Athtart : the transmission and transformation of a goddess in the Late Bronze Age
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Forms of the goddess Athtart appear across the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, from the 3rd millennium b.c.e. to the Roman period, and from Shuruppak to England. The wide temporal and geographic distribution of this deity suggests a millennia-long process of cultural and intercultural transmission. Yet transmission has received little attention in the scholarship on Athtart. Instead, scholars like W. F. Albright and Frank Moore Cross have treated Athtart as a timeless and unchanging entity and have combined evidence from different time periods and cultures to create a composite picture of this goddess. Such an approach assumes continuity between goddesses with the same name, glosses over cultural and temporal differences, and ignores the dynamic processes of transmission. To begin to solve these problems, I will propose a new model for studying deities in the ancient world and then illustrate the utility of this model by applying it to the study of Athtart in the Late Bronze Age (1500-1180 b.c.e.). The key insight of this model is that the representations of deities correspond to the daily routines of their worshippers. Furthermore, these routines affect the transmission of deities by favoring certain modes of transmission and altering the forms of the gods that are transmitted. To substantiate these claims, I will examine the forms of Athtart at three Late Bronze Age sites—Egypt, Emar, and Ugarit—and demonstrate how they correspond to the practices of different individuals and social groups at these sites. I will also study how daily routines influenced the intercultural and interpersonal transmission of Athtart.