c.1500–1069 BC) and the Ptolemaic Period (c.332–30 BC). 

It brings together an environmental scientist, geologist, stone carver, conservators and an archeometallurgist who are conducting the technical analyses on the stelae, in conjunction with Egyptologists, to provide a holistic understanding of ancient Egyptian stelae.

The focus is on the type of material used, and its origins, how they were carved and decorated, the types of tools and pigments used, and evidence of modifications and reuse. 

Findings will be interpreted in the context of the objects' history, inscriptions and iconography. 

The New Kingdom component of this study has been generously supported by the Centre for Ancient Cultures, Heritage and the Environment (CACHE) at Macquarie University. For more about this, visit CACHE's website

Select outputs

  • A comprehensive publication of the research, including a catalogue of the Museum's Egyptian stelae (co-edited by Melanie Pitkin, Pauline Stanton and Eve Guerry)
  • Small exhibition display of the stelae and results in progress of the project at the Chau Chak Wing Museum (scheduled August–November 2023)
  • Podcast for Object Matters with Dr Melanie Pitkin and Pauline Stanton to discuss stele NMR.53, made for Ahmose, 18th Dynasty (1550 - 1295 BC).
  • 'Pop-up' museum in Bankstown Central shopping centre, November 24, 2022 (with more planned for 2023)

Research team

Chau Chak Wing Museum

  • Project lead: Dr Melanie Pitkin, Senior Curator (Nicholson Collection) and Egyptologist 
  • Dr Eve Guerry, Academic Engagement Curator and Egyptologist 
  • Sabrina Baron, Volunteer

External collaborators

  • Professor Damian Gore, Environmental Scientist, Macquarie University
  • Dr Trevor Emmett, Geologist, Independent (United Kingdom)
  • Jamie Sergeant, Stone carver
  • Dr Martin Odler, Egyptologist, Newcastle University (UK)
  • Ing Jiri Kmosek, Archeometallurgist, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna; Nuclear Physics Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Řež
  • Dr Geoffrey Killen, Specialist in ancient Egyptian carpentry, Independent (United Kingdom)
  • Pauline Stanton, Egyptologist, Macquarie University
  • Madeline Jenkins, Egyptology student, Macquarie University
  • Bree Kelly, Egyptology student, Macquarie University
  • Tahlia Kirk, Egyptology student, Macquarie University
  • Emily Gardner, Egyptology student, Macquarie University
  • Rachel Nawar, Egyptology student, Macquarie University

Header image: Lower fragment of a former round-topped limestone funerary stele, 18th Dynasty (1479–1390 BC), Thebes, Upper Egypt, Nicholson Collection, NMR.7

Melanie Louise Pitkin

Senior Curator, Nicholson Collection