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Index / Religions / Historical /
Nubia /

Nubian Gods
Ancient Egyptian Religion

Temple at Musawwarat al-Sufra

Relief from Musawwarat al-Sufra

From the temple at Musawwarat al-Sufra.

Temple at Naqa

From the Temple at Naqa.

Religious concepts and cults of Ancient Nubia, of the kingdoms of Cush.
Very little is known about the original religion, and most of the information is from religious practices that have been strongly influenced by Ancient Egyptian religion. Often, Nubian religion is dealt with as only local variations of Ancient Egyptian religion.
Nubian religion was independent from Egyptian until 1450 BCE when the distinctive mountain of Gebel Barkal, was defined as the abode of Amon, and a great temple was built to him here. It seems that some 14 temples more were built around this mountain. Gebel Barkal became the focal point of Nubian religion, being said to be the birth place of every god, and the point, even, from where the world was created.
Nubian religion had its own deities (see list of Ancient Nubian gods), but many gods and concepts would be imported from Egyptian religion. Nubian gods were also introduced to Egypt. Sekhmet may have been introduced from Nubia, Onuris was at least linked with Nubia and Mandulis became a god of Upper Egypt.
With the lion-god, Apedemak, some unique religious dimensions are found, although these mainly come clear in the oases of the Western Desert. Here high priest were understood as able to control weather, invoking punishment on evildoers through the god and concept of Maahes. It appears likely that the Nubians shared the same ideas.
Temples were built all along the Nile in Nubia, but there is a noteworthy shift in structure and aesthetics with the arrival of the Egyptians in the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. The older deffufas of Kerma are distinct and independent, but disappeared completely with the introduction of Egyptian-style temples. Every town of Cush had its own temples, and the king was compelled to visit each of them once a year. In the 8th century, pyramids were introduced.
Concerning popular religion, which a society with a strong elite like Nubia with certainty had, there is next to no information available.
There is very little information on religious practice in Nubia from the 4th century CE until the arrival of Christianity in the middle of the 6th century. Most likely, Nubian religion was replaced by the religions of invading peoples during these centuries.

By Tore Kjeilen