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Reconstructing the Pre-Meroitic Indigenous
Pantheon of Kush
M. Victoria Almansa-Villatoro
This article sets out to address questions concerning local religious traditions in an-
cient Nubia. Data concerning Egyptian gods in the Sudan are introduced, then the
existence of unattested local pre-Meroitic gods is reconstructed using mainly exter-
nal literary sources and an analysis of divine names. A review of other archaeological
evidence from an iconographic point of view is also attempted, concluding with the
presentation of Meroitic gods and their relation with earlier traditions. This study pro-
poses that Egyptian religious beliefs were well integrated in both ocial and popular
cults in Nubia. The Egyptian and the Sudanese cultures were constantly in contact in
the border area and this nexus eased the transmission of traditions and iconographi-
cal elements in a bidirectional way. The Meroitic gods are directly reminiscent of the
reconstructed indigenous Kushite pantheon in many aspects, and this fact attests to an
attempt by the Meroitic rulers to recover their Nubian cultural identity.
Nubia – Egypt – local religion – Meroitic Gods – Dedwen – Miket – Apedemak – Rahes
During the 25th Dynasty, the Kushite world was signicantly inuenced
by Egyptian gods who entered the Nubian pantheon and were worshipped
throughout various diferent parts of Sudan. The ways in which those divini-
ties were introduced into the religion of Nubia were not homogeneous.
Kormysheva detected three diferent means of the “adoption” of elements of
Egyptian culture in Kush, which can be applied not only to religion but to every
Egyptian-like aspect in Nubian culture: direct borrowing with a complete
acceptance of the Egyptian god and its attributes and iconography; borrowing,
with a partial change, of epithets to assimilate the Egyptian deities with gods
connected with certain regions in Kush; and transformation of Egyptian gods in
Kush with new functions and new consorts, creating new divine families.
These processes were not incompatible with one another and they were
often applied together. This is especially true in the case of Amun, the most
important Egyptian god in the Kushite pantheon. At Gebel Barkal and Kawa he
appears with the same Egyptian epithet that he holds in the temple of Amun at
Karnak, namely jmn nb ns(w)t tAwy, “Amun, lord of the throne(s) of the Two
Lands.” He has the Kushite epithet of jmn ra kA n tA stj, “Amun-Ra the bull of
Ta-Seti,” very well attested in Sanam, where he was worshipped in association
with the bull and as bearer of royal power. The Amun of Napata—more often
without the element -Ra—had his bigger cultic center in Gebel Barkal, and
also received the personal epithet of Hr-jb Dw wab, “in the pure mountain.”
The rst research question that surfaces when approaching the topic of local
religion in ancient Sudan is whether the worship of Egyptian gods in Nubia
was conned to elite and royal contexts, in contrast to local gods that belonged
to the wider, more popular sphere of common worship. If this were the case,
it would mean that local religion was intrinsically distinct from the Egyptian
gods and beliefs adopted in Nubia, the former being what people actually wor-
shipped within their own houses. To answer this question, it is necessary to
study the context in which Kushite gods appear and Egyptian gods are absent.
The second point that will be questioned in this paper is the often assumed
conception that the iconography of Meroitic local gods developed under a
strong Egyptian inuence. Finally, the third issue to be addressed deals with
the lack of information concerning the world of the gods in Nubia until the
Napatan/Meroitic period. Did the Meroitic gods exist already before their rst
attestation, but without a canonical mode of representation? If that were the
case, their later iconography could be an extraneous borrowing. The matter
É. Kormysheva, “Local gods of Egypt in Cush and problems of Egyptian Settlers” in Studia in
honorem Fritz Hintze, eds. D. Apelt, E. Endesfelder, and S. Wenig (Berlin: Akademie, 1990), 195.
For a comprehensive study on the names of Amun in Nubia with a list of the occurrences,
bibliographical references, and analysis see É. Kormysheva, “Le nom d’Amon sur les mon-
uments royaux de Kouch: études lexicographiques,” in Hommages à Jean Leclant 2, eds.
C. Berger, G. Clerc, and N. Grimal (Le Caire: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1994),
Under Egyptian and Roman-Hellenistic inuence: A. Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt im Reich
von Kusch. Teil 2: Die meroitischen Götter. Der Antike Sudan,” MittSAG 7 (1997), 32.
could be researched through the careful observation of external sources that
deal with ancient Nubia, especially those that mention Kushite gods such as
Dedwen and Miket.
These questions deal essentially with the intrinsic problem of the lack of
evidence for non-Egyptian Pre-Meroitic deities, but they are also seriously
thwarted by this limitation. To solve this issue, it is necessary to rst gain a
comprehensive panorama of the religious scenario in Nubia. Therefore, the
entrance of Egyptian gods into Kush needs to be initially analyzed, along with
the context of their worship. Secondly, non-Egyptian gods that are associated
with Nubia in Egyptian sources must be studied, in order to see whether they
represent the existence of early religious traditions in Nubia that are clearly
distinct from Egyptian beliefs. Finally, problems concerning the iconography
and context of worship of Meroitic gods should be analyzed, along with the
diference between the rst and last representations of distinctly Nubian gods
and how the latter relate to past traditions.
For the purpose of this paper, aspects such as temple architecture and burial
customs are subordinate to the study of divine names, iconography, and poorly
attested pre-Meroitic animal rituals. The description of practices that have a
strong Egyptian character and in which Kushite innovations are completely
absent is tangential to the aims of this article. Past studies on Kushite reli-
gion have used the Egyptian religious model and Meroitic sources as the main
source of their evidence, but the present article applies an innovative meth-
odology and a diferent approach, justied by the particular aim of ascertain-
ing whether the existence of an unattested pre-Meroitic Kushite pantheon can
be detected. Similarly, the debated question around the religious continuity of
cattle cult will not be touched. There seems to be a cultic importance of cows
in both ancient Egyptian and Sudanese rural early pastoral communities, but
its inuence on the development of the indigenous Kushite deities is impos-
sible to prove.
And the reader mainly interested in the evidence for the Egyptian religious practices in
the ancient Sudan or the Meroitic divine world should refer to works such as W. Y. Adams,
Nubia, Corridor to Africa (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); A. Lohwasser, “Die
Götterwelt im Reich von Kusch. Teil 1: Götter aus dem ägyptischen Pantheon. Der Antike
Sudan,” MittSAG 6 (1993), 28–35; A. Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt im Reich von Kusch. Teil 2: Die
meroitischen Götter,” MittSAG 7 (1997), 32–8; D. A. Welsby, The Kingdom of Kush: The Napa-
tan and Meroitic Empires (London: British Museum, 1998); V. Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,”
in Méroé: un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-Autissier, and S. Labbé-Toutée (Paris:
Musée du Louvre, 2010), 189–201.
There is evidence of clay models of cattle and skulls of slaughtered animals among the
C-Group in the Sudan (Adams, Nubia, 153); also during the Late Neolithic in Nabta Playa
in Egypt, see F. Wendorf and R. Schild, “Nabta Playa and its Role in Northeastern African
Finally, a relevant note about terminology needs to be made. There is a meth-
odological issue considering the period of time covered in this paper, which
ranges from the third millennium to the rst century . Throughout its long
history, the Sudan was never an entity with unchanging boundaries and unied
territory, unlike Egypt, and referring to it as “Nubia” in the same way as “Egypt”
is referred to is certainly imprecise. Specic terminology is used whenever
possible, but the terms “Kush,” “Nubia,” or “Sudan” are maintained when-
ever there is a lack of more appropriate nomenclature. No evidence indicates
with absolute certainty that the Pre-Meroitic deities presented here were wor-
shipped in the entire geographic area of the Sudan, and the fact that many of
the sources used in this article are Egyptian may indicate that these divinities
belong to local traditions of the border area. However, the appearance of these
gods almost exclusively in Egyptian sources dealing with Nubia along with the
Meroitic revival and appropriation of their main features are clear indicators
of a cultural coherency and unity that justify the term “Kushite pantheon.”
2 Egyptian Gods in Nubia
Egyptian gods in Nubia are attested as early as the Old Kingdom in Buhen,
where an inscription dated between the 3rd and 5th Dynasties reads: “Beloved
by Isis, lady of heaven and of the Two Lands, (…) beloved by Horus, the lord
of the city, the great god, who set (down) the sky and the Two Lands.” This
source is probably a founding dedicatory text referring to the place where it
appeared. It is unlikely to indicate the establishment of early cultic centers
in Nubia for Egyptian gods, but should rather be seen as a piece of evidence
Prehistory,” 17 , 108). It has frequently been noted that this archaeological evidence
may point toward a worship of an early Egyptian bovine deity who would then develop into
the well-known Dynastic goddesses with cow shapes, such as Hathor, see F. Hassan, “Prime-
val Goddess to Divine King: The Mythogenesis of Power in the Early Egyptian State,” in The
Followers of Horus: Studies Dedicated to Michael Allan Hofman 1944–1990, eds. R. F. Friedman
and B. Adams (Oxbow: Oxford), 307–22. No evidence was found that could suggest the same
iconographical continuity in the indigenous Kushite pantheon reconstructed here, yet the
religious importance of cattle is appreciated through the epithet of Amun in Sanam, the
Meroitic milk libations and bovine processions (Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,” 200), and the
occurrence of cow burials until the Post-Meroitic period, see: D. A. Welsby and I. Welsby-
Sjöström, “Post-Meroitic Cow Burial at the Fourth Nile Cataract,” in La pioche et la plume:
autour du Soudan, du Liban et de la Jordanie. Hommages archéologiques à Patrice Lenoble,
eds. V. Rondot, F. Alpi, and F. Villeneuve (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011),
S. T. Smith, “The Rock Inscriptions of Buhen,” 58 (1972), 58–61.
that points towards Egyptian presence in Buhen during that period, along with
the occurrence of Meidum bowls, ostraca, the royal Egyptian names of Khafra,
Menkaura, Userkaf, and Kakai—all of which made Emery conclude that the
site was an Egyptian colony. Kormysheva proposed a cultural exchange already
in the Old Kingdom between Egypt and Kerma, with Buhen as intermediary,
based on the presence of apparently Kerma pottery in the site (ve percent of
the corpus). She also argued that Kushite adoption of burial customs, solar
cult, canonic iconography of gods along with their attributes, invocations, and
so on, was the result of a consistent penetration of Egyptian cultural elements
into Kush from the Old Kingdom to the 20th Dynasty.
During the Egyptian New Kingdom, the presence of Egyptian settlers in
Nubia dramatically increased due to the conquest of Kush, and Egyptian reli-
gion began to spread throughout Kush. Many of the imported deities in Kush
were local variants of certain centers in Egypt, such as Horus of Hierakonpolis,
who appears in Ellesia and Buhen during the reign of Thutmose . It is under
this pharaoh that Isis of Coptos appears in Qasr Ibrim, Banebdeded of Mendes
in Buhen, and Sopdu from the Delta in Kalabsha. Seshat appears as Seet
Abui (sfxt abwy) in the temples of Derr and Garf Hussein. Curiously, a Nubian
variant of the god Amun as a lion can be found at Kawa in the monuments of
Ramesses . Epithets of Montu, “Lord of Thebes” and “Lord of Hermonthis,”
and of Anubis, “Located in Imi(t)r,” appear in Wadi es Sebua under Ramesses .
Amunet, Iunit, Wepwawet, Sepsi, Harsaphes, and Bastet were other deities that
appeared in Kush after the reign of Ramesses and whose presence might
be related to the spread of local Egyptian traditions by Egyptian settlers from
Hermopolis, Assiut, Heracleopolis, and Bubastis.
Amun, an Egyptian god, became the state god of the Sudanese territory,
in both his anthropomorphic and ram-headed form, and it was to him that
most temples were dedicated. The earliest known evidence of the cult of the
W. B. Emery, “Preliminary Report on the Excavations at Buhen 1962,” Kush 11 (1963), 120.
In a new revision, D. O’Connor, The Old Kingdom Town at Buhen ( 106; London: ,
2014) proposes a diferent chronology of the site.
Kormysheva, “Local gods,” 198.
Kormysheva, “Local gods,” 199.
A cult to Sopdu-Ra Horakhty was introduced by settlers from Saft el-Henne according to
Kormysheva, “Local gods,” 207.
For discussion, references and a comprehensive account on the problem of Egyptian set-
tlers and the difusion of their deities in the New Kingdom, see Kormysheva, “Local gods,”
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 31; É. Kormysheva, “Reection on the iconography of
Amun in Nubian temples,” in Das alte Ägypten und seine Nachbarn: Festschrift zum 65.
Geburtstag von Helmut Satzinger, mit Beiträgen zur Ägyptologie, Koptologie, Nubiologie und
ram-headed Amun in either Egypt or Nubia is a rock drawing at Kurgus from
the reign of Thutmose . Under Thutmose a variant of Amun appears in
Nubia, Amun-Ra of Napata, or “Of the Pure Mountain,” whose main cultic cen-
ter was located at Gebel Barkal. This god was sometimes represented with a
ram head or horns, iconography that would later appear in Luxor but origi-
nated in Nubia. Amun-Ra of Napata, who was closely related to the royal fam-
ily, holds the important function of choosing and crowning the new king, but
he was essentially a development of Amun of Luxor, with some modications.
Also associated with the king was Amun of Kawa (Gempaten), whose tem-
ple was visited by the Kushite king during a trip the latter undertook following
his coronation. In this coronation journey, the king also visited the temple of
Tabo on Argo Island, a temple devoted to Amun of Pnubs, a god represented
with a ram’s head and a lion’s body, and the temple of Amun “Bull of Nubia” in
It has been noted already that the iconography of the ram-headed Amun,
which appears in Egypt no earlier than the New Kingdom, may have been
inuenced by Nubian models. Therefore, Amun’s crown with the sun disk
and feathers could have evolved from the headdresses prepared for sacricial
rams in the Ancient Kerma period. Moreover, excavations at the site of Gism
el Arba, which is contemporary with the whole duration of the Kerma cul-
ture, but which represent a rural pastoral community, have yielded cattle gu-
rines with incised frontal disks between the horns. The god Amun was called
Aman in Nubia, corresponding with the Nubian word for “water,” and was thus
associated with inundation.
Afrikanistik, eds. M. R. M. Hasitzka, J. Diethart, and G. Dembski (Krems: Österreichisches
Literaturforum, 2003), 102; Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,” 190–4.
L. Török, The Image of the Ordered World in Ancient Nubian Art: The Construction of the
Kushite Mind, 800 BC–300 AD (Probleme der Ägyptologie 18; Boston: Brill, 2001), 48.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 29.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 30.
H. Jacquet-Gordon, C. Bonnet, and J. Jacquet, “Pnubs and the Temple of Tabo on Argo
Island,” 55 (1969), 103–11.
Kormysheva, “Iconography of Amun,” 101–10; É. Kormysheva, “On the origin and evolution
of the Amun cult in Nubia,” in Nubian Studies 1998: Proceedings of the Ninth Conference
of the International Society of Nubian Studies, August 21–26, 1998, Boston, Massachusetts,
ed. T. Kendall (Boston: Northeastern University, 2004), 113–4; Rondot, “Les dieux de
B. Gratien, “Some Rural Settlements at Gism el-Arba in the Northern Dongola Reach,”
Sudan and Nubia 3 (1999), 12; B. Gratien et al., “Gism el-Arba—Campagne 1997–1998,”
Kush 18 (2002), 86.
As Amun-Ra’s wife Mut was also worshipped in Nubia, Taharqa built a tem-
ple for her at Gebel Barkal. Together with Isis and Bastet, she was seen as the
mother of the king. Satis and Anukis were the wives of Amun of Kawa, Satis
being the most commonly represented in Meroitic times.
Hathor was very often depicted on jewelry, and interestingly she does not
seem to have the aspect of king’s mother in spite of her close relation to Mut,
Isis, and Bastet, and even though she did actually hold that maternal role
since the New Kingdom in Egypt. Another of Isis’s functions was that of god-
dess of the dead, along with Osiris, Anubis, and Nephthys. Meroitic inscriptions
in pyramid chapels and on ofering tables always begin with an invocation to
Isis and Osiris. Horus and Thoth are represented together in many scenes in
monumental art related to the cult of the king, and Horus himself was associ-
ated with the living king. Curiously, Thoth was also worshipped privately in the
Kushite domestic sphere, as evinced by ibis and baboon gurines, as well as
baboon grati, attested in various cultic places. Sekhmet, Onuris, Shu, and
Tefnut appear in Nubia in connection with the myth of the Sun’s eye, which
was believed to inhabit Nubia in the shape of a lioness. In the version of the
myth found in Philae, the Sun’s eye is identied with Mut, Hathor, Tefnut, and
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 32. Also, the archaeologically unattested temple of
Bastet was a mandatory stop in the coronation journey of the Meroitic king.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 32.
Isis becomes iconographically indistinguishable from Hathor from the New Kingdom,
see: R. H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames
& Hudson, 2003), 141; for the identication of Mut with Hathor in the Edfu texts see
P. Germond, “Hathor, Mout … ou la bonne annee?” 8 (1983), 47–50; also Mut, Hathor
and Bastet are closely related to the Sun’s Eye myth, Bastet being the benevolent aspect of
the Sun’s Eye from the Dynasty onwards, G. S. Matthiae, “L’Occhio del Sole; le divinità
feline femminile dell’Egitto faraónico,” Studi epigraci e linguistici sul Vicino Oriente antico
10 (1993), 10–19.
F. Daumas, “Hathor,” in LAe 2, 1028; Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 141–2.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 33.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 1,” 34.
Hathor, Tefnut and Sekhmet were seen as personications of the Sun’s eye and they often
appear along with Shu who was syncretized with Onuris, both of them in charge of bring-
ing the Sun’s eye back from Nubia (Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 118). Tefnut appears
in Philae together with Toth of Nebes who is referred to in other sources as “The Old
Shu”, and Arensnuphis, a local Meroitic god in a syncretic form with Shu. D. Inconnu-
Bocquillon, Le mythe de la déesse lointaine à Philae (Bibliothèque d’étude 132; Le Caire:
Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2001), 182–96; Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,” 200.
See the whole second chapter devoted to the identication of the goddess in Philae in the
work Inconnu-Bocquillon, la déesse lointaine.
Bes appears as both an ocial and a popular local god. He is represented
in reliefs on columns at Musawwarat es-Sufra, Gebel Barkal B500, Amara,
Wad Ban Naqa, Meroe, and Faras. A double statuette of Bes was used as a
censer in Temple T in Kawa. But his representations in Kush are not limited
to monumental art. Extensive archaeological material connects Bes to popu-
lar religion; these include an altar decorated with a gure of Bes from Sayala,
two Bes-jars from the Sanam cemetery, liquor jars from the Karanog cem-
etery, amulets from Kawa, and tomb deposits in Sanam, Karanog, Faras and
Aksha coming from both private and royal burials. These apotropaic artifacts
increasingly disappear in Meroitic times, probably due to a general decrease of
the number of amulets found in burials. Bes was perhaps related to another
form of popular religion: a Meroitic version the cult of wine, known from
This survey suces to show a panorama in which Egyptian gods were per-
fectly integrated into Kushite beliefs, not only on a royal-ocial level, but also
in a more personal, local dimension. They were worshipped by common peo-
ple who left material goods as witness, artifacts mostly found in tombs. The
adoption of Egyptian funerary beliefs is explicit in the presence of the funer-
ary gods described above, but also in the appearance of Bas statues, which are
common in late Kushite cemeteries, mostly from the north of Nubia. If it is
assumed that Meroites were concerned about their post-mortem fate, the dei-
ties that they chose to bring to their tombs must have played a crucial role in
their personal faith.
Therefore, it seems undeniable that Egyptian deities were completely
accepted and taken as their own by Meroites. However, wealthy and varied
oferings are attested in Sudanese burials at least since the A Horizon, and
J. Lewczuk, “The Cult of Bes in Kush,” in 50 Years of Polish Excavations in Egypt and the
Near East: Acts of the Symposium at the Warsaw University 1986 / 50 lat Polskich wykopalisk
w Egppcie i na Bliskim Wschodzie: Akta Sympozjum na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim 1986,
eds. S. Jakobielski and J. Karkowski (Warsaw: Centre d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne de
l’Université de Varsovie, 1992), 203–4; E. Séguenny, “Quelques elements de la religión pop-
ulaire du Soudan ancien,” in Meroitistische Forschungen 1980: Akten der 4. internationalen
Tagung für meroitistische Forschungen vom 24. bis 29. November 1980 in Berlin, ed. F. Hintze
(Berlin: Akademie, 1984), 151.
Séguenny, “religión populaire,” 151.
Lewczuk, “The Cult of Bes,” 204; A. Sackho-Autissier, “Un aspect de la religion Méroïtique:
vin et culte dionysiaque” in Méroé: un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-Autissier;
S, Labbé-Toutée (Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2010), 202–7.
Adams, Nubia, 378; Welsby, The Kingdom of Kush, 97.
Adams, Nubia, 127.
surprisingly, interments that may suggest a well-structured idea of afterlife are
not eloquently accompanied by information about the nature and iconogra-
phy of the deities that preceded Egyptian as well as Meroitic gods in Kush.
3 Local Nubian Pre-Meroitic Gods
Almost nothing is known about non-Egyptian gods in Kush prior to the Meroitic
period. No representations of local deities have been identied so far in the
Sudan; therefore, the questioning of whether those gods had a proper iconog-
raphy or even ever existed is warranted. The rst name of a deity related to
Nubia attested in the archaeological and textual record is that of Dedwen, who
appears ve times already in the Pyramid Texts in the passages quoted here:
1. sT ddwn jr.k hwn Smaw pr m tA st
dj.f n.k snTr kApw nTrw jm
“The scent of Dedwen, young boy of the Nile Valley who comes from Ta
Seti, (goes) to you, giving you the incense with which the gods are cen-
sed” (PT 437).
2. jAHs js xntj tA Smaw Ddwn js xntj tA st spdw js Xr ksbwt.f
“As Iahes at the fore of the land of the Nile Valley, as Dedwen at the fore
of Ta Seti, as Sopdu under his trees” (PT 480).
3. sT ddwn jr.k Hwn Smaw
dj.f n.k snTr.f wab kApw.f n nTrw
“The scent of Dedwen, young boy of the Nile Valley, (goes) to you, giving
you his pure incense that he censes for the gods” (PT 483).
4. NN pw rAHs (var: jHs) xnt tA Smaw
NN pw ddwn xnt tA st
NN pw spdw Xr ksbwt.f
“NN is Rahes (var: Iahes), foremost of the land of the Nile Valley, NN is
Dedwen, foremost of Ta Seti, NN is Sopdu, under his trees” (PT 572).
5. jw sT ddwn jr.k Hwn Smaw pr m tA st
dj.f n.k snTr kApw nTrw jm.f
“The scent of Dedwen, the young boy of the Nile Valley who came from
Ta Seti, (goes) to you, giving you the incense with which the gods are
censed” (PT 610).
Dedwen is not attested in the pyramid of Unas, but only appears in 6th
Dynasty versions of the Pyramid Texts, perhaps illustrating his introduction
into Egyptian religious beliefs at that time, when contacts between Nubia and
Egypt were gradually increasing. He is represented as a man wearing a khat-
headdress or, on one occasion, in the temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal, built by
Taharqa, appearing with a crown consisting of a sun disk with ram horns and
The name of Dedwen is also matter of discussion, and its translation is still
debated. Wilkinson proposed the reading “the one who opens the hand,” but
if this were the case, wn-Drt would be expected. Bunsen translated it as “estab-
lishing beings,” identifying the rst dd with the verb wdj “place.” A recent
proposal also interprets the name as a form of the same verb, in this case a
passive participle, together with a stative wn, “the one who is given, being exis-
tent,” in connection with the nature of the god as a self-generator. However,
the possibility that the name of the god does not have an Egyptian origin but
is instead linguistically connected to the geographic area of the Sudan cannot
be ignored. Gauthier observed that the radical tōd (the Ded of Dedwen) in the
contemporary Nubian language means “young.” As has been shown, Dedwen
appears in the Pyramid Texts as Hwn Smaw, “young boy of the Nile Valley,”
suggesting that he was a child divinity, such as Harpocrates or Nefertem. His
name could be an “Egyptianization” of an original Kushite name with a root
dd, meaning “young,” along with the Egyptian Hwn, with the same meaning,
resulting in the name dd-wn Dedwen.
Throughout his history, the god maintains the epithet xntj tA stj, “foremost
of Ta-Seti (Lower Nubia),” which also appears in the Pyramid Texts examples.
His mother was said to be the goddess Medjat, and he also receives the epi-
thet “the good Medjai” in his temple on Philae. It is possible that Dedwen
was a deity specically worshipped by the Medja people. Like the rst men-
tion of Dedwen, the earliest textual Egyptian references to the Medja are all
dated to the 6th Dynasty: in the autobiography of Uni, two rock inscriptions
See the autobiographies of Weni and Harkhuf, as well as other evidence like a grato
from Tomas with the 6th Dynasty ocials Teti-ankh, Sabi and Iri. See: G. E. Kadish, “Old
Kingdom Egyptian Activity in Nubia: Some Reconsiderations,” 52 (1966), 23–4.
J. G. Wilkinson, Topography of Thebes being a Short Account of the Principal Objects Worthy
of Notice in the Valley of the Nile to the Second Cataract and Wadee Samneh, with the Fyoom,
Oases, and Eastern Desert, from Sooez to Berenice […] (London: John Murray, 1835), 500.
C. C. J. von Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte (1845).
J. P. Pätznick, “De l’origine du nom divin Ddwn,” CCdE 18 (2014), 67–9.
H. Gauthier, “Le dieu nubien Doudoun,” RevEg n.s. 2 (1920), 36.
Pätznick, “nom divin Ddwn,” 62.
from Hesa and Aswan, a passage from the Decrees of Dashur, and a letter from
An alternative interpretation of his origin has been proposed by Pätznick,
who argues that Dedwen could be the divinized form of an early Nubian ruler,
perhaps the subjugated enemy that appears in a fragmentary limestone stele of
Khasekhem from Hierakonpolis with his head under the signs tA stj. Pätznick
suggests a cryptographic reading tp tA stj “the Chief of Nubia.” and the name
Dedwen, “the one who has been placed,” would then recall his lying position.
His argument, however, is not particularly strong, because the representation
of the subjugated enemy is common in Egyptian iconography, and it is not
clear whether it refers to a general enemy or a specic one. Moreover, Dedwen
is a god who becomes highly integrated in the Egyptian pantheon, even
appearing as the only non-Egyptian divinity alongside twenty-nine Egyptian
gods on the northeastern face of the Seventh Pylon in Karnak under the reign
of Sety . It is unlikely that a god embodying a subjugated enemy ruler would
be worshiped as a deity in Egypt—unless, of course, the god’s origin had been
forgotten throughout the centuries.
The connection between Dedwen and Kush in Egypt is undeniable.
However, the question of whether he really was an indigenous Nubian god is
entirely speculative, since he is not explicitly involved in any known Kushite
religious traditions. This is, of course, a general problem concerning pre-
Meroitic Nubian religion, due to the lack of gods’ depictions and the absence
of textual evidence. A survey of the available archaeological evidence concern-
ing Dedwen in Nubia and Egypt is provided in Table 1 below (§ 6).
As shown by the evidence, a statistical survey to identify Egyptian, as
opposed to Sudanese, attestations is not very informative, since most sources
are still Egyptian, even those found in Sudanese territory. People that dedicated
proskynemata were Egyptians, judging by their personal names, and temples
in Nubia were built by Egyptian pharaohs, with the exception of Taharqa,
Altanarsa, and Aspalta—in whose reigns Nubian religion was too inuenced
by Egyptian traditions to be considered informative.
There are, however, some aspects of the relationship between Dedwen
and Amun hat are worthy of discussion here. Dedwen, wearing the horned-
sun-disk crown, appears at Gebel Barkal in the same temple where the god
Amun is attested with a ram head or horns. In the Coronation Stele of Aspalta,
S. Giuliani, “Medja Sources in the Old Kingdom,” DE 42 (1998) 42.
Pätznick, “nom divin Ddwn,” 72–4.
Gauthier, “Doudoun,” 27–8.
Gauthier, “Doudoun,” 11.
lines 1–3 read: “the soldiers of his Majesty are in the city of the Pure Mountain,
the name of the god who is there is Dedwen of Khenty-Nefert, he is the god of
Kush”; in lines 11–13 of the same inscription there is a mention of “Amun-Ra,
lord of the throne of the Two Lands in the Pure Mountain of Kush.” A further
connection between both gods is seen in the Nectanebo scene at Philae,
where Dedwen is described as “the god of Abaton”: Amun-Ra also has the epi-
thet of “lord of Abaton” in the Temple of Dakka during the reign of Arkamani,
and at Debod in the time of Adikhalamani.
It is therefore possible that there was a syncretism between both gods
from the 25th Dynasty onward. It could be understood within the context of
an association of the most powerful god of the Egyptian pantheon from the
New Kingdom on with a local Kushite god, and therefore the Kushite royalty.
Evidence of a ram-headed Amun originally from Nubia, called Aman in Nubia
and maybe related to an unknown local Nubian god of the inundation, could
shed light on this issue. Ancient Kerma rituals attest to the burial of rams with
crowns decorated with sun disks and feathers as part of some kind of obscure
ritual, and the same costume is attested in Elephantine for the god Khnum.
Dedwen appears together with Khnum from the Middle Kingdom to the
New Kingdom, and this couple may have been an Egyptian way of worship-
ing and representing an original dyad of indigenous Kushite gods: Khnum as
god of the inundation, and therefore bearer of life, represented as a ram, and
Dedwen as a child god related to regeneration. The ram iconography shared by
Khnum and the unknown Kushite god, perhaps in an abstract immaterial way,
then became associated with Amun, as the god in question is called Aman in
post-New Kingdom times, and it passes to Dedwen in Gebel Barkal. Therefore,
the original dyad of Kushite gods begins to share distinctive life-bearer attri-
butes in a syncretistic process that sees both of them associated with Amun.
The prominent position of the creative and regenerative powers in the Kushite
Kormysheva, “Le nom d’Amon,” 255.
Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,” 193. There is also ram iconography in statuary from Kerma,
Askut, and Aniba. Kormysheva, “Iconography of Amun in Nubia,” 103; É. Kormysheva, “On
the Origin and Evolution of the Amun Cult in Nubia” in Nubian Studies 1998: Proceedings
of the Ninth Conference of the International Society of Nubian Studies, August 21–26, 1998,
Boston, Massachusetts, ed. T. Kendall (Boston: Northeastern University, 2004), 113–4.
The Kushite 25th Dynasty show a preference for the anthropomorphic criocephalic, or
zoomorphic ram shape of Amun in Egypt and Nubia, see: G. Andreu-Lanoë, “Tête du
dieu Amon sous forme de belier” in Méroé: un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-
Autissier and S. Labbé-Toutée (Paris: Musée du Louvre éditions, 2010), 235.
Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 195.
pantheon is also manifest in the purely Sudanese iconographical repertoire,
often appearing in association with Amun himself.
There is one more aspect of the textual evidence for Dedwen that requires
investigation. The god is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts along with a diferent
deity, Iahes/Rahes. This latter gure is elsewhere often referred to as “the fore
of the land of the Nile Valley (tA Sma).” The expression tA Sma is often translated
as “Upper Egypt,” but Iahes/Rahes is mentioned here together with Dedwen
and Sopdu, divinities related to foreign lands; therefore, in this case the refer-
ence tA Sma more concretely describes the southern land of Nubia or even the
territory surrounding the rst cataract.
The god Iahes/Rahes is not very well attested in Egypt, although he is asso-
ciated with crocodiles and maybe identical with the god Sobek, who appears
during the Middle Kingdom. Iahes is also identied with the ram Khnum
and Khnum-Ra in ritual scenes from the temple of Esna. It is argued here
that Iahes was the Egyptian rendering of the name of an indigenous, other-
wise unattested Kushite god with a ram or crocodile shape, associated with
Khnum. Iahes’s crocodile appearance would be coherent with his connection
to water and inundation, and the ram-god Khnum himself has the epithet of
“Lord of the crocodiles.” In that case, the Pyramid Text passages would be
the earliest Egyptian attestation of the local Kushite divine dyad, which would
be then worshipped by the Egyptians as Dedwen and Khnum. The existence
Innovative devices in the cultic material culture such as the libation tables with a huge
depiction of an ankh sign (V. Rondot and L. Török, “La maison du dieu: le temple,” in Méroé:
un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-Autissier, and S. Labbé-Toutée [Paris: Musée
du Louvre, 2010], 232), or the preference of the Sema-Tawy motif as a couple of inundation
gods who tie two papyrus talks (K. Kroeper, “L’autel solaire du temple d’Amon à Naga,” in
Méroé: un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-Autissier and S. Labbé-Toutée [Paris:
Musée du Louvre, 2010], 234). The peculiar ndings of an Egyptian ram-headed scarab,
and a criocephalic god with a moon-disk crown in the temple of el-Hassa are also worthy
of mention, see: V. Rondot, “Le matériel cultuel du temple à Amon d’el-Hassa,” in Méroé:
un empire sur le Nil, eds. M. Baud, A. Sackho-Autissier, and S. Labbé-Toutée (Paris: Musée
du Louvre, 2010), 237; and V. Rondot, “El-Hassa: un temple à Amon dans l’Île de Méroé au
Ier siècle de notre ère” 156 (2012), 167–82. A storejar with a depiction of a ram-
headed deity and a lotus was found in tomb 9 in the Late New Kingdom-25th Dynasty
cemetery of Hillat el-Arab, see: I. V. Liverani, “Two Field Seasons in the Napata Region,”
Kush 17 (1997), g. 9.2.
E. Hening, “Iahes/Rahes,” in LAe 3, 112.
S. Sauneron, Le Temple d’Esna (Cairo: Publications de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie
Orientale, 1968), 225, 227; 381, 414.
Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 194; Moreover, some plaques are attested in Sudanese sites
like Sanam showing criosphinxes and crocodiles (Kormysheva, “Origin and evolution of
the Amun cult,” 114).
of an anonymous Kushite crocodile god sometimes represented along with a
ram deity has been previously proposed, and can be corroborated by this
Another divinity that appears in very few Egyptian sources from the Middle
Kingdom onwards in relation with Nubia is Miket. She is only attested in Lower
Nubia until the 22nd Dynasty, and is known as the goddess of the rst cataract.
Her name could derive from the Meroitic words mk (god) and kdj (woman).
She was Onuris’s wife and another form of the Sun’s eye in her leonine form.
As is shown in Table 2 below (§ 6), the goddess appears only in Upper Nubia
or the border region between Egypt and Nubia, which demonstrates her con-
nection with the rst cataract of the Nile. Her appearance is always framed
within the cultic context of the rst cataract triad: Khnum, Anukis, and Satis.
Was she seen as another consort of Khnum? Even considering the lack of infor-
mation, it could be argued that the names Miket (mjkt) and Anukis (anqt) are
Egyptian renderings of an early indigenous Kushite goddess’s name, which
may have had in its root a word related to the Meroitic kdj, “woman.”
To sum up, there are enough reasons to believe that local Kushite people
had their own pantheon, without Egyptian inuence on it, much earlier than
the Meroitic period. The traditions, rituals, and beliefs of the people who
inhabited the surroundings of the rst cataract and the border region con-
veyed those Kushite gods to their northern neighbors. Gods such as Khnum,
Anukis, and Dedwen thus became closely associated with the south of Egypt
and Nubia throughout Egyptian history.
É. Kormysheva, “Amun of Pnubs on the Plaques from Kush,” in Recent Research in Kushite
History and Archaeology: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference for Meroitic
Studies, ed. D. A. Welsby (London: British Museum, 1999), 287; A. Lohwasser, “Devil and
God: The Crocodile in Kush,” in La pioche et la plume: autour du Soudan, du Liban et
de la Jordanie. Hommages archéologiques à Patrice Lenoble, eds. V. Rondot, F. Alpi, and
F. Villeneuve (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011), 383–9.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 37.
Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 179.
Habachi, “Divinities,” 217–8.
It is generally accepted that Nubians become completely “Egyptianized” after the New
Kingdom due to the disappearance of local burial customs, L. Török, The Image of the
Ordered World in Ancient Nubian Art: The Construction of the Kushite Mind, 800 BC–300 AD
(Boston: Brill, 2001), 264.
4 Meroitic Gods
The earliest certain attestation of an indigenous deity in the ocial religious
pantheon of the ancient Sudan is found in the Lion Temple of Musawwarat
es-Sufra, dating back to approximately 225 . At that time, native deities
who do not have an Egyptian counterpart rst begin to be represented in the
monumental art that is known to us. Unfortunately, the origin and functions of
those gods are still partly obscure.
As the artistic-archaeological evidence stands, Apedemak was the most
important Meroitic god. He had his main cultic centers in the south of the
Sudan, Naqa, Meroe and Musawwarat es-Sufra, but he was also known and
represented in the north. However, Apedemak was never worshipped in the
north to the same extent as Aman, and it has been argued that their cults stood
in opposition, maybe as two rival state gods.
Dedwen is usually represented as a man with a lion’s head wearing a
hemhem-crown. As a war god, he is usually depicted holding a bow or
arrows. In two reliefs from Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa, he appears to wear
some kind of leather armor, which is also worn by the king in non-solemn
occasions. In addition to this aspect of the god, commonly represented when
(?) worshipped by the king and his sons, Apedemak was also the beneciary
of a very extensive popular cult, as reected in the numerous lion grati at
Musawwarat es-Sufra. The popular cult of Apedemak was probably due to
F. Hintze, Musawwarat es-Sufra, Band I,1, der Löwentempel, Textband (Berlin: Akademie,
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 32.
N. B. Millet, “Meroitic Religion,” in Meroitistische Forschungen 1980: Akten der 4. interna-
tionalen Tagung für meroitistische Forschungen vom 24. bis 29. November 1980 in Berlin, ed.
F. Hintze (Berlin: Akademie, 1984), 118.
The hemhem crown originated in Egypt in the 18th Dynasty and the iconography passed to
the Egyptian temples in Nubia, then to Napata, and then became introduced in Meroitic
iconography, being worn by Apedemak and the kings. L. V. Zabkar, Apedemak, Lion God
of Meroe: A Study in Egyptian-Meroitic Syncretism (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1975),
Zabkar, Apedemak, 13.
Millet, “Meroitic Religion,” 118 claims that he is the male deity “par excellence” and is to
be worshipped by a warrior king and his male sons. He bases his ideas on the representa-
tions in Musawwarat es-Sufra showing the king together with his sons, Sebiumeker and
Arensnuphis, confronting Apedemak.
C. Kleinitz, “The Grati of Musawwarat es-Sufra: Current Research on Historic Inscrip-
tions, Images and Markings at the Great Enclosure,” S&N 18 (2014), 93–103.
his role as a protector god and provider of fertility. He is mentioned in his hymn
in Musawwarat es-Sufra as “the one who created nourishment for all” and he
is referred as “the one who protects” in an inscription from Debod. That the
god also was seen as a creator has been proposed through the interpretation of
his name as a derivation from the proto-root *Abede, meaning “demiurge,” in
languages related to Meroitic.
There are three unusual representations of Apedemak that are dicult to
explain. Two of them show the god with a serpent body, human arms, and
lion head. The rst is a relief on a pylon at the Naqa temple, and the second
appears in the fragments of a decorated leather garment from Semna south.
Žabkar provides some parallels, in which Isis (in a mythological papyrus
from the 21st Dynasty, now in the Louvre Museum), Sekhmet (in a statue at
the Museum of Naples), and Wepset (reliefs in Philae), are represented in the
same manner, thus suggesting Egyptian inuence. In fact, the representa-
tion of Apedemak’s serpent body can more easily be explained by means
of the apotropaic aspect of the god. Isis frequently appears associated with
snakes and scorpions, because she was a goddess who protected against their
bites, and the king’s protectors Sekhmet and Wepset need to be interpreted
in the same manner. The god Bes, who appears together with Apedemak in
the Lion Temple of Musawwarat es-Sufra, and who has the leonine appear-
ance, warrior aspect, and apotropaic functions in common with him, is also
very often depicted in combination with snakes and other dangerous animals
in artwork such as the Metternich Stele.
The third peculiar representation of Apedemak is a depiction of the lion-
headed god with three heads and two arms on each side. This strange scene
appears outside on the back-wall of the Lion-Temple in Naqa, and it is highly
unlikely that it developed under Indian inuence, as Vycichl suggested.
Instead, it is more plausible that, as argued by Monneret de Villard, an artis-
tic device was employed to represent two simultaneous actions of the god,
Séguenny, “religión populaire,” 150.
Rondot, “Les dieux de Méroé,” 197.
Zabkar, Apedemak, 38.
See, for example, the 19th Dynasty papyrus containing the myth of Isis and Ra at the
Museo Egizio of Turin, with an endnote explaining that the papyrus needs to be intro-
duced in beer or wine to heal someone from a snake’s bite (Cat. 1993 17478). Cf. also
the numerous representations of Isis with snakes in the Greek-Roman period such as the
examples from the Iseum of Pompey.
Hintze, Musawwarat es-Sufra, g. 109–11.
W. Vycichl, “The Present State of Meroitic Studies,” Kush 6 (1958), 174–6.
U. M. de Villard, “Il Culto del Sole a Meroe,” 2 (1942), 127–8.
namely facing the king (with one head and two arms) and providing him with
the breath of life (another head and other two pair of arms). The third head
would have been added to bring symmetry to the scene.
Žabkar suggests a syncretism between the Meroitic god Apedemak and the
Egyptian Mahes. He asserts that Mahes’s iconography and function, such
as his warrior, protective, and solar aspects, coincide with what is known of
Apedemak from Meroe. Mahes’s main cultic center was located in Tell el-
Muqdam in the Delta, but in the 23rd Dynasty Osorkon erected a temple for
him at Bubastis, and the god’s cult later spread southwards to Dendera, Edfu,
and Philae, eventually arriving to Lower Nubia in Debod and Dendur.
The name Mahes (mAj-HzA), which literally means “lion with a terrible
glance,” is attested as early as the Pyramid Texts, but apparently without
any divine connotation. It is only from the Middle Kingdom onwards that
theophoric names with Mahes appear. Attention should be brought here to
the name of the god whose origin has previously been discussed, Rahes/Iahes.
A word rw for “lion” in Egyptian is well attested, and its variant rA-Hs r-Hs
could have been reinterpreted in later periods, when the graphemes s and z
represent a single phoneme, as “lion with a terrible glance.” This word would
then have merged with the already existing mAj-HzA with the same meaning.
Interestingly there are no more attestations of the god Iahes/Rahes after the
Middle Kingdom, coinciding with the time when the rst theophoric names
bearing Mahes appear.
Egyptian imagery clearly associated lions with Kush, since the goddess that
represented the Sun’s Eye had a leonine appearance: Sekhmet, Mut, or Tefnut.
Furthermore, Shu, who was in charge of bringing the eye back to Egypt, also had
a lion shape and was closely related to Apedemak. Moreover, the cult of the
lion may be attested in ancient Sudan, since a burial of three young lions has
been found in Sanam with no convincing explanation, and Napatan amulets
have appeared in the necropolis of el-Kurru representing winged naked god-
desses with lion heads. Further research on Egyptian, as opposed to Kushite,
Zabkar, Apedemak, 52–70.
Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 178–9.
Wb , 12.2–5.
Zabkar, Apedemak, 52; Wilkinson, The Complete Gods, 178–9.
Wb , 403.8.
Monneret de Villard, “Il Culto del Sole,” 113.
F. L. Grith, Oxford Excavations in Nubia ( 10; Liverpool: University of Liverpool,
A. Sachko-Autissier, “Sur quelques amulettes napatéennes de la nécropole d’el-Kurru,”
in Nubian Studies 1998: Proceedings of the Ninth Conference of the International Society
iconography and symbology of lions is needed in order to explain the relation
between the Egyptian feline and Sudanese religious practices. Such research
could prove the existence of early indigenous traditions and cults of which no
archaeological material has been preserved.
If Mahes merged with Iahes, a former Egyptian rendering of a Kushite ram-
crocodile god, taking thereafter the shape of a lion, the same animal would
then represent a later Meroitic god, Apedemak. If the god Mahes was seen as
an originally ancient Kushite deity, the adoption of his functions and attributes
by a god embodying Meroitic royal power represents a novel phenomenon,
and a diferent dimension of interest. This process of syncretism should be
explained as a political strategy and as an attempt by the Meroitic royalty to
revive a past that they experienced as the cradle of their cultural identity.
Much less is known about the rest of the Meroitic gods. Sebiumeker and
Arensnuphis appear together as a dyad in representations in Temple 300, the
Lion Temple, Room 108 of Musawwarat es-Sufra, and also in Naqa in the Lion
and Amun temples. The creator aspect of Sebiumeker can be perceived from
an inscription in Musawwarat es-Sufra in which the god says: “I give you the
lifetime of Ra in the heaven … I give you everything that arises from the night,
everything that appears in the day … I give you the year of the sun, the month
of the moon in joy.” The small temple of Musawwarat could have been
devoted to this god (?). Arensnuphis seems to have had the same icono-
graphical attributes as Onuris, with a long garment and a crown with four
feathers. It has been argued that Arensnuphis is the mere (?) personication
of Nubian Studies, August 21–26, 1998, Boston, Massachusetts, ed. T. Kendall (Boston, MA:
Northeastern University, 2004), 390.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 35.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 35–6. Rondot advanced that the pharaonic iconogra-
phy of Sebiumeker is due to a reinterpretation of the god as the divinized king Shabaka
whose name would mean “It is he (the god) Sebo.” The meaning of Sebiumeker in this
case would be “the god Sebo”, see: V. Rondot, “L’Empereur et le Petit Prince: les Deux
Colosses d’Argo: Iconographie Symbolique et Datation,” in La pioche et la plume: autour
du Soudan, du Liban et de la Jordanie: Hommages archéologiques à Patrice Lenoble, eds.
V. Rondot, F. Alpi, and F. Villeneuve (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011),
S. Wenig, “Das Gebäude von Musawwarat es -Sufra,” in Meroitistische Forschungen 1980:
Akten der 4. internationalen Tagung für meroitistische Forschungen vom 24. bis 29. Novem-
ber 1980 in Berlin, ed. F. Hintze (Berlin: Akademie, 1984), 183–7. He claims that single-
room temples were devoted to Meroitic deities, but Apedemak and Arensnuphis can be
excluded as the main god of the building .
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 35.
of an epithet, rather than a genuine (?) Meroitic god. Arensnuphis is identi-
ed with Apedemak in a demotic grato in Naqa, and his syncretism with
Shu and Onuris would further his association with the Meroitic lion-god. It is
therefore possible that Arensnuphis and Sebiumeker were the development of
the original couple of local gods rendered by Egyptians in the Old and Middle
Kingdom as Iahes/Khnum and Dedwen. As previously mentioned, Iahes was
perhaps the origin of Mahes, who then becomes identied with Apedemak,
while Dedwen, a god of regeneration, was easily associated to Sebiumeker and
his cosmogonic aspects.
Of the Meroitic god Mash nothing is known apart from a possible relation
to the solar cult and the many priestly titles from Karanog and Sablul. No
iconography of Mash or Ariten is known, while the opposite problem exists
with an anonymous goddess who has a hawk on top of her head represented
in the Lion Temples of Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa, and Amara, or a deity
with a moon on top of the head in the Lion Temple of Naqa and the bracelet of
Amanishakheto, with no known name.
Egyptian gods were entirely integrated into Kushite beliefs and were wor-
shipped in the Sudan along with local gods in both popular and ocial con-
texts. The Egyptian gods Bes and Thoth, on the one hand, are good examples
of divinities represented in monumental art while also being the subject of
personal piety in amulets and grati. On the other hand, Apedemak was a
local Meroitic warrior god who became the state god of Kush and protector of
the royalty, together with the Egyptian Amun. He was also venerated by pri-
vate people who left numerous grati in Musawwarat es-Sufra. There was not,
therefore, a strongly marked opposition between ocial and popular religion
K. Sethe, Zur altägyptischen Sage vom Sonnenauge, das in der Fremde war (Leipzig:
Hinrichs, 1912); H. Junker, Die Onurislegende, Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der
Wissenschaften in Wien ( 59 [1–2]; Vienna: Hölder, 1917).
M. de Villard, “Il Culto del Sole,” 113.
M. de Villard, “Il Culto del Sole,” 108–13. His name might be related to the Medieval Nubian
word ⲙⲁϣⲁⲗ and modern Nubian masil both meaning “sun.”
F. L. Grith, Karanòg: The Meroitic Inscriptions of Shablûl and Karanòg (Philadelphia:
University Museum, 1911).
Probably just an epithet of Amun. M. de Villard, “Il Culto del Sole,” 126.
Lohwasser, “Die Götterwelt Teil 2,” 37–8.
in Kush, as was the case in Egypt. Their classication under one or another of
those categories, if either, was never marked by the geographical origin of the
Even if some details of the iconography of Meroitic gods such as the
hemhem-crown or ankh-signs were doubtlessly inuenced by Egyptian models,
it seems that other features, such as ram horns originated in Kush. Although
a thorough consideration of the ritualistic aspect of felines in the Nile Valle is
beyond the scope of this paper, the iconography of lions in both Egyptian and
Sudanese contexts often shows a notable Kushite inspiration. Further research
should investigate whether the feline imagery is reminiscent of an earlier cult
of lions in the Sudan.
There is not only rm evidence to argue for a pre-Meroitic local pantheon
in some areas of Kush but also enough material to reconstruct it partially. Ded-
wen and Iahes/Rahes were probably the Egyptian rendering of two indigenous
gods worshipped as a dyad, one related to regeneration, and the other a god of
inundation, associated with rams, crocodiles, and Khnum in Egypt. The name
of Rahes was perhaps reinterpreted in the Middle Kingdom as “lion of the ter-
rible glance” and developed into a god called Mahes, whose attributes would
be transferred in Meroitic times to Apedemak. Apedemak was identied with
Arensnuphis, and maybe his partner god Sebiumeker was seen as a develop-
ment of Iahes’s partner, Dedwen himself. Miket and Anukis are probably iden-
tical, and their names are Egyptian renderings of some local goddess with the
Meroitic word kdj, “woman,” in her name.
In sum, Meroitic gods seem to be a development of ill-attested early indig-
enous traditions. In the border region between Egypt and Sudan, those reli-
gious practices were in continuous contact with one another since the time of
the Old Kingdom, which facilitated the introduction of Kushite traditions into
Egypt, and their reciprocal adoption and reinterpretation. Those unattested
indigenous Kushite gods became represented in Egypt as Dedwen and the gods
of the cataract, and reinterpreted in Meroitic times, perhaps in an attempt to
recover an ancient tradition that was experienced as reminiscent of earlier
indigenous roots and identity.
Survey of attestations of Dedwen in Egypt and Nubia
Attestation Context Notes
Pyramid Texts in
Appears as “Fore of Ta Seti”
and “Young Boy of the Nile
Temple in the fortress of
Nubia, time of Sesostris
Reconstruction in the time
of Thutmose (
Two dedicatory inscriptions
for him appear in two
nearby rocks. Devoted
to Dedwen, Khnum, and
Inscription on a statue
of the king Khutawyre
Wegaf in Semna
Proskynema in a rock in
Nubia, Middle Kingdom?
Temple in the fortress of
Nubia, time of
Devoted to Dedwen,
Khnum, and Sesostris
Rock temple of Ellesia Nubia, time of Thutmose
Devoted to Amun-Ra,
but Dedwen appears
represented along with
divinities such as Khnum,
Anukis, and Sesostris
Stela in Konosso Border region, time
Commemorating the king’s
victory over enemies.
Temple of Deir el-Bahari Upper Egypt, time of
Hathepsut (– )
Dedwen receives the title
“who inhabits the foreign
lands of the West” for the
Table created through the comprehensive gathering of attestations in Gauthier, “Dou-
Survey of attestations of Dedwen in Egypt and Nubia (cont.)
Attestation Context Notes
Seventh Pylon of
Upper Egypt, time of Sety
Western annexed room
to the Temple of Gebel
Nubia, time of Taharqa
Only attestation of the
horned-sun-disk crown for
Edice of Taharqa in
Upper Egypt, time of
Taharqa (– )
Horus representing Egypt;
Sopdu, Asia; Sobek, Lybia;
and Dedwen, Nubia.
Fragment from temple
B at Gebel Barkal
Nubia, time of Altanarsa
Stele of the Coronation
Nubia, time of Aspalta
Both Dedwen and Amun-Ra
described as lords of Nubia
in diferent lines.
Central gate of the great
pylon of the Temple of
Isis in Philae
Border region, time of
Nectanebo (– )
Dedwen mentioned as “Lord
of Abaton” for the rst time.
Temple of Isis in Philae Border region, time of
Evidence of the triad
Temple of Arensnuphis
First cataract, time of
Tiberius ( – )
Arensnuphis with Dedwen.
Survey of attestations of Miket in Egypt and Nubia
Attestation Context Notes
statue of Irgemtef in
Border region, Middle
Miket mentioned together
with Khnum, Anukis, and
Chapel of Amenyatu in
the Sanctuary of Heqaib
Miket mentioned together
with Khnum, Anukis, and
Survey of attestations of Miket in Egypt and Nubia (cont.)
Attestation Context Notes
Southern temple of
Nubia, New Kingdom
Mentioned as mistress of
pr-nw, primitive sanctuary
of the Lower Egyptian deity
Rock stela of
Thutmosis in Sehel
Border region, time
Miket mentioned together
with Khnum, Anukis, and
Rock temple of
Horemheb in Gebel
Border region, time of
Horemheb (– )
Miket appears together with
other deities, among which
are the gods of the cataract
Temple of Beit el-Wali Nubia, time of Ramesses
Mentioned as mistress of
pr-wr, primitive sanctuary
of the Upper Egyptian
deity Nekhbet. The gods
of the cataract are also
represented in the temple.
Elephantine Border region, time of
Amasis (– )
Other gods of the cataract
are also mentioned.
a L. Habachi, “Divinities Adored in the Area of Kalabsha, with a Special Reference to the
Goddess Miket,” in Sixteen Studies on Lower Nubia, ed. L. Habachi (Cairo: Imprimerie de
l’Institut français d’Archeologie orientale, 1981), 213–5.
b Habachi, “Divinities,” 212–3.
c D. Randall-MacIver and L. Woolley, Buhen (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1911), 56, 60.
d Habachi, “Divinities,” 215–7.
e J. F. Champollion, Monuments de l’Egypte et de la Nubie: notices descriptives conformes aux
manuscrits autographes redigés, vol. 2 (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1889), 264.
f H. Ricke, G. R. Hughes, and E. F. Wente, The Beit el-Wali Temple of Ramesses II (Oriental
Institute Nubian Expedition; Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 1967), 30.
g Habachi, “Divinities,” 217.