Samizdat

"Samizdat: Publishing the Forbidden."

Category: The British Museum Press

Curnow: Ziusudra Divides Invented Myth from Mythologized Fact

“After this, the story begins to become more confused. According to the legend preserved in a surviving fragmentary text (Dalley 2000, pp. 184-7), Adapa was the priest of Ea in his temple at Eridu. Eridu was regarded as one of the most ancient cities of Mesopotamia and the place where kingship first appeared as a gift from the gods.

Although the narrative is not without its lacunae and ambiguities, it seems that Ea chose to make Adapa omniscient and wise, but not immortal. As such, he is an heroic figure, but nothing more.

The Scheil dynastic tablet or "Kish Tablet" is an ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform text containing a variant form of the Sumerian King List. The Assyriologist Jean-Vincent Scheil purchased the Kish Tablet from a private collection in France in 1911. The tablet is dated to the early 2d millennium BCE.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheil_dynastic_tablet

The Scheil dynastic tablet or “Kish Tablet” is an ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform text containing a variant form of the Sumerian King List.
The Assyriologist Jean-Vincent Scheil purchased the Kish Tablet from a private collection in France in 1911. The tablet is dated to the early 2d millennium BCE.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheil_dynastic_tablet

However, another very different story is told of Uan by Berossus (Hodges 1876, p. 57). According to this one, Uan emerged from the sea with the body of a fish, although added to this were a human head and human feet.

At night, this amphibious creature returned to the sea to rest. All the apkallu took this form. As they were created and / or sent by Ea, who was closely associated with the fresh water of his great-great-grandfather Apsu, there is a certain logic in the apkallu having something in common with freshwater fish.

Iconographical evidence indicates the apkallu could also be portrayed with the heads of birds, or with wings, or both. The one thing they were certainly not, according to this version of the myth, is human beings who were made wise. They were supernatural creatures, not gods, but bearing gifts from the gods.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, the so-called purādu-fish, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, the so-called purādu-fish, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

So far only Adapa / Uan has been mentioned by name. For the sake of completeness, something can be said about the other apkallu, although little can be said with any certainty. They are known by various names, and different lists are not entirely consistent with each other.

Berossus, writing in Greek in the third century BCE, calls them Annedotus, Euedocus, Eneugamus, Eneubolus, Anementus and Anodaphus (Hodges 1876, pp. 53-4), while a much older Sumerian king list calls them Uanduga, Enmeduga, Enmegalamma, Anenlilda, Enmebulugga and Utuabzu (Wilson 1977, p. 150).

Although the myth relating to Adapa might generously be described as sketchy, virtually nothing is known of the others at all apart from their names, the names of the kings they served as counsellors, and the city-states in which they discharged this function.

Collectively it is said that they angered the gods and were banished back to the waters whence they came (Dalley 2000, p. 182). And other sources relating to the myth suggest that it was not Ea who sent them but Marduk, or Nabu or Ishtar.

There is a further myth that bears on the subject of wisdom, and this one concerns the individual variously known as Atrahasis, Utnapishtim and Ziusudra. With him we perhaps begin to approach the ill-defined threshold that divides invented myth from mythologized fact.

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic. Babylonian, about 17th century BCE. From Sippar, southern Iraq. A version of the Flood story. The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods. This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil's sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood.  However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed.  However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to.  There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans. Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BCE showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh. T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988) S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991) W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969) http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic.
Babylonian, about 17th century BCE.
From Sippar, southern Iraq.
A version of the Flood story.
The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods.
This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil’s sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood.
However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed.
However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to.
There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans.
Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BCE showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)
S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991)
W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969)
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

If the name of Atrahasis (meaning “extra-wise”) is unfamiliar, his story is less so. The surviving text (Dalley 2000, pp. 9-35), which includes its own creation myth, tells of the gods sending a great flood to destroy humanity, but thanks to a warning from Ea, Atrahasis builds a boat and so is saved.

It is this flood that ends the period when the apkallu walked upon the earth, and the distinction between the antediluvian and the postdiluvian seems to have remained firmly established in the Mesopotamian mindset. That parts of Mesopotamia suffered serious flooding from time to time is hardly implausible, but what, if any basis, the story of a great flood bears to real events remains a matter for speculation.”

Trevor Curnow, Wisdom in the Ancient World, Bloomsbury, 2010, pp. 40-1.

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 monsters from the theme of the Epic of Creation is possible, as mentioned above.

Single objects such as bucket or sprig may be held by figures who do not share other characteristics with definite sages. WIGGERMANN (1992: 75) identifies Apkallus in scenes in which figures resembling types 1 and 3 carry weapons and attack animals and monsters.

The Anzu bird.

The Anzu bird.

This is not certain, as the bird-headed Apkallu may overlap in form with the Anzu bird in its 1st millennium appearance, and various winged or wingless man-figures may be hero-gods rather than Apkallus.

Lahmu, “Hairy,” is a protective and beneficent deity, a first-born son of Apsu and Tiamat.  He and his sister Laḫamu are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, the sky father and earth mother, who birthed the gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon. Laḫmu is depicted as a bearded man with a red sash--usually with three strands--and four to six curls on his head. He is often associated with the Kusarikku or “Bull-Man.” In Sumerian times Laḫmu may have meant “the muddy one”. Lahmu guarded the gates of the Abzu temple of Enki at Eridu. He and his sister Laḫamu are primordial deities in the Babylonian Epic of Creation-–Enuma Elis. http://foundfact.com/portfolio-view/lahmu/#!prettyPhoto http://foundfact.com/library/beings-people-and-gods/page/6/#!prettyPhoto

Lahmu, “Hairy,” is a protective and beneficent deity, a first-born son of Apsu and Tiamat.
He and his sister Laḫamu are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, the sky father and earth mother, who birthed the gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon.
Laḫmu is depicted as a bearded man with a red sash–usually with three strands–and four to six curls on his head. He is often associated with the Kusarikku or “Bull-Man.”
In Sumerian times Laḫmu may have meant “the muddy one”. Lahmu guarded the gates of the Abzu temple of Enki at Eridu.
He and his sister Laḫamu are primordial deities in the Babylonian Epic of Creation-–Enuma Elis.
http://foundfact.com/portfolio-view/lahmu/#!prettyPhoto
http://foundfact.com/library/beings-people-and-gods/page/6/#!prettyPhoto

WIGGERMANN’s identifications are largely accepted (WIGGERMANN/GREEN 1993-97) and are followed here, but disagreement, and a proposal to identify the Lahmu-hero with three pairs of curls as a further type, are suggested by RUSSELL (1991: 312 n. 27; also ORNAN 1993: 60).

Amulet with a figure of Lamashtu, Mesopotamia, around 800 BC.<br />  A demonic divinity who preys on mothers and children.<br />  This protective image of Lamashtu, a fearsome female divinity of the underworld, was intended to keep evil at bay.<br />  Although she is usually described in modern works as a demon, the writing of her name in cuneiform suggests that in Babylonia and Assyria she was regarded as a kind of goddess.<br />  Unlike the majority of demons, who acted only on the commands of the gods, Lamashtu practised evil apparently for its own sake and on her own initiative. There is a cuneiform incantation on the reverse side of this amulet to frighten her away.<br />  Lamashtu's principal victims were unborn and new-born babies.<br />  Slipping into the house of a pregnant woman, she tries to touch the woman's stomach seven times to kill the unborn baby, or she kidnaps the child.<br />  Magical measures against Lamashtu included wearing a bronze head of Pazuzu. Some plaques show a bedridden man rather than a pregnant woman, so in some contexts Lamashtu is considered a bringer of disease.<br />  Lamashtu is described in texts as having the head of a lion, the teeth of a donkey, naked breasts, a hairy body, stained hands, long fingers, long finger nails, and the talons of a bird.<br />  Plaques also show her suckling a piglet and a whelp while she holds snakes in her hands, as in this case.<br />  She stands on her sacred animal, the donkey, which is sometimes shown in a boat, riding through the underworld.<br />  H.W.F. Saggs, Babylonians (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)<br />  J. Black and A. Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)<br />  http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/blagop#sthash.psbzCU3E.dpuf<br />  http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/a/amulet_with_figure_of_lamashtu.aspx

Amulet with a figure of Lamashtu, Mesopotamia, around 800 BC.
A demonic divinity who preys on mothers and children.
This protective image of Lamashtu, a fearsome female divinity of the underworld, was intended to keep evil at bay.
Although she is usually described in modern works as a demon, the writing of her name in cuneiform suggests that in Babylonia and Assyria she was regarded as a kind of goddess.
Unlike the majority of demons, who acted only on the commands of the gods, Lamashtu practised evil apparently for its own sake and on her own initiative. There is a cuneiform incantation on the reverse side of this amulet to frighten her away.
Lamashtu’s principal victims were unborn and new-born babies.
Slipping into the house of a pregnant woman, she tries to touch the woman’s stomach seven times to kill the unborn baby, or she kidnaps the child.
Magical measures against Lamashtu included wearing a bronze head of Pazuzu. Some plaques show a bedridden man rather than a pregnant woman, so in some contexts Lamashtu is considered a bringer of disease.
Lamashtu is described in texts as having the head of a lion, the teeth of a donkey, naked breasts, a hairy body, stained hands, long fingers, long finger nails, and the talons of a bird.
Plaques also show her suckling a piglet and a whelp while she holds snakes in her hands, as in this case.
She stands on her sacred animal, the donkey, which is sometimes shown in a boat, riding through the underworld.
H.W.F. Saggs, Babylonians (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
J. Black and A. Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/blagop#sthash.psbzCU3E.dpuf
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/a/amulet_with_figure_of_lamashtu.aspx

This wingless type is thought by WIGGERMANN (1992: 74f) to be sages before the flood, an identification based on a possible but unfounded connection with the Sumerian names of those early sages. Their human appearance might be more appropriate for mortal sages who lived after the flood, or they may not be sages at all.

Several possible identifications on West Semitic seals cannot be regarded as certain; ORNAN 1993: 60, figs. 11-12 show a kneeling atlantid figure not generally considered to be an Apkallu, and figs. 15, 17, and 18 are dubious because the seal cutting is so skimpy.

The number of wings shown may sometimes be misleading; perspective or spacing may reduce them, and some scholars think a pair of wings shown in side profile represent four. When a single wing is shown (71*, 76* ) a pair can be presumed.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 76, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.  Stephanie Dalley cites illustration 76 as an exemplar "with a long, high crest ... with two ringlets falling to the shoulder," which it indeed does portray.  She also writes, "For jewelry the figure may wear a necklace with seven strands (76*), which may also only be single-stranded with pendants. With my apologies to the professor, I detect no necklace or pendants on this illustration.  This illustration does depict a type 3 Nisroc apkallu in the apparent act of uttering a cry, with a visible tongue, though Professor Dalley does not cite it as an example of that.  Finally, she asserts the "so-called "fish-tail fringe" dangling from the kilt (76*) is not a fish part, and so does not indicate that the type is a  fish composite." With this statement, I am in utter agreement.  This particular illustration, its find site unknown to me, is atypical in other respects. The portrayal of the avian head is perhaps unique, and at variance with the typical versions from the palace walls of Ashurnasirpal II, for example.  The lone curl at the top of the head is unique, I think, as are the curls which Professor Dalley identified above.  In no other example does a nisroc-bird apkallu stand in front of a sacred tree, occluding it from view.  The armlet on this apkallu is unusual, as well, with a design that I have not seen elsewhere.  In all other respects, this depiction of a type 3 bird-headed apkallu is typical, with mullilu cone and banduddu bucket in their customary places.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 76, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Stephanie Dalley cites illustration 76 as an exemplar “with a long, high crest … with two ringlets falling to the shoulder,” which it indeed does portray.
She also writes, “For jewelry the figure may wear a necklace with seven strands (76*), which may also only be single-stranded with pendants. With my apologies to the professor, I detect no necklace or pendants on this illustration.
This illustration does depict a type 3 Nisroc apkallu in the apparent act of uttering a cry, with a visible tongue, though Professor Dalley does not cite it as an example of that.
Finally, she asserts the “so-called “fish-tail fringe” dangling from the kilt (76*) is not a fish part, and so does not indicate that the type is a fish composite.” With this statement, I am in utter agreement.
This particular illustration, its find site unknown to me, is atypical in other respects. The portrayal of the avian head is perhaps unique, and at variance with the typical versions from the palace walls of Ashurnasirpal II, for example.
The lone curl at the top of the head is unique, I think, as are the curls which Professor Dalley identified above.
In no other example does a nisroc-bird apkallu stand in front of a sacred tree, occluding it from view.
The armlet on this apkallu is unusual, as well, with a design that I have not seen elsewhere.
In all other respects, this depiction of a type 3 bird-headed apkallu is typical, with mullilu cone and banduddu bucket in their customary places.

Similarly, the number of horns shown on crowns of divinity may have been reduced due to considerations of space; they do not appear to distinguish different ranks of sage.

Color may have been used to differentiate between types and eliminate ambiguities, but is not preserved except as occasional traces of paint on foundation figurines.

On Urartian bronzes and on other media, e.g., MERHAV 1991: 144 and 309, a pair of winged, human-headed lions with cone and bucket on each side of a tree of life has a context and attributes identical to that of the Apkallus, but cannot be identified as such without textual support.

Figure 2.2 (from Nakamura). Apotropaic figures with associated features.  1. Drawing after Richards in Black and Green (1992:65).  2. The identification of the lahmu figure is controversial; it names both a cosmogonic deity and one of Tiamat’s creatures (Wiggermann 1992:155–156), and may also represent an apkallu sage (Ellis 1995:165; Russell 1991:184, fn. 27). 3. In register 2, ugallu, kusarikku and kulullu are portrayed.

Figure 2.2 (from Nakamura). Apotropaic figures with associated features.
1. Drawing after Richards in Black and Green (1992:65).
2. The identification of the lahmu figure is controversial; it names both a cosmogonic deity and one of Tiamat’s creatures (Wiggermann 1992:155–156), and may also represent an apkallu sage (Ellis 1995:165; Russell 1991:184, fn. 27).
3. In register 2, ugallu, kusarikku and kulullu are portrayed.

The scorpion-man (Girtablullu), the Kusarikku-bison, and the Ugallu-demon, who all fight in the army of Tiamat in the Epic of Creation, were attributed to the category of Apkallu by ORNAN (1993: 56) on a misunderstanding of GREEN (1984: 83).

The confusion may have validity in some contexts, since sages are said to guard the Tablet of Destinies for Nabu, a modification of a theme from the Epic of Creation. Possible links are mentioned under individual phenotypes above.

Umu-apkallu are portrayed in the top register, tending to a sacred tree.  In the lower register avian-headed apkallu use mullilu cones and banduddu buckets to bless the sacred tree.  John Malcolm Russell, The Writing on the Wall: Studies in the Architectural Context of Late Assyrian Palace Inscriptions, Eisenbrauns, 1999.

Umu-apkallu are portrayed in the top register, tending to a sacred tree.
In the lower register avian-headed apkallu use mullilu cones and banduddu buckets to bless the sacred tree.
John Malcolm Russell, The Writing on the Wall: Studies in the Architectural Context of Late Assyrian Palace Inscriptions, Eisenbrauns, 1999.

Stephanie Dalley, “Apkallu,” Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East (IDD), Swiss National Science Foundation, University of Zurich, 2011 (text updated 2011 and illustrations updated 2007), p. 4/7.

%d bloggers like this: