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From Anthony Green, Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figures, 1983

“From Assyria and Babylonia in the first half of the first millennium BCE comes a series of small figurines in the round and relief plaques, which are usually found beneath the floors of buildings within receptacles of baked or unbaked brick or (at Nineveh) stone slabs or (so far restricted to Aššur) pottery jars; the […]

Green Defines Numerous Figures

“After the lahmu, the text goes on to prescribe a type whose name is lost in the break but which is to be inscribed “Go out death, come in life!” Rittig has already pointed out, on the basis of figurines from Aššur, that this is the creature called in modern literature the “bull-man.” (F.A.M. Wiggermann […]

Kvanvig: On Šēp lemutti, Averting Evil

“The apkallus were also an essential part of the composition Šēp lemutti. The composition starts by defining the purpose of the ritual as to avert evil from the house. Then the text prescribes the types of figures to be fashioned and buried at set locations in the house. This section contains a long passage describing […]

Kvanvig: The Apkallus as Protective Spirits

“The apkallus are especially known from two incantation rituals: the one is Bīt Mēseri, as already stated; the other is called: šēp lemutti ina bit amēli parāsu, “to block the foot of evil into a man’s house” (KAR 298). The two incantation series have a different scope. Bīt Mēseri prescribes the procedures to be performed […]

Green Identifies the Lahmu and the Ugallu

“Returning to the apotropaic ritual, after the fish-apkallē the text prescribes various kinds of wooden figures which cannot be identified among actual figurines, although some types may, as Dr. Reade suggested, be represented in Assyrian sculpture. These wooden figures end, however, with those of the ugallu, “Great-lion,” of which clay examples do exist. The human-leonine […]

Figurines Excavated from the Burnt Palace and Fort Shalmaneser

The most expansive text prescribing the types of figurines is the Aššur ritual KAR, no. 298. After defining the purpose of the ritual as to avert evil from the house, the text begins to prescribe the types of figures to be fashioned and buried at set locations. It begins with a long passage prescribing wooden […]

Editorial Note on the Apkallu and the Roadmap Ahead

I am breaking the narrative stream to speak directly to the process emerging from our reading on the apkallū, the antediluvian and postdiluvian sages of ancient Mesopotamia. If you are reading along over my shoulder, you noticed that we digressed from Martin Lang, “Mesopotamian Early History and the Flood Story,” in a post titled On the Date of the Flood. Martin […]

On the Apkallu

“During the course of the years studying and teaching the Primeval History as recorded in the literary texts of ancient Mesopotamia, this writer has been struck by certain similarities between the Akkadian apkallu (Sumerian algal / NUN.ME / EN.ME), creatures of the god Ea, the “sages of old,” and the biblical nēpīlîm of Genesis 6 […]

Kvanvig: The apkallus as Watchers and Guardians

“As demonstrated in the rituals, the apkallus were not only figures of the past. Surely, they visited the earth in antediluvian time to bestow wisdom on mankind, but they were still alive and invisibly present in the human world. They were present as “guardian spirits,” as we have seen in the depiction of the sick […]

Dalley: Apkallu-7, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD).  Apkallu (continued). Sources. Chronological Range. “All three types begin to appear in the late 2nd millennium. Some possible antecedents are noted by GREEN (1993-97: 252; see also nos. 66-70 belonging to the early Atlantid series, which MATTHEWS 1990: 109 dates to the 14th century). They could, however, have had […]

Kvanvig: The Apkallus had a Cosmic Function

“There is a clear difference between the group of seven and the subsequent group of four figures in Bīt Mēseri. The difference is not expressed in the same way as in the Uruk tablet in a general pattern of apkallus and succeeding ummanus. In Bīt Mēseri all the figures are apkallus with a curious exception of […]

Lenzi: Human apkallū are a Later Inclusion

Lenzi states that human apkallū in lists deriving from rituals were artificially grafted onto ancient texts.

Nakamura: Magic Enchants Us with the Possible Made Real

“Neo-Assyrian magical figurine work conjures and materializes a primordial secret: if apotropaic magic names that which wards off and turns away evil, then evil is nothing other than the insidious reality that humans themselves create their own creators and make their own world.”

Carolyn Nakamura

Nakamura: the āšipu was Master of the Figurines

“There is a sense here of Derrida’s (1994) autonomous automaton, the animate puppet with a will of its own that yet obeys some predetermined program. By containing, concealing, and hiding these magical figures, the priest has made his mastery of their power complete.”

Nakamura: An Idiom of Protection Arises in the Material Enactment of Memory

Mastering Matters “In the material register, Neo-Assyrian figurine assemblages present a physical gesture of miniaturization, hybrid form, and concealment. I have intimated that such material gestures disclose a magic technology as a symbolic and sensual logic that conspires with and against conventional value-producing forms. The question now becomes one of how this material reality presents […]

Nakamura: The Common Terrain Shared by Myth and Iconography

“After this “enlivening,” the āšipu then molds this clay into various figures of power and protection, in effect reenacting the divine creation of humans from the clay of the apsû, the primordial underground freshwater ocean. (Similar narratives of the creation of humankind reiterate a trope of the divine formation of being from clay. In the […]

Nakamura–Rimbaud’s Derangement of All the Senses, Magic, and Archeology

“Curiously, archaeological research has not fully exploited the evocative cooperation between text, iconography, material, and deposition in this apotropaic practice. Rather, it has been the art historical and Assyriological traditions that have provided the most thorough deliberations on the ritual. Iconographic analyses present detailed visual descriptions of the figurines (Klengel-Brandt 1968; Rittig 1977; Van Buren […]

Carolyn Nakamura on the Figurines

Mastering Matters: Magical Sense and Apoptropaic Figurine Worlds of Neo-Assyria Introduction: Magical Figures from the Past “When contemplating certain deposits unearthed during the excavations at Nimrud in the 1950s, Max Mallowan remarked, “this magical practice had an immensely long survival, as witness the nursery rhyme: Four corners to my bed, Four angels round my head, […]