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The Egyptian Deities Essay Research Paper The

The Egyptian Deities Essay, Research Paper The Egyptian Deities ISIS (Aset, Ast) Symbols: The knot of Isis and the scorpion. Cult Centre: Heliopolis Isis was the sister of Osiris (who was also her husband), Nephthys and Seth, the daughter of Nut and Geb and the mother of Horus the Child.

The Egyptian Deities Essay, Research Paper

The Egyptian Deities

ISIS (Aset, Ast)

Symbols: The knot of Isis and the scorpion.

Cult Centre: Heliopolis

Isis was the sister of Osiris (who was also her husband), Nephthys and Seth, the daughter of Nut and Geb and the mother of Horus the Child.

Isis is depicted as a woman wearing a vulture headdress and the solar disk between a pair of horns (which is sometimes underneath the symbol of her name , the throne). Occasionally she wears the double-crowns of the North and the South with the feather of Ma’at, or a pair of ram’s horns. Isis as a woman (not a goddess) is portrayed with the ordinary headdress of a woman, but with the uraeus over her forehead.

As the wife of Osiris, Isis assisted her husband during his earthly reign. In the Pyramid Texts, allusions are made that indicate that Isis foresaw her husband’s murder. Following his death, Isis tirelessly searched for his body so that he may be properly buried and may rest in peace in the Underworld. Through her magic, she brought Osiris back to life so that he could impregnate her with their son Horus.

Isis was a vital link between the gods and mankind. The pharaoh was her son, as the living Horus. In the Pyramid Texts the pharaoh suckles as Isis’ divine breasts. There are numerous statues and imagery of Isis holding the young Horus in her lap. Often the images of the queen mother and current pharaoh were styled in the same way. Isis protected Horus during his childhood from his uncle Seth who wished to murder him. It was her hole that he might one day grow up to avenge his father’s murder.

In the Book of the Dead, Isis is regarded as the giver of life and food to the dead. She may also be one of the judges of the dead. Another of her roles was to protect Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus, as he guarded over the liver of the deceased.

Isis was a great magician and is famous for the use of her magical skills. For example, she created the first cobra and used its venomous bite to coerce Re into revealing his secret name.

From the beginning of Egypt’s history to the end, Isis was the greatest goddess of Egypt. She was the beneficial goddess and mother whose love encompassed every living creature. Isis was also the purest example of the loving wife and mother and it was in this capacity that the Egyptian people loved her the most.

Her worship spread well beyond the borders of Egypt, as far away as England. The works of the classical writers identified her with Persephone, Tethys, Athene, etc, just as Osiris was associated with Hades, Dionysos and other foreign gods.

In fact, the early Christians deferred some of her attributes to the Virgin Mary. As a loving and protective mother, Isis appealed to the Eastern peoples who were familiar with her cult. The images of Isis suckling the Horus child undoubtedly inspired the multitude of icons showing the Madonna and Child.

OSIRIS (Asar, Wesir, Ausar, Unnefer) Symbols: crook and flail, White and Atef Crowns, bull, mummified form, throne, phoenix.Cult Center: Abydos, Busiris and Heliopolis A god of the earth and vegetation, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. He was married to his sister, Isis. He was also the father of Horus and Anubis. These traditions state that Nephthys (mother of Anubis) assumed the form of Isis, seduced him (perhaps with wine) and she became pregnant with Anubis.The oldest religious texts refer to Osiris as the great god of the dead, and throughout these texts it is assumed that the reader will understand that he once possessed human form and lived on earth. As the first son of Geb, the original king of Egypt, Osiris inherited the throne when Geb abdicated. At this time the Egyptians were barbarous cannibals and uncivilized. Osiris saw this and was greatly disturbed. Therefore, he went out among the people and taught them what to eat, the art of agriculture, how to worship the gods, and gave them laws. Thoth helped him in many ways by inventing the arts and sciences and giving names to things. Osiris was Egypt’s greatest king who ruled through kindness and persuasion. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris traveled to other lands, leaving Isis as his regent, to teach other peoples what he taught the Egyptians.During Osiris’ absence, Isis was troubled with Seth’s plotting to acquire both her and the throne of Egypt. Shortly after Osiris’ return to Egypt, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, on the seventeenth day of the month of Hathor (late September or November), Seth and 72 conspirators murdered him. They then threw the coffin in which he was murdered into the Nile, with his divine body still inside.Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, and Anubis and Thoth, magically located Osiris’ body. Upon learning the his brother’s body was found, Seth went to it and tore it into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis once again found every part of his body, save his phallus (it had been eaten by the now-cursed Nile fish). She magically re-assembled Osiris and resurrected him long enough to be impregnated by him so that she could give birth to the new king Horus.Seth of course was not willing to surrender the throne of Egypt to the youthful Horus and thus a tribunal of gods met to decide who was the rightful king. The trial lasted eighty years. Eventually through Isis’ cunning she won the throne for her son.Osiris meanwhile had become the king of the Afterlife. He was believed to be willing to admit all people to the Duat, the gentle, fertile land in which the righteous dead lived, that had lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had been buried with appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with the proper recital of certain “divine words” and words of power. His realm was said to lie beneath Nun, in the northern heavens or in the west.It is as the King of the Afterlife that Osiris gained his supreme popularity. He was originally a minor god of Middle Egypt, especially in comparison to the gods of Heliopolis and Hermopolis, etc. Noting his increasing popularity, and sensing that Osiris would one day eclipse the adoration of their own gods, the priests of these cities adopted him into their own cosmogonies.The elements of his story were seen as symbolic of real events that happened in Egypt. With his original association to agriculture, his death and resurrection were seen as symbolic of the annual death and re-growth of the crops and the yearly flooding of the Nile. The sun too with its daily re-birth and death was associated with Osiris. His rivalry with his brother Seth, the god of storms and the desert, was symbolic of the eternal war between the fertile lands of the Nile Valley and the barren desert lands just beyond. The pharaoh of Egypt was called Horus, while his deceased father was the new Osiris.Several festivals during the year were held in Egypt, in celebration of Osiris. One, held in November, celebrated his beauty. Another, called the “Fall of the Nile” was a time of mourning. As the Nile receded, the Egyptians went to the shore to give gifts and show their grief over his death. When the Nile began to flood again, another festival honoring Osiris was held whereby small shrines were cast into the river and the priests poured sweet water in the Nile, declaring that the god was found again.The name “Osiris” is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “Asar” (or Usar) . There are several possibilities as to what this name means, “the Strength of the Eye”, is one. Another is “He Sees the Throne”. The oldest and simplest form of the name is the hieroglyph of the throne over an eye (there are at least 158 versions of the name). At one point the first syllable of the name was pronounced “Aus” or “Us” and may have gained the meaning of the word usr, “strength, might, power”. At this time the Egyptians supposed the name to mean something like the “strength of the Eye” (i.e., the strength of the Sun-god Ra.Another possibility raised by an ancient hymn’s author is that the name “Unnefer” (another name by which Osiris was known) comes from the roots un (”to open, to appear, to make manifest”) and neferu, (”good things”). The author then wrote these lines in his hymn to the god, “Thy beauty maketh itself manifest in thy person to rouse the gods to life in thy name Unnefer”. In any case, even to the ancients, the origin of Osiris’ Egyptian name is a mystery.Osiris was usually portrayed as a bearded, mummified human with green skin and wearing the atef crown. His hands emerge from the mummy wrappings and hold the flail and crook.

HORUS (Hor, Heru, Her)

Symbols: hawk/falcon, bull, Double Crown, Winged Disk, Sphinx, weapons, iron, blacksmiths

Cult Center: Edfu, Buto and Heliopolis

The falcon-headed god, the kings of Egypt associated themselves with Horus. Horus was among the most important gods of Egypt, particularly because the Pharaoh was supposed to be his earthly embodiment. Kings would eventually take the name of Horus as one of their own. At the same time, the Pharaohs were the followers of Re and so Horus became associated with the sun as well. To the people this solar deity became identified as the son of Osiris. Attempts to resolve the conflicts between these different gods in different parts of Egypt resulted in at least fifteen distinct forms of Horus. They can be divided fairly easily into two groups, solar and Osirian, based on the parentage of the particular form of Horus. If he is said to be the son of Isis, he is Osirian; otherwise he is a solar deity. The solar Horus was called the son of Atum, or Re, or Geb and Nut variously.

As Harsiesis, he is “Horus, the son of Isis”. Horus was conceived magically by Isis following the murder of his father, Osiris. Horus was raised by his mother on the floating island of Chemmis near Buto. He was in constant danger from his evil uncle Seth but his mother protected him and he survived.

As a child, Horus was known as Harpokrates, “the infant Horus”, and was portrayed as a baby being suckled by Isis. He was said to be stunted from the waist down. This may be because his father was dead when he was concieved or perhaps because he was born prematurely. Harpokrates is pictured as a seated child sucking his thumb and having his hair fashioned in a sidelock that symbolized his youth. On his head he wore the royal crown and uraeus. In later times he was affiliated with the newborn sun.

As Harmakhis, “Horus in the Horizon”, he personified the rising sun and was associated with Khepera as a symbol of resurrection or eternal life.

Haroeris, “Horus the Elder”, was one of the earliest forms of Horus and the patron deity of Upper (southern) Egypt. He was said to be the son, or sometimes the husband of Hathor. He was also the brother of Osiris and Seth. He became the conquerer of Seth (the patron of Lower Egypt) c. 3000 BCE when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and formed the united kingdom of Egypt. He was depicted as a falcon-headed man, sometimes wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Horus (the elder) had numerous wives and children, and his ‘four sons’ were grouped together and generally said to be born of Isis. The four were known as: Duamutef, Imsety, Hapi and Qebehsenuef. They were born from a lotus flower and were solar gods associated with the creation. They were retrieved from the waters of Nun by Sobek on the orders of Re. It was believed that Anubis gave them the funerary duties of mummification, the Opening of the Mouth, the burial of Osiris and all men. Horus later made them protectors of the four cardinal points. In the Hall of Ma’at they sat on a lotus flower in front of Osiris. Most commonly, however, they were remembered as the protectors of the internal organs of the deceased. Each son protected an organ, and a goddess protected each son.

Horus Behdety was a form of Horus the Elder that was worshipped originally in the western Delta at Behdet. As the son and heir of Re, Behdety was a form of Horus that was assimilated into the Heliopolitan system of beliefs yet not completely identified with Re. Behdety was a defender of Re during his earthly kingship against Seth. He was usually portrayed as a winged sun disk or as a falcon hovering over the Pharaoh during battles. When shown as a falcon-headed man wearing the double crown he carries a falcon-headed staff, the weapon he used to defeat Seth.

SETH (Set, Suetekh)

Symbols: Seth-animal, pigs, donkeys, and fishes.

Cult Centre: Tanis, Ombos

Regarded as the Lord of Lower (Northern) Egypt, Seth was represented by a big-eared imaginary animal with red hair resembling a donkey or maybe an aardvark. He was associated with the desert and storms. The Greeks associated Seth with their god, Typhon.

For many years, Seth was the benefactor of Lower Egypt just as Horus protected Upper Egypt. When the Two Lands became united, Seth and Horus were often shown together crowning the new pharaohs. However, as Upper Egypt had conquered Lower Egypt, the pharaohs of the south often portrayed Seth as the evil enemy of Horus (deity of Upper Egypt).

Seth was the brother of Osiris, Isis as well as Nephthys who was also his wife. Nephthys’ son, Anubis was born from her trisk with Osiris. Seth never had any children, as emphasis of his association with the barren desert and of his status as the antithesis of the fertile Osiris. During his battles with Horus, the goddess Neith suggested a compromise by giving Horus the throne, and Seth the Semetic goddesses Astarte and Asat

Seth is most famous for the fratricide of his brother Osiris and the attempted murder of his brother’s son, Horus. Horus survived though and avenged his father’s death by ruling all of Egypt and exiling Seth to the desert for all time. The decision to banish Seth came from a counsel of the gods, ruled by Re. While most of the gods agreed with Horus and his mother Isis that Osiris’ son was the rightful heir to the throne of Egypt, Re disagreed. He believed that Horus was too young to hold such a powerful position. Thus, the trial was stalemated for many years. Only the cunning of Isis could bring the case to an end.

Using her magic, Isis transformed herself into a beautiful young woman. Seth saw her with tears streaming down her face and asked what the matter was. Isis told a story not unlike the situation of herself and Horus, where an evil man had killed her husband and was trying to steal her family’s flocks. Seth became angry at her plight and insisted that the evil man be destroyed and that the young woman’s son should inherit the family’s estate. By his own words, Seth condemned himself, and lost the throne of Egypt.

Seth was never a completely evil figure though. He protected the sun barge of Re, his benefactor during the struggles with Horus, during its nightly journey through the underworld and he fights the snake-like monster Apep. Also, for a short time during the 19th Dynasty respect grew for Seth as he was seen as a god who restrained the forces of the desert. Many pharaohs at this time took Seth’s name as a part of their own, with names such at “Seti”.

The Egyptian Deities

ISIS (Aset, Ast)

Symbols: The knot of Isis and the scorpion.

Cult Centre: Heliopolis

Isis was the sister of Osiris (who was also her husband), Nephthys and Seth, the daughter of Nut and Geb and the mother of Horus the Child.

Isis is depicted as a woman wearing a vulture headdress and the solar disk between a pair of horns (which is sometimes underneath the symbol of her name , the throne). Occasionally she wears the double-crowns of the North and the South with the feather of Ma’at, or a pair of ram’s horns. Isis as a woman (not a goddess) is portrayed with the ordinary headdress of a woman, but with the uraeus over her forehead.

As the wife of Osiris, Isis assisted her husband during his earthly reign. In the Pyramid Texts, allusions are made that indicate that Isis foresaw her husband’s murder. Following his death, Isis tirelessly searched for his body so that he may be properly buried and may rest in peace in the Underworld. Through her magic, she brought Osiris back to life so that he could impregnate her with their son Horus.

Isis was a vital link between the gods and mankind. The pharaoh was her son, as the living Horus. In the Pyramid Texts the pharaoh suckles as Isis’ divine breasts. There are numerous statues and imagery of Isis holding the young Horus in her lap. Often the images of the queen mother and current pharaoh were styled in the same way. Isis protected Horus during his childhood from his uncle Seth who wished to murder him. It was her hole that he might one day grow up to avenge his father’s murder.

In the Book of the Dead, Isis is regarded as the giver of life and food to the dead. She may also be one of the judges of the dead. Another of her roles was to protect Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus, as he guarded over the liver of the deceased.

Isis was a great magician and is famous for the use of her magical skills. For example, she created the first cobra and used its venomous bite to coerce Re into revealing his secret name.

From the beginning of Egypt’s history to the end, Isis was the greatest goddess of Egypt. She was the beneficial goddess and mother whose love encompassed every living creature. Isis was also the purest example of the loving wife and mother and it was in this capacity that the Egyptian people loved her the most.

Her worship spread well beyond the borders of Egypt, as far away as England. The works of the classical writers identified her with Persephone, Tethys, Athene, etc, just as Osiris was associated with Hades, Dionysos and other foreign gods.

In fact, the early Christians deferred some of her attributes to the Virgin Mary. As a loving and protective mother, Isis appealed to the Eastern peoples who were familiar with her cult. The images of Isis suckling the Horus child undoubtedly inspired the multitude of icons showing the Madonna and Child.

OSIRIS (Asar, Wesir, Ausar, Unnefer) Symbols: crook and flail, White and Atef Crowns, bull, mummified form, throne, phoenix.Cult Center: Abydos, Busiris and Heliopolis A god of the earth and vegetation, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. He was married to his sister, Isis. He was also the father of Horus and Anubis. These traditions state that Nephthys (mother of Anubis) assumed the form of Isis, seduced him (perhaps with wine) and she became pregnant with Anubis.The oldest religious texts refer to Osiris as the great god of the dead, and throughout these texts it is assumed that the reader will understand that he once possessed human form and lived on earth. As the first son of Geb, the original king of Egypt, Osiris inherited the throne when Geb abdicated. At this time the Egyptians were barbarous cannibals and uncivilized. Osiris saw this and was greatly disturbed. Therefore, he went out among the people and taught them what to eat, the art of agriculture, how to worship the gods, and gave them laws. Thoth helped him in many ways by inventing the arts and sciences and giving names to things. Osiris was Egypt’s greatest king who ruled through kindness and persuasion. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris traveled to other lands, leaving Isis as his regent, to teach other peoples what he taught the Egyptians.During Osiris’ absence, Isis was troubled with Seth’s plotting to acquire both her and the throne of Egypt. Shortly after Osiris’ return to Egypt, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, on the seventeenth day of the month of Hathor (late September or November), Seth and 72 conspirators murdered him. They then threw the coffin in which he was murdered into the Nile, with his divine body still inside.Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, and Anubis and Thoth, magically located Osiris’ body. Upon learning the his brother’s body was found, Seth went to it and tore it into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis once again found every part of his body, save his phallus (it had been eaten by the now-cursed Nile fish). She magically re-assembled Osiris and resurrected him long enough to be impregnated by him so that she could give birth to the new king Horus.Seth of course was not willing to surrender the throne of Egypt to the youthful Horus and thus a tribunal of gods met to decide who was the rightful king. The trial lasted eighty years. Eventually through Isis’ cunning she won the throne for her son.Osiris meanwhile had become the king of the Afterlife. He was believed to be willing to admit all people to the Duat, the gentle, fertile land in which the righteous dead lived, that had lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had been buried with appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with the proper recital of certain “divine words” and words of power. His realm was said to lie beneath Nun, in the northern heavens or in the west.It is as the King of the Afterlife that Osiris gained his supreme popularity. He was originally a minor god of Middle Egypt, especially in comparison to the gods of Heliopolis and Hermopolis, etc. Noting his increasing popularity, and sensing that Osiris would one day eclipse the adoration of their own gods, the priests of these cities adopted him into their own cosmogonies.The elements of his story were seen as symbolic of real events that happened in Egypt. With his original association to agriculture, his death and resurrection were seen as symbolic of the annual death and re-growth of the crops and the yearly flooding of the Nile. The sun too with its daily re-birth and death was associated with Osiris. His rivalry with his brother Seth, the god of storms and the desert, was symbolic of the eternal war between the fertile lands of the Nile Valley and the barren desert lands just beyond. The pharaoh of Egypt was called Horus, while his deceased father was the new Osiris.Several festivals during the year were held in Egypt, in celebration of Osiris. One, held in November, celebrated his beauty. Another, called the “Fall of the Nile” was a time of mourning. As the Nile receded, the Egyptians went to the shore to give gifts and show their grief over his death. When the Nile began to flood again, another festival honoring Osiris was held whereby small shrines were cast into the river and the priests poured sweet water in the Nile, declaring that the god was found again.The name “Osiris” is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “Asar” (or Usar) . There are several possibilities as to what this name means, “the Strength of the Eye”, is one. Another is “He Sees the Throne”. The oldest and simplest form of the name is the hieroglyph of the throne over an eye (there are at least 158 versions of the name). At one point the first syllable of the name was pronounced “Aus” or “Us” and may have gained the meaning of the word usr, “strength, might, power”. At this time the Egyptians supposed the name to mean something like the “strength of the Eye” (i.e., the strength of the Sun-god Ra.Another possibility raised by an ancient hymn’s author is that the name “Unnefer” (another name by which Osiris was known) comes from the roots un (”to open, to appear, to make manifest”) and neferu, (”good things”). The author then wrote these lines in his hymn to the god, “Thy beauty maketh itself manifest in thy person to rouse the gods to life in thy name Unnefer”. In any case, even to the ancients, the origin of Osiris’ Egyptian name is a mystery.Osiris was usually portrayed as a bearded, mummified human with green skin and wearing the atef crown. His hands emerge from the mummy wrappings and hold the flail and crook.

HORUS (Hor, Heru, Her)

Symbols: hawk/falcon, bull, Double Crown, Winged Disk, Sphinx, weapons, iron, blacksmiths

Cult Center: Edfu, Buto and Heliopolis

The falcon-headed god, the kings of Egypt associated themselves with Horus. Horus was among the most important gods of Egypt, particularly because the Pharaoh was supposed to be his earthly embodiment. Kings would eventually take the name of Horus as one of their own. At the same time, the Pharaohs were the followers of Re and so Horus became associated with the sun as well. To the people this solar deity became identified as the son of Osiris. Attempts to resolve the conflicts between these different gods in different parts of Egypt resulted in at least fifteen distinct forms of Horus. They can be divided fairly easily into two groups, solar and Osirian, based on the parentage of the particular form of Horus. If he is said to be the son of Isis, he is Osirian; otherwise he is a solar deity. The solar Horus was called the son of Atum, or Re, or Geb and Nut variously.

As Harsiesis, he is “Horus, the son of Isis”. Horus was conceived magically by Isis following the murder of his father, Osiris. Horus was raised by his mother on the floating island of Chemmis near Buto. He was in constant danger from his evil uncle Seth but his mother protected him and he survived.

As a child, Horus was known as Harpokrates, “the infant Horus”, and was portrayed as a baby being suckled by Isis. He was said to be stunted from the waist down. This may be because his father was dead when he was concieved or perhaps because he was born prematurely. Harpokrates is pictured as a seated child sucking his thumb and having his hair fashioned in a sidelock that symbolized his youth. On his head he wore the royal crown and uraeus. In later times he was affiliated with the newborn sun.

As Harmakhis, “Horus in the Horizon”, he personified the rising sun and was associated with Khepera as a symbol of resurrection or eternal life.

Haroeris, “Horus the Elder”, was one of the earliest forms of Horus and the patron deity of Upper (southern) Egypt. He was said to be the son, or sometimes the husband of Hathor. He was also the brother of Osiris and Seth. He became the conquerer of Seth (the patron of Lower Egypt) c. 3000 BCE when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and formed the united kingdom of Egypt. He was depicted as a falcon-headed man, sometimes wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Horus (the elder) had numerous wives and children, and his ‘four sons’ were grouped together and generally said to be born of Isis. The four were known as: Duamutef, Imsety, Hapi and Qebehsenuef. They were born from a lotus flower and were solar gods associated with the creation. They were retrieved from the waters of Nun by Sobek on the orders of Re. It was believed that Anubis gave them the funerary duties of mummification, the Opening of the Mouth, the burial of Osiris and all men. Horus later made them protectors of the four cardinal points. In the Hall of Ma’at they sat on a lotus flower in front of Osiris. Most commonly, however, they were remembered as the protectors of the internal organs of the deceased. Each son protected an organ, and a goddess protected each son.

Horus Behdety was a form of Horus the Elder that was worshipped originally in the western Delta at Behdet. As the son and heir of Re, Behdety was a form of Horus that was assimilated into the Heliopolitan system of beliefs yet not completely identified with Re. Behdety was a defender of Re during his earthly kingship against Seth. He was usually portrayed as a winged sun disk or as a falcon hovering over the Pharaoh during battles. When shown as a falcon-headed man wearing the double crown he carries a falcon-headed staff, the weapon he used to defeat Seth.

SETH (Set, Suetekh)

Symbols: Seth-animal, pigs, donkeys, and fishes.

Cult Centre: Tanis, Ombos

Regarded as the Lord of Lower (Northern) Egypt, Seth was represented by a big-eared imaginary animal with red hair resembling a donkey or maybe an aardvark. He was associated with the desert and storms. The Greeks associated Seth with their god, Typhon.

For many years, Seth was the benefactor of Lower Egypt just as Horus protected Upper Egypt. When the Two Lands became united, Seth and Horus were often shown together crowning the new pharaohs. However, as Upper Egypt had conquered Lower Egypt, the pharaohs of the south often portrayed Seth as the evil enemy of Horus (deity of Upper Egypt).

Seth was the brother of Osiris, Isis as well as Nephthys who was also his wife. Nephthys’ son, Anubis was born from her trisk with Osiris. Seth never had any children, as emphasis of his association with the barren desert and of his status as the antithesis of the fertile Osiris. During his battles with Horus, the goddess Neith suggested a compromise by giving Horus the throne, and Seth the Semetic goddesses Astarte and Asat

Seth is most famous for the fratricide of his brother Osiris and the attempted murder of his brother’s son, Horus. Horus survived though and avenged his father’s death by ruling all of Egypt and exiling Seth to the desert for all time. The decision to banish Seth came from a counsel of the gods, ruled by Re. While most of the gods agreed with Horus and his mother Isis that Osiris’ son was the rightful heir to the throne of Egypt, Re disagreed. He believed that Horus was too young to hold such a powerful position. Thus, the trial was stalemated for many years. Only the cunning of Isis could bring the case to an end.

Using her magic, Isis transformed herself into a beautiful young woman. Seth saw her with tears streaming down her face and asked what the matter was. Isis told a story not unlike the situation of herself and Horus, where an evil man had killed her husband and was trying to steal her family’s flocks. Seth became angry at her plight and insisted that the evil man be destroyed and that the young woman’s son should inherit the family’s estate. By his own words, Seth condemned himself, and lost the throne of Egypt.

Seth was never a completely evil figure though. He protected the sun barge of Re, his benefactor during the struggles with Horus, during its nightly journey through the underworld and he fights the snake-like monster Apep. Also, for a short time during the 19th Dynasty respect grew for Seth as he was seen as a god who restrained the forces of the desert. Many pharaohs at this time took Seth’s name as a part of their own, with names such at “Seti”.

Teams of four made two 20-minute dives per day, in the morning and afternoon, with a five-hour interim to allow accumulated nitrogen bubbles to dissolve back into the blood. A dive consisted of any number of tasks—removing debris, measuring and drawing an object’s location, repairing equipment, photography, preparing artefacts for removal to the surface—but it all had to be done within 20 minutes, minus the time it took to reach the bottom, remove their fins, and get set up. This constant battle against time made even tedious jobs a challenge. At the end of each dive excavators returned to a station 20 feet below our research vessel, the Virazon, to decompress on oxygen. Careful timing of the dive and decompression was necessary to avoid decompression sickness, or “the bends,” a painful and disabling or deadly result of nitrogen bubbles blocking the flow of blood at critical junctures. During the 11 years of the excavation, only a few minor cases occurred, and these were promptly and successfully treated in the Virazon’s own recompression chamber.

Unfortunately, INA’s safety record does not reflect the practice of all who have dared to investigate the Mediterranean’s depths. For generations, Turkish sponge divers took far fewer precautions than we to conduct their trade, with occasionally disastrous results. It was their knowledge of the sea bottom that allowed Bass and his colleagues to locate the first shipwrecks scientifically excavated, including the one at Uluburun. In recompense, over the more than 30 years Bass has worked in Turkey, his recompression chamber has spared several sponge divers from the bends. Now the Turkish sponge industry has diminished greatly due to a shrinking sponge population and the lure of greater gains in tourism.

Although the Uluburun seafarers probably fell victim to unfavourable breezes, their demise provided nautical archaeologists with treasures exceeding all expectations. The quality and type of objects range from the mundane to the spectacular, but due to the unique nature of the shipwreck, and the energy invested in its excavation, every artefact acquires almost priceless value. Even a brief overview of the cargo presents a remarkable cross-section of the international nature of elite material culture at the time:

From the Mycenaean world (now southernmost Greece) there is painted pottery, bronze weaponry, faience and glass jewellery. Mycenaean Greek, Canaanite and Cypriot swords were among the more than six tons of metal aboard the 50-foot vessel—most of it 60-pound copper ingots.

From Cyprus over 350 ox-hide shaped copper ingots and hand-made ceramic juglets,bowls and cups; Researchers removed silt from artefacts like this Cypriot bowl with giant suction tubes connected to compressors on the research vessel. To avoid severe cramps or a fatal euphoria, divers had to resurface within 20 minutes of hitting the water.

From the Syro-Palestinian coast more bronze weaponry, blue and purple glass ingots, gold and silver jewellery, cylinder seals, a bronze statuette, finished ivories, dozens of storage jars filled with terebinth resin, olive oil and wine;From Egypt gold jewellery (including a unique scarab seal bearing Nefertiti’s name), African ebony and ivory and an ostrich egg drinking vessel. Golden objects included a pendant bearing an unidentified nude goddess; a medallion with a Canaanite star emblem popular among Syrian sailors of the era; and a talisman.

There was enough tin (whose source is unknown) on board to convert the entire copper shipment into bronze, the metal of choice for tools and weapons of that era. Careful sieving of the storage jars produced organic remains of the Bronze Age seafarer’s diet, namely, fish, figs, grapes, olives, spices and other staples. Of special interest to the economic historian are the dozens of stone weights, in various shapes and sizes, that were used to weigh out bullion on a balance-pan scale (at that time, about seven centuries before coinage, known quantities of precious metals were used as currency). One of the most spectacular finds, a golden goblet, ironically provided little or no information on the wreck’s date or location, in contrast to some of the less ostentatious, yet more informative, pottery. A folding wood writing board with ivory hinges, the oldest of its kind, unfortunately contained no message for us; lessons lost, as it were.

The only reference to writing in Homer is to a “book” of this type: “…he sent him to Lycia and gave him baneful signs in a folding wooden tablet.” (Iliad, VI, 169). The writing surface was beeswax coating the inner covers. If the text had survived, this would have been the world’s oldest “book.”

Preserved only in small amounts where it was deeply buried beneath cargo, the hull appears to have been constructed in a manner similar to later Greek merchantmen; that is, the planks were joined edge-to-edge via mortises and tenons, a labour and materials-intensive technique that later gave way to frame-first construction. The ship that sank at Uluburun was probably in the 50-65 foot length range and a third or a fourth wide. Where exactly the ship was built cannot be determined since the primary woods used—fir and oak—were available all around the Eastern Mediterranean basin (save Egypt) at the time.

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Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters—Psalms 107:23

The ship was sailing west from Cyprus toward an unknown port in the Aegean or southwestern Anatolia, but who was sailing it, for whom, and for what purpose are complicated issues. To address these sorts of questions one must venture beyond the wreck itself and ask what is known about society and economy of the 14th century BC. Toward this end I came to Michigan in 1990 to study seriously the languages, history, anthropology and archaeology of the Ancient Near East and Eastern Mediterranean.

The mixed geographic origins of the cargo are a direct reflection of political conditions at the time. Rulers of the empires of Hatti, Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia, as well as smaller powers such as the Levantine city-states, Cyprus and Mycenaea, were all cooperating and competing for power and prestige within a delicately balanced system of alliances. International diplomacy was negotiated largely by the exchange of gifts (accompanied by letters), which created mutual obligations; formal treaties often resulted from—and were validated by—gift giving. Within this atmosphere entrepreneurs were allowed to conduct international trade and were protected by treaty. Ancient records and letters tell us that kings patronized many merchants, but also that not all business was royal business, and those rulers acquired goods through other means besides gifts. In this era of increased internationalism foreign cities became more dependent on one another for commodities and luxury goods. From an archaeological point of view the end result of this international activity is a mixed material culture, especially at the elite level, at many sites. All of which makes it difficult to ascertain just who was running the Uluburun ship. Items estimated to be of personal nature, found mostly in the stern portion of the wreck, are likely of Aegean and Levantine provenance. Scholarly attention has now focused on trying to determine whether private or royal agents conducted trade, and whether it took place within a context of commercial (capitalistic) or gift (reciprocal) exchanges.

It is tempting to compare the database of artifacts from the Uluburun shipwreck to some of the letters preserved on clay tablets from the 14th century BC; the lists of objects exchanged between rulers, in a few cases, match the database practically word for word. Do we then conclude that what we have discovered is the wreck of a royal shipment, sent from one city to another, non-stop, as it were? This would certainly satisfy those who see all early sea trade as a royal monopoly, but there are serious problems arising from such an interpretation. First, we must admit that an elite, bureaucratic level of society not intimately connected to the seafaring class , produced the records and letters at our disposal. Seafarers are rarely mentioned, and when they are, there is little description of their business. In other words, the textual basis for comparison is biased; we don’t know what a private shipment should look like. Secondly, some of the Uluburun cargo does not fit well into the scheme of a purely royal gift exchange. There is a lot of scrap metal, unfinished goods, and a large assortment of balance-pan weights whose commercial purpose is inconsistent with gift giving. The argument that sea trade was conducted only by the wealthiest institutions in early societies is overturned by contemporary records that show private ownership of boats and by a 13th century BC wreck that Bass showed to be a “tramper,” that is, a small craft going from port to port, buying and selling goods and services in a capitalistic, entrepreneurial way.

Thus, the contemporary evidence suggests the function of the Uluburun shipment was a combination of royal and private ventures. A cross-cultural look at the role of sea traders in society supports this interpretation. In non-industrialized societies of various periods, and especially Medieval Italy, a consistent pattern emerges in which traders and royalty are related as business partners or clients. While it is often the case that rulers own and maintain navies, they very rarely attempt to monopolize foreign trade. Anthropological research offers reasons for this that may equally apply to the Late Bronze Age scenario.

Rulers in non-industrial, agriculturally based states walk a fine line to acquire and maintain their power. Wealth is necessary to symbolize their high position and to pay off those who help them secure it, such as bureaucrats and armed forces. But, since these rulers are expected to be just, honest and fair, acquiring wealth becomes a politically risky business, one better left to a class of people that can be kept at a politically safe distance, namely foreigners and seafarers. Foreign merchants historically reside in special city-quarters set aside for them, and it was indeed this way throughout the Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1200 BC), as ancient records tell us.

To close a deal, Mesopotamian traders rolled a “signature” seal on a clay tablet. The original 1750 B.C. stone design bore a king, goddess and tiny priest. An Assyrian artisan added agriffin circa 1350 B.C. Anthropological research shows that ethnic groups, defined as minority groups perceived as different from a majority, often specialize in foreign trade because of the commercial advantages of “social distance.” Therefore, it may be that foreign merchants and seamen living in the merchant s quarters of port-cities likewise handled overseas trade in the 14th century BC. Furthermore it stands to reason that, in these quarters, members of various ethnicities organized and financed trade expeditions that did and did not involve royal participation, as in other times and places.

Within this framework one may explain why personal items on a ship like the one wrecked at Uluburun have various cultural affinities. To the Late Bronze Age city ruler, the merchants’ quarter was, as the sea was, boundary and gateway to the outside world.

There is a final, grim lesson one can take from the shipwreck at Uluburun, namely that the wreck, itself, is a metaphor for the social collapse that was on the horizon. Not long after 1200 BC the rich urban culture around the eastern Mediterranean came to a violent end. Almost all of the Late Bronze Age palaces known from excavations were put to the torch, and later resettled by less ostentatious dwellers. The end of the Bronze Age may well have had its roots in class struggle and incompatibility of values of early capitalism and those of the agrarian majority. Like the Uluburun ship that was heavily loaded with the richest luxuries available at the time, it is possible that a top-heavy society, unable to satisfy a sufficient proportion of its members, collapsed under its own weight.

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Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas, fearless for unknown shores. —Whitman, Passage to India

Bibliography

Oldest Known Shipwreck George Bass, National Geographic 1987

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