Why worship the sun in a desert?

Terje Oestigaard, researcher at NAI in the rural research cluster, gives a lecture at Linnaeus University in Växjö on Monday, 13 February. He will speak about Nile archaeology and answer the question why the ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun despite the fact that a large part of their country was made up of desert. Terje Oestigaard is an archaeologist but he also researches contemporary rituals and cremation, and the interaction between water and religion. His current research project at NAI is entitled: "Rain Making and climate change in Tanzania: the traditions, rituals and globalisation”.

In what way did the ancient Egyptians try to control the Nile?
– The Nile was the source of life in ancient Egypt. Without the Nile and the life-giving water, there would not be any civilisation. Civilisation arose in a time of climate change, which meant less rainfall. Therefore, the river became increasingly important. The Nile was incorporated into the myths and rituals, and the annual flood was fundamental in Egyptian cosmology. Central to water cosmologies is to control the life-giving water. If the flood was too big or too small, harvest could fail and result in a famine.

Your current project at NAI examines the situation of farmers in northern Tanzania, and how climate change alters rituals and religious beliefs and what impact this has on society. Are there any parallels with the ways the Egyptians handled similar situations in their day?
– Today's Tanzania differs much from ancient Egypt, of course. When it comes to controlling the life-giving waters there are still some parallels, albeit in different ways. Rainmaking has played a central role in many traditional African religions. It can be seen as a way for people to try to control the rain and nature with the help of their ancestors. Traditionally, the chief was responsible for controlling the rain, and if he failed, he could be replaced. As a result of today's globalisation, rainmaking has generally disappeared, but is still practiced in some places. But climate change has made rainmakers powerless and it is generally accepted that traditional rituals cannot affect global climate change.

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