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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.

Detail from a drawing of a bronze plaque held in the Louvre.  Puradu-fish apkallu minister to an ill patient in bed. The lamp of Nusku is depicted at far left, and ugallu attack with upraised fists in concert with Lulal, identified by Wiggerman as "a minor apotropaic god." I believe that this plaque portrays an exorcism.  Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bronze plaque of which an engraving was published by Clermont-Ganneau.  The original, which belonged to M. Péretié, is now in the collection of M. de Clercq. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0039

Detail from a drawing of a bronze plaque held in the Louvre.
Puradu-fish apkallu minister to an ill patient in bed. The lamp of Nusku is depicted at far left, and ugallu attack with upraised fists in concert with Lulal, identified by Wiggerman as “a minor apotropaic god.”
I believe that this plaque portrays an exorcism.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bronze plaque of which an engraving was published by Clermont-Ganneau.
The original, which belonged to M. Péretié, is now in the collection of M. de Clercq.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0039

They were present as “guardian spirits,” as we have seen in the depiction of the sick man. We now see that they performed other roles as well. One of the most important was to purify the Tree of Life. This duty was closely connected to their role as cosmic guardians and formed a parallel to the maintenance of the divine statue, as in the Poem of Erra.

Click to zoom in. <br /> Ummanu and bird-apkallu tend the sacred tree.<br />  The bird-apkallu are portrayed in the iconic act of purifying or pollinating the sacred tree with mullilu cones and banduddu buckets.<br />  A fleur de lis is clearly portrayed at the base of the sacred tree. It is not known whether the fleur de lis was also portrayed atop the horned headdresses of the ummanu in the top register.<br />  It is worth noting that the ubiquitous rosette pattern is portrayed at the base of the sacred tree in the top register. The same detail is apparent upon scrutiny of the sacred tree in the lower register, partially occluded by a mount or platform for the tree.<br />  One further detail which may be of no import: the bird-apkallu on the right wears a bracelet, but unlike other bracelets portrayed on left wrists elsewhere in this frieze, the rosette is not visible. For whatever reason, this apkallu wore his rosette bracelet oriented towards his body. This could be no more than an oversight by the original artist, or realistic portrayal of a real life model.<br />  From Kalhu, Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II, Room I, Slab 30, inscribed wall relief, Metropolitan Museum 32.143.3. Photo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 1932.<br />  John Malcolm Russell, The Writing on the Wall: Studies in the Architectural Context of Late Assyrian Palace Inscriptions, Eisenbrauns, 1999. P. 18.

Click to zoom in.
Ummanu and bird-apkallu tend the sacred tree.
The bird-apkallu are portrayed in the iconic act of purifying or pollinating the sacred tree with mullilu cones and banduddu buckets.
A fleur de lis is clearly portrayed at the base of the sacred tree. It is not known whether the fleur de lis was also portrayed atop the horned headdresses of the ummanu in the top register.
It is worth noting that the ubiquitous rosette pattern is portrayed at the base of the sacred tree in the top register. The same detail is apparent upon scrutiny of the sacred tree in the lower register, partially occluded by a mount or platform for the tree.
One further detail which may be of no import: the bird-apkallu on the right wears a bracelet, but unlike other bracelets portrayed on left wrists elsewhere in this frieze, the rosette is not visible. For whatever reason, this apkallu wore his rosette bracelet oriented towards his body. This could be no more than an oversight by the original artist, or realistic portrayal of a real life model.
From Kalhu, Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II, Room I, Slab 30, inscribed wall relief, Metropolitan Museum 32.143.3. Photo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 1932.
John Malcolm Russell, The Writing on the Wall: Studies in the Architectural Context of Late Assyrian Palace Inscriptions, Eisenbrauns, 1999. P. 18.

When the apkallus purified the tree, they “insured the correct functioning of the plans of heaven and earth,” as it was expressed in Bīt Mēseri. The divine and human worlds overlap. The depiction of the sick man did not show the āšipū performing their ritual, but the apkallus, whom they represented.

In the Poem of Erra the human ummanus were called the images of the transcendent apkallus. Since the scholars emulate the role of the apkallus, the Tree of Life scene, with the apkallus, can also be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the scholar’s activity at the court.

The Tree of Life represents the king, whom the scholars protect with their wisdom. In many of the letters that Parpola has edited this is expressed through a recurring phrase: massartu ša šarri nasāru, “to keep the king’s watch.”

Click to zoom in. <br />  This reproduction of the bas reliefs in Room I of the Northwestern Palace of King Ashurnasirpal at Nimrud is remarkable for the sheer number of apkallus portrayed interacting with endless renditions of the sacred tree.<br /> All apkallu are winged, even the beardless specimens in I-16. All others are either bearded males, or griffin-headed bird apkallus.<br /> Samuel M. Paley and R.P. Sobolewski, The Reconstruction of the Relief Representations and Their Positions in the Northwest Palace at Kalhu (Nimrud) II. (The Principal Entrances and Courtyards). Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1992.<br /> From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

Click to zoom in.
This reproduction of the bas reliefs in Room I of the Northwestern Palace of King Ashurnasirpal at Nimrud is remarkable for the sheer number of apkallus portrayed interacting with endless renditions of the sacred tree.
All apkallu are winged, even the beardless specimens in I-16. All others are either bearded males, or griffin-headed bird apkallus.
Samuel M. Paley and R.P. Sobolewski, The Reconstruction of the Relief Representations and Their Positions in the Northwest Palace at Kalhu (Nimrud) II. (The Principal Entrances and Courtyards). Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1992.
From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

In the Akkadian phrase the element of “watching” is expressed twice, both through the noun massartu, and through the verb nasāru. The Akkadian massartu both has the connotation “guard, watchman, be awake,” and someone who watches for astronomical observation.

The noun corresponds closely to the verb nasāru, “guard, take care of, keep watch for celestial phenomena.” Used together in massartu nasāru, the phrase often means “to take care of a person’s interests.”

The two meanings “guard” and “watch for omens” come together in the tasks of the scholars; it was through their watching for divine signs that they guarded the king. A good illustration of this double meaning we find in the following letter:

“To the king, our lord: your servants, the scribes of Kilizi. Good health to the king, our lord! May Nabu and Marduk bless the king.

We watched the moon; on the 14th day the moon and the sun saw each other. (This means) well-being.

May Nabu and Marduk bless the king. Because of the ilku-duty (state service) and the corvée work we cannot keep the watch of the king, and the pupils do not learn the scribal craft.”

(Letter 143, Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, p. 111.)

The role of the earthly scholars at this point reflects the apkallus, as we have seen in many other instances. The scholars were “watchers” over the king’s well-being and health and in this instance over his kingdom, in the same manner as the apkallus who were invoked as “watchers” in the rituals.

The scholars should watch the king in order to maintain the cosmic order, just as the apkallus were watchers of the cosmic order in the divine realm.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 144-6.

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. II.A.3.9).

This depiction of a fish-apkallū (Apkallu, Abkallu) guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. A fish's head can be seen on Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of Apkallu's body.  Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE. From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London). Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg) http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

This depiction of a fish-apkallū (Apkallu, Abkallu) guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. A fish’s head can be seen on Apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of Apkallu’s body.
Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE. From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)
http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

At the threshold of the bedroom seven fish-apkallū guard the entrance; two further groups of seven fish-apkallū are buried in front of, and behind the chair. The chair may have been in the bedroom or perhaps rather in an adjoining living-room or dining-room (the furniture of a dining room in the Neo-Assyrian period has been studied by K. Deller and I. Finkel in ZA 74 86f.; it includes a kussiu, “chair”, but no bed).

Material: the ūmu-apkallū are made of e’ru, a kind of wood well known for its magical properties, but as yet not identified with certainty; Thompson DAB 298f.: “Laurel”, CAD E 318ff.: a variety of cornel (followed by AHw 247a), Salonen Wasserfahrzeuge 99, 152: “Lorbeer” (cf., Oppenheim Eames 54), Civil apud Landsberger Datepalm 26: “(dwarf)ash” (followed by CAD M/1 221a, M/2 220b, S 202a, AHw 676a), see further Sollberger Genava 26 61 and Snell Ledgers and Prices 211.

The god Ea is portrayed at far left, with water coursing from his shoulders.  Two fish-apkallu hold banduddu buckets. This bas relief is atypical in that the left-side fish-apkallu holds his banduddu in his right hand, rather than the left, as is portrayed in most other depictions.  This bas relief is also unusual in that it portrays the fish-apkallu with different objects in their raised hands. The raised hand of the fish-apkallu on the left is indistinct, partially covered by the water flowing from the shoulders of the god Ea, while the other fish-apkallu raises an object that I have not yet identified.

The god Ea is portrayed at far left, with water coursing from his shoulders.
Two fish-apkallu hold banduddu buckets. This bas relief is atypical in that the left-side fish-apkallu holds his banduddu in his right hand, rather than the left, as is portrayed in most other depictions.
This bas relief is also unusual in that it portrays the fish-apkallu with different objects in their raised hands. The raised hand of the fish-apkallu on the left is indistinct, partially covered by the water flowing from the shoulders of the god Ea, while the other fish-apkallu raises an object that I have not yet identified.

In the incantation UDUG HUL EDiN.NA DAGAL LA (cf. text III.C), that accompanies the fabrication of the statues of the ūmu apkallū, the e’ru of which they are to be made is called: gis HUL.DÚB.BA GIŠ NAM.TI.LA, “mace that hits evil (cf. Grayson Iraq 37 69), wood of life” (AAA 22 88:152f.).

Analogous to the designation of the tamarisk of which the gods were made as the “bone of divinity” (above A), the designation of the material of the ūmu apkallū reveals something of their character: they chase evil away, and procure life.

Probably relevant is the “mystical” commentary (cf. below note 3e) gis TUKUL MA.NU: VII u4-mu gis TUKUL dAMAR.UTU, “the mace of e’ru: the seven ūmu-demons, the mace of Marduk“. Here “the mace of cornel” may refer to the seven ūmu-apkallū holding an e’ru stick or mace in their right hands. In straight-forward ritual contexts (notes 2, 13c, d, e) “mace of cornel” is rather an alternative designation of the e’ru (stick/mace) itself.

The ūmu-apkallū certainly did not belong to the bīnūt apsê, “creatures of apsû” (I 144); they probably did not belong to the bīnūt šamê, “creatures of heaven”, either, since the preceding designation salmī annūti, “these statues”, refers to the statues of tamarisk made the same day, and not to the statues of cornel made the day before (I 143).

The line closing the description of the statues of cornel does not contain a general term analogous to I 143 closing the tamarisk section; perhaps I 28 did contain such a term, or perhaps no such term was used.

A bas relief in the Louvre.  In this case the bird-apkallū tends to a sacred tree. Considering the mullilu in his right hand and the banduddu in his left, (tree cone and water bucket), he is engaged in a water ritual intended to sanctify the sacred tree. This is a common motif in Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian idols.  This bas relief is in the Louvre.  Primary publicationNimrud NW Palace I-24 = RIMA 2.0.101.023, ex. 189 (f) Collection	Nimrud, Iraq (a); British Museum, London, UK (b); Louvre Museum, Paris, France (c); Nimrud, Iraq (d); Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA (e); British Museum, London, UK; Louvre Museum, Paris, France  Museum no.	Nimrud fragment no. 42 (a); BM 098061 (b); AO 22198 (c); Nimrud fragment no. 43 and 45 (d); DIA 47.181 (e) (photo: DIA); AO 19849  Accession no.	1903-10-10, 0002 (b) Provenience	Kalhu (mod. Nimrud) Period	Neo-Assyrian (ca. 911-612 BC)

A bas relief in the Louvre.
In this case the bird-apkallū tends to a sacred tree. Considering the mullilu in his right hand and the banduddu in his left, (tree cone and water bucket), he is engaged in a water ritual intended to sanctify the sacred tree. This is a common motif in Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian idols.
This bas relief is in the Louvre.
Primary publication Nimrud NW Palace I-24 = RIMA 2.0.101.023, ex. 189 (f)
Collection Nimrud, Iraq (a); British Museum, London, UK (b); Louvre Museum, Paris, France (c); Nimrud, Iraq (d); Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA (e); British Museum, London, UK; Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Museum no. Nimrud fragment no. 42 (a); BM 098061 (b); AO 22198 (c); Nimrud fragment no. 43 and 45 (d); DIA 47.181 (e) (photo: DIA); AO 19849
Accession no. 1903-10-10, 0002 (b)
Provenience Kalhu (mod. Nimrud)
Period Neo-Assyrian (ca. 911-612 BC)

The bird- and fish-apkallū are made of clay, and are included among the bīnūt apsê, “the creatures of apsû” (I 144). They and the other statues of clay are the salmū sākip lemnūti ša Ea u Marduk, “the statues repelling the evil ones, of Ea and Marduk“, stationed in the house “to expel the foot of evil” (I 160f. 165f.). The bird- and fish-apkallū are separated, however, from the other figures of clay by a line indicating the end of a section (I 183).

In text I the clay of the bird-apkallū is mixed with wax.”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 65.

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