They’re Both Male

Re: the controversy over the gender of the smaller Bes figure on page 33 of “The Persisting Uncertainties of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud” (BAR 38:06):

Simply put, both Bes figures are male. Pirhiya Beck was correct in stating that the apparent appendage seen between the legs of the Bes figure on the left is a tail of the lion skin traditionally worn by the Egyptian god Bes. This is proven by looking at the collection of Bes statues in Egypt, where the clear depiction of male genitalia accompanies the lion tail.

The two circles on the chest of the Bes figure on the right do not indicate a woman’s breasts or nipples, even if these circles are meant to highlight breasts. Bes was sometimes depicted with pendulous breasts, not unlike the Egyptian god Hapy. This shouldn’t be surprising due to both gods having a strong association with fertility: Bes with sexuality and childbirth and Hapy as the Nile’s abundance and fertility.

Bes was never pictured in Egypt as a goddess but always as a heavily bearded dwarf, male deity.

Timothy Fenstermacher
California Correctional Institution
Tehachapi, California

The writer is a prisoner in solitary confinement in the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California. He has been in prison since 1995 and is due to be released in March 2013. He would like to become a professional Egyptologist and attend school for that purpose. Any help our readers can give—ideas, suggestions or financial assistance—would be appreciated. Send them to us and we will try to see that they are well used: Biblical Archaeology Society, 4710 41st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016. For more information about Mr. Fenstermacher, see Thomas H. Maugh II, “Ancient Symbols Speak to Prisoner,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2011, or “California Felon ‘a Natural’ at Decoding Hieroglyphics,” Chicago Tribune, March 29, 2011.—Ed.

One Male and One Female

A close examination of the two figures on page 33 pretty well establishes that the smaller figure is female. She is smaller. Her crown or hairdo is less elaborate than his. He is bearded whereas she appears to be sans hirsute facial adornment. The real clincher is the difference in their dress. His sleeve apparently goes right to the wrist; she has short sleeves. The acknowledged female playing the lyre appears to have bare arms also. There is a single line across the male’s lower abdomen, whereas she has two lines. She has two definite round circles on her chest just below the armpits. The lyre person has them in the same place.

I rest my case.

Walter K. Munkelwitz
Floral City, Florida

Only the Tail Faded?

Re: the drawing of the Bes figure: If fading soot caused the lion tail to disappear, why was the tail the only part of the image to fade away?

Joshua Cole
York, Maine

Ze’ev Meshel responds:

Initially both Bes images were partly covered with soot. Since the left-hand Bes had a tail, we reconstructed the right-hand Bes with a tail as well. When the soot faded over the whole drawing, it became clear that the right-hand Bes did not have a tail and that our initial reconstruction was mistaken.

Meaning of Netanyahu

Yasher koach [hearty congratulations] on your article on the publication of the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud report. Unfortunately, what you unpacked on page 36 has no wheels. Netanyahu is a verbal sentence name, meaning “YHW gave.” Netanyahu does not mean “gift of YHW”; that would be Matityahu.

Bezalel Porten
Professor Emeritus, Department of Jewish History
Hebrew University of Jerusalem