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Abstract

This dissertation reconsiders the theory of The Royal Ka, first proposed by Lanny Bell in 1985. This theory claimed that all aspects of ancient Egyptian royal divinity could be traced to a singule ka spirit, The Royal Ka, which was passed down the line of succession and was equivalent with the office of kingship. This implied that only one officeholder at a time could possess it, since it should have passed to a king’s successor after his death. This theory is thus complicated by texts, objects, and monuments that feature multiple officeholders. If the theory were valid, possession of The Royal Ka should have been clearly marked in such cases. If not, the reigning king would have forfeited not only his claim to the office but also his divinity. To this end, previous scholars have suggested multiple ways in which possession of The Royal Ka might have been marked. Such strategies, termed approaches, have relied on consistent markers of life and death, divine epithets, specific elements of royal regalia or iconography, and the like. , The first goal of this dissertation is to examine each of these approaches in order to determine their validity. The primary material examined consisted of royal sources dating from the late 17th dynasty through the reign of Akhenaten. The corpus includes examples of living kings before deceased officeholders, the contemporaneous existence of two living officeholders in a coregency, and officeholders before a hypostasis of their own divinity. Ultimately, it is demonstrated that not a single one of these approaches is consistently capable of detecting Bell’s Royal Ka. Though an approach might appear valid for an individual text, object, or scene, each eventually falls into contradiction. Without any means of determining possession of or even identifying The Royal Ka, the claim that it was the element solely responsible for the pharaoh’s divinity must be reevaluated. Connections were made between the kas of individual kings, but these were temporary homologies. This phenomenon should thus be viewed similarly to other features of ancient Egyptian theology like syncretism. Such homologies, however, are too infrequent to have played any major role in the creation and maintenance of royal divinity. Instead, it is argued that royal divinity and perhaps divinity in general was multi-faceted, dynamic, and fluid. It cannot be reduced to a single source like the royal ka.

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