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Over in Tumblr, my strange little hobby is trying to identify gods and demons in photos from Egypt. When the name is visible in hieroglyphs, of course, it's a pushover. At other times, I can only make an educated guess from other clues, because the iconography of many deities overlaps: Isis and Hathor; Amun and Khnum; Re and Ra-Horakhty; and the many lioness goddesses can look identical. I'm far less well up on the gods of the Levant, Phoenicia and Syria and Canaan and all that, but the problem of telling them apart seems to be even more pronounced, even for the experts. As Richard D. Barnett writes, "we have lost the keys for interpreting many of the bewildering variety of divine types".

So Barnett only "ventured to identify" one particular form of Phoenician goddess of the Iron Age with Anat (aka 'Anath): "a young girl, dressed in a long Egyptian woman's garment who wears either the great Egyptian triple version of the 'atef crown, called hm hm ('terrible'), or the 'atef crown on horns between two uraeus snakes". She also "wears an Isis-girdle, holds a shield and harpe and sometimes has a long dagger (or daggers) stuck in her girdle at her waist." Barnett describes this goddess as "partially transvestite": not only is she armed, but the hm hm crown is more usually seen on male gods, such as Osiris, Harpocrates, and Ba'al. This is a good match for the Anat of the Ba'al cycle, ready to avenge her brother's death, and representations of Anat from New Kingdom Egypt show her brandishing shield and weapons, as Barnett points out. (I'd add that it matches Papyrus Chester Beatty VII, in which Anat is described as "a woman acting as a warrior, clad as men and girt as women".) However, 'Ashtart (aka Astarte) was similarly depicted in Egypt: "it is clear that she and 'Anath often coalesced".

Barnett's goal is to trace the history of representations of Anat. The Iron Age in Phoenicia, 1200-500 BCE, roughly corresponds with the middle of the New Kingdom in Egypt through to the middle of the Late Period. Barnett writes that "the identification of Isis-Hathor with the Lady of Byblos goes back to the Middle Kingdom" and "the concept of 'Anath and 'Ashtart as war-goddesses is an invention of the Egyptian New Kingdom, and was not known in Phoenicia till the Iron Age." (There may be indications of it as early as the Hyksos period, however.) I guess this is a pretty good indication of the cultural exchange going on between Egypt and the Levant - iconography and gods being traded along with everything else. (Ugarit, however, predates the Iron Age, and 'Anat is pretty bloody warlike in the literature found there!)

It's also possible that 'Anath is represented in a different way - wearing Isis/Hathor's sun-and-horns headdress, flanking a god who could be Ba'al or Reshep, with a goat standing on its hindlegs on his other side. She embraces him (the god, not the goat). Apparently Anat and Hathor were identified with one another in second millennium BCE Syria. Barnett thinks it's more likely this goddess is 'Astarte. But he cautions that "Their roles and representations are in fact still at present very hard to distinguish. The distinction between the representation of the two sister goddesses is something of a mystery, which we are not yet in a position to unravel." Has it been unravelled a bit since 1978? Further investigation is indicated.

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Barnett, Richard D. The Earliest Representation of 'Anath. Eretz-Israel 14 1978, pp 28-31.

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