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Wiggermann Defines the Lamassu

“The limited number of candidates available for identification with e’ru, libbi gišimmari and urigallu enables us to choose a denotation, even when the results of philology are not unequivocal in each case. The sages and the lesser gods of NAss art share attributes and therefore functions: goat, sprig, greeting gesture, cone, bucket and mace. Both […]

Apkallu Details (Excerpt from Wiggermann)

An excerpt on the three kinds of apkallu from Wiggermann. The apkallu are perplexing entities portrayed on Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian artworks, combining bird heads with human bodies, and human heads on fish bodies. They are attested throughout Sumerian and Assyrian literature, and the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallu.

Gane: Review of the Literature on Monsters, Demons and gods

“When a monster is associated with an anthropomorphic deity, it operates in the same field of action or part of nature as that of the deity. Whereas the deity functions in the entire domain of his or her rule, the monster’s activity is limited to only part of the god’s realm. Thus, a monster that […]

Gane: Neo-Babylonian Monsters, Demons & Dragons From a Narrow Slice of Time & Space

A number of scholars have already correlated Mesopotamian iconography with cuneiform texts to identify and illuminate composite beings over a wide range of periods in terms of their historical development, association with deities, and impact on humans within ancient systems of religion and mythology. The present research draws heavily on their work, but uniquely focuses […]

Selz: Connects the Apkallu with the Fallen Angels

“The correspondance between Enmeduranki, for a long time considered to be the Mesopotamian Enoch, with an apkallū named Utu-abzu, proved highly informative. (See W.G. Lambert, “Enmeduranki and Related Matters,” JCS 21 (1967): pp. 126-38; idem, “New Fragment.”) In 1974 Borger observed in an important article, that in tablet III of the omen series Bīt Mēseri (“House of […]

Izre’el: Origins of the Adapa Myth

“Adapa the Sage Adapa was known in Ancient Mesopotamia as The Sage. The original etymology of the name Adapa may not have reached us. A lexical text lists a term adapu as meaning “wise” (Igituh I: 107), an attribute that is further attested in another late text (Lambert 1962: 74). This adjectival noun is undoubtedly […]

Kvanvig: The ilū mušīti Are the Stars of the Night

“How the actual connection between the earthly exorcist and his heavenly counterpart was imagined is vividly portrayed on an Assyrian bronze tablet from the first millennium. The image depicts the universe of an ill man. In the basement lurks the demon Lamaštu, ready to attack; in the upper room are divine figures supporting the heavens, […]

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 […]

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 […]

Dalley: Apkallu-6, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued).  Type 3 Bird-of-Prey-Headed Apkallu, Problematic Identifications.  “The three types are identified from ritual texts and labels on figurines, but because the evidence is uncommon and sometimes ambiguous there are uncertainties. Change over time may also account for some difficulties. Some overlap in the iconography with Tiamat’s composite […]

Dalley: Apkallu-5, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued).  Type 3 Bird-of-Prey-Headed Apkallu, Phenotypes.  “This hybrid sage (7, 21, 36*, 39*, 67–80), also called griffin-demon, Nisroch, or simply genie, is a human body with the head of a bird of prey (perhaps an eagle or a vulture). It usually appears with one or two wings, each […]

Dalley: Apkallu-4, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD).  Apkallu (continued). Type 2 Fish-cloaked Apkallu, Phenotypes. “The fish-cloak Apkallu (12*, 33*–35, 40–66), a human figure wearing a fish-cloak suspended from the top of his head and with the head of a fish on top of his human head, corresponds to Berossos’ description of the first sage, Oannes. He […]

Dalley: Apkallu-3, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued). Type 1 Human-figured Apkallu, Phenotypes.  “The human-figured sage (1* – 39*), sometimes called winged genie, should probably be identified with Akkadian ūmu–apkallu. If so, it is the only sage-figure that has a distinguishing term. Alternatively, ūmu-apkallu may be an extension of apkallu in which ūmu refers to […]

Dalley: Apkallu-2, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu (continued). “The deities Ea, Damkina, Gula, Enlil, Adad, Marduk, Nabu, and Gerra were all called “sage of the gods” in texts on particular occasions; the link with Ea is apparent for type 2 from 40, 47–48, and with Marduk and Nabu from 63. A link between type 2 […]

Dalley: Apkallu, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD). Apkallu. “Mesopotamian semi-divine figure. A Babylonian tradition related by Berossos in the 3rd cent. (BURSTEIN 1978: 13f) describes a creature called Oannes that rose up out of the Red Sea in the first year of man’s history. His entire body was that of a fish, but he had another […]

Kvanvig: The Bīt Mēseri Ritual

“The study of F.A.M. Wiggermann on protective spirits has contributed considerably to the understanding of the apkallus in Bīt Mēseri. (Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits; Wiggermann deals with Bīt Mēseri especially on p. 105f. The connection between the apkallus and prophylactic rituals was already noticed by Oliver Robert Gurney, “Babylonian Prophylactic Figures and their Rituals,” Annals of […]

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 […]

Kvanvig: The Apkallu are on the Borderline Between the Human and the Divine

“Our assumption is therefore that there existed two versions of the Adapa Myth in the Nineveh archives. Since the Nineveh fragments C and E follow fairly close to the Amarna text in fragment B where they overlap, we suppose, as quite commonly in scholarship (sic), that a story like fragment B was known to the […]

Kvanvig: On the Destiny of Adapa

“The problem in the fragments to the Adapa Myth is that there is one crucial place where Amarna fragment B and the Nineveh fragment D overlap and they are significantly different. The last visible part of fragment B reads as follows, according to Izre’el’s translation: “Come Adapa, why did you not eat and drink? Hence […]

Kvanvig: Bīt Mēseri and the Adapa Myth

“The exact form and meaning of the name of the first apkallu is not easy to decide. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand there seems to be a connection in the cuneiform sources between Uan as the name is given in the Uruk tablet and Bīt Mēseri, and the Adapa known from the myth. […]

Kvanvig: Discrepancies Between the Lists

“The Sumerian concept of me, “cosmic ordinances,” has a wide range of meanings connected to culture and human conditions. The myth Inanna and Enki has a list which gives good illustration of what is regarded as me: human relations, cultural relations, political relations, occupations, sciences, crafts, arts, deeds, etc. —in short, all the human characteristics […]

Kvanvig: The Lists of the Seven Apkallus

“There are known three lists of apkallus, two cuneiform and the one in Berossos. The first known cuneiform list of seven apkallus was published by E. Reiner in 1961, and then reedited with new pieces added by R. Borger in 1974. Already Reiner suggested that the broken tablet belonged to the Neo-Assyrian incantations series Bīt Mēseri, […]

Lenzi: A Fault Line Where Legend and History Collides

“If this were the only instance of apkallū in a ritual context, this difference in genre would be of little consequence. But, in fact, it is not. The seven apkallū are mentioned, for example, in anti-witchcraft incantations in Maqlû II 124,36 V 110,37 VII 49,38 VIII 38 (though without names). (Note that the next line…has “the […]

Lenzi: Human apkallū are a Later Inclusion

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

Lenzi: On the apkallū–ummânū Association

“There are of course quite early precedents for king lists, antediluvian or otherwise; there are also several earlier examples of kings being listed with their chief scholarly advisor (see the overview in A. Kirk Greyson, “Königslisten und Chroniken,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie 6 (1980) 86-135). But there is nothing that traces the royal scholars back through […]

Nakamura: The Figurines as Magical Objects

“While such apotropaic figures appear in grand scale and idealized form on wall reliefs flanking entrances of kingly palaces purifying all who passed through the gates, the figures standing guard in floor deposits performed an additional task.”

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: Clay Pit Ritual

“The crafting of clay figurines begins similarly, but what is notable here is the portrayal of the ritual scene that evokes a distinct sensory landscape in the enactment of certain requisite and standardized actions: when you make the statues, creatures of Apsû, in the morning at sunrise you shall go to the clay pit and consecrate […]

Nakamura: Magic’s Perception and Performance

Bodily Sense: Magic’s Perception and Performance Mimesis asserts a gesture of expression that “retrieves the world and remakes it” (Merleau-Ponty 1973:78), and I am interested in how the Neo-Assyrian figurine deposits, as such gestures, retrieve and remake a protected world. Figurines, as miniature bodily forms petrified in clay or stone, are distinct works of wonder; […]

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, […]

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 […]

On the Ummânu

“Such an association of the apkallu’s with kings of renown is singularly striking in view of the ancient near eastern motif that links a person of superior wisdom with a famous king. In Egypt, we have the tradition — or fiction — of viziers who are credited with the authorship of “instructions” or “admonitions” (see […]

On the Fish-Apkallu

“Lamaštu amulets: The fish-apkallū on Lamaštu amulet 2 (and 4?), exactly like the ūmu-apkallū on Lamaštu amulets 3 and 61, has his left hand on the bed of the sick man. The right hand is slightly damaged, but probably greeting. Wrong hand: Occasionally apkallū are attested holding the bucket in their right hand: AfO 28 57f. 30 (above IIiI/6), Lamaštu […]

Bird Apkallu, Characterized as Griffin Demons

Excerpt: “…the griffin-demon does not stem from Babylonia; there he is attested first on the assyrianizing robe of Nabû-mukîn-apli holding cone and bucket…”

On the Names of the Umu-Apkallu

“History. The name-like designations of the ūmu-apkallū are artificial and systematic; they do not even pretend to be historical realities. The names all start with ūmu / UD and may have been grafted on the u4- and p i r i g – names of other apkallū (Güterbook ZA 42103, Hallo JAOS 83 175, Reiner […]

Things that Apkallu Hold

” … we present a survey of the objects in the hands of apkallū on reliefs, seals, and in the Kleinplastik. The survey is not meant to be complete. It is based on the recent treatments of Rittig (Kleinplastik), Kolbe (Reliefprogramme), and Reade (BaM 10 17ff.). Lamaštu amulets: Occasionally on Lamaštu amulets (2, 3, 5, 20 […]

On the Mullilu, the “cleaner,” the Purification Instrument of the Apkallu Exorcist

“–mullilu, “purification instrument” (literally: “cleaner”). When it is agreed upon that a word denoting the cone, the most common object in the hands of the bird-apkallū and the fish-apkallū, must appear among the terms denoting objects held by the apkallū in ritual I/II, this word can only be mullilu. The identification of mullilu as denoting the […]

On the Banduddu, or Bucket

“–banduddû, “bucket”. Banduddû unquestionably denotes the bucket held by many figures of the reliefs, cf. Frank LSS III/3 671, Zimmern ZA 35 151, Smith JRAS 1926 70913, Hrouda Kulturgeschichte 77, Madhloom Chronology 109ff., Kolbe Reliefprogramme Type IIA, VI, IIB, IIC. The object is attested also in the hands of clay figures: Rittig Kleinplastik 70ff. (bird-apkallu), […]

Statues in Private Rooms, the apkallū, “Sages.”

“In the bedroom (kummu, cf. III.B.6), the “place of life” (AAA 22 88:146f.), at the head of the bed of the threatened man, the seven anthropomorphic ūmu-apkallū, the “leading sages” (cf. II.A.3.1), are stationed. The seven bird-apkallū are buried against the wall at the head of the bed, but in an adjoining room (uncertain, cf. […]

Mesopotamian Apotropaic Gods and Monsters

“It remains, however, that art expresses theological development less clearly than the written sources. The types of art and their contexts were fixed in the third millennium, and only minor changes are allowed through time. Most of the supernatural beings treated in this book become defeated adversaries of gods at some point in their history, but […]

Lahmu, “The Hairy One,” is Not Apkallu

“The Babylonian scientific and religious texts reveal the names of over three thousand gods and demons, members of local and national pantheons. Most, if not all, play a part in cult or magic, and must have been represented in some form. Gods and demons, cult and magic, are the main subjects of Babylonian art, but generally […]

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 […]