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“The Good God in the Form of Montu”: Pharaoh as the Warrior God on the Battlefield



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Matić, Uroš 


Ongoing discussions in anthropology call for the abandoning of the representational approach of cultural constructivism, which opts for one nature or world (reality) and many worldviews or cultures (e.g. Viveiros de Castro 2015). ‘Ontological turn’ and ‘cosmological perspectivism’ instead plead for the existence of many different ontologies and many different worlds. Such an approach consists of describing and comparing beings, presences, and existences in their constantly changing and diverse situations (Piette 2015).

Western ontological categories cannot be used to explore those of non-Western settings (Alberti et al. 2011) and novel concepts coming out of the ethnographic encounter are encouraged (Henare et al. 2007). How others think, concepts they deploy, and the worlds they describe may be very different to ours (Viveiros de Castro 2015). Ontological pluralism allows us to populate the cosmos in a richer way, to compare worlds, and to “enter into contact with types of entities that no longer had a place in theory and for which a suitable language will have to be found in each case” (Latour 2013: 21). Often the people we study do things which appear to us as wrong, but maybe we have reached the limits of our conceptual repertoire (Carrithers et al. 2010). We should “follow the natives, no matter which metaphysical imbroglios they lead us into” (Latour 2005: 62).

Maybe the most controversial ontological discussion in Egyptology is the one about the divine status or nature of the pharaoh. According to some, the king had a specific divinity, but he was not divine from birth, as he needed to acquire his divinity through rituals of accession to the throne (Barta 1975; Hornung 1982). Other authors do not attribute divinity to the king at all (Goedicke 1960; Grimal 1986; Posener 1960). A more nuanced approach sees the institution but not the individual king as being divine (O’Connor and Silverman 1995). The divinity of the pharaoh, being part of a different ontology than our own, is hard for us to comprehend. Joachim Friedrich Quack (2010) asked if the king is treated in a way so special that he had an ontological status different from human beings, not only as a representing office, but also as a person.

Following the question posed by Quack and the current discussions in anthropology, in this paper I will explore the textual and iconographic attestations of the battlefield emanation of the pharaoh as god Montu and vice versa.



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Archaeological Review from Cambridge

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Archaeological Review from Cambridge

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