God's Wife Stela
Sandstone, paint
Napatan Period (Egyptian 25th-26th Dynasty, about 670 BC)
Egypt, Medinet Habu
OIM 4681

Historically, women have played an important role in many African cultures, including ancient Nubia. Nubian royal women were very powerful, sometimes ruling Nubia as queens in their own right and many representations of Nubian royal women are preserved. By about 750 BC, during the time when Nubia controlled Egypt, Nubian kings adopted the practice of appointing their daughters as “God’s Wife of Amun” to represent their dynastic interests in southern Egypt. These women lived in ancient Thebes, one of the religious centers of the combined kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia. God’s wives also served as administrators of the huge economic domains that belonged to the god Amun.

The fragment shown on the left is from an Egyptian tomb wall. It shows Amunirdis II, the daughter of the Nubian pharaoh Taharqo. Amunirdis served as a god’s wife of Amun from approximately 670-640 BC. She was accepted and respected by the Egyptians and she controlled a vast empire of lands as well as the treasury of Amun. Amunirdis is shown adoring the gods, who would have been portrayed on the right. The woman standing quietly next to Amunirdis is her attendant Dieshebsed, who was from a prominent family in Thebes. This tomb fragment may come from Dieshebsed’s tomb.