Monthly Archives

October 2017

Statue-of-Akhenaten-post

Akhenaten

Akhenaten

Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BCE) was a pharaoh of Egypt of the 18th Dynasty. He is also known as `Akhenaton’ or `Ikhnaton’ and also `Khuenaten’, all of which are translated to mean `successful for’ or `of great use to’ the god Aten. Akhenaten chose this name for himself after his conversion to the cult of Aten. Prior to this conversion, he was known as Amenhotep IV (or Amenophis IV). He was the son of Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) and his wife Tiye, husband of Queen Nefertiti, and father of both Tutankhamun (by a lesser wife named Lady Kiya) and Tutankhamun’s wife Ankhsenamun (by Nefertiti).

His reign as Amenhotep IV lasted five years during which he followed the policies of his father and the religious traditions of Egypt. However, in the fifth year, he underwent a dramatic religious transformation, changed his devotion from the cult of Amun to that of Aten, and, for the next twelve years, became famous (or infamous) as the `heretic king’ who abolished the traditional religious rites of Egypt and instituted the first known monotheistic state religion in the world and, according to some, monotheism itself.

His reign is known as The Amarna Period because he moved the capital of Egypt from the traditional site at Thebes to the city he founded, Akhetaten, which came to be known as Amarna (also Tell el-Amarna). The Amarna Period is the most controversial era in Egyptian history and has been studied, debated, and written about more than any other.

Amenhotep IV Becomes Akhenaten

Amenhotep IV may have been co-regent with his father, Amenhotep III, and it has been noted that the sun-disk known as the `Aten’ is displayed on a number of inscriptions from this period of the earlier king’s reign. The Aten was not new to the rule of Akhenaten and, prior to his conversion, was simply another cult among the many in ancient Egypt. It should be noted that `cult’ did not have the same meaning in this regard as it does in the present day. There was absolutely nothing negative in the designation of a community of worshippers being known as a `cult’ in ancient Egypt. It carried the same meaning then as a member of the Christian community today being designated a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The gods and practices of the various cults all represented the same end: eternal harmony and balance.

AKHENATEN’S RELIGIOUS REFORMS MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST EVER INSTANCE OF MONOTHEISM.

Amenhotep III ruled over a land whose priesthood, centered on the god Amun, had been steadily growing in power for centuries. By the time Amenhotep IV came to power, the priests of Amun were on almost equal standing with the royal house in wealth and influence.

The historian Lewis Spence writes, “With the exception of Ra and Osiris, the worship of Amun was more widespread than that of any other god in the Nile Valley; but the circumstances behind the growth of his cult certainly point to its having been disseminated by political rather than religious propaganda” (137). By the time of Amenhotep IV, the Cult of Amun owned more land than the king. In the 5th year of his reign, Amenhotep IV outlawed the old religion and proclaimed himself the living incarnation of a single all-powerful deity known as Aten and, by the 9th year, he had closed all the temples and suppressed religious practices.

Amenhotep IV moved his seat of power from the traditional palace at Thebes to one he built at the city he founded, Akhetaten, changed his name to Akhenaten, and continued the religious reforms which resulted in his being despised as `the heretic king’ by some later writers while admired as a champion of monotheism by others.

Stela of Akhenaten

Akhenaten’s monotheistic

Some historians have praised Akhenaten’s reforms as the first instance of monotheism and the benefits of monotheistic belief; but these reforms were not at all beneficial to the people of Egypt at the time. The historian Durant, for example, writes that Akhenaten’s reforms were “the first out-standing expression of monotheism – seven hundred years before Isaiah [of the Bible] and an astounding advance upon the old tribal deities” (210). Those `old tribal deities’ of Egypt, however, had encouraged peace, harmony, and the development of one of the greatest ancient cultures the world has ever known.

The polytheism of the ancient Egyptians encouraged a world view where peace and balance were emphasized and religious tolerance was not considered an issue; there is not even a word directly corresponding to the concept of `religious tolerance’ in the ancient Egyptian texts. A hallmark of any monotheistic belief system, however, is that it encourages the belief that, in order for it to be right, other systems must necessarily be wrong. This insistence on being the sole arbiter of ultimate truth leads to intolerance of other beliefs and their suppression; this is precisely what happened in Egypt. The names of the god Amun and the other gods were chiseled from monuments throughout Egypt, the temples were closed, and the old practices outlawed.

“Dating to this point in Akhenaten’s reign was a campaign to excise the name of gods other than the Aten, especially Amun, from the monuments of Egypt. This was done with violence: hieroglyphs were brutally hacked from the walls of temples and tombs. This was probably carried out, at least in part, by illiterate iconoclasts, presumably following the orders of their king. [Akhenaten] carried out a religious revolution the like of which had never been seen before in Egypt. His reign represents a significant departure from religious, artistic, and political norms.” – Egyptologist Zahi Hawass

Priests of Amun who had the time and resources hid statuary and texts from the palace guards sent to destroy them and then abandoned their temple complexes. Akhenaten ordained new priests, or simply forced priests of Amun into the service of his new monotheism, and proclaimed himself and his queen gods.

Neglecting Egypt’s Allies

The pharaoh as a servant of the gods, and identified with a certain god (most often Horus), was common practice in ancient Egypt but no one before Akhenaten had proclaimed himself an actual god incarnate. As a god, he seems to have felt that the affairs of state were beneath him and simply stopped attending to his responsibilities One of the many unfortunate results of Akhenaten’s religious reforms was a neglect of foreign policy.

From documents and letters of the time it is known that other nations, formerly allies, wrote numerous times asking Egypt for help in various affairs and that most of these requests were ignored by the deified king. Egypt was a wealthy and prosperous nation at the time and had been steadily growing in power since before the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE). Hatshepsut and her successors, such as Tuthmosis III (1458-1425 BCE), employed a balanced approach of diplomacy and military action in dealing with foreign nations; Akhenaten chose simply to largely ignore what happened beyond the borders of Egypt and, it seems, most things outside of his palace at Akhetaten.

Watterson notes that Ribaddi (Rib-Hadda), king of Byblos, who was one of Egypt’s most loyal allies, sent over fifty letters to Akhenaten asking for help in fighting off Abdiashirta (also known as Aziru) of Amor (Amurru) but these all went unanswered and Byblos was lost to Egypt (112). Tushratta, the king of Mitanni, who had also been a close ally of Egypt, complained that Amenhotep III had sent him statues of gold while Akhenaten only sent gold-plated statues.

Akhetaten & Art

The famous Stele of Akhenaten, depicting the royal family, shows the rays of the Aten touching them all and each of them, even Nefertiti, depicted with the same elongation as the king. To consider these images as realistic depictions of the royal family, afflicted with some disorder, seems to be a mistake in that there would be no reason for Nefertiti to share in the king’s supposed disorder. The depiction, then, could illustrate Akhenaten and Nefertiti as those who had been transformed to god-like status by their devotion to the Aten to such an extent that their faith is seen even in their children.

One aspect of Amarna Period art which differentiates it from earlier and later periods is the intimacy of the images, best exemplified in the Stele of Akhenaten showing the family enjoying each other’s company in a private moment. Images of pharaohs before and after this period depict the ruler as a solitary figure engaged in hunting or battle or standing in the company of a god or his queen in dignity and honor. This can also be explained as stemming from Akhenaten’s religious beliefs in that the Aten, not the pharaoh, was the most important consideration (as in the Stele of Akhenaten, it is the Aten disk, not the family, which is the center of the composition) and, under the influence of the Aten’s love and grace, the pharaoh and his family thrives.

Akhetaten’s Monotheism & Legacy

This image of the Aten as an all-powerful, all-loving, deity, supreme creator and sustainer of the universe, is thought to have had a potent influence on the later development of monotheistic religious faith. Whether Akhenaten was motivated by a political agenda to suppress the power of the Cult of Amun or if he experienced a true religious revelation, he was the first on record to envision a single, supreme deity who cared for the individual lives and fates of human beings. Sigmund Freud, in his 1939 CE work Moses and Monotheism, argues that Moses was an Egyptian who had been an adherent of the Cult of Aten and was driven from Egypt following Akhenaten’s death and the return to the old religious paradigm.

“This image of the Aten as an all-powerful, all-loving, deity, supreme creator and sustainer of the universe, is thought to have had a potent influence on the later development of monotheistic religious faith. Whether Akhenaten was motivated by a political agenda to suppress the power of the Cult of Amun or if he experienced a true religious revelation, he was the first on record to envision a single, supreme deity who cared for the individual lives and fates of human beings. Sigmund Freud, in his 1939 CE work Moses and Monotheism, argues that Moses was an Egyptian who had been an adherent of the Cult of Aten and was driven from Egypt following Akhenaten’s death and the return to the old religious paradigm.” – Freud quotes from James Henry Breasted, the noted archaeologist

Freud recognizes that the Cult of Aten existed long before Akhenaten raised it to prominence but points out that Akhenaten added a component unknown previously in religious belief: “He added the something new that turned into monotheism, the doctrine of a universal god: the quality of exclusiveness” (24). The Greek philosopher Xenophanes (c. 570-c.478 BCE) would later experience a similar vision that the many gods of the Greek city-states were vain imaginings and there was only one true god and, though he shared this vision through his poetry, he never established the belief as a revolutionary new way of understanding oneself and the universe. Whether one regards Akhenaten as a hero or villain in Egypt’s history, his elevation of the Aten to supremacy changed not only that nation’s history, but the course of world civilization.

To those who came after him in Egypt, however, he was the `heretic king’ and `the enemy’ whose memory needed to be eradicated. His son, Tutankhamun (c.1336-1327 BCE) was given the name Tutankhaten at birth but changed his name upon ascending the throne to reflect his rejection of Atenism and his return of the country to the ways of Amun and the old gods. Tutankhamun’s successors Ay (1327-1323 BCE) and, especially, Horemheb (c. 1320-1292 BCE) tore down the temples and monuments built by Akhenaten to honor his god and had his name, and the names of his immediate successors, stricken from the record.

In fact, Akhenaten was unknown in Egyptian history until the discovery of Amarna in the 19th century CE. Horemheb’s inscriptions listed himself as the successor to Amenhoptep III and made no mention of the rulers of the Amarna Period. Akhenaten’s tomb was uncovered by the great archaeologist Flinders Petrie in 1907 CE and Tutankhamun’s tomb, more famously, by Howard Carter in 1922 CE. Interest in Tutankhamun spread to the family of the `golden king’ and so attention was brought to bear again on Akhenaten after almost 4,000 years. His legacy of monotheism, however, if Freud and others are correct, influenced other religious thinkers to emulate his ideal of a one, true god and reject the polytheism which had characterized human religious belief for millenia.

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu), photo: Pinterest.

amarna-letters,

The Amarna Letters – Marks of Early Diplomacy in Ancient Egypt

The Amarna Letters is a correspondence found in the city of Amarna between the kings of Egypt and those of foreign nations, which provide evidence of Akhenaten’s negligence, also show him to have a keen sense of foreign policy when the situation interested him. He strongly rebuked Abdiashirta for his actions against Ribaddi and for his friendship with the Hittites who were then Egypt’s enemy. This no doubt had more to do with his desire to keep friendly the buffer states between Egypt and the Land of the Hatti (Canaan and Syria, for example, which were under Abdiashirta’s influence) than any sense of justice for the death of Ribaddi and the taking of Byblos.

Amarna Letters

There is no doubt that Akhenaten attention to this problem served the interests of the state but, as other similar issues were ignored, it seems that he only chose those situations which interested him personally. Akhenaten had Abdiashirta brought to Egypt and imprisoned for a year until Hittite advances in the north compelled his release but there seems a marked difference between his letters dealing with this situation and other king’s correspondence on similar matters.

While there are, then, examples of Akhenaten looking after state affairs, there are more which substantiate the claim of his disregard for anything other than his religious reforms and life in the palace. It should be noted, however, that this is a point hotly debated among scholars in the modern day, as is the whole of the so-called Amarna Period of Akhenaten’s rule. Regarding this, Hawass writes, “More has been written on this period in Egyptian history than any other and scholars have been known to come to blows, or at least to major episodes of impoliteness, over their conflicting opinions”. The preponderance of the evidence, both from the Amarna letters and from Tutankhamun’s later decree, as well as archaeological indications, strongly suggests that Akhenaten was a very poor ruler as far as his subjects and vassal states were concerned and his reign, in the words of Hawass, was “an inward-focused regime that had lost interest in its foreign policy”.

“Akhenaten did not, however, abandon the rest of the country and retire exclusively to Akhetaten. When he laid out his city, he also commanded that a series of boundary stelae be carved in the cliffs surrounding the site. Among other things, these state that if he were to die outside of his home city, his body should be brought back and buried in the tomb that was being prepared for him in the eastern cliffs. There is evidence that, as Amenhotep IV, he carried out building projects in Nubia, and there were temples to the Aten in Memphis and Heliopolis, and possibly elsewhere as well.” – Egyptologist Zahi Hawass

Any evidence that Akhenaten involved himself in matters outside of his city at Akhetaten always comes back to self-interest rather than state-interest.

Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia (ancient.eu)

mummification-process

History and Secrets of Egyptian Mummification

Egyptian embalmers were so skilled that people mummified four thousand years ago still have skin, hair and recognizable features such as scars and tattoos.

The practice of mummifying the dead began in ancient Egypt c. 3500 BCE. The English word mummy comes from the Latin mumia which is derived from the Persian mum meaning ‘wax’ and refers to an embalmed corpse which was wax-like. The idea of mummifying the dead may have been suggested by how well corpses were preserved in the arid sands of the country.

The word mummy comes from the Arabic mummiya, meaning bitumen or coal and every Egyptian, except the most abject criminal, was entitled to be embalmed and receive a decent burial.

Early graves of the Badarian Period (c. 5000 BCE) contained food offerings and some grave goods, suggesting a belief in an afterlife, but the corpses were not mummified. These graves were shallow rectangles or ovals into which a corpse was placed on its left side, often in a fetal position. They were considered the final resting place for the deceased and were often, as in Mesopotamia, located in or close by a family’s home.

Graves evolved throughout the following eras until, by the time of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE), the mastaba tomb had replaced the simple grave, and cemeteries became common. Mastabas were seen not as a final resting place but as an eternal home for the body. The tomb was now considered a place of transformation in which the soul would leave the body to go on to the afterlife. It was thought, however, that the body had to remain intact in order for the soul to continue its journey.

Once freed from the body, the soul would need to orient itself by what was familiar. For this reason, tombs were painted with stories and spells from The Book of the Dead, to remind the soul of what was happening and what to expect, as well as with inscriptions known as The Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts which would recount events from the dead person’s life. Death was not the end of life to the Egyptians but simply a transition from one state to another. To this end, the body had to be carefully prepared in order to be recognizable to the soul upon its awakening in the tomb and also later.

The Osiris Myth & Mummification

By the time of the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613-2181 BCE), mummification had become standard practice in handling the deceased and mortuary rituals grew up around death, dying, and mummification. These rituals and their symbols were largely derived from the cult of Osiris who had already become a popular god. Osiris and his sister-wife Isis were the mythical first rulers of Egypt, given the land shortly after the creation of the world. They ruled over a kingdom of peace and tranquility, teaching the people the arts of agriculture, civilization, and granting men and women equal rights to live together in balance and harmony.

Stela of Neskhons Queen of Pinezem II

Osiris’ brother, Set, grew jealous of his brother’s power and success, however, and so murdered him; first by sealing him in a coffin and sending him down the Nile River and then by hacking his body into pieces and scattering them across Egypt. Isis retrieved Osiris’ parts, reassembled him, and then with the help of her sister Nephthys, brought him back to life. Osiris was incomplete, however – he was missing his penis which had been eaten by a fish – and so could no longer rule on earth. He descended to the underworld where he became Lord of the Dead. Prior to his departure, though, Isis had mated with him in the form of a kite and bore him a son, Horus, who would grow up to avenge his father, reclaim the kingdom, and again establish order and balance in the land.

This myth became so incredibly popular that it infused the culture and assimilated earlier gods and myths to create a central belief in a life after death and the possibility of resurrection of the dead. Osiris was often depicted as a mummified ruler and regularly represented with green or black skin symbolizing both death and resurrection. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson writes:

The cult of Osiris began to exert influence on the mortuary rituals and the ideals of contemplating death as a “gateway into eternity”. This deity, having assumed the cultic powers and rituals of other gods of the necropolis, or cemetery sites, offered human beings salvation, resurrection, and eternal bliss.

Eternal life was only possible, though, if one’s body remained intact. A person’s name, their identity, represented their immortal soul, and this identity was linked to one’s physical form.

The Parts of the Soul

The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts:

  1. The Khat was the physical body.
  2. The Ka one’s double-form (astral self).
  3. The Ba was a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens (specifically between the afterlife and one’s body
  4. The Shuyet was the shadow self.
  5. The Akh was the immortal, transformed self after death.
  6. The Sahu was an aspect of the Akh.
  7. The Sechem was another aspect of the Akh.
  8. The Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil, holder of one’s character.
  9. The Ren was one’s secret name.

The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and be able to function properly. Once released from the body, these different aspects would be confused and would at first need to center themselves by some familiar form.

BURIAL PRACTICE & MORTUARY RITUALS IN ANCIENT EGYPT WERE TAKEN SO SERIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT DEATH WAS NOT THE END OF LIFE.

The Mummification Process

When a person died, they were brought to the embalmers who offered three types of service. It would seem, however, that people still chose the level of service they could most easily afford. Once chosen, that level determined the kind of coffin one would be buried in, the funerary rites available, and the treatment of the body. Egyptologist Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University at Cairo, has studied mummification in depth and provides the following:

The key ingredient in the mummification was natron, or netjry, divine salt. It is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium sulphate and sodium chloride that occurs naturally in Egypt, most commonly in the Wadi Natrun some sixty four kilometres northwest of Cairo. It has desiccating and defatting properties and was the preferred desiccant, although common salt was also used in more economical burials.

According to Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BC, described the different methods:

In the most expensive type of burial service, the body was laid out on a table and washed. The embalmers would then begin their work at the head:

  1. Draw out the brain through the nostrils
  2. Take out the whole contents of the belly, and clean the interior with palm-wine and spices.
  3. Fill the belly with pure myrrh, cassia and other spices and sew it together again.
  4. Cover up in natron for seventy days.
  5. Wash the corpse and roll it up in fine linen.

In the second-most expensive burial, less care was given to the body:

  1. Fill the belly with oil of cedar-wood using a syringe by the breech, which is plugged to stop the drench from returning back; it dissolves the bowels and interior organs.
  2. After the appointed number of days with the natron treatment the cedar oil is let out and the corpse is left as skin and the bones.
  3. Returned the corpse the family.

The third and cheapest (For the Poor) method of embalming was “simply to wash out the intestines and keep the body for seventy days in natron”. The internal organs were removed in order to help preserve the corpse, but because it was believed the deceased would still need them, the viscera were placed in canopic jars to be sealed in the tomb. Only the heart was left inside the body as it was thought to contain the Ab aspect of the soul.

  1. Cleanse out the belly with a purge.
  2. Keep the body for seventy days of natron treatment.
  3. Return the corpse to the family.

Canopic Jars

Except for the heart, which was needed by the deceased in the Hall of Judgment, the embalmers removed all of the internal organs from the body. These were placed into four vases, called Canopic Jars. The lids formed the shape of the Four Sons of Horus. The liver was associated with Imset who was depicted with a human head. The lungs were associated with Hapi who was depicted with a baboon’s head. The stomach was associated with Duamutef with the head of a jackal. The intestines and viscera of the lower body was associated with the falcon headed Kebechsenef.

Canopic Jars

Embalmer’s Methods

The embalmers removed the organs from the abdomen through a long incision cut into the left side. In removing the brain, as Ikram notes, they would insert a hooked surgical tool up through the dead person’s nose and pull the brain out in pieces but there is also evidence of embalmers breaking the nose to enlarge the space to get the brain out more easily. Breaking the nose was not the preferred method, though, because it could disfigure the face of the deceased and the primary goal of mummification was to keep the body intact and preserved as life-like as possible. This process was followed with animals as well as humans. Egyptians regularly mummified their pet cats, dogs, gazelles, fish, birds, baboons, and also the Apis bull, considered an incarnation of the divine.

The removal of the organs and brain was all about drying out the body. The only organ they left in place, in most eras, was the heart because that was thought to be the seat of the person’s identity and character. Blood was drained and organs removed to prevent decay, the body was again washed, and the dressing (linen wrapping) applied.

Although the above processes are the standard observed throughout most of Egypt’s history, there were deviations in some eras.

Funeral Rites & Burial

Once the organs had been removed and the body washed, the corpse was wrapped in linen – either by the embalmers, if one had chosen the most expensive service (who would also include magical amulets and charms for protection in the wrapping), or by the family – and placed in a sarcophagus or simple coffin. The wrapping was known as the ‘linen of yesterday’ because, initially, poor people would give their old clothing to the embalmers to wrap the corpse in. This practice eventually led to any linen cloth used in embalming known by the same name.

Mummy Case

The funeral was a public affair at which, if one could afford them, women were hired as professional mourners. These women were known as the ‘Kites of Nephthys’ and would encourage people to express their grief through their own cries and lamentation. They would reference the brevity of life and how suddenly death came but also gave assurance of the eternal aspect of the soul and the confidence that the deceased would pass through the trial of the weighing of the heart in the afterlife by Osiris to pass on to paradise in the Field of Reeds.

Shabti box

Grave goods, however rich or modest, would be placed in the tomb or grave. These would include shabti dolls who, in the afterlife, could be woken to life through a spell and assume the dead person’s tasks. Since the afterlife was considered an eternal and perfect version of life on earth, it was thought there was work there just as in one’s mortal life. The shabti would perform these tasks so the soul could relax and enjoy itself. Shabti dolls are important indicators to modern archaeologists on the wealth and status of the individual buried in a certain tomb; the more shabti dolls, the greater the wealth.

Besides the shabti, the person would be buried with items thought necessary in the afterlife: combs, jewelry, beer, bread, clothing, one’s weapons, a favorite object, even one’s pets. All of these would appear to the soul in the afterlife and they would be able to make use of them. Before the tomb was sealed, a ritual was enacted which was considered vital to the continuation of the soul’s journey: the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. In this rite, a priest would invoke Isis and Nephthys (who had brought Osiris back to life) as he touched the mummy with different objects (adzes, chisels, knives) at various spots while anointing the body. In doing so, he restored the use of ears, eyes, mouth, and nose to the deceased.

The son and heir of the departed would often take the priest’s role, thus further linking the rite with the story of Horus and his father Osiris. The deceased would now be able to hear, see, and speak and was ready to continue the journey. The mummy would be enclosed in the sarcophagus or coffin, which would be buried in a grave or laid to rest in a tomb along with the grave goods, and the funeral would conclude. The living would then go back to their business, and the dead were then believed to go on to eternal life.

Sources: ancient.eudiscoveringegypt.com

kom-ombo-temple

Temple of Kom Ombo

The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple in the town of Kom Ombo in Aswan Governorate, Upper Egypt. It was constructed during the Ptolemaic dynasty, 180–47 BC. Some additions to it were later made during the Roman period. The building is unique because its ‘double’ design meant that there were courts, halls, sanctuaries, and rooms duplicated for two sets of gods. The southern half of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world with Hathor and Khonsu. Meanwhile, the northern part of the temple was dedicated to the falcon god Haroeris, also known as Horus the Elder, along “with Tasenetnofret (the Good Sister, a special form of Hathor or Tefnet/Tefnut) and Panebtawy (Lord of the Two Lands).” The temple is atypical because everything is perfectly symmetrical along the main axis.

Temple outside view

The texts and reliefs in the temple refer to cultic liturgies which were similar to those from that time period. The temple itself had a specific theology. The characters invoked the gods of Ombos and their legend. Two themes were present in this temple: the universalist theme and the local theme. The two combine to form the theology of this temple. The temple was started by Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 BC) at the beginning of his reign and added to by other Ptolemys, most notably Ptolemy XIII (51–47 BC), who built the inner and outer hypostyle halls. The scene on the inner face of the rear wall of the temple is of particular interest, and “probably represents a set of surgical instruments.” A temple was already built in the New Kingdom to honor these gods, however, this site gained in importance during the Ptolemaic Period. Little remains of the New Kingdom temple. Much of the temple has been destroyed by the Nile, earthquakes, and later builders who used its stones for other projects. Some of the reliefs inside were defaced by Copts who once used the temple as a church. All the temples buildings in the southern part of the plateau were cleared of debris and restored by Jacques de Morgan in 1893.

A few of the three hundred crocodile mummies discovered in the vicinity are displayed in The Crocodile Museum.

The Name “Kon Ombo”, and History

The word “Kom” in Arabic means the small hill and the word “Ombo”, in the Hieroglyphic ancient Egyptian language, means the gold. Therefore, the word Kom Ombo, as a whole, means the hill of the gold.

The word Ombo was actually originated from the Pharaonic word “Nbty” which is an adjective derived of the word Nebo that meant gold. During the Coptic period, the word was slightly changed to become Enbo and when the Arabic language became common in Egypt, the word became “Ombo”.

Although Kom Ombo is famous today due to the Temple that was constructed during the Greco Roman era, the area was inhabited since the pre-dynastic period of the Egyptian history and many ancient burial sites were discovered in and around Kom Ombo.

The name of the town; Kom Ombo, or the hill of the gold clarifies how important it was for the ancient Egyptians from the economical aspect, despite the fact that the town never really flourished except when the Ptolemies took control of Egypt.

The Ptolemies have constructed many permanent military bases in the area situated on the Red Sea. This developed the commercial activities between the town located near the Nile and these bases, especially Kom Ombo which was a transit point where many trading caravans used to stop.

The most glorious days of Kom Ombo came when the Romans ruled over Egypt as it became the capital and the administrative center of the province and during this period a large portion of the Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed and many other sections were restored and renovated.

The Temple of Kom Ombo, which we view today and was built during the Greco Roman period, was constructed on the ruins of a much older temple which was called “Ber Sobek” or the house of the god Sobek.

This older temple was erected during the reigns of King Tuthmosis III and then during the ruling period of Queen Hatshepsut, whose marvelous temple is still standing in the West Bank of Luxor, and both belonged to the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom.

The recent temple of Kom Ombo was built during the period from 205 till 180 BC in the ruling period of King Ptolemy V. The construction process of the temple went on for many years afterward in the period from 180 till 169 BC with each king having his addition to the complex of the Temple of Kom Ombo.

A large portion of the Temple of Kom Ombo, including the hypostyle hall, was constructed during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, from the year 81 till 96 BC. The buildings work of the temple went afterward for more than 400 years during the ruling period of Emperors Caracalla and Macrinus till the middle of the 3rd century AD.

The Ptolemies have constructed the Temple of Kom Ombo for the worship of two gods, Sobek; the Crocodile god, and Horus, the falcon god. This is why the complex mainly consists of two parallel temples with all the traditional components of such ancient Egyptian religious structures are present in the two temples.

The Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed mainly with limestone in the shape of a rectangle, with a plan and a design which is quite similar to many temples constructed in the Greco Roman period like the Temples of Dendara and Philae which are considered among the most important monuments in Upper Egypt, visited by numerous tourists.

The design of the Temple of Kom Ombo starts with a front courtyard, a hypostyle hall following it, three inner halls, and then two sanctuaries; one dedicated to Sobek and the other to Horus.

Description of the Temple

A set of steps lead from the ground to the gate of the temple, which consists of a large structure made of blocks of stones. The façade of the Temple of Kom Ombo has some of the wonderful wall carvings of the Ptolemaic kings beating the enemies and presenting the offerings to the gods.

After passing through the gate of the temple, the guest enters the hypostyle hall, constructed in the Roman period, which is largely ruined and damaged due to several reasons with time passing by.

The courtyard of the temple consists of a rectangle open space with sixteen columns surrounding the courtyard from three directions. Unfortunately, only the bases of these columns survived until today with some of the capitals that were located at the top of the columns.

After the courtyard, the guests enter the first inner hall that was constructed during the ruling period of Ptolemy XII. To the East of this hall, there are many portraits of the Ptolemies being purified by the gods Sobek and Horus, in a scene that would be found in other temples like the Edfu and Philae.

The inner hall of the Temple of Kom Ombo has a design which is similar to the outer hall but the columns here are quite shorter and the stone capital of these columns have the shape of the lotus flower, one of the most important and sacred plants in ancient Egypt.

The Temple of Kom Ombo is featured for having two sanctuaries dedicated to the two gods of the temple; Sobek and Horus. The two sanctuaries consist of two similar rectangle halls which are considered to be among the most ancient sections built in the temple as they were constructed during the reign of Ptolemy VI.

The birthplace of the Temple of Kom Ombo is located in the South Eastern section of the complex and it was constructed during the period of Ptolemy VII. This structure consists of an outer courtyard that leads into a front hypostyle hall that leads in turn to another two halls where rituals of the birth of the son of the gods were carried out.

Chapel of Hathour

The Chapel of Hathour is located in the North Eastern section of the Temple of Kom Ombo and it consists of a rectangle shaped chapel constructed higher than the ground and reached through climbing some steps. The chapel is 5 meters long and 3 meters wide.

Inside the chapel of Hathour, there are three glass galleries that display three mummies of crocodiles representing the god Sobek. The façade of the chapel has a portrait displaying Hathour sitting in front of the entrance.

The temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo is yet another of the fascinating temples along the Nile

Chapel of Sobek

Situated in the North Eastern section of the temple of Kom Ombo, a Roman-style chapel constructed in the 3rd century AD was dedicated to the god Sobek.

Emperor Caracalla is portrayed on two columns that dominate the entrance into the chapel that hosts many portraits of the god Sobek, which was worshiped by many Egyptians during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

Sorces: wikipedia, ask-aladdin.com.
Temple outside view image source: flicker.

goddess_nut-featured

Goddess NUT

Nut (Egyptian: Nwt, Pronounced “newt”), also known by various other transcriptions, is the goddess of the sky in the Ennead of ancient Egyptian religion. She was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the earth, or as a cow.

Goddess of the sky

Nut is a daughter of Shu and Tefnut. Her brother and husband is Geb. She had four or five children: Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephthys, and—in early Egyptian sources—Horus. She is considered one of the oldest deities among the Egyptian pantheon, with her origin being found on the creation story of Heliopolis. She was originally the goddess of the nighttime sky, but eventually became referred to as simply the sky goddess. Her headdress was the hieroglyphic of part of her name, a pot, which may also symbolize the uterus. Mostly depicted in nude human form, Nut was also sometimes depicted in the form of a cow whose great body formed the sky and heavens, a sycamore tree, or as a giant sow, suckling many piglets (representing the stars).

Origins

A sacred symbol of Nut was the ladder used by Osiris to enter her heavenly skies. This ladder-symbol was called maqet and was placed in tombs to protect the deceased, and to invoke the aid of the deity of the dead. Nut and her brother, Geb, may be considered enigmas in the world of mythology. In direct contrast to most other mythologies which usually develop a sky father associated with an Earth mother (or Mother Nature), she personified the sky and he the Earth.

Great goddess Nut with her wings stretched across a coffin

Nut appears in the creation myth of Heliopolis which involves several goddesses who play important roles: Tefnut (Tefenet) is a personification of moisture, who mated with Shu (Air) and then gave birth to Sky as the goddess Nut, who mated with her brother Earth, as Geb. From the union of Geb and Nut came, among others, the most popular of Egyptian goddesses, Isis, the mother of Horus, whose story is central to that of her brother-husband, the resurrection god Osiris. Osiris is killed by his brother Set and scattered over the Earth in 14 pieces which Isis gathers up and puts back together. Osiris then climbs a ladder into his mother Nut for safety and eventually becomes king of the dead.

A huge cult developed about Osiris that lasted well into Roman times. Isis was her husband’s queen in the underworld and the theological basis for the role of the queen on earth. It can be said that she was a version of the great goddess Hathor. Like Hathor she not only had death and rebirth associations but was the protector of children and the goddess of childbirth.

Earth And Sky, GEB And NUT

Born as half a pair, locked with her brother and consort Geb, their embrace was so passionate that their own father, Shu the God of Air, had to separate them. And thus heaven and earth were created, with Nut the Sky, arched above her adoring husband, Geb the Earth.

Nut and Geb’s eternal love affair was consummated every night, when she would come down to earth for a few hours, causing darkness to fall.

From their love they spawned some of ancient Egypt’s greatest and most powerful deities, as well as the sun, the moon and the stars.

Nut, goddess of sky supported by Shu the god of air, and the ram-headed Heh deities, while the earth god Geb reclines beneath.

Myth of Nut and Ra

Ra, the sun god, was the second to rule the world, according to the reign of the gods. Ra was a strong ruler but he feared anyone taking his throne. When he discovered that Nut was to have children, he was furious. He decreed, “Nut shall not give birth any day of the year.” At that time, the year was only 360 days. Nut spoke to Thoth, god of wisdom, and he had a plan. Thoth gambled with Khonsu, god of the moon, whose light rivalled that of Ra’s. Every time Khonsu lost, he had to give Thoth some of his moonlight. Khonsu lost so many times that Thoth had enough moonlight to make 5 extra days. Since these days were not part of the year, Nut could have her children. She had five children: Osiris, later ruler of the gods and then god of the dead, Horus the Elder, god of war, Set, god of evil and wastelands, Isis, goddess of magic, and Nephthys, goddess of water. When Ra found out, he was furious. He separated Nut from her husband Geb for eternity. Her father, Shu, was to keep them apart. Nevertheless, Nut did not regret her decision.

Protectress Of the Journey to the AfterLife

Nut was the goddess of the sky and all heavenly bodies, a symbol of protecting the dead when they enter the afterlife. According to the Egyptians, during the day, the heavenly bodies—such as the sun and moon—would make their way across her body. Then, at dusk, they would be swallowed, pass through her belly during the night, and be reborn at dawn.

Nut is also the barrier separating the forces of chaos from the ordered cosmos in the world. She was pictured as a woman arched on her toes and fingertips over the earth; her body portrayed as a star-filled sky. Nut’s fingers and toes were believed to touch the four cardinal points or directions of north, south, east, and west.

Because of her role in saving Osiris, Nut was seen as a friend and protector of the dead, who appealed to her as a child appeals to its mother: “O my Mother Nut, stretch Yourself over me, that I may be placed among the imperishable stars which are in You, and that I may not die.” Nut was thought to draw the dead into her star-filled sky, and refresh them with food and wine: “I am Nut, and I have come so that I may enfold and protect you from all things evil.

Goddess NUT (Newt) is printed on the inside lid of this sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The dead would lie down in her arms as they journeyed safely to the next world. Sarcophagus on display at the American Museum of Natural History – Mummies Exhibition (AMNH).

She was often painted on the inside lid of the sarcophagus, protecting the deceased. The vaults of tombs were often painted dark blue with many stars as a representation of Nut. The Book of the Dead says, “Hail, thou Sycamore Tree of the Goddess Nut! Give me of the water and of the air which is in thee. I embrace that throne which is in Unu, and I keep guard over the Egg of Nekek-ur. It flourisheth, and I flourish; it liveth, and I live; it snuffeth the air, and I snuff the air, I the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, in peace.”

(Source on Into % Origins: wikipedia)