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Amun and the Theban Triad

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Originally merely one of the deities in the Hermopolitan Ogdoad, Amun gained ascendancy at Thebes shortly before the Middle Kingdom, presumably because his cult was adopted by powerful local rulers during the First Intermediate Period. After the expulsion of the Hyksos (c.1567 BC), the rulers of the XVIII Dynasty elevated Amun to a victorious national god, and set about making Karnak his principal cult centre in Egypt.

As the “Unseen One” (whose name in hieroglyphic script was accompanied by a blank space instead of the usual explicatory sign), Amun assimilated other deities into such incarnations as Amun-Re (the supreme Creator), Amun-Min (the “bull which serves the cows” with a perpetual erection) or ram-headed Auf-Re (“Re made Flesh”), who sailed through the underworld revitalizing the souls of the dead, emerging reborn as Khepri. However, Amun most commonly appears as a human wearing ram’s horns and the twin-feathered atef crown.

His consort, Mut, was a local goddess in Pre-dynastic times, who became linked with Nekhbet, the vulture protectress of Upper Egypt. Early in the XVIII Dynasty she was “married” to Amun, assimilated his previous consort Amunet and became Mistress of Heaven. She is customarily depicted wearing a vulture head-dress and uraeus and the Combined Crown of the Two Lands.

Amun and Mut’s son Khonsu, “the Traveller”, crossed the night sky as the moon-god, issued prophecies and assisted Thoth, the divine scribe. He was portrayed either with a hawk’s head, or as a young boy with the sidelock of youth.

Karnak was the largest of several temples consecrated to this Theban Triad of deities.

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