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The Middle East As Net Exporter of Religion

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Eleventh-century BCE Egyptian Funerary Papyrus Showing Nut and Geb

Eleventh-century BCE Egyptian Funerary Papyrus Showing Nut and Geb

This papyrus depicts part of the ancient Egyptian creation myth cycle. Usually such myths of the ancient Near East envisioned the world as controlled by a multitude of gods who related to one another much as humans do in real life, but these gods (and goddesses) were associated with various natural phenomena, so their behavior had cosmic consequences. In the middle of the picture the body of the goddess Nut, who represents the starry sky, can be seen arching over the recumbent figure of her brother Geb, representing the earth. (Some said that earthquakes occurred when Geb laughed.) Nut was married to the sun-god Ra, but was in love with her brother Geb; and when the two joined together in lovemaking, there was no space between earth and sky for light, and the world became dark. So their father, the air-god Shu, held them apart, allowing Ra to pass between and bring light to the world during the day. In the middle of the picture, one can see Ra, with the sun disc on his head, riding in his boat above Geb and beneath Nut.

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