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This book investigates Hellenistic popular religion through an interdisciplinary study of terracotta figurines of Egyptian deities, mostly from domestic contexts, from the trading port of Delos. A comparison of the figurines’ iconography to parallels in Egyptian religious texts, temple reliefs, and ritual objects suggests that many figurines depict deities or rituals associated with Egyptian festivals. An analysis of the objects’ clay fabrics and manufacturing techniques indicates that most were made on Delos. Additionally, archival research on unpublished notes from early excavations reveals new data on many figurines’ archaeological contexts, illuminating their roles in both domestic and temple cults. The results offer a new perspective on Hellenistic reinterpretations of Egyptian religion, as well as the relationship between “popular” and “official” cults.

Abstract

Many literary texts portray the Mesopotamian netherworld as unrelievedly bleak, yet the archaeological evidence of grave goods suggests that there may also have existed an alternative way of thinking about the afterlife. An analysis of the types of objects found in burials indicates that many people may have anticipated a less harsh form of existence after death. Furthermore, iconographic allusions to the goddess Inana/Ishtar in certain burials raise the possibility that this deity may have been associated with the descent of human dead to the netherworld. The occasional presence of her image and iconography in funerary contexts does not necessarily imply a belief that Inana/Ishtar would personally grant the deceased a happy afterlife, but it may provide an allusion to her own escape from the undesirable netherworld of literary narrative. Inana/Ishtar's status as a liminal figure and breaker of boundaries also may have encouraged Mesopotamians to associate her with the transition between life and death.

In: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions
In: Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos
In: Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos
In: Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos
In: Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos