Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Shrine City of Nekhen

Tomb painting at Nekhen

Alice C. Linsley

Attention to the data in Genesis 4-12 reveals a movement of Nilo-Saharan peoples out of Africa over a long period of time. These were cattle-herding peoples whose religious imagery was rich in solar and cattle symbolism. Red cattle were especially sacred to them. Abraham is a descendant of the rulers of these people.

The oldest known temple (c. 5000 BC) to have association with Abraham's ancestors is the predynastic temple at Nekhen. The temple was located on the Nile, making it easier for temple officials to weigh and measure goods and assess tolls on the vessels that docked there.

The temple consisted of a large oval courtyard surrounded by a mud-plastered reed fence. The courtyard was paved with multiple layers of compressed mud. This temple closely resembles shrines depicted on seals from the First Dynasty.

A later temple (c.3500 BC) was built within the precincts of the city. The earliest phase of this temple was a circular stone wall surrounding a large mound of sand supported by limestone blocks on which there may have been an Early Dynasty shrine. A number of limestone fragments, likely the footings for large pillars, were found within the stone enclosure wall. The central shrine consisted of three rooms and four 20-foot high wood pillars. Animals, including cattle, goats, fish and crocodiles, were sacrificed in the oval courtyard.

By this time, Nekhen had a population estimated at 10,000 inhabitants and was the most important settlement along the Nile. The city stretched for over two miles along the edge of the floodplain and was an important shrine city and commercial center. There were stone masons, weavers, potters, and beer brewers. Metal workers crafted sacred objects of gold and copper. The earliest preserved house in Egypt, c.3600 BC. was the house of a potter. It was preserved when he accidentally burned it down while firing a load of pots.

Narmer Palette

Many artifacts of great importance have been found at Nekhen. These include funeral masks, statues, jewelry, beer vats, large flint knives, and the pillared halls characteristic of later Egyptian monuments and temples. Nekhen is where the oldest life-sized human statue was found: a priest from the temple of Horus, c.3000 BC.

In 1898 J.E. Quibell and F.W. Green found the macehead of Scorpion and the macehead and palette of Narmer at the main deposit of the temple of Horus. Also found at Nekhen were a seated red pottery lion and the great gold plumed falcon representing Horus, the son of Ra. Nekhen was named for Horus of the Falcon: Nekheny.

A 36-foot high funerary (c.2700 B.C.) enclosure of King Khasekhemwy, the father of the first pyramid builder, Djoser, is the oldest freestanding mud brick structure in the world,

Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine.

Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose. In the morning the priests faced the eastern horizon to greet the rising sun, the emblem of Ra and his son Horus. Prayers were offered at dawn and dusk. The Chief Inspector of the Horite priests of Nekhen was Horemkhawef. His tomb has been identified.

Nekhen's sister city was Elkab (Nekheb), on the opposite side of the river. The tomb of Horemkhawef in Nekhen and the tomb of Sobeknakht in Elkab were painted by the same artist. Further, Hormose, the chief priest of Nekhen, was able to request material goods from the temple at Elkab for use at the temple at Nekhen.

One of the more intriguing discoveries at Nekhen was the recovery of an almost complete beard in association with the redheaded man in Burial no. 79. The facial hair of the man in Burial no. 79 had been trimmed with a sharp blade. The presence of long wavy natural red hair and a full beard suggests that this individual may have been Ainu (Annu). The Ainu were among Abraham's ancestors, and although they were already widely dispersed by Abraham's time, the Nile Valley appears to be their point of origin. The Annu built the original shrine of Heliopolis which is called "Onn" in Genesis 41. Joseph married the daughter of the high priest on Onn. 


2 comments:

Jay Eppinga said...

Hi Alice

Curious about something..

How might a Horite priest in ancient Onn react to a prophet uttering Hebrews 10:4 (or John 1:29)?

Also, wondering how the same priest might react to these prophetic utterances coming from a layperson?

My guesses would be one or more of the following:

a) "Well ... DUH!"
b) "Blasphemy!"
c) "what the .. ?"
d) "Ohhhhhh .. you guys know what? He's right."

Particularly interested in whether they "got" more or less of the Gospel than the Jews during the time of Our Lord's earthly ministry.

Can't stop thinking and wondering about this stuff. :/

Thank you,
- Jay Eppinga

Alice Linsley said...

The earliest humans were very observant. They noted that an animal bled when wounded; the same for humans. If a human bled out, he/she died. The spirit left them. This is why humans felt anxiety about blood that was shed. They regarded it as having supernatural power. You will recall that the blood of Abel cried to the Creator from the ground.

The one who shed the blood of another human carried blood guilt. They knew it deep inside and it troubled them. They needed a mediator to stand between them and the Creator to restore them by ritual absolution of the blood guilt. This is the likely origin of the priesthood. You will recall that after combat, Abraham received the ministry of the ruler-priest Melchizedek. This ritual most certainly involved water purification, but it definitely involved bread and wine. (Here we have the signs of the dominical sacraments!)

Based on their experience and observation, early humans came to think of blood as the substance of life. Life required blood. This is what stands behind Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."

There is evidence in Genesis that a very early designation for the human was the word blood. Adam is likely derived from ha-dam, meaning "the blood."

Hebrews 10:4 would not have been an unfamiliar idea to the Horite ruler priests of Onn and Nekhen. They recognized that the blood sacrifice had to be offered again and again. It did not serve once and for all, as does the blood of the Lamb of God. They lived in expectation of the reveling of the Lamb of God, and John the Baptist announced HIS appearing.

By the time the Horim are established in Palestine, they are tending sheep. So HE is the "Lamb' of god. However, their Horite ancestors living along the Nile and in the wet Sahara, were cattle herders and for them the image of the divine sacrifice was the "Calf" of God. This is the meaning behind the account of the Golden Horus Calf fabricated by Aaron (Ex. 32).

The calf is suggestive of Horus as a child. Horus' anthropomorphic form is either as a adult male or more usually as a boy wearing the sidelock typical of royal Egyptian youth. Horus as a boy is often shown on cippi dominating crocodiles and serpents. Consider this in light of the Woman, the Child, and the Dragon in Revelation 12. Consider also the red cow of Numbers 19 that stands as a perpetual symbol of Israel's need for cleansing. The cow is sacrificed and burned outside the camp and the ashes used for "water of lustration." (Num. 19:9) Consider this: Jesus, as with his ancestors Adam, Esau, David and the Horites of Edom, had a distinctive red skin tone.

Among Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors, the Calf's mother was called Hathor. Her animal totem was the long-horned cow and she was depicted with a crown of horns in which the sun rests, as a sign of her divine appointment. This is fulfilled in Mary. The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Hathor appears on monument walls at Dendera holding her calf child in a manger.

The Proto-Gospel involves other details also that have been specifically fulfilled in Mary and Jesus. One is the ancient Horite belief that Horus would rise on the third day. This was ritualized by the priests blessing grain sowed in the fields on the third day after 2 days of mourning the death of Horus at the hands of his own brother. This is what stand behind Jesus explanation to his disciples about HIS impending death: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)

You will find this article helpful:
http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2013/10/who-is-jesus.html