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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Approaching the God: Processional Oracles in Egypt during the Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman Periods
by Gutierrez Jaskiewicz, Maria Alexandra, Ph.D., Yale University, 2018, 303; 10957327
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the diachronic development of processional oracles in ancient Egypt, covering textual records from the New Kingdom through the Graeco-Roman period (c. 1550 BCE - 400 CE). Oracles in Egypt were characterized by purposeful, linguistically-formulated solicitations by humans, often in the faun of specific questions. Inquiries were presented to a god through established ritual mechanisms that yielded answers to petitioners more or less directly from the deity. Some of the most characteristic (and longest-lived) types of oracles in Egypt were processional oracles, which took place during divine festivals in which an image of the god was brought out in procession and carried along a sacred route.

This dissertation is guided by several research questions: What characterizes an oracular consultation in Egypt? What made processional oracles the focus of religious and political attention during the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1550 BCE)? How did the processional oracle develop over time? What were the various functions of the processional oracle? What allowed it to remain in practice for hundreds of years? What evidence do we have of their continued existence during the Graeco-Roman period?

For the purpose of examining the development of the processional oracle in the Eighteenth Dynasty and studying the overall functions of oracles in Egyptian society, this study makes use of cultural evolutionary theory and research in cognitive science. The "emergence" of processional oracles as a full-blown practice during the New Kingdom, for instance, is treated as an adaptive trait in Egyptian culture. This approach follows movement towards the creation of consilience between the sciences and the humanities. It is presented as prima facie, in an effort to introduce new research tools through which to study religious phenomena in ancient Egypt.

This dissertation makes three main arguments. The first is that Egyptian oracles were a two-way communication process that required linguistic formulations from the part of humans and the gods. Second, that processional oracles—a subcategory of oracular practice—developed into an institutional practice during the early Eighteenth Dynasty through a process socio-cultural adaptation. Third, that there were four relevant social and political factors that made the processional oracle a well-suited, successful religious development in Egyptian culture. These were political cooperation, social cohesion, community mediation, and the promotion of prosocial behaviors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Manning, Joseph
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Near Eastern Studies, Ancient history
Keywords: Ancient Egypt, Oracle, Pharaonic Religion, Questions to the Gods
Publication Number: 10957327
ISBN: 978-0-438-27372-6
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