Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Interconnected Ancient World: On the Steppes of Central Asia

The ancient owner of P. Joseph Smith I was Horos, the son of Osoroeris. One of his jobs was prophet of Chespisichis. The temple of Chespisichis was located just a little southeast of the great temple at Karnak. Only one major inscription of that temple has survived. It is now in the Louvre. It tells of an ancient Pharaoh who married a princess of Bakhtan, a conquered territory of Egypt. Her sister became ill and so the Pharaoh sent an image of the god Chespisichis to Bakhtan along with a priest to help cure her.

Bakhtan is usually equated with Bactria in central Asia. As far as we know, although Alexander the Great may have made it to Bactria, no other Egyptian pharaoh did. (And some Egyptologists would not count Alexander as a pharaoh.) This is one of the reasons that the story of the princess of Bakhtan is usually considered ancient fiction.

While we currently do not have evidence for the Egyptian god Chespisichis in Bactria, we do, however, have evidence for Egyptian gods there. In Munchaktepa, located in the northern Ferghana valley, which is on the very eastern end of Uzbekistan, a statue of the Egyptian god Harpocrates was found. Other statues of Harpocrates have been found:
  • at Sirkap in Taxila (which is just over the mountains west of Islamabad) in the Punjab province in the north east of Pakistan,
  • at Balkh, which is on the northern edge of Afghanistan,
  • at Begram, Afghanistan, which is to the north of Kabul.
Images of the Egyptian god Serapis too have been found in Begram. Several have also been found in Gandhara, Pakistan. (See Ladislav Stanco, Greek Gods in the East [Prague: Karolinum Press, 2012], 133-34, 189-92.)

While there is a temptation is to assume that seemingly fantastic tales of far-flung contacts from the ancient world are fiction, but that is a modern fiction created by our desire to compartmentalize the ancient world into easy to handle disciplinary boundaries.