• Document: Gods of the Western Desert
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s t u d i e s i n a n c i e n t a r t a n d c i v i l i z at i o n 1 3 Kraków 2009 Anna Nodzyńska Kraków Gods of the Western Desert Western Desert remains one of the most under-explored areas of Egypt, while at the same time, one with a huge archaeological potential. Though our kno- wledge on the subject is now immensely better than it was some 20 years ago, due to the combined efforts of many people and institutions, there are yet whole towns to be excavated there. The region with its five large oases both intrigued and scared the ancients. In writing, a tree-hill sign xAst symboli- zing the foreign, the alien, that which lies at the edge of chaos and order, was used for both deserts and the lands outside of Egypt.1 Fear of the unknown, ho- wever, did not stop the Egyptians from infiltrating and spreading control over the oases (apart from Siwa) already during the Old Kingdom, bringing with them their culture and their gods. As the majority of material unearthed in the region dates to the Late or Roman Periods, the subject of local cults and the introduction of the Egyptian ones is a particularly difficult one. New arrivals probably replaced indigenous deities they encountered. The chief deity of the Western oases was Amon-Re, venerated alongside the other members of the Theban Triad. Introduction of his cult there could probably be linked with the re-establishment of Egyptian control over the region in the early New Kingdom. There are two special forms of Amon-Re to be found in the oases – a composite god Amon-Horus and Amon-Nakht2. The former appears in Bahariya, Deir el-Hagar and Hibis, the latter in Ain Birbi- 1 Gardiner 1957, p.488, N25; cf. D.B. O’Connor, S. Quirke, Mysterious Lands (Encounters with Ancient Egypt), London 2003, p. 10-13. 2 Kaper O., Temples and Gods in Roman Dakhleh: Studies in the Indigenous Cults of an Egyptian Oasis, PhD thesis Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, privately published, 1997, chapter 3. 164 Anna Nodzyńska yeh. Further to the north, a ram-headed deity called Ammon by the Greeks was worshipped in Siwa3. The older of Bahariya temples is dated to the reign of Apries, XXVIth Dynasty, the younger one to the time of Alexander the Great.4 Here Amon and Horus are both receiving offerings but are depicted separately. In the Roman temple of Deir el-Hagar an even more complex form of the god appears, incorporating aspects of both Horus and Min of Akhmim – a similar depiction is to be found on the sanctuary wall in el-Ghueida, where Amon of Perwesekh was venerated5. Generally though he is presented in a human or criocephalic form. Between Tineida and Bashindi villages in Eastern Dakhla lies a Roman temple of Amon-Nakht6. This interesting deity seems to be partially modelled after Horus, with Hathor as his consort, but has also additional features. He is depicted similarly to the falcon-headed Seth at Hibis and Mut el-Kharab – outstretched wings and a spear giving him a more agressive, warlike character. Amon-Nakht was therefore a protector against the dangers to be found in the desert, a „Mighty One” as the name suggests7. Despite similarities he is actu- ally an enemy of Seth, in fact it seems plausible, the introduction of an alter- native protector played a role in the priestly attempt to replace lord of Mut in the oases. In Hibis Amon resided as a local god Amenebis or Amon of Hibis8, a small Roman temple dedicated to him lies nearby at Qasr el- Zaiyan, while another one stood in Ain al-Tarakwa9. His depictions appear frequently at the local necropoli in the tombs of Bahariya governors or in Dakhla’s Muzawwaqa cemetery. Amon was the true lord of the oases but this title is commonly given to another god – Seth. The longevity of Seth’s cult in the West is puzzling, con- 3 Cf. K.P.Kuhlmann, Das Ammoneion, Archäologie, Geschichte und Kultpraxis des Orakels von Siwa. Archäologische Veröffentlichungen 75, Mainz 1988. 4 A.Fakhry, A Temple of Alexander the Great at Bahria Oasis, pp. 823-828, ASAE 40, Cairo 1940; Z.Hawass, Valley of the Golden Mummies, p. 195-201, Cairo 2000. 5 On Qasr el-Ghueida see: PM VII, pp. 291-293, 286; E.Cruz-Uribe, The Persian Presence at Qasr el-Ghuieta, Egypt at www.cais-soas.com.. 6 Kaper, o.c., chapter 3; A.J.Mills, A.Zieliński, The temple of Amun-Nakht at ‘Ain Birbiyeh in: Dakhleh Oasis Project 2003-2004 Season Final Report, p.47-48; A.J.Mills, The ‘Ain Bir- biyeh Temple Project, 2008 report. 7 J.Osing, Beiträge zu den Oasen in: Egyptian Religion The Last Thousand Years: Studies dedicated to the memory of Jan Quaegebeur, OLA 84-85, Leuven 1998, p. 1443. 8 N.Davies, The Temple of Hibis in el-Khargah Oasis. III: The Decoration,PMMA 17, New York, 1953; D.Klotz, Adoration of the ram: Five hymns to

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