Amun was a very mysterious god. His name meant “Hidden,” since no one could understand what he was really like. People thought of Amun as male and he was nearly always shown as a “god,” even though he could be both male and female.
Originally in Egypt, Amun was the chief god of the city of Thebes, capital of southern Egypt. When the kings of Thebes became kings of all Egypt about 1,550 BCE, Amun became “king of the gods.” It was not that Amun became the ruler of the older gods of Egypt, though. He simply “became” them, and they “became” him. He absorbed all of the other gods into himself, so that he became many gods. People believed that Amun was the god of Creation, the father of all the gods, the god of the sun, of fertility and of the Nile Inundation (flooding). They also thought that he was the true father of the king. In art, Amun was usually shown simply as a man wearing a kilt, jewels, and a crown with sun disk and two tall plumes.
When the Egyptians conquered Kush (northern Sudan) about 1,500 BCE, they found an ancient sun god already there. This god was identified with a ram. Immediately the Egyptians assumed this Kushite god was the most ancient form of Amun, and so they decided that Kush (Nubia) was where Amun was born. When the pharaohs pictured Amun in Kush, he had body of a man and the head of a ram.
The most important place where Amun was worshipped in Nubia was at a city called Napata, in front of a small steep mountain, today called Jebel Barkal (Mount Barkal). All the kings, Egyptian and Kushite, came to Jebel Barkal to honor Amun and to celebrate their coronations. In later times there was said to be an “oracle” in the great temple - a place through which the god spoke. Through his priests, Amun told the Kushite kings in which direction to march their armies and make war. It even told the kings when they must die! The people believed that Amun created all things, including the universe, time, and the seasons. As the sun, people believed that Amun sailed through the sky in a boat, changing identities as he passed through the hours of the day. In the morning he was a youthful sun, identified with the king, called Re-Harakhty (“Sun Horus in the Horizon”). At midday, he was the strong and mature sun god Re (or “Ra”). As he set, he was identified with the old or dying sun god Re- Atum, who during the night was thought to sail under the earth so as to be reborn again as a child sun at dawn. People believed that Amun ruled the heavens from east to west. The king, Amun’s son, ruled the earth from north to south. People thought that the king was an exact copy of Amun, which is why statues of Amun often have the same face as the reigning king.