Nut - The Goddess of Life in Text and Iconography

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia

Abstract: This study delineates the basic characteristics of the ancient Egyptian goddess Nut as expressed in funerary texts and iconography. The goddess is treated as conceptual in character (Begriffsgottheit), i.e. as an animate expression for the ideas that the ancient Egyptians associated with the sky: space and water. These ideas are termed core attributes and are treated as the basic components employed in the imagery used to describe the goddess.Chapter 1 presents the forms of appearance that the goddess is given in different contexts. These forms provide information as to the way in which she is perceived. The goddess's maternal role is decisive in their selection.Chapter 2 focuses on the presentation of the goddess as space and the way in which this aspect of her character is integrated in the world of myth. The occurrence of textual references to the goddess, within the spatial arrangement of the inscribed royal tombs of the Old Kingdom, defines the ontological levels within which the process that turns death into life takes place. Specific sets of texts, connected to the different levels of this process, are categorized after thematic criteria. The reformulation of later versions of these texts is also examined.Chapter 3 treats the metaphorical expressions used for Nut as space. An analysis reviews a number of objects and concepts, formulating the idea of enclosure ("container") associated with the goddess. These function as "vehicles" in relation to a "target domain", primarily characterized by the concept of mother.Chapter 4 discusses the personification of the tree, the so called "tree goddess". This iconographic form was created at the beginning of the New Kingdom. With an emphatic mother symbolism, the tree was a manifestation form for a number of goddesses. An analysis of the textual and iconographic elements connected to this motif reveals Nut as the dominate identity of the tree goddess. This connection between the tree and this goddess is, once again, based on the core attributes of space and water, inherent in the life generating role of Nut.Chapter 5 provides a comprehensive summary of the study.

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