This stela is inscribed with the Horus name of the second king of Dynasty 2, Raneb (or Nebra). A king's Horus name is written within a rectangular device called a serekh which is the composite view of a building from the side and the top. The lower part depicts the niched facade associated with royal structures; the upper part represents the building's interior, or perhaps its courtyard in plan-view. The whole is surmounted by a falcon representing the god Horus and implying the king's identity with this important deity. Judging from preserved inscriptions, the Horus name is the most commonly used designation for the earliest Egyptian kings from Dynasty 0 into Dynasty 3.
Raneb’s stela is one of a series of royal name stelae dating to Dynasties 1 and 2. Most of these come from the royal cemeteries of Abydos in southern Egypt, and all but two are carved from relatively soft limestone. Raneb's granite stela is the earliest surviving example of relief-carving in this very hard stone. Raneb was also the first king to incorporate the name of the sun god Re into his titulary, marking this diety's increasing prominence.
Excavations at Abydos show that pairs of inscribed stelae were important elements of royal tombs. However, Raneb's stela is said to have been found in northern Egypt in the area of Memphis (Mitrahina), the ancient Egyptian capital. This has led some scholars to suggest that Raneb's tomb was at the nearby necropolis of Saqqara, where jar sealings stamped with the king's name were found.
Front (60.144): purchased by the Museum from Ars Antiqua, Switzerland, in 1960. Back (1975.149) purchased by the Museum from Oswald Burchard, Zurich, in 1975.