Erin E. Bornemann and Stuart Tyson Smith, University of California

Liminal Deities in the Borderlands: Bes and Pataikos in Ancient Nubia

During the New Kingdom Period (1550–1069 BC) and extending into the Napatan period (750–332 BC), apotropaic deities were especially popular in the household, and—when represented in the form of amulets— became fixtures in the daily lives of women and children. This paper examines amulets in the forms of the liminal gods Bes and Pataikos, as represented in the archaeological assemblage from the site of Tombos, which is located at the 3rd Cataract in Upper Nubia. Bes and Pataikos occupy an interesting space within the scope of ancient Egyptian and Nubian household religion, given their highly protective dispositions, liminal natures, and consistently grotesque representations. When we examine these amulets under anthropological and archaeological conceptions of materiality, we are not only able to link these objects to the individuals that would have come in contact with and used them, but we are also able to connect both object and individual back into the larger contemporary social sphere of which they would have been an active part. Tombos provides the primary case study examining these amuletic forms, and examples from this site will be compared to others from sites in both Egypt and Nubia. This paper aims to examine similarities and differences in iconographic representations of Bes/et and Pataikos in conjunction with the respective archeological context of each. Particular attention will be paid toward variations in the iconography of these deities, as well as the presence of these daily life objects within funerary contexts where they often made the transition into death with their owners. This paper exemplifies the utility of materiality studies as applied to archaeological investigations of the daily lives and deaths of individuals in ancient Egyptian society and hopes to foster further discussion of amuletic forms that made the transition from life into death.

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