Many kings of the 19th Dynasty carved and dedicated stelae into the cliff-face at Gebel al-Silsila. It was at this narrow stretch of the Nile that the swelling of the river during the inundation was most apparent and was therefore considered a sacred location. These so-called ‘Nile Stelae’ commemorate offerings that were made to Hapy, god of the annual inundation of the Nile.
The 19th Dynasty tradition of carving Nile stelae at this spot began with Sety I (c. 1294–1279 BC). His son Rameses II (c. 1279–1213 BC) followed in his footsteps, and he, in turn, was followed by his own son Merenptah (c. 1213–1203 BC). Later, Rameses III (c. 1184–1153 BC) of the 20th Dynasty added his own stela.
The texts record how these kings ask the god Hapy to provide a good and safe flood for Egypt that will bring a plentiful supply of fish and birds. Agriculture in ancient Egypt was only possible thanks to the fertile soil deposited during the flood, and the kings acknowledge how the inundation, addressed in the form of the god Hapy, brings life to the Egyptian people.