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Tag: 1992

Eco: The Gift to Adam

Ibn Hazm, Tawq al-hamama fi al-ulfa

Ibn Hazm (994-1064), The Ring of the Dove (Tawq al-Hanamah), circa 1022, held in the University Library Leiden, Oriental Collections. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“What was the exact nature of the gift of tongues received by the apostles? Reading St. Paul (Corinthians 1:12-13) it seems that the gift was that of glossolalia–that is, the ability to express oneself in an ecstatic language that all could understand as if it were their own native speech.

Reading the Acts of the Apostles 2, however, we discover that at the Pentecost a loud roar was heard from the skies, and that upon each of the apostles a tongue of flame descended, and they started to speak in other languages.

In this case, the gift was not glossolalia but xenoglossia, that is, polyglottism–or, failing that, at least a sort of mystic service of simultaneous translation. The question of which interpretation to accept is not really a joking matter: there is a major difference between the two accounts.

In the first hypothesis, the apostles would have been restored to the conditions before Babel, when all humanity spoke but a single holy dialect.

In the second hypothesis, the apostles would have been granted the gift of momentarily reversing the defeat of Babel and finding in the multiplicity of tongues no longer a wound that must, at whatever cost, be healed, but rather the key to the possibility of a new alliance and of a new concord.

So many of the protagonists in our story have brazenly bent the Sacred Scriptures to suit their purposes that we should refrain ourselves from doing likewise. Ours has been the story of a myth and of a wish. But for every myth there exists a counter-myth which marks the presence of an alternative wish.

If we had not limited ourselves from the outset to Europe, we might have branched out into other civilizations, and found other myths–like the one located in the tenth-eleventh century, at the very confines of European civilization, and recounted by the Arab writer Ibn Hazm (cf. Arnaldez 1981: Khassaf 1992a, 1992b).

In the beginning there existed a single language given by God, a language thanks to which Adam was able to understand the quiddity of things. It was a language that provided a name for every thing, be it substance or accident, and a thing for each name.

But it seems that at a certain point the account of Ibn Hazm contradicts itself, when saying that–if the presence of homonyms can produce equivocation–an abundance of synonyms would not jeopardize the perfection of a language: it is possible to name the same thing in different ways, provided we do so in an adequate way.

For Ibn Hazm the different languages could not be born from convention: if so, people would have to have had a prior language in which they could agree about conventions.

But if such a prior language existed, why should people have undergone the wearisome and unprofitable task of inventing other tongues? The only explanation is that there was an original language which included all others.

The confusio (which the Koran already regarded not as a curse but as a natural event–cf. Borst 1957-63: I, 325) depended not on the invention of new languages, but on the fragmentation of a unique tongue that existed ab initio and in which all the others were already contained.

It is for this reason that all people are still able to understand the revelation of the Koran, in whatever language it is expressed. God made the Koranic verses in Arabic in order that they might be understood by his chosen people, not because the Arabic language enjoyed any particular privilege. In whatever language, people may discover the spirit, the breath, the perfume, the traces of the original polylinguism (sic).

Let us accept the suggestion that comes from afar. Our mother tongue was not a single language but rather a complex of all languages. Perhaps Adam never received such a gift in full; it was promised to him, yet before his long period of linguistic apprenticeship was through, original sin severed the link.

Thus the legacy that he has left to all his sons and daughters is the task of winning for themselves the full and reconciled mastery of the Tower of Babel.”

FIN.

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 351-3.

Eco: Conclusion

the-confusion-of-tongues-by-gustave-dorecc81-1865

Gustav Doré (1832-1883), The Confusion of Tongues, 1865-68, currently held privately. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

Plures linguas scire gloriosum esset, patet exemplo Catonis, Mithridates, Apostolorum.”

Comenius, Linguarum methodus novissima

“This story is a gesture of propaganda, in so far as it provided a particular explanation of the origin and variety of languages, by presenting it only as a punishment and a curse [ . . . ] Since the variety of tongues renders a universal communication among men, to say the least, difficult, that was certainly a punishment.

However, it also meant an improvement of the original creative powers of Adam, a proliferation of that force which allowed the production of names by virtue of a divine inspiration.”

J. Trabant, Apeliotes, oder der Sinn der Sprache

“Citizens of a multiform Earth, Europeans cannot but listen to the polyphonic cry of human languages. To pay attention to the others who speak their own language is the first step in order to establish a solidarity more concrete than many propaganda discourses.”

Claude Hagège, Le souffle de la langue

“Each language constitutes a certain model of the universe, a semiotic system of understanding the world, and if we have 4,000 different ways to describe the world, this makes us rich. We should be concerned about preserving languages just as we are about ecology.”

V.V. Ivanov, Reconstructing the Past

“I said at the beginning that it was the account in Genesis 11, not Genesis 10, that had prevailed in the collective imagination and, more specifically, in the minds of those who pondered over the plurality of languages.

Despite this, as Demonet has shown (1992), already by the time of the Renaissance, a reconsideration of Genesis 10 was under way, provoking, as we saw, a rethinking of the place of Hebrew as the unchanging language, immutable from the time of Babel.

We can take it that, by then, the multiplicity of tongues was probably accepted as a positive fact both in Hebrew culture and in Christian Kabbalistic circles (Jacquemier 1992). Still, we have to wait until the eighteenth century before the rethinking of Genesis 10 provokes a revaluation of the legend of Babel itself.

In the same years that witnessed the appearance of the first volumes of the Encyclopédie, the abbé Pluche noted in his La méchanique des langues et l’art de les einsegner (1751) that, already by the time of Noah, the first differentiation, if not in the lexicon at least in inflections, between one family of languages and another had occurred.

This historical observation led Pluche on to reflect that the multiplication of languages (no longer, we note, the confusion of languages) was more than a mere natural event: it was socially providential. Naturally, Pluche imagined, people were at first troubled to discover that tribes and families no longer understood each other so easily. In the end, however,

“those who spoke a mutually intelligible language formed a single body and went to live together in the same corner of the world. Thus it was the diversity of languages which provided each country with its own inhabitants and kept them there. It should be noted that the profits of this miraculous and extraordinary mutation have extended to all successive epochs.

From this point on, the more people have mixed, the more they have produced mixtures and novelties in their languages; and the more these languages have multiplied, the harder it becomes to change countries. In this way, the confusion of tongues has fortified that sentiment of attachment upon which love of country is based; the confusion has made men more sedentary.” (pp. 17-8).

This is more than the celebration of the particular “genius” of each single language: the very sense of the myth of Babel has been turned upside down. The natural differentiation of languages has become a positive phenomenon underlying the allocation of peoples to their respective territories, the birth of nations, and the emergence of the sense of national identity.

It is a reversal of meaning that reflects the patriotic pride of an eighteenth century French author: the confusio linguarum was the historically necessary point of departure for the birth of a new sense of the state. Pluche, in effect, seems to be paraphrasing Louis XIV: “L’état c’est la langue.”

In the light of this reinterpretation it is also interesting to read the objections to an international language made by another French writer, one who lived before the great flood of a posteriori projects in the late nineteenth century–Joseph-Marie Degérando, in his work, Des signes. Degérando observed that travelers, scientists and merchants (those who needed a common language) were always a minority in respect of the mass of common citizens who were content to remain at home peaceably speaking their native tongues.

Just because this minority of travelers needed a common language, it did not follow that the majority of sedentary citizens needed one as well. It was the traveler that needed to understand the natives; the natives had no particular need to understand a traveler, who, indeed, had an advantage over them in being able to conceal his thoughts from the peoples he visited (III, 562).

With regard to scientific contact, any common language for science would grow distant from the language of letters, but we know that the language of science and the language of letters influence and fortify each other (III, 570). An international language of purely scientific communication, moreover, would soon become an instrument of secrecy, from which the humble speakers of their native dialects would be excluded (III, 572).

And as to possible literary uses (and we leave Degérando the responsibility for such a vulgar sociological argument), if the authors were obliged to write in a common tongue, they would be exposed to international rivalries, fearing invidious comparisons with the works of foreign writers.

Thus it seems that for Degérando circumspection was a disadvantage for science and an advantage for literature–as it was for the astute and cultivated traveler, more learned than his native and naive interlocutors.

We are, of course, at the end of the century which produced de Rivarol‘s eulogy to the French language. Thus, although Degérando recognized that the world was divided into zones of influence, and that it was normal to speak German in areas under German political influence just as it was normal to speak English in the British Isles, he could still maintain, were it possible to impose an auxiliary language, Europe could do no better than to choose French for self-evident reasons of political power (III, 578-9).

In any case, according to Degérando, the narrow mindedness of most governments made every international project unthinkable: “Should we suppose that the governments wish to come to an agreement over a set of uniform laws for the alteration of national languages? How many times have seen governments arrive at an effective agreement over matters that concern the general interest of society?” (III, 554).

In the background is a prejudice of the eighteenth century–and eighteenth century Frenchmen in particular–that people simply did not wish to learn other tongues, be they universal or foreign. There existed a sort of cultural deafness when faced with polyglottism, a deafness that continues on throughout the nineteenth century to leave visible traces in our own; the only peoples exempt were, remarked Degérando, those of northern Europe, for reasons of pure necessity.

So diffuse was this cultural deafness that he even felt compelled to suggest provocatively (III, 587) that the study of foreign languages was not really the sterile and mechanical exercise that most people thought.

Thus Degérando had no choice but to conduce his extremely skeptical review with an eulogy to the diversity of tongues: diversity placed obstacles in the way of foreign conquerers, prevented undue mixing between different peoples, and helped each people to preserve their national character and the habits which protected the purity of their folkways.

A national language linked a people to their state, stimulated patriotism and the cult of tradition. Degérando admitted that these considerations were hardly compatible with the ideals of universal brotherhood; still, he commented, “in this age of corruption, hearts must, above all else, be turned towards patriotic sentiments; the more egotism progresses, the more dangerous it is to become a cosmopolitan” (IV, 589).

If we wish to find historical precedents for this vigorous affirmation of the profound unity between a people and their language (as a gift due to the Babelic event), we need look no farther than Luther (Declamationes in Genesim, 1527).

It is this tradition, perhaps, that also stands behind Hegel’s decisive revaluation of Babel. For him the construction of the tower is not only a metaphor for the social structures linking a people to their state, but also occasions a celebration of the almost sacred character of collective human labor.

“What is holy?” Goethe asks once in a distich, and answers: “What links many souls together.” . . . In the wide plains of the Euphrates an enormous architectural work was erected; it was built in common, and the aim and content of the work was at the same time the community of those who constructed it.

And the foundation of this social bond does not remain merely a unification on patriarchal lines; on the contrary, the purely family unity has already been superseded, and the building, rising into the clouds, makes objective to itself this earlier and dissolved unity and the realization of a new and wider one.

The ensemble of all the peoples at that period worked at this task and since they all came together to complete an immense work like this, the product of their labor was to be a bond which was to link them together (as we are linked by manners, customs, and the legal constitution of the state) by means of the excavated site and ground, the assembled blocks of stone, and the as it were architectural cultivation of the country.”

(G.W.F. Hegel, trans. T.M. Knox: 638).

In this vision, in which the tower serves as a prefiguration of the ethical state, the theme of the confusion of languages can only be interpreted as meaning that the unity of the state is not a universal, but a unity that gives life to different nations (“this tradition tells us that the peoples, after being assembled in this one center of union for the construction of such a work, were once again dispersed and separated from each other”).

Nevertheless, the undertaking of Babel was still a precondition, the event necessary to set social, political and scientific history in motion, the first glimmerings of the Age of Progress and Reason. This is a dramatic intuition: to the sound of an almost Jacobin roll of muffled drums, the old Adam mounts to the scaffold, his linguistic ancien régime at an end.

And yet Hegel’s sentence did not lead to a capital punishment. The myth of the tower as a failure and as a drama still lives today: “the Tower of Babel […] exhibits an incompleteness, even an impossibility of completing, of totalizing, of saturating, of accomplishing anything which is in the order of building, of architectural construction” (Derrida 1980: 203).

One should remark that Dante (DVE, I, vii) provided a “technological” version of the confusio linguarum. His was the story not so much of the birth of the languages of different ethnic groups as of the proliferation of technical jargons: the architects had their language while the stone bearers had theirs (as if Dante were thinking of the jargons of the corporations of his time).

One is almost tempted to find here a formulation, ante litteram to say the least, of the idea of the social division of labor in terms of a division of linguistic labor.

Somehow Dante’s hint seems to have journeyed through the centuries: in his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (1678), Richard Simon wondered whether the confusion of Babel might not have arisen from the fact that, when the workmen came to give names to their tools, each named them in his own way.

The suspicion that these hints reveal a long buried strand in the popular understanding of the story is reinforced by the history of iconography (cf. Minkowski 1983).

From the Middle Ages onwards, in fact, in the pictorial representations of Babel we find so many direct or indirect allusions to human labor–stonemasons, pulleys, squared building stones, block and tackles, plumb lines, compasses, T-squares, winches, plastering equipment, etc.–that these representations have become an important source of our knowledge of medieval building techniques.

And how are we to know whether Dante’s own suggestion might not have arisen from the poet’s acquaintance with the iconography of his times?

Towards the end of the sixteenth century, the theme of Babel entered into the repertoire of Dutch artists, who reworked it in innumerable ways (one thinks, of course, of Bruegel), until, in the multiplicity of the number of tools and construction techniques depicted, the Tower of Babel, in its robust solidity, seemed to embody a secular statement of faith in human progress.

By the seventeenth century, artists naturally began to include references to the latest technical innovations, depicting the “marvelous machines” described in a growing number of treatises on mechanical devices.

Even Kircher, who could hardly by accused of secularism, was fascinated by the image of Babel as a prodigious feat of technology; thus, when Father Athanasius wrote his Turris Babel, he concentrated on its engineering, as if he were describing a tower that had once been a finished object.

In the nineteenth century, the theme of Babel began to fall from use, because of a lesser interest in the theological and linguistic aspects of the confusio: in exchange, in the few representations of the event, “the close up gave way to the “group,” representing “humanity,” whose inclination, reaction, or destiny was represented against the background of the “Tower of Babel.”

In these dramatic scenes the focus of the representation is thus given by human masses” (Minkowski 1983: 69). The example that readily springs to mind is in Doré’s illustrated Bible.

By now we are in the century of progress, the century in which the Italian poet, Carducci, celebrated the steam engine in a poem entitled, significantly, Hymn to Satan.

Hegel had taught the century to take pride in the works of Lucifer. Thus the gesture of the gigantic figure that dominates Doré’s engraving is ambiguous. While the tower projects dark shadows on the workmen bearing the immense blocks of marble, a nude turns his face and extends his arm towards a cloud-filled sky.

Is it defiant pride, a curse directed towards a God who has defeated human endeavors? Whatever it is, the gesture certainly does not signify humble resignation in the face of destiny.

Genette has observed (1976: 161) how much the idea of confusio linguarum appears as a felix culpa in romantic authors such as Nodier: natural languages are perfect in so far as they are many, for the truth is many-sided and falsity consists in reducing this plurality into a single definite unity.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 337-44.

 

Eco: The Last Flowering of Philosophic Languages

Anne-Pierre-Jacques De Vismes, Pasilogie, ou de la musique, consideree comme langue universelle, 1806

Anne-Pierre-Jacques De Vismes (1745-1819), Pasilogie, ou de la musique, considérée comme langue universelle, Paris, 1806. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“Nor was even this the end of attempts at creating a philosophic language. In 1772 there appeared the project of Georg Kalmar, Praecepta grammatica atque specimina linguae philosophicae sive universalis, ad omne vitae genus adcomodatae, which occasioned the most significant discussion on our topic written in Italian.

In 1774, the Italian-Swiss Father Francesco Soave published his Riflessioni intorno alla costituzione di una lingua universaleSoave, who had done much to spread the sensationalist doctrine to Italy, advanced a criticism of the a priori languages that anticipated those made by the Idéologues (on Soave see Gensini 1984; Nicoletti 1989; Pellerey 1992a).

Displaying a solid understanding of the projects from Descartes to Wilkins and from Kircher to Leibniz, on the one hand Soave advanced the traditional reservation that it was impossible to elaborate a set of characters sufficient to represent all fundamental concepts; on the other hand, he remarked that Kalmar, having reduced these concepts to 400, was obliged to give different meanings to the same character, according to the context.

Either one follows the Chinese model, without succeeding in limiting the characters, or one is unable to avoid equivocations.

Unfortunately, Soave did not resist the temptation of designing a project of his own, though outlining only its basic principles. His system of classification seems to have been based on Wilkins; as usual he sought to rationalize and simplify his grammar; at the same time, he sought to augment its expressive potential by adding marks for new  morphological categories such as dual and the neuter.

Soave took more care over his grammar than over his lexicon, but was mainly interested in the literary use of language: from this derives his radical skepticism about any universal language; what form of literary commerce, he wondered, could we possibly have with the Tartars, the Abyssinians or the Hurons?

In the early years of the next century, Soave’s discussion influenced the thinking of Giacomo Leopardi, who had become an exceptionally astute student of the Idéologues.

In his Zibaldone, Leopardi treated the question of universal languages at some length, as well as discussing the debate between rationalists and sensationalists in recent French philosophy (see Gensini 1984; Pellerey 1992a).

Leopardi was clearly irritated by the algebraic signs that abounded in the a priori languages, all of which he considered as incapable of expressing the subtle connotations of natural languages:

“A strictly universal language, whatever it may be, will certainly, by necessity and by its natural bent, be both the most enslaved, impoverished, timid, monotonous, uniform, arid, and ugly language ever.

It will be incapable of beauty of any type, totally uncongenial to imagination [ . . . ] the most inanimate, bloodless, and dead whatsoever, a mere skeleton, a ghost of a language [ . . . ] it would lack life even if it were written by all and universally understood; indeed it will be deader than the deadest languages which are no longer either spoken or written.” (23 August 1823, in G. Leopardi, Tutte le opere, Sansoni: Florence 1969: II, 814).

Despite these and similar strictures, the ardor of the apostles of philosophic a priori languages was still far from quenched.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Anne-Pierre-Jacques de Vismes (Pasilogie, ou de la musique considérée come langue universelle, 1806) presented a language that was supposed to be a copy of the language of the angels, whose sounds derived from the affections of the soul.

Vismes argued that when the Latin translation of Genesis 11:1-2 states that “erat terra labii unius” (a passage to which we usually give the sense that “all the world was of one language”), it used the word labium (lip) rather than lingua (tongue) because people first communicated with each other by emitting sounds through their lips without articulating them with their tongue.

Music was not a human invention (pp. 1-20), and this is demonstrated by the fact that animals can understand music more easily than verbal speech: horses are naturally roused by the sound of trumpets as dogs are by whistles. What is more, when presented with a musical score, people of different nations all play it the same way.

Vismes presents enharmonic scales of 21 notes, one for each letter of the alphabet. He did this by ignoring the modern convention of equal temperament, and treating the sharp of one note as distinct from the flat of the note above.

Since Vismes was designing a polygraphy rather than a spoken language, it was enough that the distinctions might be exactly represented on a musical stave.

Inspired, perhaps, indirectly by Mersenne, Vismes went on to demonstrate that if one were to combine his 21 sounds into doublets, triplets, quadruplets, etc., one would quickly arrive at more syntagms than are contained in any natural language, and that “if it were necessary to write down all the combinations that can be generated by the seven enharmonic scales, combined with each other, it would take almost all of eternity before one could hope to come to an end.” (p. 78).

As for the concrete possibility of replacing verbal sounds by musical notes, Vismes devotes only the last six pages of his book to such a topic–not a great deal.

It never seems to have crossed Visme’s mind that, in taking a French text and substituting tones for its letters, all he was doing was transcribing a French text, without making it comprehensible to speakers of other languages.

Vismes seems to conceive of a universe that speaks exclusively in French, so much so that he even notes that he will exclude letters like K, Z and X because “they are hardly ever used in languages” (p. 106).”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 302-4.

Eco: Eighteenth Century Projects, 2

Fenelon Adventures of Telemachus

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, aka François Fénelon (1651-1715), frontispiece and title page of the 1715 English translation of Les Aventures de Télémaque, The Adventures of Telemachus, first published in French in 1699. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“Even though the primitives were no longer such, they remained a compositional criterion. For instance, given in first position the letter a, which refers to grammar, the depending letters have a mere distinctive value and refer back to grammatical sub-categories.

A third and final letter specifies a morphological termination or other derivation. Thus a list of terms is derived: ava (grammar), ave (letter), alve (vowel), adve (consonant) and so on. The expressions function like a chemical formula, which synthetically reveals the internal composition of its content, and like a mathematical expression in that the system attributes to each letter a value determined by its position.

Nevertheless, this theoretical perspicuity is bought at a dear price because, in practice, the lexicon becomes obsessively monotonous.

Equally, the Pasigraphie of De Maimieux institutes a graphic code of twelve characters that can be combined according to fixed rules. Each combination expresses a definite thought (the model is the Chinese character).

Other characters are placed on the outside of the “body” of the word to modify the central idea. The body of the word can contain three, four or five characters. Words of only three characters signify either “pathetic” terms or connectives linking parts of discourse, and are classified in an indicule.

Words of four characters stand for ideas in practical life (like friendship, kinship, business), and are classified in petit nomenclateur. Five character words concern categories such as art, religion, morality, science and politics, and are classified in a grand nomenclateur.

None of these categories is primitive; they have rather been isolated in terms of common sense as the most manageable way of subdividing contemporary knowledge. De Maimieux went so far as to admit that he had not sought for an absolute ordering but rather any ordering whatsoever, fût-il mauvais (p. 21).

The system, unfortunately, provides no way of eliminating synonyms; they are constitutional, and De Maimieux only says how to identify them. In fact, every expression in the pasigraphy can be connected not to a single meaning but to three or four different contents.

These different meanings can be distinguished according to the position of the characters on a sort of pentagram. This method imposes no small amount of tedium on the reader, who, as the characters display no iconic similarity with their content, is continually forced to consult the indicule, the petit nomenclateur or the grand nomenclateur, depending on the length of the expression.

Thus, to give an example, if we run across a five letter syntagm, we must seek first in the grand nomenclateur

“the class that begins with the first character of the term. Inside this class, we seek for the framework listing the second character of the term. Inside this framework, we seek for the column containing the third character of the term. Finding the right column, we seek the section (tranche) with the fourth character of the term.

Finally, within this section we seek the line containing the fifth character. At this point we will discover that, as the meaning, we have found a line listing four verbal words; it will then be necessary to observe which of the characters in the pasigraphic term is graphically tallest in order to determine which of the four possible words is the one corresponding to the term.” (Pellerey 1992a: 104).

A real piece of drudgery, though not enough to dampen the ardor of the project’s enthusiasts, who, starting with the abbé Sicard and finishing with various contemporary reviewers wishing to favor the diffusion of the system, entered into pasigraphic correspondence with each other and with De Maimieux, who even composed pasigraphic poetry.

De Maimieux spoke of his pasigraphy as an instrument for checking the accuracy of translations. Many theories of translation, in fact, presuppose the existence of a “parameter language” with which one can control the correct correspondence between the original text and the translated one.

De Maimieux aimed at proposing a supposedly neutral metalanguage which could track the correspondence between expressions in System A and those in system B. What was never placed in discussion was the fact that the content of this metalanguage was structured along the lines of Indo-European languages, and of French in particular.

As a consequence we have “the immense drama of ideography: it can identify and describe its contents, which are supposedly ideas or notions in themselves, only by naming them with words from a natural language–a supreme contradiction for a project created expressly to eliminate verbal languages.” (Pellerey 1992a: 114).

As can be seen, neither in technique nor in underlying ideology have we advanced very far from the time of Wilkins.

This disingenuousness is carried to paroxysms in the Palais de soixante-quatre fenêtres [ . . . ] ou l’art d’écrire toutes les langues du monde comme on les parle (1787, by the Swiss writer J.P. De Ria.

(Editorial note: Eco writes “De Ria,” yet Google returns “Jean-Pierre Deriaz” as the author of the work, and beautifully offers the 1787 document as a free eBook. Thank you, Google. Yet, history must agree with Eco, as the title page depicts the author as “J.P. De Ria,” as Eco attests.).

Despite its pretentious title, the book is nothing but a manual of phonetics or, perhaps, a proposal for the orthographic reform of French, written in a febrile, quasi-mystic style.

It is not in the least clear how the reform could be applied to all the languages of the world (it would, for example, be particularly inapplicable to English phonetics); but this is an unimaginable question for the author.

Returning to De Maimieux, the flexibility displayed in his choice of the pseudo-primitives seems to associate his project with the empiricist tendencies of the Encyclopédie; yet, once they were chose, his belief in them, and the self-confidence with which he sought to impose them on everyone else, still reflected the rationalist temperament.

In this respect, it is interesting to note that De Maimieux sought to provide for the rhetorical use of his language and the possibility of oratory: we are, of course, in a time of eloquence where the life or death of a revolutionary faction might depend on its ability to sway its audience by the force of its words.

Where the a priori linguists of the eighteenth-century were most critical of their predecessors, however, was in the matter of grammar. All were inspired by the “laconic” ideal proposed in the Encyclopédie.

In the grammar of De Maimieux, the number of grammatical categories originally  projected by Faiguet is somewhat amplified; in the case of Delormel, however, the grammar is so laconic that Couturat and Leau (1903: 312), who spend long chapters describing other systems, liquidate his in a page and a half (Pellerey’s treatment is more accurate and generous; 1992a: 125).

Hourwitz, whose project remains akin to the seventeenth century polygraphies, produced a grammar that was, perhaps, the most laconic of all: one declension, one conjugation for verbs; the verbs were to be expressed in the infinitive with a few additional signs that specify tense and mood.

The tenses themselves were reduced to a system of three steps from the present, either backwards or forwards in time: thus A 1200 means “I dance;” A/1200 means “I have danced;” A 1200/ means “I will dance.”

If the grammar was made laconic, it followed that the syntax needed to be drastically simplified as well; Hourwitz proposed retaining the direct word order of French. In this respect, the relevance of Count Antoine de Rivarol’s pamphlet, De l’universalité de la langue française (1784), becomes apparent.

What was the need for a universal language, asked the count, when a perfect language existed already? The language was, of course, French. Apart from its intrinsic perfection, French was already an international language; it was the language most diffused in the world, so much that it was possible to speak of the “French world” just as, in antiquity, one could speak of the “Roman world.” (p. 1).

According to de Rivarol, French possessed a phonetic system that guaranteed sweetness and harmony, as well as a literature incomparable in its richness and grandeur; it was spoken in that capital city which had become the “foyer des étincelles répandues chez tous les peuples” (p. 21).

In comparison with French all other languages paled: German was too guttural, Italian too soft, Spanish too redundant, English too obscure. Rivarol attributed the superiority of French to its word order: first subject, then verb, and last object. This word order mirrored a natural logic which was in accordance with the requirements of common sense.

This common sense is, however, linked to the higher activity of our minds: for if we were to base our syntactical order on the order of our perceptions, it is plain that we would start with the object, which first strikes our senses.

The polemical reference to the sensationalism of Condillac is evident when de Rivarol asserts that, if other people, speaking in other tongues, had abandoned the natural, direct word order, it was because they had let their passions prevail over their intellect (p. 25-6).

This retreat from natural reason, moreover, was responsible for the syntactic inversion that had provoked the confusions and ambiguities prevalent in natural languages other than French. Naturally, those languages which tried to compensate for their lack of direct word order with declensions were among the most confused of all.

We might bear in mind that, even though, in 1784, while he was writing his pamphlet, de Rivarol was an habitué of Enlightenment circles, after the advent of the revolution, he revealed himself to be a conservative legitimist.

To a man so spiritually tied to the ancien régime, the philosophy and linguistics of the sensationalists may (quite justifiably) have appeared as a harbinger of an intellectual revolution which emphasized the passions as the fundamental force motivating humanity.

If this were the case, then “the direct word order acquires the value of an instrument of protection [ . . . ] against the inflammatory style of the public orators who, in a few short years, would be preaching revolution and manipulating the masses.” (Pellerey 1992a: 147).

Yet what really characterized the eighteenth century debate was the desire not so much to simplify grammar as to show that there existed a natural and normal grammar, universally present in all human languages. This grammar is not, however, manifestly apparent; it must be sought instead beneath the surface of human languages, all of which are, in some degree or other, derivations from it.

As can be seen, we have returned to the ideal of a universal grammar, only now one is trying to identify it by reducing every existing language to its most laconic form.

Attentive as we have been throughout this story to the issue of side-effects, we ought here to note that without this eighteenth century intuition of an original, laconic grammar, our contemporary notions of generative and transformational grammar would be quite inconceivable, even if their origins are usually traced back to the Cartesianism of Port Royal.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 296-302.

Eco:Eighteenth Century Projects

Telemaque_1st_page

François Fénelon (1651-1715), Telemachus, or the first page of the first book of Les Aventures de Télémaque, first published anonymously in 1699, and translated into English in London in 1715. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.  

“Even under the weight of the Enlightenment critique, the dream of the perfect language refused to die. In 1720 there appeared a “Dialogue sur la facilité qu’il y auroit d’établir un Caractère Universel qui seroit commun à toutes les Langues de l’Europe, et intelligible à différens Peuples, qui le liroient chacun dans la propre Langue” (in the Journal littéraire de l’anné 1720).

As the title itself suggests, the project was for a polygraphy, in the sense we saw in Kircher, and, at most, it is worthy of note in that its attempt to include a contracted grammar points the way to future developments.

In any case, the proposal is distinguished by including an appeal, by the anonymous author, for a commission which would develop the project and for a prince who would impose its adoption.

Such an appeal “cannot help but remind us of a possibility, which must have seemed evident in the year 1720, that a phase of stability for Europe was about to open, and that, consequently, sovereigns might be expected to be more willing to patronize linguistic and intellectual experiments” (cf. Pellerey 1992a: 11).

In his article on “Langue” in the Encyclopédie, even a rationalist like Beauzée had to concede that, since it would be difficult to come to an agreement over a new language, and an international language still seemed to him to be necessary, Latin had to remain the most reasonable candidate.

For their part, the empiricists among the encyclopedists felt duty-bound to consider the idea of a universal language, too. As a sort of coda to the article on “Langue,” Joachim Faiguet wrote four pages on a project for a langue nouvelle. Couturat and Leau (1903: 237) consider this as representing a first attempt at overcoming the problems inherent in the a priori languages and at sketching out an example of the a posteriori languages we will be discussing in the next chapter.

As his model, Faiguet took a natural language–French. He formed his lexicon on French roots, and concentrated on the delineation of a simplified and regularized grammar, or a “laconic” grammar.

Following the authors in the previous century, Faiguet eliminated those grammatical categories that seemed to him redundant: he suppressed the articles, substituted flexions with prepositions (bi for the genitive, bu for the dative, and de and po for the ablative), transformed adjectives (indeclinable) into adverbial forms, standardized all plurals (always expressed by an s); he simplified verb conjugations, making them invariable in number and person, adding endings that designated tenses and modes (I give, you give, he gives became Jo dona, To dona, Lo dona); the subjunctive was formed by adding an r to the stem, the passive by the indicative plus sas (meaning to be: thus to be given became sas dona).

Faiguet’s language appears as wholly regular and without exceptions; every letter or syllable used as endings had a precise and unique grammatical significance. Still, it is parasitic on French in a double sense: not only is it a “laconicized” French at the expression-level; it is French that supplies the content-level as well. Thus Faiguet’s was little less than a sort of easy-to-manage Morse code (Bernadelli 1992).

The most important projects for a priori languages in the eighteenth century were those of Jean Delormel (Projet d’une langue universelle, 1795), of Zalkind Hourwitz (Polygraphie, ou l’art de correspondre à l’aide d’un dictionaire dans toutes les langues, même celles dont on ne possède pas seulement les lettres alphabétiques, 1800), and of Joseph de Maimieux (Pasigraphie, 1797).

As can be seen, De Maimieux’s project was a pasigraphy–that is, a universal written language. Since, however, in 1799 this same author had also formulated a pasilalie–adding rules for pronouncing his language–his project can be considered as an a priori language.

For its part, Hourwitz’s project was for a polygraphy, too–even though he seemed unaware that his was by no means the first project of this type. Still, in its structure, Hourwitz’s polygraphy was an a priori language.

Although all three projects still followed the principles laid down in the seventeenth century tradition, they were different in three fundamental ways: their purposes, the identification of their primitives, and their grammars.

Delormel presented his scheme to the Convention; De Maimieux published his Pasigraphie under the Directory; Hourwitz wrote under the Consulate: every religious motivation had disappeared.

De Maimieux spoke of communication between European nations, between Europeans and Africans, of providing a means of checking the accuracy of translations, of speeding up diplomacy and civil and military undertakings, of a new source of income for teachers, writers and publishers who should “pasigraphize” books written in other languages.

Hourwitz added to this list other purely practical considerations, such as the advantages in the relations between doctors and patients or in courtroom procedures. As one symptom of a new political and cultural atmosphere, instead of using the Lord’s Prayer as a sample translation, Hourwitz chose the opening of Fénelon’s Aventures de Télemaque–a work which, despite its moralizing bent, was still a piece of secular literature portraying pagan gods and heroes.

The revolutionary atmosphere imposed, or at least encouraged, considerations of fraternité. Thus Delormel could claim that:

“in this revolutionary moment, when the human spirit, regenerating itself among the French people, leaps forward with renewed energy, is it too much to hope that perhaps [ . . . ] we might offer to the public a new language as well, a language that facilitates new discoveries by bringing students of various nations together, a language that serves as a common term for all languages, a language easy to grasp even for men with but a slight aptitude for instruction, a language, in short, which will soon make out of all the people of mankind a single, grand family? [ . . . ] The Light of Reason brings men together and thus reconciles them; this language, by facilitating its communication, will help to propagate that Light.” (pp. 48-50).

Each of the authors was aware of the objections made by the authors of the Encyclopédie; thus the a priori languages which they proposed were all ordered according to an encyclopedia-like structure, easy to understand and designed upon the model of the eighteenth century system of knowledge.

Gone was the grandiose pansophist afflatus that animated baroque encyclopedias; the criterion of selection was rather that of Leibniz: the inventors of the languages behaved as if they were conscientious librarians hoping to make consultation as easy as possible, without worrying whether or not their ordering corresponded to the theater of the world.

Absent as well was the search for “absolute” primitives; the fundamental categories were the large-scale divisions of knowledge; under these were listed dependent notions attached as sub-headings.

Delormel, for example, assigned different letters of the alphabet to several encyclopedic classes in a way reminiscent not so much of Wilkins as of the anonymous Spaniard–grammar, art of speech, states of things, correlatives, useful, pleasurable, moral, sensations, perception and judgement, passions, mathematics, geography, chronology, physics, astronomy, minerals, etc.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 293-6.

Eco: Blind Thought, 2

Wittgenstein, Ludwig

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1899-1951), portrait by Moritz Nähr (1859-1945), 1930, held by the Austrian National Library under Accession Number Pf 42.805: C (1). This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less. 

“As Leibniz observed in the Accessio ad arithmeticum infinitorum of 1672 (Sämtliche Schriften und Briefen, iii/1, 17), when a person says a million, he does not represent mentally to himself all the units in that number. Nevertheless, calculations performed on the basis of this figure can and must be exact.

Blind thought manipulates signs without being obliged to recognize the corresponding ideas. For this reason, increasing the power of our minds in the manner that the telescope increases the power of our eyes, it does not entail an excessive effort.

“Once this has been done, if ever further controversies should arise, there should be no more reason for disputes between two philosophers than between two calculators. All that will be necessary is that, pen in hand, they sit down together at a table and say to each other (having called, if they so please, a friend) “let us calculate.” (In Gerhardt 1875: VII, 198ff).

Leibniz’s intention was thus to create a logical language, like algebra, which might lead to the discovery of unknown truths simply by applying syntactical rules to symbols. When using this language, it would no more be necessary, moreover, to know at every step what the symbols were referring to than it was necessary to know the quantity represented by algebraic symbols to solve an equation.

Thus for Leibniz, the symbols in the language of logic no longer stood for concrete ideas; instead, they stood in place of them. The characters “not only assist reasoning, they substitute for it.” (Couturat 1901: 101).

Dascal has objected (1978: 213) that Leibniz did not really conceive of his characteristica as a purely formal instrument apparatus, because symbols in his calculus are always assigned an interpretation. In an algebraic calculation, he notes, the letters of the alphabet are used freely; they are not bound to particular arithmetical values.

For Leibniz, however, we have seen that the numerical values of the characteristic numbers were, so to speak, “tailored” to concepts that were already filled with a content–“man,” “animal,” etc.

It is evident that, in order to demonstrate that “man” does not contain “monkey,” the numerical values must be chosen according to a previous semantic decision. It would follow that what Leibniz proposed was really a system both formalized and interpreted.

Now it is true that Leibniz’s posterity elaborated such systems. For instance, Luigi Richer (Algebrae philosophicae in usum artis inveniendi specimen primum, “Melanges de philosophie et de mathématique de la Societé Royale de Turin,” 1761: II/3), in fifteen short and extremely dry pages, outlined a project for the application of algebraic method to philosophy, by drawing up a tabula characteristica containing a series of general concepts (such as aliquid, nihil, contingens, mutabile) and assigning to each a conventional sign.

The system of notation, semicircles orientated in various ways, makes the characters hard to distinguish from one another; still, it was a system of notation that allowed for the representation of philosophical combinations such as “This Possible cannot be Contradictory.”

This language is, however, limited to abstract reasoning, and, like Lull, Richer did not make full use of the possibilities of combination in his system as he wished to reject all combinations lacking scientific utility (p. 55).

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, in a manuscript dating 1793-4, we also find Condorcet toying with the idea of a universal language. His text is an outline of mathematical logic, a langue des calculs, which identifies and distinguishes intellectual processes, expresses real objects, and enunciates the relations between the expressed objects and the intellectual operations which discover the enunciated relations.

The manuscript, moreover, breaks off at precisely the point where it had become necessary to proceed to the identification of the primitive ideas; this testifies that, by now, the search for perfect languages was definitively turning in the direction of a logico-mathematical calculus, in which no one would bother to draw up a list of ideal contents but only to prescribe syntactic rules (Pellerey 1992a: 193ff).

We could say that Leibniz’s characteristica, from which Leibniz had also hoped to derive metaphysical truths, is oscillating between a metaphysical and ontological point of view, and the idea of designing a simple instrument for the construction of deductive systems (cf. Barone 1964: 24).

Moreover, his attempts oscillate between a formal logic (operating upon unbound variables) and what will later be the project of many contemporary semantic theories (and of artificial intelligence as well), where syntactic rules of a mathematical kind are applied to semantic (and therefore interpreted) entities.

But Leibniz ought to be considered the forerunner of the first, rather than of the second, line of thought.

The fundamental intuition that lies behind Leibniz’s proposal was that, even if the numbers were chose arbitrarily, even if it could not be guaranteed that the primitives posited for the same of argument were really primitive at all, what still guaranteed the truth of the calculus was the fact that the form of the proposition mirrored an objective truth.

Leibniz saw an analogy between the order of the world, that is, of truth, and the grammatical order of the symbols in language. Many have seen in this a version of the picture theory of language expounded by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus, according to which “a picture has logico-pictorial form in common with what it depicts” (2.2).

Leibniz was thus the first to recognize that the value of his philosophical language was a function of its formal structure rather than of its terms; syntax, which he called habitudo or propositional structure, was more important than semantics (Land 1974: 139).

“It is thus to be observed that, although the characters are assumed arbitrarily, as long as we observe a certain order and certain rule in their use, they give us results which always agree with each other. (Dialogus in Gerhardt 1875: VII, 190-3).

Something can be called an “expression” of something else whenever the structure [habitudines] subsisting in the expression corresponds to the structure of that which it wishes to express [ . . . ].

From the sole structure of the expression, we can reach the knowledge of the properties of the thing expressed [ . . . ] as long as there is maintained a certain analogy between the two respective structures.” (Quid sit idea in Gerhardt 1875: VII, 263-4).

What other conclusion could the philosopher of preestablished harmony finally have reached?”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 281-4.

Eco: The Dictionary–Synonyms, Periphrases, Metaphors

v0_web

Mary Beale (1633-1672), Portrait of John Wilkins, c. 1670-2, © The Royal Society. Wikipedia and the Royal Society website state that the original portrait was held by the Royal Society since it was acquired in the 1670’s. 

Wilkins‘ language provides names for 2,030 primitives, that is to say, species. These species include not only natural genera and artifacts, but also relations and actions. From these latter are derived the verbs.

As in Dalgarno, Wilkins used the copula + adjective formula for verbs, so “I love” is, again, “I am lover.” Besides this, the grammatical particles allow for the expression of tenses and modes for the verbs to be and to have as well as for pronouns, articles, exclamations, prepositions, conjunctions; the accidental differences express number, case, gender and comparatives.

But 2,030 primitive terms is still far too few to support discourse on a wide enough variety of topics. To increase the range of his language, Wilkins provided at the end of his Essay a list of 15,000 English terms not directly represented in his language, indicating the way that these might still be expressed.

The first way was by synonyms. For terms not included among the original 2,030, the list seeks to find the semantically closest primitive. To translate Result, the list suggests using primitive terms such as Event, Summe or Illation, without specifying in which context one should use the most appropriate synonym.

The list of possible synonyms can sometimes be very complex; for Corruption Wilkins suggests Evil, Destruction, Spoiling, Infection, Decay or Putrefaction. Some lists are even comic, as in the sequence of synonyms box-chest of drawers-ark-dresser-coffin-table.

The second way is periphrasis. The final dictionary records the term Abbie which has no corresponding primitive. There are primitives, however, for both Colledge and Monk. Thus, through periphrasis, Abbie can be rendered as Colledge of Monks.

The third way is that of the so-called transcendental particles. Faithful to his conception of a componential semantics based on primitive terms, Wilkins argued that there was no need to provide an additional character for Calf, since it is possible to express the same concept through Cow + Young, nor a primitive for Lioness when there was both a primitive for Lion and a marker for the feminine gender.

Thus in his grammar, Wilkins provided a system of transcendental particles (which then become a system of special markers for writing and pronunciation) that amplified or changed the meaning of the characters to which they were linked.

The 48 particles were articulated into eight classes, though there was little system in the classification. In fact, Wilkins drew from the Latin grammar the idea of different terminations such as “inceptives” (lucesco, aquosus, homunculus), “segregates” (gradatim or verbatim), endings indicating place (vestiarium) or agent (arator).

Sometimes these markers were essentially grammatical; as happens with those of gender, but for others Wilkins also took into account rhetorical devices such as metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche.

The particles in the class “metaphorical-like” indicate that the terms to which they are apposited are to be taken in a figurative sense. In this way, the primitive root can be modified so as to mean original, or light to mean evident.

Other particles seem to indicate relations such as cause and effect, container and thing contained, function and activity. Here are a few examples:

like + foot = pedestal

like + dark = mystical

place + metal = mine

officer + navy = admiral

artist + star = astronomer

voice + lion = roaring

Unfortunately, this incorporation of rhetorical solutions adds an element of imprecision to the entire system, and this weakens the project as a whole. Although Wilkins gave a list of examples showing the correct use of the particles, he was forced to acknowledge that they were just examples.

This list remains open, and its further elaboration is left to the inventiveness of the individual speaker (p. 318). Once set the speaker free to invent, and it is hard to avoid the risk of ambiguity.

Still, it is important to observe that–if the presence of a particle can produce ambiguity–its absence proves without any shade of doubt that a given term must be taken literally. This represents an advance of Dalgarno, in whose system there was nothing to indicate when terms should be understood literally or figuratively.

The fact is that Wilkins the author of a philosophical grammar seems to be working against Wilkins the inventor of a philosophic a priori language in real characters. Wilkins‘ attempt to take into account the figurative side of language also is certainly an interesting effort; however, it affects the precision of his language and its original claim to reduce the ambiguities present in ordinary language.

Note that, in order to render his language as univocal as possible, Wilkins had even decided to eliminate from the tables names of mythological (therefore non-existent) beings such as Sirens, Griffins, Harpies and Phoenixes, which could be at most written in natural language as proper names of individuals (for an analogy with Russell’s preoccupations, see Frank 1979: 160).

Wilkins also admitted that his language was unsuited to capturing the minutiae of food and drink, like different types of grape, jam, coffee, tea and chocolate. The problem could naturally be solved, he claimed, through periphrasis; yet it is easy to foresee that to do so the language would have been overloaded with a lot of new, awkward syntagms, as happens today with papal encyclicals, where video-cassettes become sonorarum visualiumque taeniarum cistellulae, and advertising men turn into laudativis nuntiis vulgatores.

Besides, in Latin it would have been possible to avoid such monstrosities by coining new words such as videocapsulae or publicitarii (see Bettini 1992), while Wilkins‘ language seems to have closed the door to neologisms. The only way to escape this difficulty would be to assume that the list of primitives was open.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 245-8.

Eco: George Delgarno, 2

George Delgarno, Didascalocophus, Theater in Oxford, 1680

George Dalgarno (1626-1687), Didascalocophus, or the Deaf and Dumb mans Tutor, Theater in Oxford, 1680. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“Figure 11.1 presents an extremely simplified, partial reconstruction of the tables, which limits itself to following only two of the subdivisions–animals with uncleft hooves and the principle passions.

The 17 fundamental genera are printed in bold capitals, and are marked with 17 capital letters. Intermediate genera and species are represented in lower case. Dalgarno also employs three “servile” letters: R signifies a reversal in meaning (if pon means love, pron means hate); V indicates that the letters that precede it are to be read as numbers; L signifies a medium between two extremes.

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, Figure 11.1, p. 231

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, figure 11.1, p. 232.

See for instance how from concrete, corporeal, physical entities, signified by an N, animals are deduced. See also how, in order to reach the subdivision animal, Dalgarno introduces an intermediate division (animal/inanimate) which is neither a genus nor a species, and is not marked by any letter.

The animals are subdivided into three classes–aquatic, aerial and terrestrial. Among the terrestrial animals (k) appear those with uncleft hooves [η], or perissodactyls. Thus the character Nηk stands for the class of perissodactyls. At this point, however, Dalgarno adds several sub-species–viz. the horse, elephant, mule and donkey.

As far as the accidents (E) are concerned, see for instance how the principal passions (o) are classified as species of the sensitive (P). After this, we are presented with a list that is not dichotomized: admiration takes pom as its character, because P is the fundamental genus and o is the intermediate genus.  The m, however, is just the “number” that the species admiration is assigned in the list’s order.

It is curious that, for animals, the intermediate genus is given by the third letter in the character and the species by the second vowel, while for the accidents the opposite happens.

Dalgarno acknowledges the existence of such an irregularity, without offering any explanation (p. 52). The motive is doubtless euphony; still, there seems to have been nothing to prevent Dalgarno from assigning to the intermediate genera of concrete beings vowels instead of consonants and to the species consonants instead of vowels. In this way, he could have used the same criterion throughout the table.

The problem, however, is more complex than it seems. The expression Nηk applied to the perissodactyls is motived by the divisions; only an arbitrary decision, on the contrary, motivates the decision to specify elephant with the addition of an a.

But it is not the arbitrariness of the choice itself which creates problems; it is rather that while k means “those terrestrials which are animal because they are animated and therefore physically concrete” (so that the division explains or reflects in some way the nature of the thing itself), the a at the end of Nηka (sic) only means “that thing which is numbered a on the list of perissodactyls and is called elephant.”

The same observation applies to the m in pom. All it really signifies is “position number m on the list of those sensitive accidents which are principal passions, i.e. admiration.” Since the dichotomic division does not reach the lower species, Dalgarno is forced to tack on lists in an alphabetical or almost alphabetical order.

Dalgarno (p. 42) noted, however, that this procedure was simply a mnemonic artifice for those who did not wish to learn the defining name. At the end of the book there is indeed a philosophical lexicon giving the characters for many terms in Latin.

In particular, there exists at the end of this list a special section devoted to concrete physical objects. Thus is seems that a philosophical definition of final species is possible; the only difficulty is that, given the purely exemplary nature of the lexicon, Dalgarno has left the naming of a large number of species up to the speaker, who can infer it from the tables.

Sometimes, however, Dalgarno gives taxonomically accurate examples: for instance the name for garlic, nebghn agbana (but for Dalgarno it is nebgηn agbana) is decoded by Slaughter (1982: 152) as follows: n=concretum physicum, ein radice, b vesca, g = qualitas sensibilis, h = sabor, n = pingue, a = partes annuae, gfoliumbaccidens mathematicuma = affectprimalongum. 

But even in this instance, “the tables only classify and name up to a point; the lexicon provides the rest of the definition but not the classification” (Slaughter 1982: 152).

Dalgarno may not have considered it indispensable to arrive at a classification of complex entities in all their particularities, yet making definitions requires classification. As a result the decision on how to classify complex entities, and, consequently, what name to give them, seems left as it were to the discretion of the user of the language.

Thus, ironically, a system that was intended to provide a single set of objective and univocal definitions ends up by lending itself to the creative fancies of its users. Here are some of Dalgarno’s own suggestions (I have separated the radicals with a slash to make them more decipherable):

horse = Nηk/pot = animal with uncleft hoof/courageous [why could we not say the same of the elephant?]

mule = Nηk/sof/pad = animal with uncleft hoof / deprived / sex

camel = nek/braf/pfar = quadruped with cloven hoof/humped/back

palace = fan/kan = house / king

abstemious = sof / praf / emp = deprived / drink / adjectival

stammering = grug / shaf / tin = illness [the opposite of gug, health] / impediment / speaking

gospel = tib / sηb = teach / way of being

Dalgarno also admitted that the same object regarded from a different perspective might take different names. The elephant can be called Nηksyf (uncleft hoof / superlative) or Nηkbeisap (uncleft hoof / mathematical accident / architectural metaphor for the proboscis).

It is not a system that is at all easy to memorize. The difference between Nηke, donkey, and Nηko, mule, is minimal and easy to muddle. Dalgarno advised the reader to use old mnemonic tricks.

The name for table was fran; the name for plough was flan; Dalgarno suggested associating the first with FRANce and the second with FLANders. In this way the speaker needed to learn both a philosophical language and a mnemonic code.

Dalgarno somewhat compensates the reader for the transcendental difficulties in the lexicon and the rules of composition by providing a grammar and syntax of great simplicity.

All that remains of the categories of classical grammar is the noun along with several pronouns (I = lal, you = lêl, he = lel . . . ). Adverbs, adjectives, comparatives and even verbal forms are derived by adding suffixes to nouns.

Thus from sim (good) one can generate simam (very good) and sinab (better). From pon (love) we can get pone (lover), pono (loved) and ponomp (lovable). To translate verbs, Dalgarno thought all that was necessary was the copula: “we love” becomes “we” + present tense + copula + “lovers” (that is, “we are lovers;” see p. 65).

The notion that verbs could all be reduced to the copula plus an adjective already circulated among the Modists in the thirteenth century; it was taken up by Campanella in the Philosophia rationalis (1638) and accepted by both Wilkins and Leibniz.

Dalgarno’s treatment of syntax was no less radical (see Pellerey 1992c). Although other projects for philosophic languages preserved the Latin model, Dalgarno eliminated the declensions for nouns.

All that counted was word order: the subject preceded the verb and the verb preceded the object. The ablative absolute was rendered by temporal particles which stood for terms like cum, post or dum.

The genitive was rendered either by an adjectival suffix or by a formula of possession (shf = to belong). Shumaker has commented (1982: 155) that forms of the latter type are adopted by pidgin English, in which the phrase “master’s hand” is rendered “hand-belong-master.”

Simplified to this degree, the language seems syntactically crude. Yet Dalgarno, deeply suspicious of rhetorical embellishments, was convinced that only an essential logical structure gave a language an austere elegance.

Besides, grace, elegance and transparent clarity were given full play in the composition of the names, and for this reason, Dalgarno compared his language to the philosophical language par excellence, ancient Greek.

One final aspect of Dalgarno’s system that he shared with both Wilkins and Lodwick has been underlined by Frank (1979: 65ff). By using particles, prefixed and suffixed to names, to transform nouns into other grammatical categories, changing their meanings thereby, and inserting prepositions, such as per, trans, praeter, supra, in and a, among the mathematical accidents–and thus as equivalent to nouns–Dalgarno tended “to postulate an all-comprehending semantics which took over all, or almost all of the functions traditionally assigned to grammar.”

Dalgarno, in other words, abolished the classical distinction between categorematic terms, or terms that have independent meanings, and syncategorematic terms, or terms which acquire a meaning only within a context.

This, in logic, is equivalent to the distinction between logical variables that can be bound to specific meanings and logical connectives. This is a tendency that is contrary to the tenets of modern logic; yet it is consistent with some trends in contemporary semantics.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 231-7.

Eco: Descartes and Mersenne

René_Descartes_1644_Principia_philosophiae

René Descartes (1596-1650), Principia philosophiae, Amsterdam: Apud Ludovicum Elzevirium, 1644. Held by the Chemical Heritage Foundation as accession number Q155.D473.1644, Othmer Library of Chemical History. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“More or less at the same period, the problem of a real character was discussed in France, with a more skeptical attitude. In 1629, Father Marin Mersenne sent Descartes news of a project for a nouvelle langue invented by a certain des Vallées.

We are told by Tallemant des Réau that this des Vallées was a lawyer who had an immense talent for languages and who claimed to have discovered “a matrix language through which he could understand all others.”

Cardinal Richelieu asked him to publish his project, but des Vallées replied he was only willing to divulge such a great secret against the promise of a state pension.

“This the Cardinal denied him, and so the secret ended up buried with des Vallées” (Les historiettes, 1657: 2, “Le Cardinal de Richelieu“).

On 20 November 1629, Descartes wrote back to Mersenne giving his thoughts about the story. Learning a language, Descartes noted, involved learning both the meaning of words and a grammar.

All that was required to learn new meanings was a good dictionary, but learning a foreign grammar was more difficult. It might be possible, however, to obviate this difficulty by inventing a grammar that was free from the irregularities of natural languages, all of which had been corrupted through usage.

The resulting language would be a simplified one and might seem, in comparison to natural languages, the basic one, of which all the other natural languages would then appear as so many complex dialects.

It was sufficient to establish a set of primitive names for actions (having synonyms in every language, in the sense in which the French aimer has its synonym in the Greek philein), and the corresponding substantive might next be derived from such a name by adding to it an affix.

From here, a universal writing system might be derived in which each primitive name was assigned a number with which the corresponding terms in natural languages might be recovered.

However, Descartes remarked, there would remain the problem of sounds, since there are ones which are easy and pleasant for speakers of one nation and difficult and unpleasant for those of another.

On the one hand, a system of new sounds might also prove difficult to learn; on the other hand, if one named the primitive terms from one’s own language, then the new language would not be understood by foreigners, unless it was written down by numbers.

But even in this case, learning an entire new numerical lexicon seemed to Descartes a tremendous expense of energy: why not, then, continue with an international language like Latin whose usage was already well established?

At this point, Descartes saw that the real problem lay elsewhere. In order not only to learn but to remember the primitive names, it would be necessary for these to correspond to an order of ideas or thoughts having a logic akin to that of the numbers.

We can general an infinite series of numbers, he noted, without needing to commit the whole set to memory. But this problem coincided with that of discovering the true philosophy capable of defining a system of clear and distinct ideas.

If it were possible to enumerate the entire set of simple ideas from which we generate all the complex ones that the human mind can entertain, and if it were possible to assign to each a character–as we do with numbers–we could then articulate them by a sort of mathematics of thought–while the words of natural languages evoke only confused ideas.

“Now I believe that such a language is possible and that it is possible to discover the science upon which it must depend, a science through which peasants might judge the truth better than philosophers do today.

Yet I do not expect ever to see it in use, for that would presuppose great changes in the present order of things; this world would have to become an earthly paradise, and that is something that only happens in the Pays des Romans.”

Descartes thus saw the problem in the same light as Bacon did. Yet this was a project that he never confronted. The observations in his letter to Mersenne were no more than commonsensical.

It is true that, at the moment he wrote this letter, Descartes had not yet started his own research into clear and distinct ideas, as would happen later with his Discours de la methode;  however, even later he never tried to outline a complete system of simple and clear ideas as the grounds on which to build a perfect language.

He provided a short list of primitive notions in the Principia philosophiae (I, XLVIII), yet these notions were conceived as permanent substances (order, number, time, etc.) and there is no indication that from this list a system of ideas could be derived (see Pellerey 1992a: 25-41; Marconi 1992).”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 216-8.

Eco: Comenius

Labyrint

Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, the initial version was completed in 1623, while the first edition was published in 1631. The entire work is posted in an electronic edition. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“The British quest was also influenced by the presence of Comenius (Jan Amos Komensky). In fact Comenius was a member of the Bohemian Brotherhood, a mystic branch of Hussite reformers, and he played a role–albeit a polemical one–in the Rosicrucian story (cf. his Labyrinth of the World, 1623, in Czech).

Thus he was inspired by religious ideals which were alien to the scientific purposes of the English milieu. On this complex cultural geography see Yates (1972, 1979): one is really facing a web of different projects, at once similar and antithetical, in which the search for a perfect language was but a single aspect (see Rossi 1960; Bonerba 1992; Pellerey 1992a: 41-9).

Comenius‘ aspirations must be seen in the framework of the tradition of pansophia, yet his pansophic aims were influenced by educational preoccupations. In his Didactica magna of 1657, he proposed a scheme for reforming teaching methods; for, as he observed, a reform in the education of the young formed the basis upon which any subsequent political, social and religious reform must be built.

It was essential that the teacher furnish the learners with a set of images that would stamp themselves indelibly on their imaginations. This meant placing what is visible before the eyes, what is audible before the ears, what is olfactory before the nose, gustatory before the tongue, and tactical before the touch.

In an earlier manual for the teaching of Latin, Janua linguarum, written in 1631, Comenius was first of all concerned that the learner should have an immediate visual apprehension of what was being spoken of.

Equally he was concerned that the images and notions that the learner was studying in the Latin lexicon be arranged in a certain logical order.

Thus lessons progressed from the creation of the world to the elements, to the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, etc.

By the time of the Didactica magna Comenius had begun to rearrange his notions according to the suggestions of Bacon. In 1658 there appeared the Orbis sensualium pictus quadrilinguis, which represented his attempt to present a figured nomenclature which would include the fundamental things of the world together with human actions.

So important were the images that Comenius delayed publication until he was able to obtain satisfactory engravings that were not mere ornaments, but bore an iconic relation with the things represented, for which the verbal names appeared as nothing but titles, explanations and complements.

This manual was prefaced by an alphabet in which every letter was associated with the image of a particular animal whose voice recalled the sound of the letter–so that the result resembles Harsdörffer’s onomatopoetic fantasies concerning the sounds of German.

Therefore the image of a crow is commented by “Die Krähe krächzet, cornix cornicatur, la cornacchia gracchia, la corneille gazoüille,” or, for a snake, “Die Schlange zischtet, Serpens sibilat, il Serpe fsschia [sic], le Serpent siffle.”

Comenius was a severe critic of the defects of natural languages. In his Pansophiae Christianae liber III (1639-40), he advocated a reform that would eliminate the rhetorical and figurative use of words, which he regarded as a source of ambiguity.

The meaning of words should be fixed, he demanded, with one name for each thing, thus restoring words to their original meanings.

In 1668, in the Via lucis, Comenius offered prescriptions for the creation of an artificial universal language. By now, pansophy was more than an educational method; it was a utopian vision in which a world council was supposed to create the perfect state along with its perfect philosophical language, the Panglossia.

It is interesting to consider that Comenius had in fact written this work before 1641, when, after wandering through the whole of Europe in the course of the Thirty Years War, he had taken refuge in London.

Via lucis certainly circulated, in manuscript form, in the English milieu at that time (see, for example, Cram 1989).

Although Comenius was never to construct his new language in extenso, he had broached the idea of a universal tongue which had to overcome the political and structural limitations of Latin.

The lexicon of the new language would reflect the composition of reality and in it every word should have a definite and univocal meaning, every content should be represented by one and only one expression, and the contents were not supposed to be products of fancy, but should represent only every really existing thing, no more and no less (see Pellerey 1992a: 48).

Thus, on one side we have a utopian thinker, inspired by Rosicrucian ideals, whose goal was to discover a pansophy which aimed at picturing the unmoving and harmonical connection of every element of the creation, so as to lead the human mind to an unceasing quest for God; on the other side, rejecting the possibility of rediscovering the original perfect language, and looking, for educational purposes, for an easy artificial method, Comenius became the forerunner of that search for an a priori philosophical language that would later be implemented by English utopian thinkers whose inspiration was more scientific than theological or mystical.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 214-6.

Eco: Bacon

Francis_Bacon,_Viscount_St_Alban_from_NPG_(2)

Paul van Somer (1576-1622), Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1617. Held at the Palace on the Water (Royal Baths Museum) and inscribed “Sr. Francis Bacon Lord Keeper, and afterwards Lord Chancellor of England, 1617.” This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“As the renovator of scientific inquiry, Francis Bacon was only marginally interested in perfect languages. Yet, marginal though they may have been, his remarks on the subject have a notable philosophic interest.

A central theme in Bacon’s works was the destruction of idola, that is, false ideas arising either from human nature, collective or individual, or from philosophical dogmas handed down by tradition, or else–and this is what interests us the most–from the way we use language itself (idola fori).

Such linguistic usages have been determined by the needs of common people, so disturbing our way of reasoning (Novum organum, I, 43), and the idola that common speech imposes are either names for non-existent things, or confused, ill-defined and partial names for existing things (Novum organum, I, 60).

An example of a confused notion is that of the moist: this may signify a great variety of things; it can mean that which spreads rapidly around another body, that which is devoid of cohesion and consistence, that which is easily moved in whatever direction, that which can be divided and dispersed, that which can easily be reunited and gathered up, that which attaches itself easily to another body and moistens it, that which easily passes into a liquid state and dissolves.

To speak scientifically means thus to implement a speech therapy.

The idea of a linguistic therapy was a recurrent theme in Anglo-Saxon philosophy. In the Leviathan (1651: IV), Hobbes noted that there are four main uses of speech,

“…First, to register, what by cogitation, wee find to be the cause of any thing [ . . . ] Secondly, to shew to others that knowledge which we have attained [ . . . ] Thirdly, to make known to others our wills, and purposes [ . . . ] Fourthly, to please and delight our selves, or others, by playing with our words, for pleasure and ornament, innocently.

To these uses, there are also foure correspondent Abuses. First, when men register their thoughts wrong, by the inconstancy of the signification of their words [ . . . ] Secondly, when they use words metaphorically [ . . . ] Thirdly, when by words they declare that to be their will, which is not. Fourthly, when they use them to grieve one another.”

In the third book of the Essay concerning Human Understanding, Locke observed that:

“For since Sounds are voluntary and indifferent signs of any Ideas, a Man may use what Words he pleases, to signify his own Ideas to himself: and there will be no imperfection in them, if he constantly uses the same Word for the same Idea [ . . . ] The chief End of Language in Communication being to be understood, words serve not well for that end [ . . . ] when any Word does not excite in the Hearer, the same Idea which it stands for in the Mind of the Speaker.” (III, IX, 2, 4).

For Bacon, signs might be of two types. Signs ex congruo (we would say iconic, motivated)–like hieroglyphs, gestures or emblems–reproduce in some way the properties of the things they signify; signs ad placitum are arbitrary and conventional.

Yet even a conventional sign can be defined as a “real character” when it refers not to a sound, but directly a corresponding thing or concept.

Bacon thus speaks of “Characteres quidam Reales, non Nominales; qui scilicet nec literas, nec verba, sed res et notiones exprimunt” (De Augmentis Scientiarum, VI, 1). In this sense, the signs used by the Chinese are real characters; they represent concepts without, however, bearing any similarity to the signified objects.

We see here that, unlike Kircher, Bacon was unaware of the vague iconism of Chinese ideograms; this, however, was a misapprehension that Bacon shared with a number of other contemporary authors.

Even Wilkins commented that, beyond the difficulties and perplexities that these characters generated, there seemed to be no analogies between their forms and the forms of the things that they represented (Essay, 451).

Probably Kircher had the advantage of knowing the direct reports on Chinese culture of his fellow Jesuits, and was thus able to form a clearer picture of Chinese ideograms than English scholars forced to rely on indirect accounts.

For Bacon, then, Chinese ideograms were examples of signs which, though arbitrary and conventional, stand directly for a signified notion without the mediation of a verbal language. He remarked that, even though the Chinese and the Japanese spoke different languages and thus called things by different names, both recognized them by the same ideograms, and, therefore, could understand each other by writing.

According to an example by Lodwick, if we propose to denote the sky with a 0, such a real character would be distinct from a vocal character…

“…in that it signifieth not the sound or word “heaven” but what we call heaven, the Latin coelum etc., so that the carracter being accepted will by the English be read heaven without respect to what the Latin would name the same thing [ . . . ] A frequent instance hereof we have in the numerical carracters (sic) 1.2.3., which signify not the severall sounds by which the severall (sic) nations in their severall languages expresse (sic) them but that common notion wherein those severall nations agree as to them (MS Sloane 897 f32r; in Salmon 1972: 223).”

Bacon did not think that a character supplied the image of the thing or revealed its intrinsic nature; his characters were nothing other than a conventional sign which, however, referred to a clear and precise notion.

His problem, then, became that of formulating an alphabet of fundamental notions; his Abecedarium novum naturae, composed in 1622, which was to appear as the appendix of the Historia naturalis et experimentalis, represented an attempt to make an index of knowledge, and was not connected to any project for a perfect language (see Blasi 1992: Pellerey 1992a).

Later attempts were none the less inspired by the fact that Bacon decided to associate Greek letters with every item of his index, so that, for example, α meant “dense and rare,” ε “volatile and fixed,” εεεε “natural and monstruous (sic),” οοοοο “hearing and sound.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 211-3.

Eco: Dee’s Magic Language

true-faithful-relation

Florence Estienne Méric Casaubon (1599-1671), A True and Faithful Relation of what Passed for Many Yeers between Dr. John Dee [ . . . ] and Some Spirits, London, 1659. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“In his Apologia compendiaria (1615) Fludd noted that the Rosicrucian brothers practiced that type of kabbalistic magic that enabled them to summon angels. This is reminiscent of the steganography of Trithemius. Yet it is no less reminiscent of the necromancy of John Dee, a man whom many authors considered the true inspirer of Rosicrucian spirituality.

In the course of one of the angelic colloquies recorded in A True and Faithful Relation of what Passed for Many Yeers between Dr. John Dee [ . . . ] and Some Spirits (1659: 92), Dee found himself in the presence of the Archangel Gabriel, who wished to reveal to him something about the nature of holy language.

When questioned, however, Gabriel simply repeated the information that the Hebrew of Adam, the language in which “every word signifieth the quiddity of the substance,” was also the primal language–a notion which, in the Renaissance, was hardly a revelation.

After this, in fact, the text continues, for page after page, to expatiate on the relations between the names of angels, numbers and secrets of the universe–to provide, in short, another example of the pseudo-Hebraic formulae which were the stock in trade of the Renaissance magus.

Yet it is perhaps significant that the 1659 Relation was published by Meric Casaubon, who was later accused of partially retrieving and editing Dee’s documents with the intention of discrediting him.

There is nothing, of course, surprising in the notion that a Renaissance magus invoked spirits; yet, in the case of John Dee, when he gave us an instance of cipher, or mystic language, he used other means.

In 1564, John Dee wrote the work upon which his contemporary fame rested–Monas hieroglyphica, where he speaks of a geometrical alphabet with no connection to Hebrew. It should be remembered that Dee, in his extraordinary library, had many of Lull’s manuscripts, and that many of his kabbalistic experiments with Hebrew characters in fact recall Lull’s use of letters in his art of combination (French 1972: 49ff).

Dee’s Monas is commonly considered a work of alchemy. Despite this, the network of alchemical references with which the book is filled seems rather intended to fulfill a larger purpose–that of explicating the cosmic implications deriving from Dee’s fundamental symbol, the Monad, based upon circles and straight lines, all generated from a single point.

bpt6k5401042m

John Dee (1527-1609), Monas hieroglyphica, 1564, held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The Monad is the symbol at the heart of the illustration labeled Figure 8.1 in Eco’s  The Search for the Perfect Language, Oxford, 1995, p. 186.

In this symbol (see figure 8.1), the main circle represented the sun that revolves around its central point, the earth, and in its upper part was intersected by a semi-circle representing the moon.

Both sun and moon were supported on an inverted cross which represented both the ternary principle–two straight lines which intersect plus their point of intersection–and the quaternary principle–the four right angles formed at the intersections of the two lines.

The sum of the ternary and quaternary principles constituted a further seven-fold principle, and Dee goes even on to squeeze an eight-fold principle from the diagram.

By adding the first four integers together, he also derives a ten-fold principle. By such a manipulatory vertigo Dee then derives the four composite elements (heat and cold, wet and dry) as well as other astrological revelations.

From here, through 24 theorems, Dee makes his image undergo a variety of rotations, decompositions, inversions and permutations, as if it were drawing anagrams from a series of Hebrew letters.

Sometimes he considers only the initial aspects of his figure, sometimes the final one, sometimes making numerological analyses, submitting his symbol to the kabbalistic techniques of notariqon, gematria, and temurah.

As a consequence, the Monas should permit–as happens with every numerological speculation–the revelation of the whole of the cosmic mysteries.

However, the Monad also generates alphabetic letters. Dee was emphatic about this in the letter of dedication with which he introduced his book. Here he asked all “grammarians” to recognize that his work “would explain the form of the letters, their position and place in the alphabetical order, and the relations between them, along with their numerological values, and many other things concerning the primary Alphabet of the three languages.”

This final reference to “the three languages” reminds us of Postel (whom Dee met personally) and of the Collège des Trois Langues at which Postel was professor. In fact, Postel, to prove that Hebrew was the primal language in his 1553 De originibus, had observed that every “demonstration of the world” comes from point, line and triangle, and that sounds themselves could be reduced to geometry.

In his De Foenicum literis, he further argued that the invention of the alphabet was almost contemporary with the spread of language (on this point see many later kabbalistic speculations over the origins of language, such as Thomas Bang, Caelum orientis, 1657: 10).

What Dee seems to have done is to take the geometrical argument to its logical conclusion. He announced in his dedicatory letter that “this alphabetic literature contains great mysteries,” continuing that “the first Mystic letters of Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans were formed by God and transmitted to mortals [ . . . ] so that all the signs used to represent them were produced by points, straight lines, and circumferences of circles arranged by an art most marvelous and wise.”

When he writes a eulogy of the geometrical properties of the Hebrew Yod, one is tempted to think of the Dantesque I; when he attempts to discover a generative matrix from which language could be derived, one thinks of the Lullian Ars.

Dee celebrates his procedure for generating letters as a “true Kabbalah [ . . . ] more divine than grammar itself.”

These points have been recently developed by Clulee (1988: 77-116), who argues that the Monas should be seen as presenting a system of writing, governed by strict rules, in which each character is associated with a thing.

In this sense, the language of Monas is superior to the kabbala, for the kabbala aims at the interpretation of things only as they are said (or written) in language, whereas the Monas aims directly at the interpretation of things as they are in themselves. Thanks to its universality, moreover, Dee can claim that his language invents or restores the language of Adam.

According to Clulee, Dee’s graphic analysis of the alphabet was suggested by the practice of Renaissance artists of designing alphabetical letters using the compass and set-square.

Thus Dee could have thought of a unique and simple device for generating both concepts and all the alphabets of the world.

Neither traditional grammarians nor kabbalists were able to explain the form of letters and their position within the alphabet; they were unable to discover the origins of signs and characters, and for this reason they were uncapable (sic) to retrieve that universal grammar that stood at the bases of Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

According to Clulee, what Dee seems to have discovered was an idea of language “as a vast, symbolic system through which meanings might be generated by the manipulation of symbols” (1988: 95).

Such an interpretation seems to be confirmed by an author absent from all the bibliographies (appearing, to the best of my knowledge, only in Leibniz’s Epistolica de historia etymologica dissertatio of 1717, which discusses him in some depth).

This author is Johannes Petrus Ericus, who, 1697, published his Anthropoglottogonia sive linguae humanae genesis, in which he tried to demonstrate that all languages, Hebrew included, were derived from Greek.

In 1686, however, he had also published a Principium philologicum in quo vocum, signorum et punctorum tum et literarum massime ac numerorum origo. Here he specifically cited Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica to derive from that matrix the letters of all alphabets (still giving precedence to Greek) as well as all number systems.

Through a set of extremely complex procedures, Ericus broke down the first signs of the Zodiac to reconstruct them into Dee’s Monad; he assumed that Adam had named each animal by a name that reproduced the sounds that that each emitted; then he elaborated a rather credible phonological theory identifying classes of letters such as “per sibilatione per dentes,” “per tremulatione labrorum,” “per compressione labrorum,” “per contractione palati,” “per respiratione per nares.”

Ericus concluded that Adam used vowels for the names of the beasts of the fields, and mutes for the fish. This rather elementary phonetics also enabled Ericus to deduce the seven notes of the musical scale as well as the seven letters which designate them–these letters being the basic elements of the Monas.

Finally, he demonstrated how by rotating this figure, forming, as it were, visual anagrams, the letters of all other alphabets could be derived.

Thus the magic language of the Rosicrucians (if they existed, and if they were influenced by Dee) could have been a matrix able to generate–at least alphabetically–all languages, and, therefore, all the wisdom of the world.

Such a language would have been more than a universal grammar: it would have been a grammar without syntactic structures, or, as Demonet (1992: 404) suggests, a “grammar without words,” a silent communication, close to the language of angels, or similar to Kircher’s conception of hieroglyphs.

Thus, once again, this perfect language would be based upon a sort of communicative short-circuit, capable of revealing everything, but only if it remained initiatically secret.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 185-90.

Eco: Infinite Songs & Locutions

cover_issue_206_en_US

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), memory wheel, De Umbris Idearum, 1582, reconstructed by Dame Frances Yates, Warburg Institute. Frances Yates wrote Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Chicago, 1964. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.  

 “Between Lull and Bruno might be placed the game invented by H.P. Harsdörffer in his Matematische und philosophische Erquickstunden (1651: 516-9). He devises 5 wheels containing 264 units (prefixes, suffixes, letters and syllables).

This apparatus can generate 97,209,600 German words, including many that were still non-existent but available for creative and poetic use (cf. Faust 1981: 367). If this can be done for German, why not invent a device capable of generating all possible languages?

The problem of the art of combination was reconsidered in the commentary In spheram Ioannis de sacro bosco by Clavius in 1607. In his discussion of the four primary qualities (hot, cold, dry and wet), Clavius asked how many pairs they might form.

Mathematically, we know, the answer is six. But some combinations (like “hot and cold,” “dry and wet”) are impossible, and must be discarded, leaving only the four acceptable combinations: “Cold and dry” (earth), “hot and dry” (fire), “hot and wet” (air), “cold and wet” (water).

We seem to be back with the problem of Lull: a conventional cosmology limits the combinations.

Clavius, however, seemed to wish to go beyond these limits. He asked how many dictiones, or terms, might be produced using the 23 letters of the Latin alphabet (u being the same as v), combining them 2, 3, 4 at a time, and so on until 23.

He supplied a number of mathematical formulae for the calculations, yet he soon stopped as he began to see the immensity of the number of possible results–especially as repetitions were permissible.

In 1622, Paul Guldin wrote a Problema arithmeticum de rerum combinationibus (cf. Fichant 1991: 136-8) in which he calculated the number of possible locutions generated by 23 letters. He took into account neither the question of whether the resulting sequences had a sense, nor even that of whether they were capable of being pronounced at all.

The locutions could consist of anything from 2 to 23 letters; he did not allow repetitions. He arrived at a result of more than 70,000 billion billion. To write out all these locutions would require more than a million billion billion letters.

To conceive of the enormity of this figure, he asked the reader to imagine writing all these words in huge notebooks: each of these notebooks had 1,000 pages; each of these pages had 100 lines; each of these lines could accommodate 60 characters.

One would need 257 million billion of these notebooks. Where would you put them all? Guldin then made a careful volumetric study, imagining shelf space and room for circulation in the libraries that might store a consignment of these dimensions.

If you housed the notebooks in large libraries formed by cubes whose sides measured 432 feet, the number of such cubic buildings (hosting 32 million volumes each) would be 8,050,122,350. And where would you put them all? Even exhausting the total available surface space on planet earth, one would still find room for only 7,575,213,799!

In 1636 Father Marin Mersenne, in his Harmonie universelle, asked the same question once again. This time, however, to the dictiones he added “songs,” that is, musical sequences.

With this, the conception of universal language has begun to appear, for Mersenne realizes that the answer would necessarily have to include all the locutions in all possible languages. He marveled that our alphabet was capable of supplying “millions more terms than the earth has grains of sand, yet it is so easy to learn that one hardly needs memory, only a touch of discernment” (letter to Peiresc, c. April 1635; cf. Coumet 1975; Marconi 1992).

In the Harmonie, Mersenne proposed to generate only pronounceable words in French, Greek, Arabic, Chinese and every other language. Even with this limitation one feels the shudder provoked by a sort of Brunian infinity of possible worlds.

The same can be said of the musical sequences that can be generated upon an extension of 3 octaves, comprising 22 notes, without repetitions (shades of future 12-tone compositions!).

Mersenne observed that to write down all these songs would require enough reams of paper to fill in the distance between heaven and earth, even if every sheet contained 720 of these 22-note songs and every ream was so compressed as to be less than an inch thick.

In fact the number of possible songs amounted to 1,124,000,727,777,607,680,000 (Harmonie, 108). By dividing this figure by the 362,880 songs contained in each ream, one would still obtain a 16-digit figure, whilst the number of inches between the center of the earth and the stars is only 28,826,640,000,000 (a 14-digit figure).

Anyone who wished to copy out all these songs, a thousand per day, would have to write for 22,608,896,103 years and 12 days.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 139-41.

Eco: New Prospects for the Monogenetic Hypothesis

kircher_021

Athanasius Kircher (1602-80), frontispiece to Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica, 1641 and 1643 editions, digitized by the University of Lausanne and Stanford University. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

“Doubting the possibility of obtaining scientific agreement upon an argument whose evidence had been lost in the mists of time, about which nothing but conjectures might be offered, the Société de Linguistique of Paris 1866 decided that it would no longer accept scientific communications on the subject of either universal languages or origins of language.

In our century that millenary debate took the form of research on the universals of language, now based on the comparative analysis of existing languages. Such a study has nothing to do with more or less fantastic historic reconstructions and does not subscribe to the utopian ideal of a perfect language (cf. Greenberg 1963; Steiner 1975: I, 3).

However, comparatively recent times have witnessed a renewal of the search for the origins of language (cf., for example, Fano 1962; Hewes 1975, 1979).

Even the search for the mother tongue has been revived in this century by Vitalij Ševorškin (1989), who has re-proposed the Nostratic hypothesis, originally advanced in Soviet scientific circles in the 1960s, and associated with the names of Vladislav Il’ič-Svitych and Aron Dolgoposkiji.

According to this hypothesis, there was a proto-Indo-European, one of the six branches of a larger linguistic family deriving from Nostratics–which in its turn derives from a proto-Nostratics, spoken approximately ten thousand years ago. The supporters of this theory have compiled a dictionary of several hundred terms of this language.

But the proto-Nostratics itself would derive from a more ancient mother tongue, spoken perhaps fifty thousand years ago in Africa, spreading from there throughout the entire globe (cf. Wright 1991).

According to the so-called “Eve’s hypothesis,” one can thus imagine a human couple, born in Africa, who later emigrated to the Near East, and whose descendants spread throughout Eurasia, and possibly America and Australia as well (Ivanov 1992:2). To reconstruct an original language for which we lack any written evidence, we must proceed like

“molecular biologists in their quest to understand the evolution of life. The biochemist identifies molecular elements that perform similar functions in widely divergent species, to infer the characteristics of the primordial cell from which they are presumed to have descended.

So does the linguist seek correspondences in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and vocalization among known languages in order to reconstruct their immediate forebears and ultimately the original tongue. (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1990: 110).”

Cavalli-Sforza’s work on genetics (cf., for example, 1988, 1991) tends to show that linguistic affinities reflect genetic affinities. This supports the hypothesis of a single origin of all languages, reflecting the common evolutionary origin of all human groups.

Just as humanity evolved only once on the face of the earth, and later diffused across the whole planet, so language. Biological monogenesis and linguistic monogenesis thus go hand in hand and may be inferentially reconstructed on the basis of mutually comparable data.

In a different conceptual framework, the assumption that both the genetic and the immunological codes can, in some sense, be analyzed semiotically seems to constitute the new scientific attempt to find a language which could be defined as the primitive one par excellence (though not in historical but rather in biological terms).

This language would nest in the roots of evolution itself, of phylogenesis as of onto-genesis, stretching back to before the dawn of humanity (cf. Prodi 1977).”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 115-6.

Eco: A Dream that Refused to Die

kircher_117

Athanasius Kircher (1602-80), the Christian interpretation of the Kabbalah and the mystical names of God, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, tom. 2, vol. 1, 1652-4, p. 287. John Mark Ockerbloom curated an entry for all three volumes of this work at the University of Pennsylvania libraries. This illustration courtesy of Stanford University. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

 

“Even faced with the results of the research of comparative linguistics, however, monogenetic theories refuse to give up the ghost. The bibliography of belated monogeneticism is immense. In it, there is to be found the lunatic, the crank, the misfit, the bizarre mystic, as well as a number of students of unimpeachable rigor.

In 1850, for example, the Enlightenment notion of a language of action received a radically monogenetic reading in the Dactylologie et language primitif restitués d’apres les monuments by J. Barrois.

Assuming that the first language of humanity was a language of action and that this language was exclusively gestural, Barrois sought to prove that even the passages of the Bible which referred to God addressing Adam referred not to speaking in a verbal sense, but instead to a non-verbal, mimed language.

“The designation of the divers animals which Adam made was achieved by means of a special miming which recalled their form, instinct, habit, and qualities, and, finally, their essential properties.” (P. 31).

The first time that an unambiguous reference to verbal speech appears in the Bible is when God speaks to Noah; before this, all references seem vague. For Barrois, this was evidence showing that only slowly, in the immediately antediluvian age, did a phonetic form of language become common.

The confusio linguarum arose out of discord between gestural and spoken language. The primitive vocal language was born closely accompanied by gestures which served to underline its most important words–just as occurs today in the speech of negroes and Syrian merchants (p. 36).

A dactylological language (expressed by the movement of the fingers and deriving from the primitive language of action) was born later, as a form of short-hand support for the phonetic language, when this latter emerged as the dominant form.

Barrois examines iconographic documents of all ages, demonstrating that the dactylological language remained unaltered through various civilizations.

As for the everlasting idea of an original Hebrew, we might cite the figure of Fabre d’Olivet, whose La Langue hébraïque restituée, written in 1815, is still a source of inspiration for belated kabbalists today.

He told of a primitive language that no people had ever spoken, of which Hebrew (the Egyptian dialect of Moses) was but the most illustrious offspring. This insight leads him on to the search for a mother tongue in which Hebrew is carefully combed and then subjected to fantastic reinterpretations.

D’Olivet was convinced that, in this language, every phoneme, every single sound, must have its own special meaning. We will not follow d’Olivet as he re-explores this old terrain; it is enough to say that he presents a string of nonsensical etymologies which, though in the spirit of Duret, Guichard and Kircher, are, if anything, even less convincing.

We might, however, provide just one example to show how traces of an original Hebrew mimology can be discovered in a modern language as well. D’Olivet constructed an etymology for the French term emplacement. Place derives from the Latin platea and from the German Platz.

In both these words, the sound AT signifies protection, while the sound L means extension. LAT means, therefore, a “protected extension.” MENT, in its turn, derives from the Latin mens and the English mind.

In this syllable, E is the sign of absolute life, and N stands for reflexive existence. Together, as ENS, they mean “bodily spirit.” M refers to existence at a given point. Therefore, the meaning of emplacement is “la manière dont uno extension fixe et determinée peut être conçue et se presente aux yeux.”

As one critic has put it, Fabre d’Olivet has demonstrated that emplacement means “emplacement” (cf. Cellier 1953: 140; Pallotti 1992).

And yet. No less a figure than Benjamin Lee Whorf took Fabre d’Olivet as the starting point for a series of reflections on the curious subject of “oligosynthesis.”

He was wondering about the possible applications of a science capable of “restoring a possible common language of the human race or [of] perfecting an ideal natural tongue constructed of the original psychological significance of sounds, perhaps a future common speech, into which all our varied languages may be assimilated, or, putting it differently, to whose terms they may be reduced” (Whorf 1956: 12; see also 74-6).

This is neither the first nor the last of the paradoxes in our story: we associate Whorf with one of the least monogenetic of all the various glottogonic hypotheses; it was Whorf who developed the idea that each language was a “holistic” universe, expressing the world in a way that could never be wholly translated into any other language.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 111-3.

Eco: Conventionalism, Epicureanism and Polygenesis

Joseph_Justus_Scaliger_-_Imagines_philologorum

Giuseppe Giusto Scaligero, or Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), this illustration is from the title page of Marcus Manilus, Astronomicon a Ios. Scaligero ex vetusto codice Gemblacensi infinitis mendis repurgatum. Eiusdem Iosephi Scaligeri notae etc. Leiden. Christophorus Raphelengius for Joannes Commelin, 1599-1600, with a handwritten dedication from Scaliger to the mathematician Henri de Monantheuil, courtesy of the Leiden University Library and the Scaliger Institute. This narrative courtesy of the Warburg Institute. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.

“By now, however, time was running out for the theories of Kircher, Guichard and Duret. Already in the Renaissance, Hebrew’s status as the original and sacred language had begun to be questioned.

By the seventeenth century, a new and complex set of arguments has evolved. We might, emblematically, place these arguments under the sign of Genesis 10. In these, attention moved away from the problem of primordial language to that of matrices linguae, or mother tongues–this was an expression first coined by Giuseppe Giusto Scaligero (Diatribe de europaeorum linguis, 1599).

Scaligero individuated eleven language families, seven major and four minor. Within each family, all languages were related; between the language families, however, kinship was impossible to trace.

The Bible, it was noted, had given no explicit information about the character of the primordial language. There were many who could thus maintain that the division of tongues had originated not at the foot of the shattered tower, but well before.

The notion of confusio could be interpreted as a natural process. Scholars set about trying to understand this process by uncovering the grammatical structures common to all languages: “It was no longer a question of “reduction,” but of a classification aimed at revealing a common system latent within all languages, while still respecting their individual differences” (Demonet 1992: 341, and II, 5, passim).

In his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (1678), Richard Simon, considered one of the founders of modern biblical criticism, discarded the hypothesis of the divine origin of Hebrew, citing the ironic remarks of Gregory of Nyssa.

Language, he wrote, was a human invention; since human reason differs in different peoples, so languages must differ as well. God willed that different peoples speak different languages in order that “each might explain themselves in their own way.”

Meric Casaubon (De quattor linguis commentatio, 1650) accepted the idea of Grotius that–in so far as it had ever existed–the primordial language had long since disappeared.

Even if the words spoken by Adam had been inspired directly by God, humanity had since developed its languages autonomously. The Hebrew of the Bible was just one of the languages that arose after the Flood.

Leibniz also insisted that the historic language of Adam was irredeemably lost, and that, despite our best efforts, “nobis ignota est.” In so far as it had ever existed, it had either totally disappeared, or else survived only as relics (undated fragment in Gensini 1990: 197).

In this climate, the myth of a language that followed the contours of the world came to be rearticulated in the light of the principle of the arbitrariness of the sign. This was a principle that, in any case, philosophical thought had never entirely abandoned, as it formed part of the Aristotelian legacy.

In precisely this period, Spinoza, from a fundamentally nominalist point of view, asked how a general term such as man could possibly express man’s true nature, when different individuals formed their ideas in different ways:

“for example, those who are accustomed to contemplate with admiration the height of men will, on hearing the name man, think of an animal with an erect posture; those, instead, who are in the habit of contemplating some other feature, will form another of the common images of man–man as a laughing animal, as a biped, as featherless, as rational. Thus every individual will form images of universals according to the dispositions of their own bodies.” (Ethica, 1677: proposition XL, scolion I).

Implicitly challenging the idea that Hebrew was the language whose words corresponded to the nature of things, Locke considered that words used by human beings were signs of their ideas, “not by any natural connexion, that there is between particular articulated Sounds and certain Ideas, for then there would be but one Language amongst all Men; but by voluntary Imposition.” (An Essay concerning Human Understanding, 1690: III, 2, 1).

As soon as ideas lost their quality as innate, Platonic entities, becoming nominal ideas instead, language itself lost its aura of sacrality, turning into a mere instrument for interaction–a human construct.

In Leviathan (1651: I, 4, “Of Speech”), Hobbes admitted that the first author of speech could only have been God himself, and that he had taught Adam what to name the animals. Yet, immediately thereafter, Hobbes abandons the scriptural account to picture Adam as striking out on his own.

Hobbes argued that Adam continued freely to add new names “as the experience and use of the creatures should give him occasion.” In other words, Hobbes left Adam to confront his own experiences and his own needs; and it was from these needs (necessity being, as we know, the mother of all invention) that the languages after Babel were born.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 85-8.

Eco: Postel’s Universalistic Utopia, 2

746_2

An unattributed and undated portrait of Guillaume Postel (1510-84), published by George Saliba. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

“After various peregrinations, Postel found himself in Venice, where, in 1547, he was appointed chaplain of the Hospital of Sts. John and Paul (called the Ospedaletto), and censor of books published in the Hebrew language in that city.

While in the Ospedaletto, he was appointed confessor to its founder, the fifty year old Johanna, or Mother Zuana, a woman who had dedicated her life to helping the poor. Gradually, the conviction grew on Postel that in meeting Johanna, he had come into contact with a great prophetic spirit.

He conceived for her a mystic passion in which he saw her as the mother of the world, destined to redeem humanity from its original sin.

After rereading the kabbalist text, the Zohar, Postel identified Johanna as Shekinah as well as with the angelical pope whose coming had been foretold in the prophecies of Joachim a Fiore.

Finally, he identified her as the second Messiah. According to Postel, the feminine component of humanity, guilty of the sin of Eve, had not been saved by Christ. The salvation of the daughters of Eve would only occur with the coming of a second Messiah (on Postel’s “feminism” cf. Sottile 1984).

The question whether Johanna was truly a mystic with extraordinary capacities or whether these were just qualities that Postel projected into her is hardly an important issue for us.

What is important rather is that there was now established an intense spiritual communion: Johanna, the kabbala, universal peace, the last age foretold by Joachim, were all thrown into a single crucible; what emerged was Johanna in the role formerly held by Ignatius Loyola in Postel’s utopian schemes.

What is more, “Johanna’s “immaculate conception” produces her “little son,” Postel, the new Elias” (Kuntz 1981: 91).

Rumors of singular goings on at the Ospedaletto soon spread, however, and in 1549, Postel was forced to leave Venice. He resumed his wanderings in the Orient, returning to Venice the following year only to learn of the death of Johanna.

According to tradition, on hearing the news he fell into a state of prostration mixed with ecstasy in which he claimed to be able to stare into the sun for an hour. He felt the spirit of Johanna gradually invading his body (Kuntz: 1981: 104). He began to proclaim his belief in metempsychosis.

Postel next returned to Paris where, with great public acclaim, he resumed his teaching. Yet soon he was announcing the advent of the era of Restitution, a golden century under the sign of Johanna.

Once again, he found himself at the center of a philosophical and religious turmoil. When the king forced him to abandon teaching, he set off on a new journey through various cities, ending up again in Venice, arriving just in time to prevent his books from being placed on the Index.

He was questioned by the Inquisition, which tried to induce him to recant. In 1555, in recognition of his services to science and politics, he was declared “non malus sed amens,” not guilty but insane.

His life was spared, but he was imprisoned, first in Ravenna and afterwards in Rome.

At the request of the French religious authorities, Postel was later transferred to Paris, in 1564. He retired to the monastery of Saint-Martin-des-Champs where he lived until his death in 1587. During this period, he wrote a repudiation of his heretical doctrines concerning Mother Johanna.

Apart from this final capitulation, Postel seems to have been a relentless defender of ideas which, for this period, were quite unconventional. His particular vision of utopia must be regarded within the cultural context of his time.

Demonet (1992: 337ff) underlines that his idea of the “restitution” of Hebrew as the language of universal concord also required that infidels recognize their error and accept the Christian revelation.

None the less, as Kuntz notes (1981: 49), Postel was neither an orthodox Catholic nor an orthodox Protestant; his moderate and pacifist positions infuriated, in fact, extremists of both persuasions.

Some of his doctrines were theologically ambiguous: he claimed that Christianity was the only religion that verified the message of Judaism, but–at the same time–that to be a good Christian it was not necessary to belong to a sect (Catholic church included), but rather to feel the presence of the divine within.

It followed that a true Christian could, and even should, observe Jewish law, and that the Muslims could be considered half-Christians.

More than once, Postel condemned the persecution of the Jews. He spoke of the Jewishness of all men, talking of Christian-Jews instead of Jewish Christians (Kuntz 1981: 130).

He claimed that the true tradition of Christianity was Judaism with its name changed, and lamented that Christianity had lost its Judaic roots.

Such positions could only be seen as extremely provocative by a church still clinging to the pre-Renaissance doctrine that Christianity represented both the correction and the cancellation of Judaism.

In order to affirm, as Postel did in his De orbis, the existence of a harmony between the faiths, it was necessary to exercise a tolerance on a number of theological issues. Postel’s doctrine has thus been described as a universalistic theism (Radetti 1936).”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 77-80.

Eco: The Return to Hebrew

Hildegard_von_Bingen_Liber_Divinorum_Operum

Hildegard von Bingen, Universal Man, Liber Divinorum Operum, or Book of Divine Works, 1165. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.   

“From Origen to Augustine, almost all of the church Fathers assumed, as a matter of incontrovertible fact, that, before the confusion, humanity’s primordial language was Hebrew.

The most notable dissenting voice was Gregory of Nyssa (Contra Eunomium). God, he thought, could not have spoken Hebrew; were we to imagine, he said ironically, a schoolmaster God drilling our forefathers in the Hebrew alphabet (cf. Borst 1957-63: I, 2, and II/1, 3.1)?

Despite this, the image of Hebrew as the divine language survived through the Middle Ages (cf. De Lubac 1959: II, 3.3).

By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, it no longer seemed enough simply to maintain that Hebrew was the photo-language (little being known thereof): it was deemed necessary to promote its study, and, if possible, its diffusion.

By now we are in a climate very different from that of St. Augustine: not only do the interpreters wish to go back to the text in its original version, but they do it with the conviction that the original and holy language of scripture was the only one capable of expressing its sacred truth.

What has happened in the meantime is, of course, the Reformation. Protestants refused to accept the claim of the Catholic church to be the sole mediator and interpreter, placing itself, with its canonic Latin translations, between the believer and the Holy Writ.

Out of this refusal to accept the church’s traditional interpretation of scripture arose the stimulus to study the languages in which the sacred texts had first been formulated.

The contemporary debate over this was varied and complex. The most comprehensive treatment is contained perhaps in Brian Walton’s In biblia polyglotta prolegomena (1673: especially 1-3).

However, the story of this debate during the Renaissance is so complex (see Demonet 1992) that we shall limit ourselves to a gallery of exemplary portraits.”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 73-5.

Umberto Eco: Search for the Perfect Language, 3

El_jardín_de_las_Delicias,_de_El_Bosco

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), Garden of Earthly Delights. The left tablet of the triptych depicts Paradise, with the creation of Eve and the Fountain of Life. The central tablet portrays the pleasures of life, and the rightmost tablet Hell. Held in the collection of the Prado. Accession number P02823, this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries where the copyright term is the life of the author plus 100 years or less.

“Having established the boundaries of my discourse, I must pay my debts. I am indebted to the studies of Paolo Rossi for first awakening my interest in the subjects of classical mnemonics, pansophia and world theaters; to Alessandro Bausani’s witty and learned overview on invented languages; to Lia Formigari’s book on the linguistic problems of English empiricism; and to many other authors whom, if I do not cite every time that I have drawn on them, I hope, at least, to have cited on crucial points, as well as to have included in the bibliography.

My only regret is that George Steiner had already copyrighted the most appropriate title for this book–After Babel–nearly twenty years ago. Hats off.

I would also like to thank the BBC interviewer who, on 4 October 1983, asked me what semiotics meant. I replied that he ought to know the answer himself, since semiotics was defined by Locke in 1690, in Great Britain, and since in the same country was published in 1668 the Essay towards a Real Character by Bishop Wilkins, the first semiotic approach to an artificial language.

Later, as I left the studio, I noticed an antiquarian bookstore, and, out of curiosity, I walked into it. Lying there I saw a copy of Wilkin’s Essay. It seemed a sign from heaven; so I bought it. That was the beginning of my passion for collecting old books on imaginary, artificial, mad and occult languages, out of which has grown my personal ‘Bibliotheca Semiologica Curiosa, Lunatica, Magica et Pneumatica,’ which has been a mainstay to me in the present endeavor.

In 1987, I was also encouraged to undertake the study of perfect languages by an early work of Robert Pellerey, and I shall often be referring to his recent volume on perfect languages in the eighteenth century. I have also given two courses of lectures on this topic in the University of Bologna and one at the Collège de France.

Many of my students have made contributions about particular themes or authors. Their contributions appeared, as the rules of academic fairness require, before the publication of this book, in the final issue of VS (1992), 61-3, ‘Le lingue perfette.’

A final word of thanks to the antiquarian booksellers on at least two continents who have brought to my attention rare or unknown texts. Unfortunately–considering the size prescribed for this book–as rich as the most exciting of these trouvailles are, they could receive only passing mention, or none at all. I console myself that I have the material for future excursions in erudition.

Besides, the first draft of this research totaled twice the number of pages I am now sending to the printer. I hope that my readers will be grateful for the sacrifice that I have celebrated for their comfort, and that the experts will forgive me the elliptic and panoramic bent of my story.

Umberto Eco

Bologna, Milan, Paris”

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated by James Fentress, Blackwell. Oxford, 1995, pp. 5-6.

Gane: Applying Black’s Theory of Metaphor

“Composite creatures are found on various cosmic levels. For that reason, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, by Wayne Horowitz (1998; rev. 2011), has informed the present study, especially with regard to the “Babylonian Map of the World” and Enuma Elish texts, which mention a significant number of mixed beings found in the Neo-Babylonian iconographic repertoire.

This cuneiform inscription and map of the Mesopotamian world depicts Babylon in the center, ringed by a global ocean termed the “salt sea.” The map portrays eight regions, though portions are missing, while the text describes the regions, and the mythological creatures and legendary heroes that live in them. Sippar, Babylonia, 700 - 500 BCE. Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin. Licensed under the Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareaAlike license.  http://www.ancient.eu/image/2287/

This cuneiform inscription and map of the Mesopotamian world depicts Babylon in the center, ringed by a global ocean termed the “salt sea.” The map portrays eight regions, though portions are missing, while the text describes the regions, and the mythological creatures and legendary heroes that live in them. Sippar, Babylonia, 700 – 500 BCE.
Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin. Licensed under the Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareaAlike license.
http://www.ancient.eu/image/2287/

(Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (Mesopotamian Civilizations 8; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1998).

Regarding Sumero-Babylonian religion in ancient Mesopotamia, two foundational studies are Wilfred Lambert’s essay on “The Historical Development of the Mesopotamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism” (1975) and Thorkild Jacobsen’s trail-blazing book titled The Treasures of Darkness (1976).

Enuma Elish means “when above”, the two first words of the epic.  This Babylonian creation story was discovered among the 26,000 clay tablets found by Austen Henry Layard in the 1840's at the ruins of Nineveh.  Enuma Elish was made known to the public in 1875 by the Assyriologist George Adam Smith (1840-76) of the British Museum, who was also the discoverer of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. He made several of his findings on excavations in Nineveh. http://www.creationmyths.org/enumaelish-babylonian-creation/enumaelish-babylonian-creation-3.htm

Enuma Elish means “when above”, the two first words of the epic.
This Babylonian creation story was discovered among the 26,000 clay tablets found by Austen Henry Layard in the 1840’s at the ruins of Nineveh.
Enuma Elish was made known to the public in 1875 by the Assyriologist George Adam Smith (1840-76) of the British Museum, who was also the discoverer of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. He made several of his findings from excavations in Nineveh.
http://www.creationmyths.org/enumaelish-babylonian-creation/enumaelish-babylonian-creation-3.htm

(Wilfred G. Lambert, “The Historical Development of the Mesopotamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism,” in Unity in Diversity: Essays in the History, Literature, and Religion of the Ancient Near East (ed. Hans Goedicke and J. J. M. Roberts; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), pp. 191-200.)

(Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).

Since these publications appeared, still others have contributed to a greater understanding of the complexities of Mesopotamian religion, with its thousands of named gods and demons, but a comprehensive, systematic understanding still eludes modern scholarship.

Of particular importance to the methodological framework of the present research are the works of two scholars, Chikako E. Watanabe and Mehmet-Ali Ataç.

Watanabe’s Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia: A Contextual Approach (2002), drawing upon her doctoral dissertation (University of Cambridge, 1998), aims “to examine how animals are used as ‘symbols’ in Mesopotamian culture and to focus on what is intended by referring to animals in context.”

(Watanabe, Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia, Institut für Orientalistik d. Univ., 2002, p. 1.

Zu or Anzu (from An 'heaven' and Zu 'to know' in Sumerian language), as a lion-headed eagle, ca. 2550–2500 BCE, Louvre.  Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, representing the bird-god Anzu (or Im-dugud) as a lion-headed eagle.  Alabaster, Early Dynastic III (2550–2500 BCE). Found in Telloh, ancient city of Girsu.  H. 21.6 cm (8 ½ in.), W. 15.1 cm (5 ¾ in.), D. 3.5 cm (1 ¼ in.)  http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2013/07/legend-of-anzu-which-stole-tablets-of.html

Zu or Anzu (from An ‘heaven’ and Zu ‘to know’ in Sumerian language), as a lion-headed eagle, ca. 2550–2500 BCE, Louvre.
Votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, representing the bird-god Anzu (or Im-dugud) as a lion-headed eagle.
Alabaster, Early Dynastic III (2550–2500 BCE). Found in Telloh, ancient city of Girsu.
H. 21.6 cm (8 ½ in.), W. 15.1 cm (5 ¾ in.), D. 3.5 cm (1 ¼ in.)
http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2013/07/legend-of-anzu-which-stole-tablets-of.html

The scope of her investigation is limited to the symbolic aspects of two natural animals, the lion and bull, and two composite creatures, the Anzu bird and the horned lion-griffin. Watanabe’s narrow but deep analysis provides an excellent paradigm for study of Mesopotamian iconographic creatures in general.

Watanabe maintains that “the best way to interpret meanings belonging to the past is to pay close attention to the particular contexts in which symbolic agents occur.”

She does this through application of an approach known as the interaction view of metaphor, also called the theory of metaphor, developed by Max Black.

According to Watanabe, this approach aims to interpret the meanings of objects, whether occurring in figurative statements or iconographic representations, from within the contexts of their original functions, “by examining their internal relationships with other ideas or concepts expressed within the same contextual framework.”

As she points out, “the treatment of symbolic phenomena on a superficial level” does “not explain the function of symbolism.”

Watanabe observes that the names of animals mentioned in ancient texts generally carry meaning beyond references to the natural creatures themselves.

When a creature is repeatedly found in a specific context, this context provides a link or clue to the meaning attached to it.

Watanabe’s treatment of composite creatures, the Imdugud/Anzu and the horned lion-griffin, in Chapter 5 of her work provides a case study for analysis of similar mixed beings.

Each composite creature is derived from two or more species, with each animal part embodying a concept associated with the given animal’s natural behavior.

This illustration of a god walking his human-headed lion lacks the wings on the lion mentioned in Watanabe's example. A detail from a cylinder seal of the Akkadian period, this exemplar is from Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons & Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 39.

This illustration of a god walking his human-headed lion lacks the wings on the lion mentioned in Watanabe’s example. A detail from a cylinder seal of the Akkadian period, this exemplar is from Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons & Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 39.

Thus, for instance, a winged, human-headed lion possesses attributes that include human intelligence, leonine power and ferocity, and eagle wings to provide swiftness and access to the realm of the sky.

Watanabe finds that “the study of these animals provides a model for the way in which the characteristics of two or more animals are integrated into one animal body, as a result of which multiple divine aspects, perceived in one deity, are effectively conveyed by a single symbolic animal.”

Wings are a frequent physical component of Mesopotamian composite creatures. Watanabe maintains that when animals that are ordinarily wingless are portrayed with wings, the intent in some cases may be to represent the constellation that is symbolized by that creature.

Constellations of stars were understood by the Babylonians as images of “earthly objects projected onto the evening sky.”

(Cf. Hope B. Werness, The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art (New York: Continuum, 2006), p. 433.)

Additionally, wings could personify the abstract concepts of wind or the flying of time. While wings often belong to the realm of the gods, they can also be associated with night, death, and evil.”

Constance Ellen Gane, Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art, Doctoral Dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 2012, pp. 5-6.

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 on basically synchronic, tightly controlled, comprehensive analysis of the iconographic repertoire of hybrid beings in a narrow slice of time and space.

Mesopotamian composite beings have been the focus of several formative works. One of the most influential scholars in the field has been Frans A. M. Wiggermann.

This is Figure 2, K2987B+ and K9968+, from Professor F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, pp. 195-7.

This is Figure 2, K2987B+ and K9968+, from Professor F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, pp. 195-7.

In his Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (1992), he examines the identities and histories of those Mesopotamian supernatural creatures mentioned in the Neo-Assyrian texts K 2987B+ and KAR 298.

Regarding this partial representation of all Mesopotamian hybrids, Wiggermann summarizes:

“The texts treated are rituals for the defence of the house against epidemic diseases, represented as an army of demonic intruders. The gates, rooms, and corners of the house are occupied by prophylactic figures of clay or wood, that the texts describe in detail.”

(Frans A. M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (CM 1; Groningen: Styx & PP, 1992), p. xii. (This is a second edition of Wiggermann’s dissertation, originally published as Babylonian Prophylactic Figures: The Ritual Texts [Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1986].)

As he points out, these figures described in the texts have been discovered in archaeological excavations, providing a significant link between text and material remains.

Although Wiggermann’s monograph is difficult to navigate (due to the nature of its organization), it has been the backbone of much of my research.

An excerpt from the introduction to F.A.M. Wiggermann's Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. xi.

An excerpt from the introduction to F.A.M. Wiggermann’s Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, 1992, p. xi.

An important systematic treatment of composite creatures by Wiggermann is his 1997 Reallexikon der Assyriologie (RlA) article titled “Mischwesen. A. Philologisch. Mesopotamien.”

(Frans A. M. Wiggermann, “Mischwesen. A. Philologisch. Mesopotamien,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie (RlA) 8:222-246.)

Here he provides numerous textual, philological, and archaeological examples of most of the known Mesopotamian creatures, and clarifies terms for categories.

Modern scholarship identifies distinct categories of subdivine (but superhuman) creatures. Those that walk on all fours, like quadruped natural animals, are identified as monsters while those that walk on two legs, like humans, are designated as demons.

Dragons, which belong to a separate class, are hybrid creatures that are essentially snakes.

(Cf. Joan G. Westenholz, ed., Dragons, Monsters, and Fabulous Beasts (Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum, 2004), p. 11.)

According to Wiggermann, monsters are neither gods nor demons.

(Wiggermann, “Mischwesen. A,” RlA 8:231.)

Although their names are occasionally written with the divine determinative, they usually do not wear the horned crown of divinity.

They are not included in god-lists, not found in the list of “evil spirits” (utukkū lemnūti), and not mentioned in medical texts as demons of diseases.”

(Cf. Chikako E. Watanabe, Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia: A Contextual Approach (WOO 1; Vienna: Institut für Orientalistik der Universität Wien, 2002), p. 39.)

Constance Ellen Gane, Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art, Doctoral Dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 2012, pp. 2-3.

Gane: Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art

“An examination of all the extant, provenanced depictions of composite beings, Mischwesen, in Neo-Babylonian (NB) iconography sheds important new light on the worldview of the last great Mesopotamian civilization.

Wall relief depicting a winged and eagle-headed Apkallu (Sage). This protective spirit holds a cone and a bucket for religious ceremonial purposes. From the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud (Biblical Calah; ancient Kalhu), modern day Ninawa Governorate, Iraq (Mesopotamia). Neo-Assyrian period, 865-850 BCE. The British Museum, London. Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_relief_depicting_an_eagle-headed_and_winged_man,_Apkallu,_from_Nimrud..JPG

Wall relief depicting a winged and eagle-headed Apkallu (Sage). This protective spirit holds a cone and a bucket for religious ceremonial purposes.
From the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud (Biblical Calah; ancient Kalhu), modern day Ninawa Governorate, Iraq (Mesopotamia). Neo-Assyrian period, 865-850 BCE.
The British Museum, London.
Photo by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_relief_depicting_an_eagle-headed_and_winged_man,_Apkallu,_from_Nimrud..JPG

The types of hybrids that are portrayed include such disparate forms as the apkallu and the genius in human form, as well as creatures based on bulls, lions, canines, winged quadrupeds, fish, birds, scorpions, and snakes.

Demons, monsters, and minor apotropaic deities, from Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Demons & Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 64. https://books.google.co.th/books?id=pr8-i1iFnIQC&redir_esc=y

Demons, monsters, and minor apotropaic deities, from Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Demons & Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 64.
https://books.google.co.th/books?id=pr8-i1iFnIQC&redir_esc=y

Each composite being is analyzed in terms of its physical components, its context within scenes, its historical development, and its interpretation in NB texts.

Within the hierarchical cosmic community, some lower deities and sub-divine beings appear in composite form. These play a key role in the cosmos by interacting with gods, with each other, with humans, and with natural animals.

Their behavior parallels dynamics found in natural life, such as in competition, conflict, predation, protection, and in the service of others who are more powerful.

In hybrids the capabilities of natural animals and humans are heightened by the selective addition of features derived from other species. There is no consistent correlation, however, between the strength of a natural creature and the relative power of the superhuman being that it symbolizes, or between its physical complexity and its placement in the cosmic hierarchy.

Pazuzu: a demon-god of the underworld, sometimes invoked for beneficial ends. The inscription covering the back of his wings states: "I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil spirits of the air which issue violently from mountains, causing much havoc.” <br />  Pazuzu was particularly associated with the west wind which brought the plague. Under certain circumstances Pazuzu was a protective spirit, particularly to drive his wife Lamashtu back to the underworld. Lamashtu was a demoness who infected men with various diseases.<br />  Pazuzu first appeared in the 1st millennium BC with the body of a man and the head of a scowling dragon-snake, with two pairs of wings and talons of a bird of prey. He has a scorpion's tail and his body is covered in scales.<br />  http://wayback.archive.org/web/20090628125910/<br />  http://www.louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225951&amp;CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225951&amp;FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500800&amp;baseIndex=56&amp;bmLocale=en<br />  Bronze statuette of Pazuzu, circa 800 BC –- circa 700 BC, Louvre Museum.

Pazuzu: a demon-god of the underworld, sometimes invoked for beneficial ends. The inscription covering the back of his wings states: “I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil spirits of the air which issue violently from mountains, causing much havoc.”
Pazuzu was particularly associated with the west wind which brought the plague. Under certain circumstances Pazuzu was a protective spirit, particularly to drive his wife Lamashtu back to the underworld. Lamashtu was a demoness who infected men with various diseases.
Pazuzu first appeared in the 1st millennium BC with the body of a man and the head of a scowling dragon-snake, with two pairs of wings and talons of a bird of prey. He has a scorpion’s tail and his body is covered in scales.
http://wayback.archive.org/web/20090628125910/
http://www.louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225951&CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225951&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500800&baseIndex=56&bmLocale=en
Bronze statuette of Pazuzu, circa 800 BC –- circa 700 BC, Louvre Museum.

In fact, the transcendence of high gods is often emphasized by their simple representation through attribute animals in natural form.

Ishtar receives the worship of an Amazon. Ishtar stands on a lion, holding a bow with arrows at her back. Her eight-pointed star is atop her head. Lusty antelopes rear on the right side, perhaps signifying the god Ea. The portrayal of the tree is somewhat problematic, as it differs from the iconic depictions of the sacred tree common in Neo-Assyrian art.

Ishtar receives the worship of an Amazon. Ishtar stands on a lion, holding a bow with arrows at her back. Her eight-pointed star is atop her head.
Lusty antelopes rear on the right side, perhaps signifying the god Ea.
The portrayal of the tree is somewhat problematic, as it differs from the iconic depictions of the sacred tree common in Neo-Assyrian art. Drawing © 2008 S. Beaulieu, after Leick, 1998: Plate 38. Used by kind permission.

 

Portrayals of composite beings often express the need for protection from malevolent powers by beneficent beings, some of whom can be accessed only through human mediators, such as ritual functionaries.

BM 118918, courtesy of the British Museum, plate XId. Green identifies the ugallu at the center, the

BM 118918, courtesy of the British Museum, plate XId.
Green identifies the ugallu at the center, the “lion-man,” and lahmu at left. He speculates that the “House god” appears at far right.
Limestone relief, one of a pair flanking a doorway in the N. Palace at Nineveh.
Previously published: H.R. Hall, Babylonian and Assyrian Sculptures in the British Museum, Pls. VI-IX; Cf. also Gadd, The Stones of Assyria, 191.

Special relationships between supernatural beings and elite humans, especially the king, make such humans indispensable and therefore support their roles in the existing social order.

It appears that the choice of a particular being portrayed on a given object could be influenced by factors such as its owner’s profession, religious and/or political affiliations, and especially by the apotropaic function(s) of specific composite beings.”

Constance Ellen Gane, Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art, Doctoral Dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 2012, p. 1.

Selz: Plant of Birth or Plant of Life in the Etana Legend?

“The story of Etana, one of the oldest tales in a Semitic language, was, as I have argued elsewhere, modeled after the then extant Sumerian tales of the Gilgamesh Epic.

Gilgamesh’s search for “the plant of life,” the ú-nam-ti-la (šammu ša balāti) was, however, replaced by Etana’s search for the plant of birth-giving (šammu ša alādi). The entire story runs as follows:

British Museum K. 19530, Library of Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BCE), excavated from Kouyunjik by Austen Henry Layard. Neo-Assyrian 7th Century BCE, Nineveh.  This cuneiform tablet details the legend of Etana, a mythological king of Kish.  http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=287204&partId=1&searchText=WCT28297&page=1 http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_legend_of_etana.aspx This image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

British Museum K. 19530, Library of Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BCE), excavated from Kouyunjik by Austen Henry Layard. Neo-Assyrian 7th Century BCE, Nineveh.
This cuneiform tablet details the legend of Etana, a mythological king of Kish.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=287204&partId=1&searchText=WCT28297&page=1
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_legend_of_etana.aspx
This image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

The gods build the first city Kish, but kingship is still in heaven. A ruler is wanted (and found). Due to an illness, Etana’s wife is unable to conceive. The plant of birth is wanted.

In the ensuing episode eagle and snake swore an oath of friendship. Suddenly the eagle plans to eat up the snake’s children; a baby eagle, with the name of Atrahasīs opposes this plan, but eagle executes it.

Now, the weeping snake seeks justice from the sun-god. With the god’s help the eagle is trapped in a burrow, and now the eagle turns to the sun-god for help. He receives the answer that, because of the taboo-violation he cannot help, but will send someone else.

Etana prays daily for the plant of birth and in a dream the sun-god tells Etana to approach the eagle. In order to get the eagle’s support Etana helps him out of his trap.

BM 89767, Limestone cylinder seal illustrating the myth of Etana, shepherd and legendary king of Kish, who was translated to heaven by an eagle to obtain the plant of life.  This seal portrays Etana’s ascent, witnessed by a shepherd, a dog, goats and sheep. Dated 2250 BCE, this seal was excavated by Hormuz Rassam, and came from an old, previously unregistered collection acquired before 1884.  Dominique Collon, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Cylinder Seals II: Akkadian, Post-Akkadian, Ur III Periods, II, London, British Museum Press, 1982.  R.M. Boehner, Die Entwicklung der Glyptic wahrend der Akkad-Zeit, 4, Berlin, 1965.  Alfred Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients: Handbuch zur biblisch-orientalischen Altertumskunde, Leipzig, JC Hinrichs, 1906.  Also AN128085001, 1983, 0101.299.  This image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.  © The Trustees of the British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=128085001&objectid=368707

BM 89767, Limestone cylinder seal illustrating the myth of Etana, shepherd and legendary king of Kish, who was translated to heaven by an eagle to obtain the plant of life.
This seal portrays Etana’s ascent, witnessed by a shepherd, a dog, goats and sheep. Dated 2250 BCE, this seal was excavated by Hormuzd Rassam, and came from an old, previously unregistered collection acquired before 1884.
Dominique Collon, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Cylinder Seals II: Akkadian, Post-Akkadian, Ur III Periods, II, London, British Museum Press, 1982.
R.M. Boehner, Die Entwicklung der Glyptic wahrend der Akkad-Zeit, 4, Berlin, 1965.
Alfred Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients: Handbuch zur biblisch-orientalischen Altertumskunde, Leipzig, JC Hinrichs, 1906.
Also AN128085001, 1983, 0101.299.
This image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=128085001&objectid=368707

Now the eagle, carrying Etana on his back, ascends to the heavens. On the uppermost level of the heavens Etana becomes afraid and the eagle takes him back to the earth.

The end of the story is missing, but that Etana finally got hold of the plant of birth is very likely, since other sources mention his son.

To summarize: I have tried to show that some features of the Enoch tradition are a re-writing of very ancient concepts. I do not claim that they all can be explained assuming dependencies, as earlier scholarship has done.

I do not intend to idolize “origins,” but what might eventually come out of such a research—if the topics mentioned here are thoroughly worked out and elaborated in detail—is, that our texts implicate many more meanings than tradition may have supposed.

In my opinion there can be little doubt that the official transmission of texts in Mesopotamia was supplemented by a wealth of oral tradition. Indeed, the situation may be comparable to the one attested in the (still) living oral tradition on Enoch in the Balkanian vernaculars.”

This Akkadian clay tablet, dated to circa 1900-1600 BCE, preserves a partial version of the Sumerian Legend of Etana.  Held by the Morgan Library.  http://www.codex99.com/typography/1.html

This Akkadian clay tablet, dated to circa 1900-1600 BCE, preserves a partial version of the Sumerian Legend of Etana.
Held by the Morgan Library.
http://www.codex99.com/typography/1.html

(See G.J. Selz, “Die Etana-Erzählung: Ursprung und Tradition eines der ältesten epischen Texte in einer semitischen Sprache,” Acta Sumerologica (Japan) 20 (1998): pp. 135-79.

A different opinion is expressed by P. Steinkeller, “Early Semitic Literature and Third Millennium Seals with Mythological Motifs,” in Literature and Literary Language at Ebla (ed. P. Fronzaroli; Quaderni di Semitistica 18; Florence: Dipartimento di linguistica Università di Firenze, 1992), pp. 243-75 and pls. 1-8.

Further remarks on the ruler’s ascension to heaven are discussed by G.J. Selz, “Der sogenannte ‘geflügelte Tempel’ und die ‘Himmelfahrt’ der Herrscher: Spekulationen über ein ungelöstes Problem der altakkadischen Glyptik und dessen möglichen rituellen Hintergrund,” in Studi sul Vicino Oriente Antico dedicati alla memoria di Luigi Cagni (ed. S. Graziani; Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 2000, pp. 961-83.)

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 799-800.

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.”)

Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883 CE), Michael Casts out all of the Fallen Angels, Illustration for Milton's Paradise Lost, 1866.<br />  This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:<br />  This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. <br /> https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Doré

Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883 CE), Michael Casts out all of the Fallen Angels, Illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1866.
This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Doré

In 1974 Borger observed in an important article, that in tablet III of the omen series Bīt Mēseri (“House of Confinement”) a list of these apkallū is provided and that the apkallū Utu-abzu who is, as we have just seen, associated with the primeval ruler Enmeduranki is explicitly said to have “ascended to heaven.”

(“Beschwörung. U-anna, der die Pläne des Himmels und der Erde vollendet, U-anne-dugga, dem ein umfassender Verstand verliehen ist, Enmedugga, dem ein gutes Geschick beschieden ist, Enmegalamma, der in einem Hause geboren wurde, Enmebu-lugga, der auf einem Weidegrund aufwuchs, An-Enlilda, der Beschwörer der Stadt Eridu,” Utuabzu, der zum Himmel emporgestiegen ist, . . . ” (Borger, “Beschwörungsserie,” p. 192).

(“Summons. U -anna, completes the plans of the heavens and the earth, U-anne-dugga, accompanied by a comprehensive understanding, Enmedugga, who is granted good skill, Enmegalamma, who was born in a house, Enmebu-lugga, who grew up on a pasture, An-Enlilda, the Summoner of the city Eridu.”)

In Borger’s words we can therefore say: “The mythological conception of Enoch’s ascension to heaven derives . . . from Enmeduranki’s counselor, the seventh antediluvian sage, named Utuabzu!”

(Borger, “Incantation Series,” p. 232.)

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish.  The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish.
The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

The iconographic evidence for these apkallū is manifold and best known from various Assyrian reliefs. We usually refer to them as genii. Bīt Mēseri, however, describes them as purādu-fishes, and this coincides with iconographic research undertaken by Wiggerman some twenty years ago in his study on Mesopotamian Protective Spirits.

(F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (Cuneiform Monographs 1; Groningen: Styx, 1992).

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroch bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroch apkallū remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroch bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroch apkallū remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

Wiggerman could distinguish between basically three types of genii, attested in the Mesopotamian art: First, there is a human faced genius, second, a bird apkallū who occur only in “Assyrian” contexts, and third, a fish apkallū, the original Babylonian apkallū, as described by Berossos; according to the texts the last two groups of apkallū are coming in groups of seven.

The first type, the human faced genius must be kept apart because these genii are depicted wearing a horned crown which explicitly marks them as divine.

An ummânu, or sage of human descent. The ummânu raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with uncertain plants in his left hand. Note the rosette design on his wristband, and the horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity. 

Such human apkallū are invariably portrayed with wings.

An ummânu, or sage of human descent. The ummânu raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with what appear to be poppy bulbs in his left hand. Note the rosette design on his wristband, and the horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity. 

Such human apkallū are invariably portrayed with wings, a further indicator of divinity or semi-divinity.

I cannot dwell here on the complicated issue of a possible intertextual relation between these apkallū and the “fallen angels” of the biblical tradition. Instead I will add some remarks concerning the following feature of the Enochic tradition, especially the Book of Giants.

1 Enoch 6:1-3 gives account of the siring of giants; men had multiplied and the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw their beautiful daughters and desired them.

Therefore, “they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget children for ourselves.’

And Shemihazah, their chief, said to them, ‘I fear that you will not want to do this deed, and I alone shall be guilty of a great sin.’”

1 Enoch 7:1-2 describes that the women conceived from them and “bore to them great giants. And the giants begot Nephilim, and to the Nephilim were born . . . And they were growing in accordance with their greatness.”

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 794-5.

Selz: Enūma Anu Enlil and MUL.APIN

“My contribution is an outsider’s view, neither pretending to do justice to the ongoing discussions in biblical studies, in particular in the studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, nor dwelling on the highly complicated matter of the Babylonian background of the astronomical Enoch tradition.

O. Neugebauer, one of the pioneers working on Babylonian astronomical texts wrote in 1981:

“The search for time and place of origin of this primitive picture of the cosmic order can hardly be expected to lead to definitive results. The use of 30-day schematic months could have been inspired, e.g., by Babylonian arithmetical schemes (of the type of ‘Mul-Apin’), or by the Egyptian calendar.”

He then continues: “But [sc. in Astronomical Enoch] there is no visible trace of the sophisticated Babylonian astronomy of the Persian or Seleucid-Parthian period.”

The Neo-Assyrian star map K 8538, from H. Hunger, ed., Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings (SAA 8, Helsinki: Helsinki University Press: 1992), p. 46.<br /> K8538 is held in the British Museum collection, excavated by Austen Henry Layard from the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh.<br /> The curator's comments state that the text and depicted constellations are interpreted in Koch, 1989.<br /> A celestial planisphere with eight sections, representing the night sky of 3-4 January 650 BCE over Nineveh.<br /> Also Figure 1, Gebhard Selz, Of Heroes and Sages, p. 785. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=303316&partId=1

The Neo-Assyrian star map K 8538, from H. Hunger, ed., Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings (SAA 8, Helsinki: Helsinki University Press: 1992), p. 46.
K8538 is held in the British Museum collection, excavated by Austen Henry Layard from the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh.
The curator’s comments state that the text and depicted constellations are interpreted in Koch, 1989.
A celestial planisphere with eight sections, representing the night sky of 3-4 January 650 BCE over Nineveh.
Also Figure 1, Gebhard Selz, Of Heroes and Sages, p. 785. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=303316&partId=1

(Cf. M. Albani, Astronomie und Schöpfungsglaube: Untersuchungen zum astronomischen Henochbuch (WMANT 68; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirche 1994), pp. 1-29; cf. furthermore the works of Milik, Books of Enoch, and O. Neugebauer, The “Astronomical” Chapters of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (72 to 82) Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab: Matematisk-fysiske Meddelelser 40.10; Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1981).

The opinion “that the astronomical part of the Book of Enoch is based on concepts extant in the Old Testament is simply incorrect: the Enoch year is not an old semitic calendaric unit; the schematic alternation between hollow and full months is not a real lunar calendar, and there exists no linear scheme in the Old Testament for the length of daylight, or patterns for ‘gates,’ for winds, or for ‘thousands’ of stars, related to the schematic year. The whole Enochian astronomy is clearly an ad hoc construction and not the result of a common semitic tradition.

Neugebauer’s opinion sharply contrasts the statement of VanderKam that “Enoch’s science is a Judaized refraction of an early stage in the development of Babylonian astronomy—a stage that finds varied expression in texts such as the astrolabes, Enūma Anu Enlil, and mul APIN.

Enuma Anu Enlil is a series of about 70 tablets dealing with Babylonian astrology. These accounts were found in the early 19th century by excavation in Niniveh, near present day Bagdad. The bulk of the work is a substantial collection of omens, estimated to number between 6500 and 7000, which interpret a wide variety of celestial and atmospheric phenomena in terms relevant to the king and state. The tablets presumably date back to about 650 BCE, but several of the omens may be as old as 1646 BCE. Many of the reports found on the tablets represent ‘astrometeorological’ forecasts (Rasmussen 2010).<br /> http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndHistory%205000-0%20BC.htm

Enuma Anu Enlil is a series of about 70 tablets dealing with Babylonian astrology. These accounts were found in the early 19th century by excavation in Niniveh, near present day Bagdad. The bulk of the work is a substantial collection of omens, estimated to number between 6500 and 7000, which interpret a wide variety of celestial and atmospheric phenomena in terms relevant to the king and state. The tablets presumably date back to about 650 BCE, but several of the omens may be as old as 1646 BCE. Many of the reports found on the tablets represent ‘astrometeorological’ forecasts (Rasmussen 2010).
http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndHistory%205000-0%20BC.htm

In it astronomical and astrological concepts are intermingled and schematic arrangements at times predominate over facts.”

Here VanderKam comes back to an early view of H. Zimmern from 1901, who saw the Enochic tradition anchored in stories around the primeval king Enmeduranki, to whom the gods granted mantic (related to divination or prophecy) and astronomical wisdom.

BM 86378, cuneiform tablets from the library of King Ashurbanipal, circa 687 BCE, held in the British Museum.<br /> MUL.APIN includes a list of thirty-six stars, three stars for each month of the year. The stars are those having a helical rise in a particular month. The first line lists the three stars, which have the helical rise in the first month of the year, Nisannu, which is associated with the vernal equinox. <br /> In the second line, three other stars are listed, with a helical rise in the second month, Ayyāru, and so on.<br /> I MUL.APIN sono testi antichi su tavolette di argilla, comprendono un elenco di trentasei stelle, tre stelle per ogni mese dell’anno. <br /> Le stelle sono quelle aventi ciascuna la levata eliaca in un particolare mese. Si ha perciò questo schema: nella prima riga sono elencate tre stelle, che hanno la levata eliaca nel primo mese dell'anno, Nīsannu (quello associato all'epoca dell'equinozio di primavera). <br /> Nella seconda riga sono elencate altre tre stelle, ancora ciascuna avente levata eliaca nel secondo mese, Ayyāru, e così via.<br /> http://www.lavia.org/italiano/archivio/calendarioakkadit.htm

BM 86378, cuneiform tablets from the library of King Ashurbanipal, circa 687 BCE, held in the British Museum.
MUL.APIN includes a list of thirty-six stars, three stars for each month of the year. The stars are those having a helical rise in a particular month. The first line lists the three stars, which have the helical rise in the first month of the year, Nisannu, which is associated with the vernal equinox.
In the second line, three other stars are listed, with a helical rise in the second month, Ayyāru, and so on.
I MUL.APIN sono testi antichi su tavolette di argilla, comprendono un elenco di trentasei stelle, tre stelle per ogni mese dell’anno.
Le stelle sono quelle aventi ciascuna la levata eliaca in un particolare mese. Si ha perciò questo schema: nella prima riga sono elencate tre stelle, che hanno la levata eliaca nel primo mese dell’anno, Nīsannu (quello associato all’epoca dell’equinozio di primavera).
Nella seconda riga sono elencate altre tre stelle, ancora ciascuna avente levata eliaca nel secondo mese, Ayyāru, e così via.
http://www.lavia.org/italiano/archivio/calendarioakkadit.htm

(VanderKam, Enoch and the Growth, p. 101. H. Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion: Die Beschwörungstafeln Šurpu, Ritualtafeln für den Wahrsager, Beschwörer und Sänger (Assyriologische Bibliothek 12; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1901).

The main arguments against Neugebauer’s position are provided by the Enochic Aramaic fragments from Cave 4, the careful evaluation of which prompted Milik already in 1976 to suggest that the astronomical parts of the Enoch tradition do belong to the oldest stratum of the Enoch literature in concordance to the  (originally) year life span allotted to Enoch in Genesis 5:23.”

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 784-6.

Selz: Enoch Derives from 3d Millennium BCE Mesopotamia

” … [He who saw the deep, the] foundation of the country, who knew [the secrets], was wise in everything! …

he saw the secret and uncovered the hidden,

he brought back a message from the antediluvian age.”

From the introduction to the Gilgamesh Epic, A.R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2 vols.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1:539.

“The general framework of the “Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure” is quite well established.

Since the initial comparison of Berossos’ account of Mesopotamian antediluvian kings and heroes to the biblical patriarchs a vast literature has evolved that discusses the possible transfer and adaptation of such Mesopotamian topics as ascent to heaven, the flood story, primeval wisdom, dream-vision, divination and astronomy.

I argue in this paper that the respective traditions reach back to a third millennium “origin.”

Enoch, described in Genesis 5:22-25 as great-grandson of Adam, father of Methuselah and great-grand-father of Noah, lived 365 years and “he walked with God: and he was not, for God took him.”

William Blake, Enoch, lithograph, 1807 (four known copies). William Blake's only known lithograph illustrating Genesis 5:24,

William Blake, Enoch, lithograph, 1807 (four known copies).
William Blake’s only known lithograph illustrating Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God; then was no more, because God took him away.”
This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bereshit_(parsha)#/media/File:William_Blake_Enoch_Lithograph_1807.jpg

Enoch became a central figure in early Jewish mystical speculations; Enoch, or the Ethiopic Enoch, is one of the earliest non-biblical texts from the Second Temple period and, at least in part, was originally written in Aramaic as demonstrated by the fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

(See H.S. Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic: The Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure and the Son of Man (WMANT 61, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchner, 1988), p. 35: “Astronomy, cosmology, mythical geography, divination . . . are subjects which in a Jewish setting appear for the first time in the Enochic sources, at least in a so extensive form.”)

(J.C. VanderKam, An Introduction to Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), pp. 88-94; see also J.J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (New York: Crossroad, 1992), esp. the chapter on “The Early Enoch Literature,”pp. 43-84.)

(On 1 Enoch see J.T. Milik, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumrân Cave 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976) and cf. the review by J.C. Greenfield and M.E. Stone, “The Books of Enoch and the Traditions of Enoch,” Numen 26 (1979): pp. 89-103.

A modern translation of the text is now published by G.W.E. Nickelsburg and J.C. VanderKam, Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004).

For the religious-historical framework of the book see J.C. VanderKam and P. Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002); cf. also VanderKam, Introduction.

William Blake, Jacob's Dream, c. 1805 AD. Currently held at the British Museum, London. Commissioned and acquired from William Blake by Thomas Butts. Also available at the William Blake Archive. This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blake_jacobsladder.jpg

William Blake, Jacob’s Dream, c. 1805 CE. Currently held at the British Museum, London. Commissioned and acquired from William Blake by Thomas Butts.
Also available at the William Blake Archive.
This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blake_jacobsladder.jpg

A thorough study of the Enochic literature should, of course, also take into consideration the many references to Enoch in the so-called apocryphal literature. There are presently two recommendable translations: OTP and AOT.)

They prove that the Astronomical Enoch and the Book of the Watchers are among the earliest texts collected in Enoch.

Enoch belongs to the Old Slavonic biblical tradition—a tradition that is still very much alive in the popular religion of the Balkans.

(At the time when I finished this article I was not yet able to check The Old Testament Apocrypha in the Slavonic Tradition: Continuity and Diversity (ed. L. DiTommaso and C. Böttrich with the assistance of M. Swoboda; TSAJ 140; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming 2011).

Indeed, as F. Badalanova Geller was able to demonstrate, there is an oral tradition still alive in contemporary Bulgaria, incorporating various pieces from the Jewish and apocryphal traditions, which has also considerable impact on orthodox iconography.

(F. Badalanova Geller, “Cultural Transfer and Text Transmission: The Case of the Enoch Apocryphic Tradition” (lecture delivered at the Conference “Multilingualism in Central Asia, Near and Middle East from Antiquity to Early Modern Times” at the Center for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, 2 March 2010). I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Badalanova Geller for fruitful discussions and additional references.)

She further calls the underlying (oral) stories “the Epic of Enoch,” arguing methodologically along the lines of V. Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale.

(V. Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale (trans. L. Scott; 2nd ed.; Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

This “epic” was certainly also related to the tradition of the kabbalistic-rabbinic Enoch which, like other hermetic literature, describes Enoch as Metatron, featuring him as the “Great Scribe” (safra rabba: Tg. Yer.).

(Tg. Yer. to Genesis 5:24; see also b. Hag. 15a; see further A.A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ 107; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), pp. 50-9, esp. 51.)

It cannot be the purpose of this paper to take the entire Enochic tradition into consideration; the references to Enoch are manifold in the so-called apocryphal tradition.

(Concerning the book of Jubilees, Kvanvig, Roots, p. 146, writes e.g.: “Jubilees deals with a tradition about the origin of Babylonian science. This science was revealed to men in primordial time. The revelators were angels who descended from heaven and acted as sages among men. Enoch as the first sage is found in Pseudo-Eupolemus.”)

We only mention here that “the instructor” Enoch, Idris in Arabic, is attested in the Qur’an (19:56–57; 21:85–86) as a prophet, and that in Muslim lore, like in Judaism, he is also connected with the invention of astronomy.

We may further mention persisting traditions in Classical Antiquity, especially Claudius Aelianus, who mentions the miraculous birth of Gilgamesh.”

(Claudius Aelianus, De Natura Animalium 12.21: “At any rate an Eagle fostered a baby. And I want to tell the whole story, so that I may have evidence of my proposition. When Seuechoros was king of Babylon the Chaldeans foretold that the son born of his daughter would wrest the kingdom from his grandfather.

Frontispiece of Claudius Aelianus, dated 1556. Born circa 175 CE and died circa 235 CE, he was born at Praeneste. A Roman author and teacher of rhetoric, his two chief works are cherished for their quotations from earlier authors, whose works are lost to history. He wrote De Natura Animalium and Varia Historia, though significant fragments of other works, On Providence and Divine Manifestations, are also preserved in the early medieval encyclopedia, The Suda. http://www.summagallicana.it/lessico/e/Eliano%20o%20Claudio%20Eliano.htm

Frontispiece of Claudius Aelianus, dated 1556 CE. Born circa 175 CE and died circa 235 CE, he was born at Praeneste. A Roman author and teacher of rhetoric, his two chief works are cherished for their quotations from earlier authors, whose works are lost to history. He wrote De Natura Animalium and Varia Historia, though significant fragments of other works, On Providence and Divine Manifestations, are also preserved in the early medieval encyclopedia, The Suda.
http://www.summagallicana.it/lessico/e/Eliano%20o%20Claudio%20Eliano.htm

This made him afraid and (if I may be allowed the small jest) he played Acrisius to his daughter: he put the strictest of watches upon her. For all that, since fate was cleverer than the king of Babylon, the girl became a mother, being pregnant by some obscure man.

So the guards from fear of the king hurled the infant from the citadel, for that was where the aforesaid girl was imprisoned. Now an Eagle which saw with its piercing eye the child while still falling, before it was dashed on the earth, flew beneath it, flung its back under it, and conveyed it to some garden and set it down with the utmost care.

But when the keeper of the place saw the pretty baby he fell in love with it and nursed it; and it was called Gilgamos and became king of Babylon.”)

(Claudius Aelianus, On the Characteristics of Animals [trans. A.F. Schofield; 3 vols.; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958-1959], 3:39–41). We may further note that in the subsequent text Aelianus explicitly refers to Achaemenes, the legendary founder of the first Persian dynasty, who is also said “to be raised by an eagle.”)

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 779-781.

Melvin: On the Tower of Babel

“The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9 provides further evidence for the human origin of civilization in the form of city-building. As Theodore Hiebert notes, the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1–9 is not chiefly concerned with the construction of a tower, but rather with the founding of the city of Babylon.

(Wenham finds it odd that an individual condemned to wander as a nomad would be the founder of city-life, and he suggests that Enoch built the city and named it after his son, Irad. Thus, the name of the first city would have been “Irad”, which is very close to “Eridu”, the oldest city and the first cultural center of the world, where Enki / Ea dwelled (Genesis 1–15, p. 111).

The Birs-i-Numrud, alleged to be the ruined remains of the historical Tower of Babel.  Current dimensions are 150 feet high with a circumference of 2300 ft.  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/206180489165185035/

The Birs-i-Numrud, alleged to be the ruined remains of the historical Tower of Babel.
Current dimensions are 150 feet high with a circumference of 2300 ft.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/206180489165185035/

(“The Tower of Babel and the Origin of the World’s Cultures,” JBL 126 (2007), pp. 34–35.)

The biblical text portrays the entire enterprise as an expression of human hubris in the face of the divine command to “fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1; cf. Genesis 11:4), and their efforts are met with direct divine opposition.

Here postdiluvian humanity resolves to: 1) build a city and a tower “with its top in the heavens”, and 2) make for themselves a “name”, so that they will not be scattered upon the face of the earth (Genesis 11:4).

Traditional interpretation has viewed this as an act of prideful defiance of Yahweh, although a number of post-colonial interpreters see the story of Babel as an attack on imperial domination.

(See, for example, Christoph Uehlinger, Weltreich und “eine Rede”: Eine neue Deutung der sogenannten Turmbauerzählung (Genesis 11, 1–9) (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990), pp. 514–58. By way of contrast, Hiebert contends that the account is not about pride and punishment at all, but rather seeks to provide an explanation of the origin of the various cultures of the world (“The Tower of Babel,” p. 31).

Similarly, Walter Brueggemann reads the story as a “polemic against the growth of urban culture as an expression of pride,” specifically, pride before Yahweh.

(Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (Interpretation; Atlanta: John Knox, 1982), p. 98.)

Needless to say, the biblical story of Babel does not depict the city of Babylon as a product of divine action, but rather the story appears to be a polemic against the tradition of the divine origin of Babylon represented in the myth Enuma Elish.

Click to zoom. Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530-1569), The Tower of Babel, 1563, held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.<br /> This work is in the public domain in the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.<br /> https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited.jpg

Click to zoom. Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530-1569), The Tower of Babel, 1563, held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
This work is in the public domain in the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited.jpg

In Genesis 11:1–9, there is no divine assistance in the founding of the city, nor does Yahweh (or any other deity) bless or inhabit it, but rather Yahweh’s intervention to stop the construction by confusing the languages of humanity indicates direct divine opposition to the endeavor.

Westermann’s observations that civilization in Genesis 1–11 is depicted positively insofar as it is 1) actual human progress, without divine assistance as in the Mesopotamian myths, and 2) the working out of the divine blessing of Genesis 1:28–30 (and later 9:1–7) notwithstanding, it is clear that Genesis 1–11 has greatly muted the positive depiction of civilization found in Mesopotamian literature.

(Westermann, Genesis 1–11, pp. 60–61. Similar to Westermann’s is the evaluation of Batto, who reads the Yahwistic account of primeval history as, “the story of a continuously improved creation, which reached its culmination in the final definition of humankind at the conclusion of the flood in Genesis 8.”

Batto reads the J portions of Genesis 1–11 in tandem in the Atrahasis myth as portraits of the attempt of a naïve and inexperienced (and at times bumbling) creator deity to properly define the status and role of humanity. Most of Genesis 2–9 consists of humanity’s attempt to attain divinity by breaking free of the loosely and inconsistently established boundaries established by Yahweh.

At the same time, Yahweh must contend with humanity in order to force them to accept their divinely appointed role as creatures of the soil, only achieving success in Genesis 9:20, when Noah accepts his lot as a “man of the soil” (i.e., a farmer).

Batto compares this reading of Genesis 2–9 with Enlil’s creation of humans for the purpose of serving the gods (e.g., working the ground, digging canals, feeding the gods) in Atrahasis. In both Atrahasis and Genesis, “humankind’s refusal to accept its servant role, grasping at divinity instead” culminates in the flood and finally the concrete definition of humanity as mortal.

It is only with the later Priestly redaction of Genesis 1–11 in the exilic/post-exilic period that Genesis 2–11 becomes the story of “the fall” of humanity from its originally perfect created state in paradise (Batto, “Creation Theology,” 26–38).

Batto’s readings of both Genesis 1–11 and Atrahasis are faulty. Although Batto is correct to point out that the original setting of the creation of humanity in Genesis 2 is a dry, barren wasteland, rather than paradise, it does not follow from this fact that all of the Yahwistic Primeval History is a story of the continued improvement of creation.

Batto makes no attempt to account for how the expulsion of humans from the garden (which has by this time truly become paradise) and the cursing of the soil is an “improvement.” Neither is there as much similarity between the motives for the deity’s sending of the flood in Genesis 6–9 and Atrahasis as Batto maintains.

As Robert Di Vito points out, the argument that the boundary between the divine and the human and humanity’s repeated attempts to achieve divinity are the chief concerns of Genesis 2–11 has been greatly overstated.

The primary sin of the first human couple was that they disobeyed God, and the reason for the flood was the wickedness (especially “violence” חמם􏰗) of humanity—not “the violation of ontologically defined boundaries” (“The Demarcation of Divine and Human Realms in Genesis 2–11,” Richard J. Clifford and John J. Collins [eds.], Creation in the Biblical Traditions [CBQMS, 24; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1992], p. 50).

While Di Vito goes too far in his denial of the motif of human/divine boundaries in Genesis 1–11—transgression of the boundary between the human and the divine does seem to be an issue in Genesis 3 and in Genesis 6:1–4 (see David L. Peterson, “Genesis 6:1–4, Yahweh and the Organization of the Cosmos,” JSOT 13 [1979], pp. 47–64)—Batto’s attempt to see humanity’s refusal to accept its role as creatures of the soil and servants of the divine reads far too much into the text, while ignoring much of what is there.

Likewise, Batto’s contention that humanity’s refusal to accept its role as servants of the gods led to the flood in Atrahasis is puzzling. Although it is true that the Igigi gods protest against their subjection to labor prior to the creation of humans, there is no hint of such refusal on the part of humanity in the text, and the reason for the flood is not the attempt of humans to obtain divinity, but rather their noisiness (see Atrahasis, I.352–59). There is also no indication that humans sought to obtain divinity, not even Atrahasis, to whom the gods decide to grant immortality after the flood.)

In the Mesopotamian traditions, civilization arises via divine intervention, either directly in the form of a gift bestowed upon humanity, or indirectly through semi-divine mediators. Moreover, in these mythic texts human progress moves along an upward trajectory, from the earliest stages, in which humans are animal-like and incapable of harnessing the elements of nature for their benefit, to civilized life, in which they enjoy the blessings of divine gifts and a more “god-like” status.”

David P. Melvin, “Divine Mediation and the Rise of Civilization in Mesopotamian Literature and in Genesis 1-11,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 2010, pp. 9-11.

Melvin: Divine or Semi-Divine Intermediaries

The Divine Source of Civilization in Mesopotamian Myths

“The motif of the divine origin of civilization is common in the ancient Near East, especially in Mesopotamia, and it stands in stark contrast to the portrayal of the rise of civilization in Genesis 1– 11.

(Although many of my observations with regard to the view of the rise of civilization presented in Mesopotamian mythology could also be made within the mythic traditions of other ancient cultures (e.g., Egypt, Greece, Canaan), Bernard Batto notes, “[f]or reasons not entirely clear to us the opening chapters of Genesis are typologically and content-wise more akin to the mythic traditions of Mesopotamia than of territorially closer Canaan—the reverse of the normal situation in the Hebrew Bible.”

(Bernard Batto, “Creation Theology in Genesis,” R. J. Clifford and J. J. Collins [eds.], Creation in the Biblical Traditions [CBQMS, 24; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1992], 16).

For this reason, as well as the general consensus that the compilation of Genesis 1–11 occurred in the exilic or early post-exilic period, in large measure as a polemic against the Babylonian cosmological worldview in which the Jewish community found itself immersed, I have limited my comparisons of the biblical material to a number of Mesopotamian myths.)

In a number of mythological texts, civilization is portrayed as a gift bestowed upon humanity by the gods, and human advancement is generally a positive development. Often the arts of civilization come to humanity through divine or semi-divine intermediaries, such as the apkallus or heroes who are either semi-divine (e.g., Gilgamesh) or divinized humans (e.g., Lugalbanda, Utnapishtim).

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the purādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.  A fish's head can be seen on the Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.  It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type. 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 of the purādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.
A fish’s head can be seen on the Apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.
It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type.
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/

According to the apkallu tradition, which comes to us from a wide array of sources ranging from the bilingual (Sumerian-Akkadian), “Etiological Myth of the Seven Sages” in the Bīt Mēseri 􏰀􏰁􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰈texts to the much later writings of Berossus (4th century BCE) and the Uruk Sage List (c. 165 BCE), as well as the Adapa myth and the epic myth􏰔􏰈􏰈􏰎􏰃􏰎􏰋􏰐􏰃􏰓􏰆 Erra and Ishum, semi-divine beings sent by Enki / Ea instructed antediluvian humans in the arts of civilization. The apkallus were teachers of early humanity whom Ea had endowed with “broad understanding” (uzna rapašta).

(Erica Reiner, “The Etiological Myth of the ‘Seven Sages,’” Orientalia 30 (1960), 4. See also Alan Lenzi, Secrecy and the Gods: Secret Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia and Biblical Israel (SAAS, 19; Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2008), 106–20. A similar description of the apkallus appears in the myth Erra and Ishum (COS 1.113:408).

(See the detailed description of the apkallus in Jean Bottéro, Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods (trans. Zainab Bahrani and Marc Van De Mieroop; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 246–49. For a discussion of the Uruk Sage List, see Lenzi, Secrecy and the Gods, 106–09.)

(See Helge S. Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic: The Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure and the Son of Man (WMANT, 61; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag), 295–318; Paul D. Hanson, “Rebellion in Heaven, Azazel, and Euhemeristic Heroes in 1 Enoch 6–11,” JBL 96 (1977), 226– 29.)

According to Berossus, they taught the people of Sumer “writing, science, and technology of all types, the foundation of cities, the building of temples, jurisprudence and geometry,” as well as such necessities as agriculture. In lists, they usually appear paired with the king whom they purportedly advised as a sort of vizier.”

David P. Melvin, “Divine Mediation and the Rise of Civilization in Mesopotamian Literature and in Genesis 1-11,” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 2010, pp. 3-4.

Izre’el: The Tale of the Adapa Myth

“Moreover, there is further textual evidence for the identification of the two figures in the combined name u-an(-na) adapa or u-ma-a-num a-da-pa (Lambert 1962: 73-4; van Dijk 1962: 44-8; Hallo 1963: 176; Bottéro 1969-70: 106; Borger 1974: 186; Picchioni 1981: 97-101; Kvanvig 1988: 202-4; Denning-Bolle 1992: 44-5; cf. Albright 1926).

The mythological figure Adapa has, thus, two variants: one is called Uan; another is called Adapa. The myth of the seven primordial sages shares with the Berossus tradition the mytheme of emergence from water. The etymological equation between Adapa and ù.tu.a.ab.ba is related to a similar tradition, while his having ascended to heaven is perhaps recalled by the name Uan, which includes a direct reference to heaven (An).

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish. The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish.
The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

Thus it was Oannes-Adapa who instructed people about the ordinance of the earth. It is with this theme that the myth of Adapa and the South Wind opens.

The Story

The myth as we know it opens with a description of the background to the main narrative. This background has reached us through what is now called Fragment A, of which the very first line or lines are missing (for the find and the extant fragments, see below).

The first legible lines refer to the power of divine speech, and it is said that Ea—known to us as the Mesopotamian god of fresh water and wisdom—perfected Adapa “with great intelligence, to give instruction about the ordinance of the earth. To him he gave wisdom, he did not give him eternal life” (lines 3’-4’).

Adapa was a servant of Ea. Respected and adored by his community, he performed the chores necessary to the daily rituals, which included, among others, supplying fish from the nearby sea.

One day Adapa’s journey to the wide sea ended unexpectedly in a sudden burst of the South Wind. Adapa was plunged into the sea. Here begins the narrative as we know it from Fragment B. This fragment has some close, albeit broken, parallels in Fragment C and at the beginning of Fragment D.

Adapa, who for the first time in his life had met with some difficulty, could do nothing other than to threaten the blowing wind that he would break its wing. As soon as he uttered this threat, the wing of the South Wind broke.

Click to zoom.<br /> A solid basalt tub recovered from outside the Temple of Ishtar at Nineveh, now in the collection of the Pergamon Museum.<br />  Ea is readily identified at the center with water flowing from his shoulders. Ea is surrounded by apkallu, puradu-fish apkallu.<br />  The puradu-fish apkallu have a fish head and fish skin flowing down their backs. They raise rectangular objects of unknown etiology in their right hands, in their traditional acts of purification and blessing. The banduddu buckets are, as usual, in their lowered left hands.<br />  This tub probably portrays the Seven Sages of antediluvian Sumeria.

Click to zoom.
A solid basalt tub recovered from outside the Temple of Ishtar at Nineveh, now in the collection of the Pergamon Museum.
Ea is readily identified at the center with water flowing from his shoulders. Ea is surrounded by apkallu, puradu-fish apkallu.
The puradu-fish apkallu have a fish head and fish skin flowing down their backs. They raise rectangular objects of unknown etiology in their right hands, in their traditional acts of purification and blessing. The banduddu buckets are, as usual, in their lowered left hands.
This tub probably portrays the Seven Sages of antediluvian Sumeria.

Nothing could be done against Adapa’s spell, and Anu, the sky god and the head of the Mesopotamian pantheon, called Adapa to task. The situation was indeed unpleasant for the disciple of Ea. Yet, a god such as Ea would not risk a meeting between his loyal servant and Anu without proper preparation.

As might be appropriate for the god of wisdom, Ea, well known also for his artful character, supplied Adapa with minute instructions that were intended to save his life. Among these were strict orders to avoid any food or drink offered to him in heaven, any of which Ea said would bring death on Adapa.

However the situation turned out to be rather different from what Adapa anticipated. While in heaven, Anu’s anger was appeased by two deities, Dumuzi and Gizzida, who were standing at the gate of heaven. Following Ea’s instructions, Adapa had paid a tribute of flattering words to them. Instead of being offered deadly food and water, he was offered the food and water of life.

Adapa refused it, and thus—at least according to one recension, recorded in Fragment B—lost a unique and irreversible chance for eternal life.

However, according to another version of the story, recorded in Fragment D, Anu seems to have shown Adapa the awesomeness of heaven and to have installed Adapa in his own rather than in Ea’s service. This fragment also adds to the myth a healing incantation that is based on the very fact that Adapa, “a seed of humankind,” succeeded in breaking the wing of the South Wind.”

Schlomo Izre’el, Adapa and the South Wind: Language Has the Power of Life and Death, Eisenbrauns, 2001, pp. 2-5.

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 derived from the name of the mythological figure Adapa (CAD A/I 102 s.v. adapu B; AHw 1542 s.v. adapu III).

This lexical text has ù.tu.a.ab.ba “born in the sea” as the Sumerian equivalent of adapu, an equation that may have resulted from folk etymology (Lambert 1962: 73-4). In any case, whether primary or secondary, this possible etymology shows the mythological characteristics attributed to Adapa by the Mesopotamians, since he, as one of the first antediluvian sages, was thought to have emerged from the sea.

At some point, the name Adapa was interpreted as an epithet rather than as a proper noun, and as such it co-occurs with the name Uan(na), “the light of An” (see below).

Whether the word was originally an epithet or a name is hard to tell, especially since one cannot draw any sound conclusions regarding the origin of the myth or of any individual mytheme from the chronology of its occasional textual finds.

K 5519, British Museum. E.A. Wallis Budge, ed., Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, part XXX, British Museum, London, 1911. Plate 8.  http://www.etana.org/sites/default/files/coretexts/17079.pdf

K 5519, British Museum.
E.A. Wallis Budge, ed., Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, part XXX, British Museum, London, 1911. Plate 8.
http://www.etana.org/sites/default/files/coretexts/17079.pdf

In a Sumero-Akkadian bilingual account of the first sages, a priest of Eridu is mentioned as one who ascended to heaven:

“[PN,] the purification priest of Eridu

[. . .] who ascended to heaven.

They are the seven brilliant apkallus, purãdu-fish of the sea,

[sev]en apkallus “grown” in the river,

who insure the correct functioning of the ordinance of heaven and earth.”

(K 5519: I’ – 9’ after Reiner 1961: 2, 4).

Reiner (1961: 6-7) suggested that the subject here was Adapa. However, taken in its context as part of the bīt mēseri ritual, the name of the apkallu mentioned is Utuabzu (“born in the Apsu”), who comes seventh in a list of apkallus (Borger 1974: 192-4).

A fish-apkallu drawn by A.H. Layard from a stone relief, one of a pair flanking a doorway in the Temple of Ninurta at Kalhu.  This example is identical to illustration 55 in Dalley's article on the apkallu, which she cites for the dual daggers in his waistband.  British Museum. 

Reproduced in Schlomo Izre'el, Adapa and the South Wind: Language Has the Power of Life and Death, Eisenbrauns, 2001.

 https://books.google.co.th/books?id=MbwwROVGl7UC&pg=PA3&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

A fish-apkallu drawn by A.H. Layard from a stone relief, one of a pair flanking a doorway in the Temple of Ninurta at Kalhu.
This example is identical to illustration 55 in Dalley’s article on the apkallu, which she cites for the dual daggers in his waistband.
British Museum. 

Reproduced in Schlomo Izre’el, Adapa and the South Wind: Language Has the Power of Life and Death, Eisenbrauns, 2001.


https://books.google.co.th/books?id=MbwwROVGl7UC&pg=PA3&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

In another place in the same text, the last of seven sages is Utua-abba, mentioned as one who descended from heaven (Borger 1974: 193-4; see also Borger 1994: 231 and p. 232 n. 37).

The name Uan is listed as the first apkallu, who served during the time of the king Ayyalu (van Dijk 1962: 44). It is he who is mentioned as the one who “completed the ordinance of heaven and earth.”

The Greek variant of the name Uan, namely Oannes, is known from the account of Babylonian history by Berossus, The Babyloniaca, where it is said that before civilization was introduced to the people of Mesopotamia,

“…there was a great crowd of men in Babylonia and they lived without laws as wild animals. In the first year (i.e., of the reign of Alorus) a beast named Oannes appeared from the Erythrean Sea in a place adjacent to Babylonia. Its entire body was that of a fish, but a human head had grown beneath the head of the fish and human feet likewise had grown from the fish’s tail. It also had a human voice. A picture of it is still preserved today.”

(Burstein 1978: 13-4).

The evidence in our possession thus seems to point to at least two different original traditions (cf. Wiggermann 1986: 153) that have become a single unified tradition in the most prominent remaining texts (cf. the remarks by Denning-Bolle 1992: 44-5).

I believe that in the myth of Adapa and the South Wind, as it was interpreted in the traditions that have reached us, there is a strong case for such a unified tradition. Variation, it must be noted, is a part of the very nature of mythological traditions (cf. pp. 108-10 below).”

Schlomo Izre’el, Adapa and the South Wind: Language Has the Power of Life and Death, Eisenbrauns, 2001, pp. 1-2.

Kvanvig: Divine Origin of Antediluvian Texts

Enuma Elish was written to promote Marduk as the head of the pantheon, reflecting the position of Babylon at the end of the second millennium. This was a new invention in Mesopotamian theology. To promote this new theology the author added a postscript in which he claims a divine origin for his work:

“This is the revelation which an Ancient, to whom it was told,

wrote down and established for posterity to hear.”

(Enuma Elish VII, 157-8. Translation according to van der Toorn, Scribal Culture, p. 212.)

The word translated “revelation,” taklimtu, literally means “demonstration.” The term preserves a memory of the time when revelation was thought of as a visual experience. In this case, however, the gods told the text to an Ancient, meaning that they had dictated it.

This is one of the few representations of a Mesopotamian pantheon that I have seen, allegedly adapted from a rock relief at Malatia (Anti-Taurus range).<br />  From Professor Morris Jastrow's Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, G.P. Putnam's &amp; Sons, 1911.<br />  https://archive.org/details/aspectsofreligio00jast<br />  http://wisdomlib.org/mesopotamian/book/myths-and-legends-of-babylonia-and-assyria/d/doc7167.html<br />  Another version of this pantheon observes that Aššur is at the head of the procession, standing on two animals, including a snake-dragon or muššuššu. The rod and ring of sovereignty are in his right hand. I am not sure what he holds in his left hand.<br />  Ištar (of Nineveh) is depicted seated on a throne, carried as usual by a lion, her sacred animal. She carries what Black and Green term a "chaplet," a ring of temporal authority. The objects on the rear of her throne evoke her common depiction with maces and weaponry, appropriate for a goddess of love and war. Her throne is supported by indistinct figures of the Mesopotamian pandemonium. Winged scorpion-men, perhaps.<br />  The third figure from right to left is said to be Sin, the Moon-god, mounted upon a winged bull. Like Aššur, he holds an object which could be the horn from a bull in his left hand, and the rod and ring of temporal sovereignty in his right.<br />  The fourth figure from the right is believed to be Enlil or Marduk, like Aššur standing on a Muššuššu dragon. While this figure's left hand is empty, raised in the gesture of greeting, he holds the rod and ring in his right hand.<br />  The next figure is said to be Shamash, (or Šamaš), the sun god, mounted on a horse. He holds the rod and ring in his right hand, and greets with his left hand.<br />  Adad is second from the left, with lighting bolts in his hands. Adad stands on a pair of winged bulls.<br />  The final figure is believed to be a depiction of Ištar on a lion, either Ištar of Arbela or Ištar of Babylon.<br />  See Place, Ninive et VAssyrie, Pl. 45, from which it would appear that the design was repeated three times on the monument.<br />  See also Luschan, Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli , p. 23 seq.<br />  For another procession of gods (on an alabaster slab found at Nimroud) see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, i., Pl. 65.<br />  http://www.wisdomlib.org/mesopotamian/book/aspects-of-religious-belief-and-practice-in-babylonia-and-assyria/d/doc7258.html<br />  Finally, Jeremy Black and Anthony Green observe, "The best preserved of four similar panels of rock reliefs at Maltai, carved on the cliff face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road leading from Assyria to the Upper Zab valley. (This reads as though Black &amp; Green had actually visited the site).<br />  Black and Green note that an Assyrian king, "probably Sennacherib (704-681 BCE)," flanks the seven depicted deities.<br />  The version in Black and Green is reversed, with the procession facing to the left. From left to right, Black and Green identify Aššur on Muššuššu, followed by "his consort Mullisu enthroned on a lion," Enlil or Sin on a lion-dragon, Nabu on a snake-dragon, Šamaš on a horse, Adad with lightening bolts, and Ištar on a lion.<br />  Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 40.<br />  https://books.google.co.th/books?id=pr8-i1iFnIQC&amp;redir_esc=y<br />  Anthony Green updated these comments in 1994 in Michwesen. B. "The best preserved of four similar panels of rock reliefs at Maltai, carved on the cliff face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road from Assyria to the upper Zab valley. The Assyrian king, probably Sennacherib, flanks a procession of seven deities upon their animals. After F. Thureau-Dangin, Les Sculptures Rupestres de Maltai, RA 21 (1924), p. 187. For the beasts, cf. U. Seidl, RIA III s.v. "Gottersymbole und -attribute."<br />  Anthony Green, Mischwesen. B, 1994, p. 263.<br />  https://www.academia.edu/2378476/Mischwesen_B._A.Green_

This is one of the few representations of a Mesopotamian pantheon that I have seen, allegedly adapted from a rock relief at Malatia (Anti-Taurus range).
From Professor Morris Jastrow’s Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, G.P. Putnam’s & Sons, 1911.
https://archive.org/details/aspectsofreligio00jast
http://wisdomlib.org/mesopotamian/book/myths-and-legends-of-babylonia-and-assyria/d/doc7167.html
Another version of this pantheon observes that Aššur is at the head of the procession, standing on two animals, including a snake-dragon or muššuššu. The rod and ring of sovereignty are in his right hand. I am not sure what he holds in his left hand.
Ištar (of Nineveh) is depicted seated on a throne, carried as usual by a lion, her sacred animal. She carries what Black and Green term a “chaplet,” a ring of temporal authority. The objects on the rear of her throne evoke her common depiction with maces and weaponry, appropriate for a goddess of love and war. Her throne is supported by indistinct figures of the Mesopotamian pandemonium. Winged scorpion-men, perhaps.
The third figure from right to left is said to be Sin, the Moon-god, mounted upon a winged bull. Like Aššur, he holds an object which could be the horn from a bull in his left hand, and the rod and ring of temporal sovereignty in his right.
The fourth figure from the right is believed to be Enlil or Marduk, like Aššur standing on a Muššuššu dragon. While this figure’s left hand is empty, raised in the gesture of greeting, he holds the rod and ring in his right hand.
The next figure is said to be Shamash, (or Šamaš), the sun god, mounted on a horse. He holds the rod and ring in his right hand, and greets with his left hand.
Adad is second from the left, with lighting bolts in his hands. Adad stands on a pair of winged bulls.
The final figure is believed to be a depiction of Ištar on a lion, either Ištar of Arbela or Ištar of Babylon.
See Place, Ninive et VAssyrie, Pl. 45, from which it would appear that the design was repeated three times on the monument.
See also Luschan, Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli , p. 23 seq.
For another procession of gods (on an alabaster slab found at Nimroud) see Layard, Monuments of Nineveh, i., Pl. 65.
http://www.wisdomlib.org/mesopotamian/book/aspects-of-religious-belief-and-practice-in-babylonia-and-assyria/d/doc7258.html
Finally, Jeremy Black and Anthony Green observe, “The best preserved of four similar panels of rock reliefs at Maltai, carved on the cliff face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road leading from Assyria to the Upper Zab valley. (This reads as though Black & Green had actually visited the site).
Black and Green note that an Assyrian king, “probably Sennacherib (704-681 BCE),” flanks the seven depicted deities.
The version in Black and Green is reversed, with the procession facing to the left. From left to right, Black and Green identify Aššur on Muššuššu, followed by “his consort Mullisu enthroned on a lion,” Enlil or Sin on a lion-dragon, Nabu on a snake-dragon, Šamaš on a horse, Adad with lightening bolts, and Ištar on a lion.
Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, p. 40.
https://books.google.co.th/books?id=pr8-i1iFnIQC&redir_esc=y
Anthony Green updated these comments in 1994 in Michwesen. B. “The best preserved of four similar panels of rock reliefs at Maltai, carved on the cliff face on the southern side of the Dehok valley, by the road from Assyria to the upper Zab valley. The Assyrian king, probably Sennacherib, flanks a procession of seven deities upon their animals. After F. Thureau-Dangin, Les Sculptures Rupestres de Maltai, RA 21 (1924), p. 187. For the beasts, cf. U. Seidl, RIA III s.v. “Gottersymbole und -attribute.”
Anthony Green, Mischwesen. B, 1994, p. 263.
https://www.academia.edu/2378476/Mischwesen_B._A.Green_

The Ancient put it down into writing and established it for future generations. This is very similar to what Kabti-ilāni-Marduk says about the revelation of the Poem of Erra, as van der Toorn also notes.

We can observe a similar feature in Gilgamesh. In the Old Babylonian version of the epic, wisdom is human knowledge acquired through life experience. In the Standard Babylonian version from the end of the second millennium this wisdom has become divine.

The editor added a prologue in which he pictures Gilgamesh as a man who has obtained hidden wisdom, inaccessible to others:

“he [learnt] the totality of wisdom about everything.

He saw the secret and uncovered the hidden,

he brought back a message from the antediluvian age.”

(Gilgamesh I, 6-8. Translation according to George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic I, 539.)

The same theme reoccurs at the end of the composition, in tablet XI, where Gilgamesh meets Uta-napišti, the hero of the flood, who has become like the gods. Uta-napišti reveals secrets to Gilgamesh, referred to as “a hidden matter” and “a secret of the gods” (XI, 9-10, repeated in 281-2).

Van der Toorn sees the classification of writings as “revelations” and “secrets” in relation to the development from an oral to a scribal culture. Oral and written transmission existed together in the long time span of Mesopotamian culture, but at a certain time there came a change, i.e. at the end of the second millennium.

The written tradition became more important in the formation of new generations of scholars.

“From that moment on, students began to acquire their knowledge by copying texts rather than listening to a teacher; the master copy took the place of the master.”

(Van der Toorn, Scribal Culture, 218.)

The authority was transposed from the master to the text, and the text needed an authority that also included the master. Thus the construct was made about a written revelation from Ea to the apkallus and further in an unbroken chain down to the actual scholars.

They were the legitimate heirs of this written tradition; it was once revealed and therefore a secret belonging to their guild.

“To legitimize the written tradition, the Mesopotamian scholars qualified it as divine revelation; to preserve their privileged position as brokers of revealed knowledge, they declared it to be secret knowledge.”

(Ibid., 220.)

Even though we know that cause-effect constructions in the reconstruction of history cannot be one-dimensional, we find van der Toorn’s arguments here quite convincing. They are implied in Lenzi’s analysis as well, even though he follows more closely what took place within the written tradition in the first millennium itself.

Lenzi’s approach is to give evidence from the sources to what he labels “the mythology of scribal tradition.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 151-2.

Kvanvig: The Sacred Tree

“Parpola discusses the role of these experts in relation to the king. Did the experts form a clique that was in the position to manipulate the king according to its own agenda? Parpola denies this possibility; on the one hand the “inner circle” was not permanently present at the court; on the other hand there was clearly rivalry between the scholars. In addition, the advisory role of the scholars was overwhelmingly passive and “academic.”

The cuneiform tablet (IM 65066) is in the Bagdad Museum.

 A.K. Grayson, from the Reallexikon der Assyriologie, s.v. "Königslisten und Chroniken". A.K. Grayson, 'Assyrian and Babylonian King Lists,' in: Lišan mithurti. (Festschrift Von Soden) (Kevelaer : Neukirchen-Vluyn : Butzon & Bercker; 1969) Plate III.

 http://www.livius.org/source-content/uruk-king-list/

The cuneiform tablet (IM 65066) is in the Bagdad Museum.


A.K. Grayson, from the Reallexikon der Assyriologie, s.v. “Königslisten und Chroniken”.
A.K. Grayson, ‘Assyrian and Babylonian King Lists,’ in: Lišan mithurti. (Festschrift Von Soden) (Kevelaer : Neukirchen-Vluyn : Butzon & Bercker; 1969) Plate III.


http://www.livius.org/source-content/uruk-king-list/

Nevertheless, the importance of the scholars for the king must not be underestimated. They represented a wisdom going back to the seven apkallus from before the flood, and this wisdom was indispensable for the king. The experts provided the royal family with medical care (physicians and exorcists), protection against demons and angry gods (exorcists and chanters), and they provided the king with insight into the future (haruspices and astrologers).

This appears to be an ummanu without wings, blessing the sacred tree with his right hand raised in the greeting gesture and his lowered left hand holding drooping poppy bulbs. This depiction of an apkallu wears a dual-horned tiara indicative of divinity or semi-divinity, but lacks all other indicators like wings. As the typical mullilu cone and banduddu bucket are absent, this could depict a king saluting the tree. Still, the figure wears a horned tiara, which is reserved for apkallu, and not worn by kings. <br />  The horned tiara is atypical with a distinctive fleur de lis at the apex. Indeed this frieze is remarkably detailed, with three separate bands visible on the rosette bracelets, and individual strands visible on the tasseled garment. <br />  The sacred tree is sparse and stark in comparison to other renditions, though it appears to be blossoming from a fleur de lis base.<br />  (Génie tenant une fleur de pavot - Genie carrying a poppy flower.)<br />  Bas-relief, 144 x 17cm.<br />  Louvre, AO 19869

This appears to be an ummanu without wings, blessing the sacred tree with his right hand raised in the greeting gesture and his lowered left hand holding drooping poppy bulbs. This depiction of an apkallu wears a dual-horned tiara indicative of divinity or semi-divinity, but lacks all other indicators like wings. As the typical mullilu cone and banduddu bucket are absent, this could depict a king saluting the tree. Still, the figure wears a horned tiara, which is reserved for apkallu, and not worn by kings.
The horned tiara is atypical with a distinctive fleur de lis at the apex. Indeed this frieze is remarkably detailed, with three separate bands visible on the rosette bracelets, and individual strands visible on the tasseled garment.
The sacred tree is sparse and stark in comparison to other renditions, though it appears to be blossoming from a fleur de lis base.
(Génie tenant une fleur de pavot – Genie carrying a poppy flower.)
Bas-relief, 144 x 17cm.
Louvre, AO 19869

Both on Assyrian reliefs and cylinder seals depictions of the apkallus together with a date palm, and in some instances the king, are common. The date palm is here a holy tree, the Tree of Life. It symbolizes the benefits the gods and kings were expected to supply for the people.

(Click to zoom in)<br />  On the imprint from this chalcedony cylinder seal dated to the 9th Century BCE, an umu-apkallu, an ummanu, winged with mullilu and banduddu bucket, blesses (or pollinates) the sacred tree with an undefined female figure.<br />  Note that this more or less symmetrical rendition of the sacred tree is mounted on a pedestal with bulbs that resemble cones.<br />  Cylinder seal and imprint: Cult of the sacred tree. Chalcedony,<br />  H: 3,2 cm<br />  Louvre: AO 22348

(Click to zoom in)
On the imprint from this chalcedony cylinder seal dated to the 9th Century BCE, an umu-apkallu, an ummanu, winged with mullilu and banduddu bucket, blesses (or pollinates) the sacred tree with an undefined female figure.
Note that this more or less symmetrical rendition of the sacred tree is mounted on a pedestal with bulbs that resemble cones.
Cylinder seal and imprint: Cult of the sacred tree. Chalcedony,
H: 3,2 cm
Louvre: AO 22348

(“This palm in art then is not the symbol of a god or the whole pantheon of gods, but is a symbol of the benefits which gods and kings were expected to supply.” W.G. Lambert, “The Background of the Neo-Assyrian Sacred Tree,” in S. Parpola and R.M. Whiting, eds., Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East, XLVIIe Recontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, 2002, pp. 321-6.)

The role of the apkallus is to pollinate the tree. Through this guest (sic), fertility, vitality, and power were transferred to the tree; in the scenes where the king is present, he is a receiver of these benefits from apkallus.

(Cf. Kolbe, Die Reliefprogramme, 21, 29, pp. 83-8).

Parpola returns to this mythological representation of the role of the king in his new edition of the letters. The Assyrian kings had the position of the god’s representative on earth. This position was above all symbolized through the Tree of Life.

(Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, XIII-XXXV.)

Three superposed lotus flowers forming a "Sacred tree." Ivory (open-work, fragment)<br /> Right: Lotus flower with 5 petals.<br /> 11.3 x 3 cm, Louvre AO 11481;<br /> Left: Ivory plaque with top and bottom border from Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu, Northern Syria.<br /> 7.6 x 2.1 cm, Louvre AO 11482.<br /> I believe that the sacred tree fragment on the left is upside down. The blossoms should be oriented upwards.

Three superposed lotus flowers forming a “Sacred tree.” Ivory (open-work, fragment)
Right: Lotus flower with 5 petals.
11.3 x 3 cm, Louvre AO 11481;
Left: Ivory plaque with top and bottom border from Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu, Northern Syria.
7.6 x 2.1 cm, Louvre AO 11482.
I believe that the sacred tree fragment on the left is upside down. The blossoms should be oriented upwards.

The tree represented the divine world order maintained by the king. At the same time the symbolism of the tree was projected upon the king as the perfect image of the god. A king who could not conform to this role would automatically disrupt the cosmic harmony.

To execute this duty the king needed experts who could interpret the signs of the god. Therefore he needed the advisory circle of scholars: the tupšarru, “astrologer, scribe;” bārû, “haruspex / diviner;” āšipu, “exorcist / magician;” asû, “physician;” and kalû, “lamentation chanter.”

A memorandum from the reign of Ashurbanipal names 45 scholars from these professions. The scholars were mostly native, but could also include foreigners, such as Syrian, Anatolian, and Egyptian.

(Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, XIV.)

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.

The Catalogue of Texts and Authors shows that the actual scholars at the royal court stood in a line of transmission; they performed a profession, the wisdom of which went back to famous ummanus of the past, and ultimately to the antediluvian apkallus.

These apkallus were, as we have seen in the rituals, imagined in three shapes. The fish-garb symbolized the connection with apsû, the ocean of wisdom; the head and wings of the eagle symbolized their connection to heaven.

The genies symbolizing the human apkallus often have crowned horns, indicating divine status. Parpola thinks that this symbolized their transformation from humans to saints after their death. (Ibid., XX). “

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 143-4.

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.

A depiction of the underworld, or alternatively, a portrayal of an exorcism.<br /> Wiggermann identifies Pazuzu appearing at the top, leering over a top register which contains the eight-pointed star of Ishtar, the inverted half-moon crescent of the Moon God Sin, and the lamp of Nusku. The seven celestial objects of Babylonian cosmogony are at far right, above Nusku's lamp. Earlier analysts identified the leering monster as Nergal. Virtually all subsequent scholars now follow Wiggermann. <br /> In the second register, seven exemplars of the Mesopotamian pandemonium appear to support the heavens. These composite creatures include ugallu, lion headed monsters with an apotropaic function, among others.<br /> The middle register could portray burial rites for new arrivals in the underworld, presided over by two fish-apkallū, or the scene could be a typical exorcism for apkallu, who played a role in banishing demons from the ill.<br /> In this register Wiggermann identifies the lion headed monsters as ugallu and the human-appearing entity as Lulal, a “minor apotropaic god.”<br /> The lower register was formerly considered to depict the goddess Allat, or Ereshkigal, sister of Ishtar, who reigns in the underworld. Wiggermann prefers Lamaštu, and he is persuasive.<br /> Lamaštu kneels upon a horse or a donkey, which appears to be oppressed by her burden, throttling snakes in each hand, in a boat which floats upon the waters of life.<br /> Note the lion pups suckling at her breast.<br /> Wiggermann considers this 1st millennium amulet a portrayal of a Lamaštu exorcism.<br /> Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a bronze plaque of which an engraving was published by Clermont-Ganneau.<br /> The original, which belonged to M. Péretié, is now in the collection of M. de Clercq.<br /> http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0039

A depiction of the underworld, or alternatively, a portrayal of an exorcism.
Wiggermann identifies Pazuzu appearing at the top, leering over a top register which contains the eight-pointed star of Ishtar, the inverted half-moon crescent of the Moon God Sin, and the lamp of Nusku. The seven celestial objects of Babylonian cosmogony are at far right, above Nusku’s lamp. Earlier analysts identified the leering monster as Nergal. Virtually all subsequent scholars now follow Wiggermann.
In the second register, seven exemplars of the Mesopotamian pandemonium appear to support the heavens. These composite creatures include ugallu, lion headed monsters with an apotropaic function, among others.
The middle register could portray burial rites for new arrivals in the underworld, presided over by two fish-apkallū, or the scene could be a typical exorcism for apkallu, who played a role in banishing demons from the ill.
In this register Wiggermann identifies the lion headed monsters as ugallu and the human-appearing entity as Lulal, a “minor apotropaic god.”
The lower register was formerly considered to depict the goddess Allat, or Ereshkigal, sister of Ishtar, who reigns in the underworld. Wiggermann prefers Lamaštu, and he is persuasive.
Lamaštu kneels upon a horse or a donkey, which appears to be oppressed by her burden, throttling snakes in each hand, in a boat which floats upon the waters of life.
Note the lion pups suckling at her breast.
Wiggermann considers this 1st millennium amulet a portrayal of a Lamaštu 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

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, filled with the symbols of the highest gods; in between lies the sick man on his bed with his arm stretched out toward heaven.

At his head and at his feet two figures with human bodies and fish cloaks are placed, performing a ritual. (Cf. O. Keel, Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alte Testament, 3 ed. Darmstadt, 1984, 68f.)

One could think that these figures actually were āšipū, dressed in ritual clothes as fish-apkallus. This is hardly the case; we do not have any evidence that the āšipū used fish-cloaks as ritual dress. The depiction rather shows the presence of the transcendent apkallus in the ritual, as “guardian angels” of the sick man.

This is the actual bronze frieze of the illustration above, held in the collection of the Louvre as AO 22205.

This is the actual bronze frieze of the illustration above, held in the collection of the Louvre as AO 22205.

The apkallus appear in the rituals of the day. Twice in our material they are paired with what generally can be designated as ilū mušīti, “the gods of the night.” Both in Bīt Mēseri and in the Mīs pî ritual we will deal with below, the ritual extends over night and day.

The ilū mušīti are the stars of the night; they sometimes represent a deification of celestial constellations and planets, other times a deification of the great deities who in this case are addressed as stars. (Cf. Erica Reiner, Astral Magic in Babylonia, vol. 85, TAPhs. Philadelphia 1995, 5-6.)

“Stand by me, O Gods of the Night!

Heed my words, O gods of destinies,

Anu, Enlil, and all the great gods!

I call to you, Delebat (i.e. Venus), Lady of battles (variant has: Lady of the silence [of the night]),

I call to you, O Night, bride (veiled by?) Anu.

Pleiades, stand on my right, Kidney star, stand on my left.”

(Apotropaic Ritual, KAR 38: 12f).

The stars represent the heavenly counterpart to the earth. Just as the night among humans is divided into three watches, the stars are called massarātu ša mūši, “the watches of the night:”

“May the star itself take to you (goddess) my misery;

let the ecstatic tell you, the dream interpreter repeat to you,

let the (three) watches of the night speak to you . . .

(Apotropaic Ritual, KAR 38 rev. 24f).

May the watches of the night tell you

That I did not sleep, I did not lie down, did not groan, did not arise,

But that my tears were made my food.”

(Psalm of Penitence, Assur II, 2-4)

G. Lambert, “The Sultantepe Tablets, a Review Article,” RA 80 1959, 119-38, 127.

The stars keep watch over both those awake and those sleeping in the night. In the following prayer to the stars there is play on the connotations of “watching,” massartu / nasāru, and êru, “be awake:”

“(you) three watches of the night

you are the wakeful, watchful, sleepless, never sleeping ones–

as you are awake, watchful, sleepless, never sleeping,

you decide the fate of those awake and sleeping (alike).”

(Prayer to the Stars, KAR 58 rev. 12f.)

In several cases the stars are invoked together with two typical night deities in late Assyrian and Late Babylonian times, Girra, the god of fire, and Nusku, the god of lamp and fire.”

(Cf. J. Black and A. Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, London: 1992, 88, 145. For Nusku, cf. also D. Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, Wiesbaden: 2007, 38, 54-5, 146, 206-7.)

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 133-4.

Curnow: Boundaries of Legend and History

“In this chapter I shall be concerned with wise characters from myth and legend. I would not wish to pretend that the dividing line between myth, legend and history can be established with any certainty, and it may be that some of the characters who appear here have been unfairly removed from the historical record.

On the other hand, some cases do appear to be clear cut. In the end, if some characters find themselves in the wrong places, no harm is done as everyone who needs to appear somewhere will appear somewhere. Where it is appropriate and available, I have used the distinction between antediluvian and postdiluvian to mark the boundary between legend and history.

Text:<br />  "IN ERIDU: ALULIM RULED AS KING 28,800 YEARS. ELALGAR RULED 43,200 YEARS. ERIDU WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO BAD-TIBIRA. AMMILU'ANNA THE KING RULED 36,000 YEARS. ENMEGALANNA RULED 28,800 YEARS. DUMUZI RULED 28,800 YEARS. BAD-TIBIRA WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO LARAK. EN-SIPA-ZI-ANNA RULED 13,800 YEARS. LARAK WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SIPPAR. MEDURANKI RULED 7,200 YEARS. SIPPAR WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SHURUPPAK. UBUR-TUTU RULED 36,000 YEARS. TOTAL: 8 KINGS, THEIR YEARS: 222,600"<br />  MS in Sumerian on clay, probably Larsa Babylonia, 2000-1800 BC, 1 tablet, 8,1x6,5x2,7 cm, single column, 26 lines in cuneiform script.<br />  5 other copies of the Antediluvian king list are known only: MS 3175, 2 in Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, one is similar to this list, containing 10 kings and 6 cities, the other is a big clay cylinder of the Sumerian King List, on which the kings before the flood form the first section, and has the same 8 kings in the same 5 cities as the present.<br />  A 4th copy is in Berkeley: Museum of the University of California, and is a school tablet. A 5th tablet, a small fragment, is in Istanbul.<br />  The list provides the beginnings of Sumerian and the world’s history as the Sumerians knew it. The cities listed were all very old sites, and the names of the kings are names of old types within Sumerian name-giving. Thus it is possible that correct traditions are contained, though the sequence given need not be correct. The city dynasties may have overlapped.<br />  It is generally held that the Antediluvian king list is reflected in Genesis 5, which lists the 10 patriarchs from Adam to Noah, all living from 365 years (Enoch) to 969 years (Methuselah), altogether 8,575 years.<br />  It is possible that the 222,600 years of the king list reflects a more realistic understanding of the huge span of time from Creation to the Flood, and the lengths of the dynasties involved.<br />  The first of the 5 cities mentioned, Eridu, is Uruk, in the area where the myths place the Garden of Eden, while the last city, Shuruppak, is the city of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah.<br />  Jöran Friberg: A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007.<br />  Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.<br />  Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 237-241.  <br /> Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17,<br />  Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 96, pp. 199-200, pls. LXXVIII-LXXIX.<br />  Andrew E. Hill &amp; John H. Walton: A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, Mi., Zondervan Publ. House, 2009, p. 206.<br />  Zondervan Illustrated Bible, Backgrounds, Commentary. John H. Walton, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan, 2009, vol 1, p. 482, vol. 5, p. 398.

Text:
“IN ERIDU: ALULIM RULED AS KING 28,800 YEARS. ELALGAR RULED 43,200 YEARS. ERIDU WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO BAD-TIBIRA. AMMILU’ANNA THE KING RULED 36,000 YEARS. ENMEGALANNA RULED 28,800 YEARS. DUMUZI RULED 28,800 YEARS. BAD-TIBIRA WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO LARAK. EN-SIPA-ZI-ANNA RULED 13,800 YEARS. LARAK WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SIPPAR. MEDURANKI RULED 7,200 YEARS. SIPPAR WAS ABANDONED. KINGSHIP WAS TAKEN TO SHURUPPAK. UBUR-TUTU RULED 36,000 YEARS. TOTAL: 8 KINGS, THEIR YEARS: 222,600”
MS in Sumerian on clay, probably Larsa Babylonia, 2000-1800 BC, 1 tablet, 8,1×6,5×2,7 cm, single column, 26 lines in cuneiform script.
5 other copies of the Antediluvian king list are known only: MS 3175, 2 in Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, one is similar to this list, containing 10 kings and 6 cities, the other is a big clay cylinder of the Sumerian King List, on which the kings before the flood form the first section, and has the same 8 kings in the same 5 cities as the present.
A 4th copy is in Berkeley: Museum of the University of California, and is a school tablet. A 5th tablet, a small fragment, is in Istanbul.
The list provides the beginnings of Sumerian and the world’s history as the Sumerians knew it. The cities listed were all very old sites, and the names of the kings are names of old types within Sumerian name-giving. Thus it is possible that correct traditions are contained, though the sequence given need not be correct. The city dynasties may have overlapped.
It is generally held that the Antediluvian king list is reflected in Genesis 5, which lists the 10 patriarchs from Adam to Noah, all living from 365 years (Enoch) to 969 years (Methuselah), altogether 8,575 years.
It is possible that the 222,600 years of the king list reflects a more realistic understanding of the huge span of time from Creation to the Flood, and the lengths of the dynasties involved.
The first of the 5 cities mentioned, Eridu, is Uruk, in the area where the myths place the Garden of Eden, while the last city, Shuruppak, is the city of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah.
Jöran Friberg: A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007.
Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 237-241.
Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17,
Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 96, pp. 199-200, pls. LXXVIII-LXXIX.
Andrew E. Hill & John H. Walton: A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, Mi., Zondervan Publ. House, 2009, p. 206.
Zondervan Illustrated Bible, Backgrounds, Commentary. John H. Walton, gen. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan, 2009, vol 1, p. 482, vol. 5, p. 398.

Mesopotamia

I shall begin again in Mesopotamia with the enigmatic figures known as the apkallu. As has been noted [2.2], technically apkallu simply seems to mean “wisest” or “sage.”

However in Mesopotamian mythology, the term is also applied to a strange and complex group of individuals.

Unfortunately, the legends about them survive in only a fragmentary and not entirely coherent form, although the fundamental core of the stories told about them is fairly clear.

In the days between the creation of mankind and the great flood that destroyed nearly all of it, Ea sent seven sages, the apkallu, for the instruction of mankind. There was a tradition that each was a counsellor to an early king, but it is unclear whether this was an original feature of the myth or a later addition.

Central to the myth is the idea that they brought the skills and knowledge necessary for civilization.

The god Ea at far left, wearing the horned headdress indicative of divinity, with water coursing from his shoulders. 

A fish-apkallū is in the iconic posture with right hand raised in blessing or exorcism, with the banduddu bucket in his left hand. 

The next apkallū wields an indistinct and as yet undefined angular object in his right hand, with the typical banduddu bucket in his left. 

The entity at far right, which appears to be wearing a horned tiara indicative of divinty, remains unidentified and undefined.

The god Ea at far left, wearing the horned headdress indicative of divinity, with water coursing from his shoulders. 

A fish-apkallū is in the iconic posture with right hand raised in blessing or exorcism, with the banduddu bucket in his left hand. 

The next apkallū wields an indistinct and as yet undefined angular object in his right hand, with the typical banduddu bucket in his left. 

The entity at far right, which appears to be wearing a horned tiara indicative of divinty, remains unidentified and undefined.

The first of the apkallu was Adapa, a name that itself meant wise (Bottéro 1992, p. 248). He was also known as Uan, perhaps a pun on the word ummanu meaning “craftsman” (Dalley 2000, p. 328). According to the principal source for this, the ancient historian Berossus:

“… he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect fruits. In short he instructed them in everything which could tend to soften manners and humanise mankind. From that time, so universal were his instructions, nothing material has been added by way of improvement.” (Hodges 1876, p. 57).

These gifts to mankind are sometimes referred to by the Sumerian word “me,” and comprised all that was required for civilization. They were perceived as much as rules for correct living as knowledge, and behind these rules stood the gods as enforcing agents.

In the complex concept of me can be seen, perhaps, a fundamental principle of human social order backed up by divine sanction. Soden (1994, p. 177) suggests that the order associated with me extended far beyond the human and encompassed the entire cosmos.

In any event, the story of Adapa clearly suggests that the wise bring what is required for civilization to exist.”

Trevor Curnow, Wisdom in the Ancient World, Bloomsbury, 2010, pp. 39-40.

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 a different connotation before being adopted into the sages tradition. Although late texts attribute the tradition of sages to early historical times, no iconographic evidence supports such antiquity for the tradition.

"Sometimes animal hybrids ... appear to take part in rituals....some types are clearly minor deities, since they wear the horned cap as a mark of their divinity...others may be human. A ...winged god, standing or kneeling, holds a bucket and cone ... in the scenes of "ritual" centered on the stylized tree. A similar female figure holds a chaplet of beads....A third figure carries a flowering branch, sometimes also a sacrificial (?) goat. Sometimes he wears the horned cap, and even when does not he often has wings. Presumably, therefore, such figures are also non-mortal; they may represent the Seven Sages in human guise." From Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, pp. 86-8.

“Sometimes animal hybrids … appear to take part in rituals….some types are clearly minor deities, since they wear the horned cap as a mark of their divinity…others may be human. A …winged god, standing or kneeling, holds a bucket and cone … in the scenes of “ritual” centered on the stylized tree. A similar female figure holds a chaplet of beads….A third figure carries a flowering branch, sometimes also a sacrificial (?) goat. Sometimes he wears the horned cap, and even when does not he often has wings. Presumably, therefore, such figures are also non-mortal; they may represent the Seven Sages in human guise.”
From Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1992, pp. 86-8.

Early dated examples of type 2 on sculpture come from the Terqa (Tell Ashara) stela of Tukulti-Ninurta II (890-884 BCE) (67) and the entrance to the Ninurta temple at Nimrud, probably installed by Assurnasirpal II (883- 859 BCE) (55*).

Huge sculptures of the fish-cloak Apkallu were used likewise in the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE) (53 – 54 ).

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.  A fish's head can be seen on the Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.  It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type. 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 of the parādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.
A fish’s head can be seen on the Apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.
It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type.
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/

Type 3 first appears on Middle Assyrian seals, and becomes popular in the 9th-7th centuries both in Assyria and Urartu, often in combination with the sacred tree.

Type 2, on the other hand, appears around the same time in Babylonia, and is taken over in Assyria in the 9th-7th centuries.

Type 1 may have begun early in Assyria of the 1st millennium.

Type 2 is found in Achaemenid (66) and Seleucid (MCEWAN 1982: nos. 30, 40) times.

Geographical Distribution.

As shown above, Assyria is the region where Types 1 and 2 were first found, with extension of Type 1 to Carchemish, and of Types 1 and 3 to West Semitic stamp seals (if they are genuine) and to Urartu, probably all under Assyrian influence.

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.  Seal number 3. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.  https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

From Ronald Wallenfels, Apkallu-Sealings from Hellenistic Uruk, 1993.
Seal number 3. A fish-apkallu, a paradu-fish apkallu, depicted on a personal seal.
https://www.academia.edu/1368825/Apkallu-Sealings_from_Hellenistic_Uruk

The Babylonian Type 2 is more restricted, moving from Babylonia into Assyria, but from there to Pasargadae in West Iran, and thence into Seleucid art (MCEWAN 1982: nos. 30, 40).

Types 1 and 3 occur in Neo-Hittite/Aramaean sculpture at Carchemish (30), Sakce-gözü (80), and Malatya (31–32)

Object Types.

The three types mainly occur on Assyrian palace sculpture (1*–2, 6*–7, 17–18, 20, 22, 26, 53–55*, 67, including representations on buckets held by sages [e.g., PALEY 1976: pls. 16, 20, 28a-b] and on garments PALEY 1976: pl. 24a), on Assyrian wall-painting (16, 19), on seals (8*–9*, 11–14*, 33*–34*, 38, 41*–47, 52*, 63, 68*– 75*) or seal impressions (3–5, 49–51), carved ivory (10*, 21, 76*–79) found in Assyria, as groups of apotropaic clay figurines (56–62*), on amuletic plaques (35), on various Urartian objects (15*, 24–25, 27–29, 36*, 77) of stone and metal (pendants, horse frontlets, etc.), and as clay foundation figurines (65).

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed "genies," as they were long described, are now known to be apkallū, "bird-apkallū," in this case, mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing.  This apkallū makes the iconic gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin with the mullilu cone in his raised right hand, and the banduddu water bucket in his left hand.  There are three known types of apkallū: the human, with wings; the avian-headed, with wings, and the fish-apkallū, with carp skin draped over their heads.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed “genies,” as they were long described, are now known to be apkallū, “bird-apkallū,” in this case, mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing.
This apkallū makes the iconic gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin with the mullilu cone in his raised right hand, and the banduddu water bucket in his left hand.
There are three known types of apkallū: the human, with wings; the avian-headed, with wings, and the fish-apkallū, with carp skin draped over their heads.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

None are found on boundary stones of the Kassite and post-Kassite periods, nor on sealings from Emar tablets of the 12th century, nor among mid-7th century sculptures from Assurbanipal’s North Palace at Nineveh.

Conclusion.

The discrepancy between the written tradition in which the sages represent early antiquity, and the much later chronology of the iconographic evidence is striking. Babylonian and Assyrian traditions seem to have arisen separately. The diffusion of the probably Assyrian types 1 and 3 is different from that of the essentially Babylonian type 2.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

Types 1 and 3 are closely associated with royal ritual in their scenes with the sacred tree and winged disc, and type 2 is especially associated with sickness, presumably as a healer. These associations make it likely that the bucket and cone, a hallmark of all three types, represent purification and blessing.”

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. 4-5/7.

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.

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).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.<br /> The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Like a bronze artifact depicted on other pages, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, or several loops of beads that resemble prayer beads, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. I will discuss the question of the identity of this deity below.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.
The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Like a bronze artifact depicted on other pages, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, or several loops of beads that resemble prayer beads, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. I will discuss the question of the identity of this deity below.

It usually appears with one or two wings, each perhaps representing a pair of wings; but also with four (80). Like type 1, a pair of mirror-image figures is frequently shown, e.g., on 39*.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 39, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Dalley cites this illustration as an example of mirror imaging.<br /> More interesting to me is the fact that the small apkallu depicted in the upper right side of this illustration is wearing a headband rather than the horned tiara seen on the others. This umu-apkallu also holds a sprig of what appear to be poppy bulbs.<br /> In all other respects, the apkallu portrayed on this large wall frieze are typical of the type, except that the detailing of their tassels is exceptionally fine.<br /> As usual, they bless or exorcise the sacred tree at the center of the design with the mullilu cone, banduddu buckets in their left hands.<br /> I must note that unless the real life models depicted in these illustrations and friezes wore a total of four daggers and two whetstones tucked into their waistbands, with two daggers and one whetstone on each side, the original illustrators considered it crucial to portray them. Daggers and whetstones are represented whether the figures are facing left or right.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 39, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Dalley cites this illustration as an example of mirror imaging.
More interesting to me is the fact that the small apkallu depicted in the upper right side of this illustration is wearing a headband rather than the horned tiara seen on the others. This umu-apkallu also holds a sprig of what appear to be poppy bulbs.
In all other respects, the apkallu portrayed on this large wall frieze are typical of the type, except that the detailing of their tassels is exceptionally fine.
As usual, they bless or exorcise the sacred tree at the center of the design with the mullilu cone, banduddu buckets in their left hands.
I must note that unless the real life models depicted in these illustrations and friezes wore a total of four daggers and two whetstones tucked into their waistbands, with two daggers and one whetstone on each side, the original illustrators considered it crucial to portray them. Daggers and whetstones are represented whether the figures are facing left or right.

Some examples show the bird-of-prey-headed Apkallu with a long, high crest as on 76*, which has two ringlets falling on to the shoulder.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 76, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Stephanie Dalley cites illustration 76 as an exemplar

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 the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, 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.

On other examples there are three curls on top of the head (71*–72, 74, 78*–79).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 71, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley cites illustration 71 as an example where a nisroc bird-headed apkallu holds a sprig in the raised right hand.<br /> I believe that she also cites it as an example with three curls atop its head. This assertion is problematic, as the middle

Apkallu type 3, illustration 71, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites illustration 71 as an example where a nisroc bird-headed apkallu holds a sprig in the raised right hand.
I believe that she also cites it as an example with three curls atop its head. This assertion is problematic, as the middle “curl,” is surmounted by a circle.
Other anomalies abound with this illustration, which depicts a type 3 avian-headed apkallu atypically nude, with an absence of detail on the body.
The banduddu bucket, however, is in its typical place, in the lowered left hand.
The other elements of this illustration will be discussed another time. Several deserve explication, from the identities of the portrayed figures, to the atypical depiction of the sacred tree.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 78, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley states that this illustration portrays a bird-headed type 3 apkallu with a plant, which I regretfully do not see. The hand on this illustration is broken off, so whatever was held in the hand is unknown. The hand in fact appears to be in the prototypical gesture of blessing with a mullilu cone in hand, though we cannot be certain. Professor Dalley also states that the

Apkallu type 3, illustration 78, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley states that this illustration portrays a bird-headed type 3 apkallu with a plant, which I regretfully do not see. The hand on this illustration is broken off, so whatever was held in the hand is unknown. The hand in fact appears to be in the prototypical gesture of blessing with a mullilu cone in hand, though we cannot be certain. Professor Dalley also states that the “figure appears to pluck a bud or sprig from the sacred tree.” Perhaps.
This illustration, number 78 from IDD, is remarkable for other reasons. For one, the ringlets terminating in a curl at the side of its head are unusual, and the neck area appears to reflect the lone attempt to portray a beard on a bird-headed apkallu in all Assyrian iconography.
This apkallu wears a fringed kilt, but in all other respects it is indicative of the two-winged bird-headed apkallu, with banduddu bucket in the lowered left hand.

For jewelry the figure may wear a necklace with seven strands (76*), which may also only be single-stranded with pendants (7). Rosette bracelets are sometimes shown on each wrist (67).

This detail of an umu-apkallu from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud focuses on the rosette design of his bracelets. Note that in this example the bracelets are not matching. In the upper version, the rosette is mounted on a bracelet with no border. On the example below, the rosette design is circled by a border. The number of petals on the design varies, as well, with eleven petals above and 13 below, by my count. Armlets at the elbow are clearly visible, as is the fine detailing on the whetstone and the dual daggers in the waistband. London, British Museum, ANE 124568. From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 109. Photograph by Professor Atac.

This detail of an umu-apkallu from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud focuses on the rosette design of his bracelets.
Note that in this example the bracelets are not matching. In the upper version, the rosette is mounted on a bracelet with no border.
On the example below, the rosette design is circled by a border. The number of petals on the design varies, as well, with eleven petals above and 13 below, by my count.
Armlets at the elbow are clearly visible, as is the fine detailing on the whetstone and the dual daggers in the waistband.
London, British Museum, ANE 124568.
From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 109. Photograph by Professor Atac.

The beak is usually closed, but occasionally open to show the tongue (74, 78*–79), as if emitting a cry (80 ). On Late Bronze/Early Iron Age seals the figure is often shown naked (33* – 34*, 47 – 48, 72, 74); at later periods the dress is similar to that of the anthropomorphic sage and the fish-cloak Apkallu on most examples, although the knees are entirely covered by the over-garment on 77.

The so-called “fish-tail fringe” dangling from the kilt (76* above) is not a fish part, and so does not indicate that the type is a fish composite. WIGGERMANN (1992: 75) considers that this type belongs to an Assyrian tradition, and regards all late 2nd millennium examples as Middle Assyrian.

Other deviations from the standard representation include the replacement of the cone in the right hand with a sprig as on 71*. The pose of having both hands raised without holding any object (77) is also unusual. The figure appears to pluck a bud or sprig from the sacred tree on 75*, 78*, and 79.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 75, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> This illustration, number 75, is unique in portraying a type 3 avian-headed apkallu harvesting a leaf or a cone from the sacred tree.<br /> The apkallu goes so far as to plant his left leg against the tree for leverage.<br /> This bird-apkallu is significant for his lone curl at the forehead, and for the emphasis placed on the tassels of his garment.<br /> It should also be observed that this portrayal of the sacred tree depicts leaves, which is unusual.<br /> I also cannot escape the nagging impression that the tree appears to blossom from a vase, with symbology evocative of the fleur-de-lis.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 75, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This illustration, number 75, is unique in portraying a type 3 avian-headed apkallu harvesting a leaf or a cone from the sacred tree.
The apkallu goes so far as to plant his left leg against the tree for leverage.
This bird-apkallu is significant for his lone curl at the forehead, and for the emphasis placed on the tassels of his garment.
It should also be observed that this portrayal of the sacred tree depicts leaves, which is unusual.
I also cannot escape the nagging impression that the tree appears to blossom from a vase, with symbology evocative of the fleur-de-lis.

Associations.

A pair of bird-of-prey-headed Apkallus often stands on each side of a sacred tree (7 ) or a royal figure (69 ), or with a plant (78*–79) or a deity (36*, 70 , 74 ), with six-curl heroes holding the sacred tree (71* ).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the type 1 and type 3 apkallu standing at the flanks of a deity. In the first case, it is far from certain that the figure on the left of the central deity is an apkallu at all, as it lacks all indicators of divinity and most crucially, wings. This figure does raise what appears to be a mullilu cone in its right hand, and it does hold the usual banduddu bucket in his left hand, though it must be admitted that depictions of cones with leaves still attached are irregular.<br /> Unfortunately Professor Dalley does not identify the deity in the center of the illustration, though I am encouraged that she does consider it to be a deity, rather than an apkallu of high rank, which deity I will provisionally attempt to name.<br /> I have discussed elsewhere in captions to these illustrations the possibility that the deity at the center of this composition, which appears to adorn a necklace or breastplate, is the god Anu, who is allegedly never depicted in Mesopotamian iconography.<br /> The circular device at the apex of his crown, which is appropriately horned, is apparent in only one other example that I can call to mind, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet depicted on other pages.<br /> In that example, the circular device or disc is so worn that the lower portion of its mount mimics the inverted crescent of the Moon god Sin.<br /> The context is inappropriate for Sin, however, and in no other case have I ever seen anything positioned between the upturned horns of Sin's inverted crescent. It is more likely that the disc mount is simply worn from great age, with the circular portion along the top gone.<br /> In any case, a bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand. It appears to be a mullilu cone, but with leaves or sprouting, as noted.<br /> As mentioned, the figure on the left side of the deity lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture, cone and banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure remains problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Also significant for me, this figure, whether it is a deity or an apkallu, wears a large ring around the torso. In the other example which I believe portrays the god Anu, a large ring or circle of this type also wraps the torso of the deity. As is indisputable in the other case, my suspicion is that this ring would also be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail feasible for the original illustrator.<br /> This figure also holds a ring or looped prayer beads in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. The griffin demon on the left, and the human-headed sphinx on the right, will have to be explicated elsewhere in a later work.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the type 1 and type 3 apkallu standing at the flanks of a deity. In the first case, it is far from certain that the figure on the left of the central deity is an apkallu at all, as it lacks all indicators of divinity and most crucially, wings. This figure does raise what appears to be a mullilu cone in its right hand, and it does hold the usual banduddu bucket in his left hand, though it must be admitted that depictions of cones with leaves still attached are irregular.
Unfortunately Professor Dalley does not identify the deity in the center of the illustration, though I am encouraged that she does consider it to be a deity, rather than an apkallu of high rank, which deity I will provisionally attempt to name.
I have discussed elsewhere in captions to these illustrations the possibility that the deity at the center of this composition, which appears to adorn a necklace or breastplate, is the god Anu, who is allegedly never depicted in Mesopotamian iconography.
The circular device at the apex of his crown, which is appropriately horned, is apparent in only one other example that I can call to mind, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet depicted on other pages.
In that example, the circular device or disc is so worn that the lower portion of its mount mimics the inverted crescent of the Moon god Sin.
The context is inappropriate for Sin, however, and in no other case have I ever seen anything positioned between the upturned horns of Sin’s inverted crescent. It is more likely that the disc mount is simply worn from great age, with the circular portion along the top gone.
In any case, a bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand. It appears to be a mullilu cone, but with leaves or sprouting, as noted.
As mentioned, the figure on the left side of the deity lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture, cone and banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure remains problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Also significant for me, this figure, whether it is a deity or an apkallu, wears a large ring around the torso. In the other example which I believe portrays the god Anu, a large ring or circle of this type also wraps the torso of the deity. As is indisputable in the other case, my suspicion is that this ring would also be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail feasible for the original illustrator.
This figure also holds a ring or looped prayer beads in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. The griffin demon on the left, and the human-headed sphinx on the right, will have to be explicated elsewhere in a later work.

The figure occurs with type 1 on sequences with three registers at doorways (6*).

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD. This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand. The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu. Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand.
The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu.
Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

On 72 and 73 an altar is held up by a pair of naked Apkallus (in a very similar scene [MATTHEWS 1990: no. 452] a pair of mermen perform a similar function).

 As noted by Professor Dalley,


As noted by Professor Dalley, “The type occurs as a group of six or more clay figurines placed in brick boxes in foundations at Assur, Nimrud, and Nineveh,” citing Dessa Rittig as her source (Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik magischer Bedeutung vom 13.-6. Jh. v. Chr. München, 1977).

Assyrian ritual texts describe clay figurines of this type (WIGGERMANN 1992: passim) as foundation figurines buried in groups of seven or more, with black paint, traces of which have occasionally been observed on such clay figurines, including one with black and red stripes painted on the back.”

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. 3-4/7.

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 and the moon god Sin is shown on 45 and probably with Adad on 15*.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 15, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Four beardless umu-apkallu flank a fifth bearded one wearing the horned tiara indicative of divinity. Apkallu are often portrayed wearing this crown, but this illustration may be unique with just one.<br /> The two bottom apkallu hold mullilu and banduddu in their appropriate hands, while the central apkallu holds what appear to be poppy bulbs.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 15, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Four beardless umu-apkallu flank a fifth bearded one wearing the horned tiara indicative of divinity. Apkallu are often portrayed wearing this crown, but this illustration may be unique with just one.
The two bottom apkallu hold mullilu and banduddu in their appropriate hands, while the central apkallu holds what appear to be poppy bulbs.

Exceptional people such as Sennacherib, his wife Naqia, and their grandson Assurbanipal were called sage, a./apkallatu, whether as flattery or as a result of specific circumstances.

A 7th century queen of Arabia was also given the title of sage, perhaps related to the meaning of the cognate as a type of priest in early Arabia (BORGER 1957). This may be linked to the appearance of unbearded type 1 sages whose garments differ from those of bearded sages (1*–2, 27–30).

Apkallu type 1, illustration 1, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Stephanie Dalley's

Apkallu type 1, illustration 1, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Stephanie Dalley’s “beardless” type 1 apkallu. Aside from being beardless, these feminized apkallu wear atypical necklaces and hold what appear to be looped stones or prayer beads in their left hands.
Typical rosette bracelets adorn their wrists, and they wear armlets at the elbow as is common.
Both umu-apkallu wear the horned tiara indicative of divinity, as they salute a sacred tree in its prototypical configuration.

One of the questions relevant for the three iconographic types of sages is whether they refer to categories of sage related to different periods in time – preflood, intermediate (i.e., ZiusudraAtrahasis who lived through the flood), and postflood; or to different functions such as writers of medical texts or court wisdom; or whether chronological and/or regional traditions account for different types and associations.

II. Typology

1. HUMAN-FIGURED Apkallu (1–39)

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD. This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand. The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu. Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand.
The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu.
Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

2. FISH-CLOAK Apkallu (12, 33–35, 40–66)

Apkallu type 2, illustration 33, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> This puradu-fish apkallu on the left holds the banduddu bucket in his left hand.<br /> The central figure appears to be a type 1 umu-apkallu, holding the reins to a winged conveyance.<br /> I am unsure of the right side figures, as they both lack horned headdresses indicative of divinity and they stand on the ground, rather than on animals.

Apkallu type 2, illustration 33, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This puradu-fish apkallu on the left holds the banduddu bucket in his left hand.
The central figure appears to be a type 1 umu-apkallu, holding the reins to a winged conveyance.
I am unsure of the right side figures, as they both lack horned headdresses indicative of divinity and they stand on the ground, rather than on animals.

3. BIRD-OF-PREY-HEADED Apkallu (6–7, 21, 36, 39, 67–80)

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36 (detail) Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.<br /> The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human um-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Like the atypical illustration below, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36 (detail) Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.
The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Like the atypical illustration below, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts speculated, the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists assert that Anu is never represented in illustrations or bas reliefs.<br /> The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common. I believe that they are poppy bulbs.<br /> The rosette design in the large ring appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. The large ring around the torso appears around the central figure in illustration 36 above, as well.<br /> The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu.<br /> The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.<br /> Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress. The device at the top of the figure in illustration 36 above resembles this one.<br /> Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device in illustration 36 above.<br /> This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.<br /> http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts speculated, the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists assert that Anu is never represented in illustrations or bas reliefs.
The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common. I believe that they are poppy bulbs.
The rosette design in the large ring appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. The large ring around the torso appears around the central figure in illustration 36 above, as well.
The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu.
The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.
Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress. The device at the top of the figure in illustration 36 above resembles this one.
Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device in illustration 36 above.
This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.
http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

4. PROBLEMATIC IDENTIFICATIONS

GENERAL REMARKS. No single image definitively represents the sages. However, three main types can be distinguished: the human-figured, winged Apkallu (type 1); the fish-cloaked (type 2); and the bird-headed, winged Apkallu (type 3). (As portrayed above and depicted below).

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

They have been identified chiefly on the basis of iconographic similarities but also because of evidence in inscriptions (WIGGERMANN 1992: passim) and in Berossos’ account.

The commonest pose is that of a standing figure holding his left hand forward or downward, while his right hand is raised. When mirror-image pairs are found, left and right are reversed.

All three types are commonly found with the downward hand holding a bucket/situla (3, 5–6*, 10*–16, 21–22, 23–26, 28–30, 33*–36*, 39*– 55*, 60, 62*–63, 67, 70).

This detailed portrayal of the banduddu bucket is from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.  British Museum ANE 124564. Photograph by Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

This detailed portrayal of the banduddu bucket is from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.
British Museum ANE 124564. Photograph by Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 100.

Most frequently when the left hand carries a bucket, the raised right hand holds a cone (6*, 10*–11, 15*–16, 21–22, 23–24, 26, 28–29, 38–39*, 42*–43, 62*, 70), whose precise function is not certain (WIGGERMANN 1992: 67), but the raised hand may also be empty (not often clear on seals and seal impressions, clear on 5, 13–14*, 77).

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left. I am unaware of any other depiction like this one. The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms. The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū's upper back. This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment. This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left.
I am unaware of any other depiction like this one.
The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms.
The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū’s upper back.
This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment.
This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

Less often types 1 and 3 hold in one hand or the other a sprig (9*, 12*, 17–18, 20, 31–32, 39*), a mace (4, 20), or a stag (1 8 ).

Furthermore, the bearded Apkallus of type 1 normally, and type 3 often, wear a kilt of above-the-knee length with a tasseled fringe and a full-length cutaway robe or skirt, which leaves the forward leg bare from the knee downward (3, 5–18, 20– 23, 25–27, 29, 35–36*, 39*, 68*– 6 9 ).

This detailed portrayal of the rosette bracelets is from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Armlets are visible at the elbow. <br /> This photograph is from Mehmet-Ali Atac, <em>The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art</em>, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 110.<br /> British Museum ANE 124568.

This detailed portrayal of the rosette bracelets is from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Armlets are visible at the elbow.
This photograph is from Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 110.
British Museum ANE 124568.

On detailed representations of types 1 and 3, two daggers and a whetstone are usually tucked into the waist (1*, 6*, 17, 20, 22, 26, 39*).

They wear a pair of bracelets with a rosette at each wrist (1*, 6*, 10*, 16–18, 20, 22, 26), a spiral armlet just above the elbow (6*, 17 ), and sometimes a single-stranded necklace (6*, 10*, 17–18, 20, 22, 39*) with up to eight (?) pendants (1*–2).

This illustration depicts girdle knives and what is alleged to be a stylized whetstone. This photograph is from p. 110, Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

This illustration depicts girdle knives and what is alleged to be a stylized whetstone.
This photograph is from p. 110, Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Types 1 and 3 appear more frequently than type 2 in mirror-image pairs on either side of a stylized sacred tree (1*, 7, 13, 24, 29, 39*), a god (15*, 69), or a king (6 8*). Types 1 and 2 appear together on 12*, 33*–34, and 38. Types 1 and 3 appear together on 7, 21, and 36*.

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. 2/7.

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 that are connected to civilized life.

(Cf. also W. van Binsbergen and F. Wiggermann, “Magic in History: A Theoretical Perspective, and Its Application to Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives, ed. T. Busch and K. van der Toorn, AMD, Groningen 1999, 3-34, 20-25.)

Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon. At his feet the Mushhushshu Serpent-dragon, which he overpowered when he defeated Tiamat, mother of the gods, who sought to destroy the land-dwelling gods.<br />  In this myth the Serpent-dragon was a creature of Tiamat's (for the image cf. p. 301. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races- Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931).<br />  This drawing is after a 9th century BCE Babylonian cylinder seal. The Assyrians later declared their God Asshur as the god who defeated Tiamat, and Marduk's serpent-dragon was portrayed as accompanying Asshur.<br />  Marduk's robe depicts the heavenly night sky with all its stars.<br />  I believe that the large circular medallions hanging from Marduk's neck are among the few portrayals of the me, the tablets of destinies, in all Assyrian art.<br />  Marduk was also called "the son of the Sun," "the Sun" and "bull-calf of the Sun" (Babylonian amar-utu).<br />  http://www.bibleorigins.net/SerpentDragonMardukAsshur.html

Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon. At his feet the Mushhushshu Serpent-dragon, which he overpowered when he defeated Tiamat, mother of the gods, who sought to destroy the land-dwelling gods.
In this myth the Serpent-dragon was a creature of Tiamat’s (for the image cf. p. 301. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races- Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931).
This drawing is after a 9th century BCE Babylonian cylinder seal. The Assyrians later declared their God Asshur as the god who defeated Tiamat, and Marduk’s serpent-dragon was portrayed as accompanying Asshur.
Marduk’s robe depicts the heavenly night sky with all its stars.
I believe that the large circular medallions hanging from Marduk’s neck are among the few portrayals of the me, the tablets of destinies, in all Assyrian art.
Marduk was also called “the son of the Sun,” “the Sun” and “bull-calf of the Sun” (Babylonian amar-utu).
http://www.bibleorigins.net/SerpentDragonMardukAsshur.html

These royal names seem to have been reinterpreted in the apkallu-lists: en-me-du-ga, “Lord of the good me;” en-me-galamma, “Lord who perfects me;” en-me-bulùg-gá, “Lord who refines me.”

(Cf. F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, vol. 1, CM. Groningen, 1992, 77.)

We will return to the names of the significant first and seventh sage in our discussion of Bīt Mēseri below.

The Uruk tablet contains two successive lists: first, the one of the seven apkallus; then, after a clear transition, a new list of ten scholars.

The new list of ten starts with the apkallu Nungalpiriggal who operated during the reign of Enmerkar. We have a similar division into two lists in Bīt Mēseri as well. There we find first a list of seven and then a list of four.

Also in Bīt Mēseri, Nungalpiriggal, operating under Enmerkar, is the first apkallu in the new list. There is a lacuna in the introduction to the second list on the Uruk tablet. Van Dijk restores here “after the flood,” but considers also the possibility “in Uruk,” since Enmerkar was king in Uruk.

The first restoration seems most likely, since the Uruk tablet does not mention cities in any other place. The notice of the flood belongs to the style of the Antediluvian King List, which the Uruk tablet is part of.

It is interesting to notice that also Berossos seems to have started the list of postdiluvian kings with Enmerkar, with the introduction, “after the flood.” Thus, there seems to be a stable tradition in these lists of scholars to start the postdiluvian period with the apkallu operating under Enmerkar, king of Uruk.

This is quite interesting, since it is in opposition to the order of the Sumerian King List, which starts with the dynasty of Kish, and lists Uruk as the second dynasty. Bīt Mēseri indeed includes Kish, but only after Uruk.

The Uruk tablet does not mention Kish, but continues with Gilgamesh as king, who according to the King List ruled in Uruk as well. The reason for this must be that the list of apkallus is generated according to the significance of the sages and only secondarily merged with the King List.

There is a clear division in rank between the scholars of the two lists, although this is expressed differently in Bīt Mēseri and the Uruk tablet. We concentrate first on the Uruk text. All the first seven in the Uruk tablet are designated apkallu, which is the highest honorary title for a wise man, “sage, expert.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 110-1.

Lenzi: The Exaltation of the god Anu

“This brings us to the last element of historical context: antiquarianism at Uruk. Certainly others have noticed the conspicuous rise of the Anu and Antu cult in Hellenistic Uruk in both the archaeological evidence of the massive Bīt Rēs temple dedicated to Anu and Hellenistic cuneiform texts.

(For the former, see, for example, Downey, Mesopotamian Religious Architecture, 17-32, who identifies the Bīt Rēs as “the most important religious structure in Uruk during the Seleucid period” (17), and for the latter, see Amélie Kuhrt, “Survey of Written Sources Available for the History of Babylonia under the Later Achaemenids,” in Achaemenid History I: Sources, Structures and Synthesis, ed. Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 147-57, here 151.)

A stele of the Assyrian king Šamši-Adad V (c.815 BCE), standing in the gesture of blessing before five divine emblems:<br />  (1) the crown of the sky-god Anu, with three horns; <br />  (2) the winged disk, often associated with Marduk or Aššur; <br />  (3) the disk and crescent associated with the Moon god Sin; <br />  (4) the fork associated with Nabu (?); <br />  (5) the eight-pointed star of Ishtar.<br />  It is now apparent that the horned crown of Anu is portrayed on numerous depictions of ummanū, or human apkallū.<br />  The cross worn as an amulet is a symbol of the sun god, Šamaš.
<br />  It is worth noting that this king is portrayed without any indicators of divinity like a horned headdress, though he does hold a mace in his left hand, and the rosette design is evident on his bracelet. <br />  BM 118892, photo (c) The British Museum.

A stele of the Assyrian king Šamši-Adad V (c.815 BCE), standing in the gesture of blessing before five divine emblems:
(1) the crown of the sky-god Anu, with three horns;
(2) the winged disk, often associated with Marduk or Aššur;
(3) the disk and crescent associated with the Moon god Sin;
(4) the fork associated with Nabu (?);
(5) the eight-pointed star of Ishtar.
It is now apparent that the horned crown of Anu is portrayed on numerous depictions of ummanū, or human apkallū.
The cross worn as an amulet is a symbol of the sun god, Šamaš.

It is worth noting that this king is portrayed without any indicators of divinity like a horned headdress, though he does hold a mace in his left hand, and the rosette design is evident on his bracelet.
BM 118892, photo (c) The British Museum.

But Beaulieu has offered a compelling explanation of this cultic development along with its attendant theological distinctives. He argues that it is a deliberate, archaizing theological program under the direction of temple functionaries, probably beginning in the late Persian period and culminating in Hellenistic times.

(See Paul-Alain Beaulieu, “Antiquarian Theology in Seleucid Uruk,” Acta Sumerologica 14 (1992), 47-75. (Beaulieu also focuses on antiquarianism in his “Antiquarianism and the Concern for the Past in the Neo-Babylonian Period,” Bulletin of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 28 [1994], 37-42).

Beaulieu dates the rise of the prominence of Anu and Antu by the appearance of these deities in personal names. Summarizing his findings, he writes: “the crucial phase of the process had probably already taken place by the end of the fifth century” (“Antiquarian Theology,” 55).)

A key element in this program was the fashioning of the Urukean pantheon after the canonical god list An = Anum, thereby exalting Anu and Antu, ancient patron gods of Uruk, to its head while demoting other high-ranking deities like Marduk, the old imperial capital’s head deity, and Ishtar, a goddess prominent at Uruk in earlier periods, to a lower level in the pantheon.

Ruins and Plan of the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple. Uruk ( Present-day Warka, Iraq). c. 3300-3000 BCE.

 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/168814686005734256/

Ruins and Plan of the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple. Uruk ( Present-day Warka, Iraq). c. 3300-3000 BCE.


https://www.pinterest.com/pin/168814686005734256/

(Beaulieu cites SpBTU I 126 as evidence that the old god-list was known in Seleucid Uruk (“Antiquarian Theology,” 73, n.40). He discusses other related archaizing items, too, such as bringing an obscure goddess like Amasagnudi, consort of Papsukkal/Ninsubur, the vizier of Anu, to cultic prominence.)

Beaulieu describes the reasons for this theological move as follows:

“By putting Anu back in the foreground the religious establishment of Uruk achieved a double purpose. They created a theological system which could challenge the dominant MardukNabû theology of Babylon, and they promoted an Urukaean deity to the head of their new version of the national pantheon, thus enhancing local pride.”

(“Antiquarian Theology,” 68. Since greater antiquity was perceived as conferring greater authority in Mesopotamia, one might add that Uruk had a distinct advantage in reasserting the claims of the Anu cult against the claims of the Babylonian Marduk cult: Anu was considered older than him even by such traditions as the Enūma Eliš.

However, even if one wishes to see the exaltation of Anu in terms of reasserting the authority and position of a local deity within the pantheon, this does not exclude the possibility that other concerns contributed to the decision to do so.

The decision to exalt Anu, e.g., may also have been influenced by the increasing importance of astrology among scholars, who at this later period of Mesopotamian history were now primarily associated with temples.)

In other words, with the disintegration of indigenous imperial structures under foreign regimes with little interest in arcane Mesopotamian theological matters, local cults were able to reassert their own distinctive interests. The local temple elites in Uruk did this by utilizing ancient (conceived as such by mid-first millennium times) god-list traditions to exalt Anu to the head of the pantheon.”

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 158-60.

Lenzi: Human apkallū are a Later Inclusion

“Sanders suggests this discrepancy indicates the four human apkallū are “extraneous” while Wiggerman gives it a source critical interpretation, suggesting “the list of apkallū does not originate from bīt mēseri but from another text—a chronicle ?—, from where it was adapted by bīt mēseri.”

(Sanders, “Writing, Ritual, and Apocalypse,” 117; Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits, 108. They do appear extraneous in the incantation when viewed from the perspective of the ritual instructions, and the four human apkallū almost certainly were taken from some other traditional context, though we have not yet identified it.)

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummânū,  or, as earlier analysts assessed, the god Anu.<br /> The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common.  They appear to be poppies.<br /> The rosette design in the large ring around his waist appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. In no other case have I seen a ring surrounding the waist of such a figure.<br /> The wings on the apkallū are typical.<br /> The fact that this figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.<br /> Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress.<br /> Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn with time, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin.<br /> This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.<br /> http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummânū, or, as earlier analysts assessed, the god Anu.
The iconography is correct for an apkallū. The horned headdress is indicative of divinity, the plants held in both hands are not unprecedented, though they are not common. They appear to be poppies.
The rosette design in the large ring around his waist appears elsewhere in Neo-Assyrian symbolism, though its significance is undetermined. In no other case have I seen a ring surrounding the waist of such a figure.
The wings on the apkallū are typical.
The fact that this figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū.
Further, the disc atop the headdress is problematic. In no other example does a human apkallū appear with a disc surmounting a horned headdress.
Indeed, it is unclear whether the disc is just worn with time, or whether the lower part of the disc portrays the inverted horns of the Moon, indicative of the Moon god Sin.
This is one of the most dramatic examples of Neo-Assyrian art, but my scholarship is too meager to explicate it.
http://transfixussednonmortuus.tumblr.com/image/32382020729

Building on these interpretations, I suggest that the absence of the four human apkallū from the ritual instructions is a textual clue that they are in fact a later addition to the incantation.

According to this interpretation, the text provides evidence that someone deliberately associated the two groups of apkallū, human and mythic, sometime in the early first millennium.

This depiction of a human apkallū, or ummânū, portrays the right hand raised in the greeting gesture, and the banduddū bucket in the left hand.<br /> This ummânū displays the rosette design on bilateral wristbands and on a headband, which differs from the usual horned headdress.<br /> The wings are typical, further indicative of divinity or partial divinity.

This depiction of a human apkallū, or ummânū, portrays the right hand raised in the greeting gesture, and the banduddū bucket in the left hand.
This ummânū displays the rosette design on bilateral wristbands and on a headband, which differs from the usual horned headdress.
The wings are typical, further indicative of divinity or partial divinity.

That is to say, the disconnect between ritual and incantation provides a hint at alteration or innovation—i.e., an active interest—in the apkallū tradition attested here.

(For a much more detailed example of finding literary and socio-religious data in the discrepancies between an incantation and its associated ritual, see Tzvi Abusch, “Ritual and Incantation: Interpretation and Textual History of Maqlû VII:58-105 and IX:52-59,” in “Shaharei Talmon:” Studies in the Bible, Qumran, and the Ancient Near East Presented to Shemaryahu Talmon, ed. Michael Fishbane and Emanuel Tov with the assistance of Weston W. Fields (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1992), 367-80; reprinted in Tzvi Abusch, Mesopotamian Witchcraft: Toward a History and Understanding of Babylonian Witchcraft Beliefs and Literature, Ancient Magic and Divination 5 (Leiden: Brill / Styx, 2002).

This depiction of a human apkallū, or ummânū raises the mullilu cone in the right hand, in the prototypical gesture of blessing and exorcism, releasing all sin.<br /> The gesture is one of sprinkling water, with the water contained in the banduddû bucket in the left hand.<br /> This ummânū wears wristbands with the undefined rosette design, but in this example the headdress is the horned tiara indicative of divinity.<br /> Wings reflecting divinity or semi-divinity are also present.<br /> In this bas relief, the ummânū is blessing or purifying a sacred tree.<br /> It is possible that the blossoms on the sacred tree are related to the rosette design on the wristbands, though I am unaware at this time of any scholarship drawing the similarity.

This depiction of a human apkallū, or ummânū raises the mullilu cone in the right hand, in the prototypical gesture of blessing and exorcism, releasing all sin.
The gesture is one of sprinkling water, with the water contained in the banduddû bucket in the left hand.
This ummânū wears wristbands with the undefined rosette design, but in this example the headdress is the horned tiara indicative of divinity.
Wings reflecting divinity or semi-divinity are also present.
In this bas relief, the ummânū is blessing or purifying a sacred tree.
It is possible that the blossoms on the sacred tree are related to the rosette design on the wristbands, though I am unaware at this time of any scholarship drawing the similarity.

We must recognize, however, the fact that the tradition exemplified in bīt mēseri differs in a significant way from the ULKS: in bīt mēseri the tradition occurs in a ritual.

(Besides the generic difference the text also has a difference with regard to the included content: kings are only mentioned with two of the human apkallū and none is mentioned with the mythic apkallū. Since Bīt mēseri is a ritual, we would not expect the sage-king association to appear.

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left.  I am unaware of any other depiction like this one. The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms.  The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū's upper back. This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment.  This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

This ummânū uniquely presents with a feather in the raised right hand, and a kid goat held in the left.
I am unaware of any other depiction like this one.
The bracelets of rosette design appear bilaterally on both wrists, as do bracelets around the upper arms.
The tassels are finely detailed, and a tassel can be discerned on the ummânū’s upper back.
This depiction is also perhaps unique in the degree of fine detail lavished on the wings, and on the fringe of the garment.
This ummânū also wears a headband with the rosette design, rather than the horned tiara.

Due to their association with Ea, the apkallū were “natural” candidates for invocation in apotropaic/exorcistic contexts (see, e.g., Benjamin Foster, “Wisdom and the Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Orientalia 43 [1974], 344-54, here 349 and other examples below).

This portrayal of a human apkallū, or ummânū, wears the horned headdress indicative of divinity, and raises his right hand in the greeting gesture.<br /> Uniquely, this depiction carries an er'u stick, emblazoned with an un-circled rosette design that reflects the bracelet on the ummânū wrist.<br /> It also strikes me as possible that the stick is a mace.<br /> It should be noted that these rosette designs feature nine petals.<br /> This ummânū is unique, perhaps, in that bracelets on the upper arms are depicted.<br /> Likewise noteworthy are the tassels hanging from the apparel, which appear in other depictions but not, perhaps, with this degree of fine detail.<br /> Note the attention to detail revealed in the thumbnail of each hand.<br /> The wings, indicative of divinity, also portray uncommon detail.

This portrayal of a human apkallū, or ummânū, wears the horned headdress indicative of divinity, and raises his right hand in the greeting gesture.
Uniquely, this depiction carries an er’u stick, emblazoned with an un-circled rosette design that reflects the bracelet on the ummânū wrist.
It also strikes me as possible that the stick is a mace.
It should be noted that these rosette designs feature nine petals.
This ummânū is unique, perhaps, in that bracelets on the upper arms are depicted.
Likewise noteworthy are the tassels hanging from the apparel, which appear in other depictions but not, perhaps, with this degree of fine detail.
Note the attention to detail revealed in the thumbnail of each hand.
The wings, indicative of divinity, also portray uncommon detail.

But kings are not figures typically invoked in incantations. Thus, it is not really surprising that we do not see the connection made systematically in such a context. However, when a sage–king connection is mentioned, it is interesting to see signs of continuity with the later ULKS. For example, Nungalpirigal is associated with Enmerkar in both Bīt mēseri and the ULKS.)

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, V 110, VII 49, VIII 38 (though without names).

This ummânū kneels before the sacred tree, apparently depicted in the act of tending to it.<br /> This bas relief is perhaps unique in its fine detail which survived a long period of time.<br /> Note the care focused on the fingernails and toenails.<br /> The rosette design is mirrored on the bracelets, while this ummânū wears the horned tiara of divinity.<br /> The tassels from the apparel are finely detailed, and another tassel appears behind ummânu's neck, beneath his braided hair.<br /> The earrings are of an unknown design.

This ummânū kneels before the sacred tree, apparently depicted in the act of tending to it.
This bas relief is perhaps unique in its fine detail which survived a long period of time.
Note the care focused on the fingernails and toenails.
The rosette design is mirrored on the bracelets, while this ummânū wears the horned tiara of divinity.
The tassels from the apparel are finely detailed, and another tassel appears behind ummânu’s neck, beneath his braided hair.
The earrings are of an unknown design.

(7 apkallē sūt Eridu likpidūšunūti ana lemuttim: “May the seven sages of Eridu plan evil for them.” This counters the assertion that the sorcerers have planned evil for the patient in II 117.

See Gerhard Meier, Die assyrische Beschwörungssammlung Maqlû, Archiv für Orientforschung Beiheft 2 (Berlin, 1937), 17 for text and translation.)

(7 apkallē sūt Eridu [. . .]; see Gerhard Meier, “Studien zur Beschwörungssammlung Maqlu,” Archiv für Orientforschung 21 (1966), 77 for the text. Meier’s earlier edition contains nothing except the number 7 from the line (Maqlû, 38).

An ummânū, or sage of human descent. The ummânū raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with uncertain plants in his left hand.  The rosette design on his wristband is perhaps uniquely not reflected on the opposite wrist. Bracelets appear on the upper arms.  The horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity, is often worn by such figures.

An ummânū, or sage of human descent. The ummânū raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with uncertain plants in his left hand.
The rosette design on his wristband is perhaps uniquely not reflected on the opposite wrist. Bracelets appear on the upper arms.
The horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity, is often worn by such figures.

(7 apkallē sūt Eridu lipaššihū zumuršu, “May the seven sages of Eridu give his body relief” (Meier, Maqlû, 48).

(Broken context: [. . .] ši-ma apkallē ša Apsî (Meier, Maqlû, 54). Note the next line, also broken, has nēmeqi nikilti Ea iqbû, “the wisdom, the ingenuity of Ea they spoke.”)

Alan Lenzi, The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian ScholarshipJANER 8.2, Brill, Leiden, 2008. pp. 145-6.

Nakamura: the āšipu was Master of the Figurines

The Buried and Enclosed

“The multiple layers of concealment in this Neo-Assyrian figurine ritual suggest a play on the hiding and receiving powers of the earth.

In Mesopotamia, burial constituted a pervasive and important ritual idiom; people buried valuables, sacrifices, foundation offerings, caches of various materials, and their dead.

Nakamura: "By burying figurines of powerful beings, the āšipu preserves an expressed belief in a present reality of supernatural power, mythological origin and divine order."

Nakamura: “By burying figurines of powerful beings, the āšipu preserves an expressed belief in a present reality of supernatural power, mythological origin and divine order.”

Such diverse practices surely supported an equally diverse range of meanings. But in a basic sense, burial can mean to store, preserve, and put the past on hold (Harrison 2003:xi). This concept of burial holds purchase in the way in which protection relates to memory.

By burying figurines of powerful beings, the āšipu preserves an expressed belief in a present reality of supernatural power, mythological origin and divine order.

Burial keeps things hidden and protected such that preservation binds memory to a specific locality, from which it can be retrieved in the future as a given past. And this preservation of the future configures protection as survival.

It is interesting to mention here a temporal particularity in the Akkadian language that designates the “past” as lying before and the “future” as lying behind (Maul 1997:109), a stark reversal of our modern notions.

Mythology also seems to corroborate the notion that Mesopotamians “proceeded with their backs to the future,” as it were. Berossos’ Babyloniaka presents the primordial sage Oannes as having taught humans all the arts of domestic and cultural life.

Other myths regard this knowledge of the civilized arts as a gift from the god Enki (Ea). What is striking in both of these accounts is that the Mesopotamians believed that all cultural achievements — be they architecture, writing, healing, metalwork, carpentry, et cetera — were endowed to humans at the beginning of time, and this notion locates the ideal image of society in a primordial and mythological past rather than in a hopeful future (Maul 1997:109).

Furthermore, the figurines were not only buried, but also placed appropriately under the earth, in the space of the Netherworld and the apsû, the primordial freshwater ocean.

A depiction of the underworld.  Nergal appears at the top, leering over a top register which contains the eight-pointed star of Ishtar and the inverted half-moon crescent of the Moon God Sin.  In the second register, seven demons appear to support the heavens.  The middle register depicts the burial rites for new arrivals in the underworld, presided over by two fish-apkallū.  The lower register depicts the goddess Allat, or Ereshkigal, sister of Ishtar, who reigns in the underworld. She kneels upon a horse, which appears to be oppressed by her burden, in a boat which floats upon the waters of life. Note the lion pups suckling at her breast.  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

A depiction of the underworld.
Nergal appears at the top, leering over a top register which contains the eight-pointed star of Ishtar and the inverted half-moon crescent of the Moon God Sin.
In the second register, seven demons appear to support the heavens.
The middle register depicts the burial rites for new arrivals in the underworld, presided over by two fish-apkallū.
The lower register depicts the goddess Allat, or Ereshkigal, sister of Ishtar, who reigns in the underworld. She kneels upon a horse, which appears to be oppressed by her burden, in a boat which floats upon the waters of life. Note the lion pups suckling at her breast.
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

Numerous sources locate the underworld in the ground, beneath the surface of the earth (Black and Green 1992:180; Bottéro 1992:273–275). This idea follows from a traditional Mesopotamian conception of a vertical and bipolar universe where the earth, inhabited by living humans, separated the Heavens (šamû) from the Netherworld (ersętu) (Bottéro 1992:273).

And the borders of these domains were permeable, as entry to the Netherworld could be gained by way of a stairway leading down to the gate, while spirits could access the human world through cracks and holes in earth’s surface.

But importantly, the prevailing worldview of this time held that every being occupied a proper space in the world, with the lower hemisphere, symmetrical to the upper heavens, providing a discrete space and residence for the dead and other supernatural beings.

In this context, the burial of figurines of creatures from the underworld and apsû might constitute a mimetic gesture of placing or commanding such beings to their proper place in the world. This ritual practice not only reflects but reenacts the notion of an underworld located underground.

Furthermore, the strategic placement of the figurine deposits under certain architectural and household features may act to channel and focus the protective power of the beings, since they dwell in their “proper” realm.

The fact that the figurines were encased in boxes is also evocative of the important gesture of providing a “house” for the deities, and there could be no greater service rendered to a divine being than the building of his or her house (Frankfort 1978:267).

Additionally, the “immateriality” of a buried geography as an invisible, powerful presence is itself provocative.

The figurines, so installed, become effectively removed from the sensuous sphere of human–object relations. In this register of experience, they are “completed,” no longer engaging in processes of mutual constitution and becoming.

But the materiality of the figurine deposit endures and is powerful in this capacity to survive, virtually unmolested, performing its original duty; cut off from human relations, mute, blind, and restrained, they no longer strike back at human subjects, but can only direct their force to fighting off evil spirits in the Netherworld, as instructed by the āšipu.

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.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 36-8.

Nakamura: The Figurines as Magical Objects

The Hybrid

“The magical power of the āšipu also allows him to identify certain mythological and supernatural beings appropriate for the task of protection; these are ancient sages (apkallū), warrior deities and monsters, associated with civilized knowledge and the formidable forces of life, death, peace, and destruction of divine will and rule (Green 1993; Wiggermann 1993).

These figures take on different protective attributes depending on the nature of the represented being; the apkallū act as purifiers and exorcists to expel and ward off evil forces, while monsters, gods, and dogs tend to the defense of the house from demonic intruders (Wiggermann 1992:96–97).

Lahmu, “Hairy,” is a protective and beneficent deity, the 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 and Lahmu may be related to – or identical with- ‘Lahamu’ one of Tiamat’s Creatures in that epic. http://foundfact.com/portfolio-view/lahmu/#!prettyPhoto http://foundfact.com/library/beings-people-and-gods/page/6/#!prettyPhoto

All of these figures find some association either with the underworld or the freshwater ocean under the earth (apsû) which was the domain of Enki, the god associated with wisdom, magic, incantation, and the arts and crafts of civilization (Black and Green 1992:75), and notably, all but the lahmu portray composite human–animal physiognomies (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2. 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)

Figure 2.2. 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)

Such forms manifest a communion of things generally held to be opposed to each other. The blending of humans and animals in this context might capitalize on the tension between Mesopotamian conceptions of a structured, civilized human world and a chaotic, untamed natural world (Bottéro 1992).

Hybrids materialize a unity of self and other, human and animal as a strange being that is at once knowable and controllable and unknowable and incontrollable.

Fish-man known as a Kulullû. Terracotta figurine (8th-7th BCE) in the Louvre collection, Nr. 3337.  The Kulullû is distinct from the fish-Apkallū. They are not the same.

Fish-man known as a Kulullû. Terracotta figurine (8th-7th BCE) in the Louvre collection, Nr. 3337.
The Kulullû is distinct from the fish-Apkallū. They are not the same.

As beings in-between, hybrids embody potential, transition, and similarity in difference. Such liminality is often associated with dangerous power, a power that obeys the apotropaic economy of the supplement, since it terrifies and yet provides the surest protection against that terror (Derrida 1974:154).

Another depiction of the Kulullû, or fish-man.

Another depiction of the Kulullû, or fish-man.

By miming such beings in clay figurines, the āšipu brings forth their active life and force in petrified form. Capitalizing on the apotropaic logic of defense, this gesture captures self-defeating force and suspends it in space, material, and time.

Many of the figurine types are depicted in movement with hands gesturing and a foot forward to suggest forward movement. Following Susan Stewart (1984:54), I submit that the force of animated life does not diminish when arrested in the fixity and exteriority of the figurine, but rather, is captured as a moment of hesitation always on the verge of forceful action.

The apotropaic figurine is a magical object — what Michael Taussig calls a “time–space compaction of the mimetic process” — doubled over since its form and matter, creation and presentation capture certain inherent energies that humans desire to control.

The magical object, which encounters the unknown by presenting its form and image “releases a force capable of vanquishing it, or even befriending it” (Deleuze 2003:52). But as ritual texts and archaeological deposits confirm, it was not just the images themselves that rendered power, but something in the process of their creation.

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.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 34-6.

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 Atrahasis epic (Tablet I, lines 210–213) humankind is born from the mixing of primordial clay and the blood of a slain god, and in Enki and Ninmah (lines 24–26) humankind is made from this clay only.)

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic Babylonian, about 17th century BC 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 BC 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 BC
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 BC 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

And this mimetic act doubles back, for at the end of the incantation the āšipu invokes the creative utterance of Enki (Ea) and incants himself into the picture; here he blurs his position as both mime and mimed other: “in this way, as both chanter and person chanted about, as demonstrator and demonstrated, he creates the bridge between the original and copy that brings a new force, the third force of magical power, to intervene in the human world” (Taussig 1993:106).

(One creation myth (of many) also poses Enki (Ea) as taking on the organization of the entire universe and accomplishes this feat solely in the creative power of his word (Black and Green 1992:54)).

And it is the āšipu’s body that provides the ligature of this bond:

O Ea, King of the Deep, to see…

I, the magician am thy slave.

March thou on my right hand,

Be present on my left;

Add thy pure spell unto mine,

Add thy pure voice unto mine,

Vouchsafe (to me) pure words,

Make fortunate the utterance of my mouth,

Ordain that my decisions be happy,

Let me be blessed wherever I tread,

Let the man who I (now) touch be blessed.

(Utukki Limnuti, III/VII:260 ff. Thompson 1903-04:27-9, added emphasis).

It is bodily sense — initiated by the āšipu’s voice, movement, and touch — that forges a correspondence between the natural and the divine.

Through the mimetic faculty, magical craft and performance invites a direct and sensuous relation with the open world capable of recuperating a pre-organized state of sensation and perception.

This visceral presentation of the self-becoming-other and spirit-becoming-substance, reproduces the original fold of being that encompasses divine, human, and natural worlds. The Mesopotamian world was indeed enchanted, and humans, always already engaged in such a world, needed only to feel or sense in order to retrieve such unity.

I have dwelled upon the bodily aspects of practice — namely, those gestures of relating and transforming through incantation, touch, and movement — to underscore magic as a technique, as a knowing and producing that choreographs a dis/re-organization of worldly relations.

Magical performance amounts to a mimetic demonstration of vital correspondences between ideas, essences, and things in the processual enactment of an ideal made real. The affective force of such bodily techniques arises from the kinetic communication and experience of the performance; but how are we to make sense of the power or force of ideal protection made real through the burial of miniature figurine deposits?

Most commonly, scholarship has approached this ritual practice and material assemblage by considering certain symbolic and conceptual linkages to Neo-Assyrian ritual, religion, and culture, for instance, the common terrain shared by myth and iconography (see Green 1983; 1993; Wiggermann 1992; 1993).

While such critical analyses get at important aspects and processes of ancient intellection, they ultimately fail to consider the devastatingly material logic of magic that often subverts (only to reinforce) such discursive productions of meaning. To redress this imbalance, I presently examine this concrete logic and how it discloses apotropaic power.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 30-1.

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 the

clay pit; with censer, torch and holy water you shall [purify] the clay pit,

seven grains of silver, seven grains of gold, carnelian, hulā [lu-stone]

you shall throw into the clay pit, then prepare the setting for Šamaš,

set up a censer with juniper wood, pour out first class beer, kn[eel down,]

stand up, and recite the incantation Clay pit, clay pit.

Incantation: Clay pit, clay pit, you are the clay pit of Anu and Enlil,

the clay pit of Ea, lord of the deep, the clay pit of the great gods;

you have made the lord for lordship, you have made the king for kingship,

you have made the prince for future days;

your pieces of silver are given to you, you have received them;

your gift you have received, and so, in the morning before Šamaš, I

pinch off

the clay NN son of NN; may it be profitable, may what I do prosper.

(Text I, lines 144-57, Wiggermann 1992).

The appeal to the senses during this ceremony is striking. (Notably, this ceremony recalls certain aspects of the pīt pî (“washing of the mouth”) ritual that “enlivened” statues and images such that they could smell, drink, and eat like the deities that came to indwell in them.)

The scent of the censer, heat of the torch, luster of the metals, flavor of the beer, and sound of spoken words together invite and gather the human, natural, and divine worlds to a feast of sensory correspondence.

This demonstration accomplishes a sort of dazzling synthesis that deregulates the faculties — of imagination, outer sense, inner sense, reason, and understanding (Deleuze 1998:33) — and seeks communion through the apprehension of the world.

The result effectively gathers and binds spirit with matter to forge a unity of being as divergence or noncoincidence. It is a matter of “capturing and befriending” insensible forces by embracing the strife in which the perceptible and imperceptible, sensuous and non-sensuous belong to each other.

Through this performance, the clay pit as divine material is reenacted in a demonstrative process of making sense, and the sensual or aesthetic enactment of a certain understanding of the world discloses power in the process of re-forming meaning: “in the process of mimetic reenactment, we reach behind the already formed figurines of meaning, back to the dynamics, force and energy of their formation (Menke 1998:97-8).”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 29-30.

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; in the way of poetic disclosure, they project an idealized past and more desirable future. Figurines fascinate as they confront our gaze with something familiar in the unfamiliar, real in the counterfeit.

It is not only the object’s form or physicality that we identify and relate to, but something of the mimetic gesture: the faculty to create and explore ourselves, to encounter and become other (Taussig 1993:xiii).

Anterior to the organized knowledge of reflection, there is mimesis: this age-old and rather profound faculty that stands somewhere at the beginning of play, the beginning of language, and the beginning of self-making (Benjamin 1979).

With mimesis, we already have a sense that reality, at some level, is simply a matter of relations. Walter Benjamin conceived of the mimetic faculty as producing “magical correspondences” between persons and things, objects and essences: “a child not only plays at being a grocer or a teacher, but also at being a windmill or a train” (1979:65).

Relations forged through miming reveal remarkable correspondences between the material and immaterial; the copy assumes the power of the original, and a wish is “made real” in the material fabric of the world (Frazer 1957:55; Taussig 1993:47).

The elegance of the mimetic process lies in the way in which it always renders an imperfect copy, and it is this very intervention of imperfection that locates and captures creative force.

If Neo-Assyrian apotropaic magic reenacts a circulation of sense — a reorientation of perceptual and material systems — to disclose the protection of space and being in time, how might we consider a notion of protection constituted in the material gesture of placing numerous figurine deposits under Neo-Assyrian room floors?

Furthermore, what can we make of acts of burial, concealment, and containment in this context? Here, texts and archaeological materials considered together portray a remarkably detailed practice in the choreography of various mimetic acts.

Turning to the texts, we find they recount the exemplary life of these objects from creation to deposition. The ritual production of apotropaic figurines involved certain meaningful places, materials and gestures: one text instructs a practitioner, a high-ranking state āšipu (priest-exorcist) to go to the woods at sunrise to consecrate a cornel tree, recite the incantation “Evil [spirit] in the broad steppe” and then return to the city to make the figurines from the consecrated wood (see Text 1, 28– 44 in Wiggermann 1992).

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 28-9.

Nakamura: Magic as Mimesis in Mesopotamia

“Merleau-Ponty’s (1968) notion of intertwining or chiasm between interior and exterior experience might provide a helpful ontological frame here.

This bare movement of perception posits the emergence of various social worlds from the sensuous interchange between interior and exterior phenomena, namely, nodes of self-organization (perception) and the “chaos” of indeterminacy (being).

There exists a necessary separation and continuum between the former and the latter as the very condition for perception, such that perceptual faith becomes a “strange attractor in the circulation of sense, in the interweaving of perceptual and material systems” (Mazis 1999:233).

And Merleau-Ponty (1968) conceives of the bare notion of flesh as providing the substrate or condition for this movement. Flesh posits a world of indeterminate being connected by an essential openness to becoming completed by the world, things, others, qualities and interrelations (Grosz 1999:151).

Such transactions are never “completed” per se, but rather engage in continuous exchange, in an ongoing process of becoming. This unity, therefore, conditions perception as “a communication or communion, the taking up or completion by us of some extraneous intention or, . . . the complete expression outside ourselves of our perceptual powers and coition, so to speak, of our body with things” (Merleau-Ponty 1962).

The notion of an original unity seems to inhabit a Mesopotamian worldview in which dreams, visions, abnormal events, internal organs, and entrails provided an “empirical” basis for reality. In this reality, interior events and natural and social phenomena were intimately and specifically related.

One could argue that this worldview maintained a certain interpenetration or continuity between the interiority of the mind and the exteriority of the world. This notion is supported in the polysemic and polyphonic character of the Mesopotamian writing systems.

According to Asher-Grève and Asher (1998:39), the Sumerian language and vocabulary offers no evidence for the radical bifurcation of mind and body that is so fundamental to Western intellectual thought.

They find support for this notion in the Sumerian word, Šà, a holistic term that denotes the mind, body, and heart; the body and heart are the seat of the will, “it thinks, feels, has power over the limbs and is open to the influence of the deities” (1998:39).

Moreover, they see the body as providing a fundamental point of reference in early Mesopotamia; Sumerians see the body as the total being, confirmed by the absence of a distinct Sumerian word for brain/mind (1998:40).

In later times, ancient scribes and scholars exploited the flexibility of the Akkadian language evidenced in plays and puns on words (see Alster 2002). It is notable that the formation and development of the cuneiform script (created by Mesopotamians for Sumerian and adapted also to Akkadian), always allowed for a number of permutations and ambiguities to intervene, on the level of things indicated as well as on the level of signifying words (Bottéro 1992:94).

This capacity for linguistic signs and phonemes to hold multiple and freely interchangeable values reveals an indeterminacy built into what Bottéro calls the concrete and polysemic character of a “script of things” (Bottéro 1992:100). In other words, linguistic thought also supports a material logic of correspondence.

Although Mesopotamians certainly made distinctions between various concrete and intangible phenomena — the supernatural and natural worlds were connected through a notion of divinity, but were not seen as the same — perhaps it was the potential for their connection or conflation that was significant in the context of magic.

The reorientation of classical mind–matter, subject–object divisions within a relation of continuity and mutual implication sets up an ontological frame that might better approach an ancient Neo-Assyrian worldview (following Meskell 1999; 2002; 2004).

Such a frame not only situates magic in a pre-discursive world of relations, but also grounds it in an aesthetics that discloses a powerful process of enacting correspondence.

It should come as no surprise, then, to find mimetic work as a principle technique of magic, since the recovery of the world in its pre-differentiated unity provides the condition for the mimetic process of getting into the skin of an other (cf. Taussig 1993), that way of making which is the occasion of magic.

If this unity becomes obscured by the habitual, purifying movements of social process, then magic seeks its recovery in secrecy, through the concrete work of mimesis.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 26-7.

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 1931), and trace out a visual typology of apotropaic images (Green 1993; Wiggermann 1993), while textual analysis investigates the symbolic logic of apotropaic prescription and the mythological identities of the figures (Wiggermann 1992).

Two long-awaited volumes no doubt will provide further analyses of particular site assemblages (Green forthcoming) and the apotropaic figurines in general (Ellis forthcoming). Despite the richness of textual and archaeological data, an anthropological perspective is distinctly lacking; however, such research would considerably enrich our views of this remarkable ancient practice.

Regrettably, studies of previously excavated materials have not exploited the diverse range of approaches afforded by modern social sciences. While previously excavated sites and materials admittedly do not often lend themselves to the analytical and interpretive techniques most favored by archaeologists, such data should not be omitted from modern reconsideration and inquiry simply because they present a special challenge for substantive interpretation (see Meskell 1999).

There is, in fact, adequate data to perform detailed contextual and spatial analyses of the apotropaic practice at certain Neo-Assyrian sites. Furthermore, I would argue that conventional interpretations in archaeology — still oriented toward explanation and meaning — fail to get at the most compelling aspects of ancient magic, exactly that which makes it magical.

Magic surely presents something beyond the reach of representational or functional interpretations and thus demands a different perspective. What is required is an evocation of magic that aims directly at the caesura between meaning and matter and delves into the shadowy processes of materializing experience, belief, and value.

Perhaps it is not surprising that archaeology, with only material traces of human activity to work with, has left the critical study of magic to other disciplines. It is revealing that “magic” is generally invoked as an explanation for those slippery things, processes, and occurrences that our rational and linguistic varieties of logic can’t quite master.

From this vantage, magic has become something more suitable for explaining than for being explained. But as Mauss (1972) decisively observed in A General Theory of Magic, magic is as much a way of doing as a way of thinking.

We should consider, then, not a logic but an aesthetics of magical practice, as a particular way of making sense (Gosden 2001). And this way of doing engages a radical materiality that not only enacts the mutual constitution of subjects and objects, but provides the condition for such discursive practices.

A consideration of materiality vis-à-vis magic, then, does not presume and continue the anthropological pursuit of finding meaning in matter, the well-rehearsed terrain of discovering how various cultures construct and inscribe meaning in their artifacts.

What is magical or forceful in certain artifacts evades such fixed and flattened analyses since processes of abstraction do not account for the “untranscended materiality” or “plastic power” of the object that derives from the thing’s materialness itself (Pels 1998:101).

Impoverished attempts to discover the meaning or social context of a magical artifact, as it were, fall short not only because of an opacity of things, but also because our habituated ways of apprehending and constructing meaning threaten a veritable non-recognition of the things themselves.

This purifying analytical gaze effectively eviscerates matter of its very materiality — its innate capacity to continuously engage and enter into new relations. But recovering a recognition of things simply requires embracing the thingness of matter, namely, that insistent sensuousness of things that compels a confrontation with humans.

This move does not return us to problematic theories of materialism, but rather engages a notion of materiality as a dialectic and supplemental aesthetic of relating to.

Humans mime the animate in the inanimate, and the ideal in the real, to create and transform the world around them, only to be created and transformed right back. Such is the reality of matter: it “strikes back” (Pels 1998:91).

Within this framework I suggest that apotropaic figurine magic encompasses a process that enacts both a distinct mode of perception and a material event that renders a protected reality.

This discussion converges specifically on two aspects of magic: first, how magic capitalizes on a tension between the social construction of meaning and the radical autonomy of matter, and second, how magical perception, in the way of poetic action, masters the unknown by recovering and performing a “derangement of all the senses.” (Rimbaud 1967:302 and Deleuze 1993).

From such a viewpoint, Mesopotamian magic neither constitutes nor opposes a “rational” mode of knowing the world, but rather moves alongside in tandem, as counterpoint in a polyphonic system of knowledge. From this perspective, magic engages a sensuous metaphysics and grounds the possibility of a distinct socio-religious worldview.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 19-22.

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,
One to watch and one to pray,
And two to bear my soul away.” (1966:226)

Mallowan’s commentary, rather typical of his time, concerned the discovery of numerous brick boxes encasing figurines made of sun-dried clay, found buried underneath the corners, thresholds, and central spaces of room floors, possibly where a bed once stood.

Excavations during the late 1800s to mid 1900s located such deposits in residences, palaces, and temples at important political and religious capitals of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, including Nimrud, Assur, Nineveh, Khorsabad and at Ur in Babylonia under Assyrian rule; they first appeared during the reign of Shalmaneser III and generally persisted up through the reign of Sin-shar-ishkun (ca. 858–612 B.C.).

One can imagine an excavator’s delight in finding such deposits, and there was apparently considerable competition and excitement surrounding their discovery and unveiling (Oates and Oates 2001:253–254).

But, locating such boxes did not always promise the discovery of figurines. Numerous “empty” brick boxes contained nothing more than a thick layer of sandy material, possibly remnants of decomposed organic matter such as wood or food.

Deposits from Ur contained offerings of animal bones, remnants of grain and a pottery sherd along with the clay figures (Woolley 1926:692). And at Assur, some of the buried boxes entombed miniature bronze weapons (Rittig 1977).

But perhaps the most curious finds were the figurines of “warrior” men, mythological fish- and bird-apkallū sages, human-beast hybrids, horned snakes, and other fantastical beings (Figure 2.1).

Apotropaic figurine deposit found in room S57 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. Adapted from Curtis and Read (1995:112).

Apotropaic figurine deposit found in room S57 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. Adapted from Curtis and Read (1995:112).

Generally, such deposits comprised one, two, or seven figurines standing “at attention” in boxes facing in toward the center of the room.

These deposits, not simply buried but concealed and contained, amounted to the discovery within a discovery, the revelation of an ancient secret or desire that had remained hidden for thousands of years.

Other archaeological findings, however, had already anticipated these discoveries: ancient texts preserved instructions for an apotropaic ritual involving the burial of clay and wood figurines under room floors quite in the manner described above (Gurney 1935; Smith 1926; Wiggermann 1992).

The name of one text explicitly pronounced its purpose: šēp lemutti ina bīt amēli parāsu, “to block the entry of the enemy in someone’s house” (Wiggermann 1992:1); and the first twenty lines named the “enemy” to be almost any evil imaginable, from spirits, gods, and ancestors to disease, misfortune, Fate, and Death.

The text guided a priest-exorcist through a choreography of very specific and often protracted ceremonies involving various objects, gestures, substances, and locations, leading up to the final installation of the magically protective figures entombed underground.

Notably, another related text fragment, KAR 298, specifically detailed the making, function, character, number, and placement of the figurines (Smith 1926). The archaeological evidence proved to be remarkably consistent with these texts in terms of form and details of surface treatment, and to some extent, position and grouping of the figures.

So the Neo-Assyrians themselves revealed the secret of the figurine deposits: they were magically powerful deposits that protected the individual and his house from sickness and evil. The protective figures served to “watch,” “pray,” and “bear souls away,” as it were.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 18-19.