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Tag: Nakamura

Dalley: Apkallu-3, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD).

Apkallu (continued).

Type 1 Human-figured Apkallu, Phenotypes. 

“The human-figured sage (1* – 39*), sometimes called winged genie, should probably be identified with Akkadian ūmuapkallu. If so, it is the only sage-figure that has a distinguishing term. Alternatively, ūmu-apkallu may be an extension of apkallu in which ūmu refers to Oannes, the first sage, as an ummiānum.

The human-figured Apkallu is always shown in profile, and is normally bearded. He often wears a headband decorated with rosettes, or a horned crown with one, two, or three pairs of horns; he wears light sandals or is barefoot.

Occasionally he is kneeling (7 , 19, 24–25, 33*–34). He usually has two wings on palace sculptures of Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE) (6*), two (37) or four (23) wings in the palace of Sargon II (721-705 BCE), and four wings in the time of Sennacherib (704-681 BCE) (22).

This ummiânū 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 passage of time.<br /> Note the care focused on the fingernails and toenails.<br /> The rosette design is mirrored on the bracelets, while this ummiânū wears a dual-horned tiara of divinity.<br /> The tassels from the apparel are finely detailed, and another tassel appears behind the ummiânū's neck, beneath his braided hair.<br /> The earrings are of an unknown design.

This ummiânū 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 passage of time.
Note the care focused on the fingernails and toenails.
The rosette design is mirrored on the bracelets, while this ummiânū wears a dual-horned tiara of divinity.
The tassels from the apparel are finely detailed, and another tassel appears behind the ummiânū’s neck, beneath his braided hair.
The earrings are of an unknown design.

However, exceptions such as on 2 can be found, and there is probably flexibility in peripheral iconography or due to deliberate archaism.

This umu-apkallu wears a three-horned headdress indicative of divinity, raises poppy bulbs in his right hand, and holds a mace in his left. He has four wings.<br /> Daggers and ornate whetstone are tucked into his waistband, he wears armlets, and the fine detail preserved in this bas relief is highlighted by the right-armed sleeve of his upper garment. <br />  Ada Cohen &amp; Steven E. Kangas, eds., Assyrian Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II: A Cultural Biography, UPNE, 2010, p. 6.<br />  https://books.google.co.th/books?id=uRKU0YXBWtgC&amp;pg=PA252&amp;lpg=PA252&amp;dq=D.+Kolbe+Die+Reliefprogramme+full+text&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=c4EZtivZGc&amp;sig=2MJlM039UK3pZ0ituhzBzLBys4M&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0CCoQ6AEwBWoVChMIipCB8K--xwIVDlqOCh2O_wYD#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false

This umu-apkallu wears a three-horned headdress indicative of divinity, raises poppy bulbs in his right hand, and holds a mace in his left. He has four wings.
Daggers and ornate whetstone are tucked into his waistband, he wears armlets, and the fine detail preserved in this bas relief is highlighted by the right-armed sleeve of his upper garment.
Ada Cohen & Steven E. Kangas, eds., Assyrian Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II: A Cultural Biography, UPNE, 2010, p. 6.
https://books.google.co.th/books?id=uRKU0YXBWtgC&pg=PA252&lpg=PA252&dq=D.+Kolbe+Die+Reliefprogramme+full+text&source=bl&ots=c4EZtivZGc&sig=2MJlM039UK3pZ0ituhzBzLBys4M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCoQ6AEwBWoVChMIipCB8K–xwIVDlqOCh2O_wYD#v=onepage&q&f=false

On Khorsabad sculptures of the late 8th century (23), the four-winged man, holding a bucket and cone and wearing a crown with three pairs of horns, is probably a form of the same figure.

A beardless, perhaps female, two-winged form with bucket and cone is found on 8th century Carchemish sculpture fragments (30). It may be comparable to the two- or four-winged, perhaps female, figure in the palace of Assurnasirpal II, who holds a jeweled ring in the left hand, and wears a necklace and a crown with two pairs of horns (1* – 2).

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.<br />  They appear to wear long skirts, and details of their upper garments are lacking. They have four wings. <br /> Typical rosette bracelets adorn their wrists, and they wear armlets at the elbow as is common.<br /> Both umu-apkallu wear a dual-horned tiara indicative of divinity, as they salute a sacred tree in its prototypical configuration.

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.
They appear to wear long skirts, and details of their upper garments are lacking. They have four wings.
Typical rosette bracelets adorn their wrists, and they wear armlets at the elbow as is common.
Both umu-apkallu wear a dual-horned tiara indicative of divinity, as they salute a sacred tree in its prototypical configuration.

Although the figure is almost certainly female, it has two daggers and a whetstone tucked into the waist on 1* – 2, implying perhaps ambiguity of gender (ALBENDA 1996). Beardless examples are quite common in 7th century Urartian art (24, 27–29).

Associations.

The human-figured Apkallu is rarely associated with a deity (27).

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 8, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Dalley notes that this "Hebrew seal" may not be genuine, as it features a winged, man-faced bull "Aladlammu" serving as a "pedestal animal for a divine figure."<br />  What intrigues me is the crown worn by the man-faced bull, which resembles the crown portrayed on previous depictions alleged to be the god Anu. I do not propose that this man-faced bull is Anu, but his dual-horned headdress is surmounted by a disc-shaped device which is more ornate than the headdress on any other figure on this seal. The crown in this context is problematic, and it raises questions. <br /> Dalley compares illustration 8 to illustration 9, below, as "another West Semitic or (or rather South Semitic) seal with this type of apkallu standing alone."

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 8, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Dalley notes that this “Hebrew seal” may not be genuine, as it features a winged, man-faced bull “Aladlammu” serving as a “pedestal animal for a divine figure.”
What intrigues me is the crown worn by the man-faced bull, which resembles the crown portrayed on previous depictions alleged to be the god Anu. I do not propose that this man-faced bull is Anu, but his dual-horned headdress is surmounted by a disc-shaped device which is more ornate than the headdress on any other figure on this seal. The crown in this context is problematic, and it raises questions.
Dalley compares illustration 8 to illustration 9, below, as “another West Semitic or (or rather South Semitic) seal with this type of apkallu standing alone.”

In a few cases the human-figured Apkallu is associated with hybrid animals (24), as on the Hebrew seal 8* (if genuine), where a winged, man-faced bull Aladlammu (Human-headed winged bull) serves as a pedestal animal for a divine figure; and on 11, where an unbearded, human-faced winged lion sphinx supports the mirror-image pair of Apkallu.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 9, Stephanie Dalley, IDD. Dalley compares this seal portrayed as illustration 9 with illustration 8 above, as "another West Semitic (or rather South Semitic) seal with this type of apkallu standing alone." For me, the indistinct head gear stands out, as does the portrayal of the poppy bulbs in the left hand.

Apkallu type 1, Illustration 9, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Dalley compares this seal portrayed as illustration 9 with illustration 8 above, as “another West Semitic (or rather South Semitic) seal with this type of apkallu standing alone.”
For me, the indistinct head gear stands out, as does the portrayal of the poppy bulbs in the left hand.

If genuine, 9* is another West Semitic (or rather South Semitic) seal with this type of Apkallu standing alone.

Mirror-image pairs stand on each side of a stylized sacred tree (1*, 7, 13, 24, 29, 39* ), the tree sometimes surmounted by a winged disc (11–12*).

Apkallu type 1 and type 2, Illustration 12, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br />  Dalley emphasizes the "winged disc" in this exemplar.<br />  This may be a case where we are programmed to expect a winged disc, but in this case, the "winged disc" appears to portray a stylized eye.<br />  To me, the winged conveyance resembles an Eye of Horus, complete with an eyebrow. I do not propose that this illustration is an Eye of Horus. I merely observe that this portrayal of the winged conveyance in this case resembles one.

Apkallu type 1 and type 2, Illustration 12, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Dalley emphasizes the “winged disc” in this exemplar.
This may be a case where we are programmed to expect a winged disc, but in this case, the “winged disc” appears to portray a stylized eye.
To me, the winged conveyance resembles an Eye of Horus, complete with an eyebrow. I do not propose that this illustration is an Eye of Horus. I merely observe that this portrayal of the winged conveyance in this case resembles one.

This scene is frequently attested on palace sculptures from the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE) at Nimrud (6*; PALEY/SOBOLEWSKI 1987; 1991 passim). The scene is found in a location of high prestige, on a panel set behind the throne dais in the main throne room, where the king stands in mirror-image at the tree, and the winged disc is also shown.

Occasionally the winged disc is supported by a kneeling atlantid figure (14* ). Other variations include streams of water coming from the winged disc (14 *).

Apkallu type 1, illustration 14, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.  As Dalley notes, these type 1 apkallu have banduddu buckets in their left hands and appear to be gesturing with empty right hands. They are remarkable for crowns or tiaras with three horns, an indicator of divinity, or in the case of the umu-apkallu, of semi-divinity.   The central figure appears to be suspended beneath a winged disk. Unlike the apkallu, the central figure is beardless and without wings.  The wiggly lines probably portray water, flowing between what appear to be jugs.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 14, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
As Dalley notes, these type 1 apkallu have banduddu buckets in their left hands and appear to be gesturing with empty right hands. They are remarkable for crowns or tiaras with three horns, an indicator of divinity, or in the case of the umu-apkallu, of semi-divinity.
The central figure appears to be suspended beneath a winged disk. Unlike the apkallu, the central figure is beardless and without wings.
The wiggly lines probably portray water, flowing between what appear to be jugs.

Mirror-image figures may also stand on either side of a doorway without a central motif such as a sacred tree. On the rare occasions when this type does not belong to a mirror-image arrangement, he may stand, for example, behind a man with a fly-whisk and bowl, facing the enthroned king (26).

Detail on the whisk and the cup in the hands of a priest. This bas relief is singular in its fine detail and superb preservation. The individual strands of the fly whisk are readily apparent, as is the detail of the lion headed handle beneath the hand of a beardless priest. The fingernails are clearly visible.<br />  A snake-headed handle from what appears to be a ladle is apparent in the lower hand.<br />  From Panels 2-3, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.<br />  London, British Museum ANE 124564-124565.<br />  Photo: Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, 2010, p. 99.

Detail on the whisk and the cup in the hands of a priest. This bas relief is singular in its fine detail and superb preservation. The individual strands of the fly whisk are readily apparent, as is the detail of the lion headed handle beneath the hand of a beardless priest. The fingernails are clearly visible.
A snake-headed handle from what appears to be a ladle is apparent in the lower hand.
From Panels 2-3, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud.
London, British Museum ANE 124564-124565.
Photo: Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, 2010, p. 99.

The type occurs as a group of six or more clay figurines placed in brick boxes in foundations at Assur, Nimrud, and Nineveh (RITTIG 1977: passim).

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." As noted by Stephanie 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).

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.”
As noted by Stephanie 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).

Ritual texts show that figurines of this type were often made of e’ru wood (WIGGERMANN 1992: 65), and thus have not survived.”

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. 2-3/7.

Kvanvig: The Apkallus as Protective Spirits

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

The two incantation series have a different scope. Bīt Mēseri prescribes the procedures to be performed when someone is ill, i.e. has come under demonic attack. Šēp Lemutti (“The Foot of Evil”) describes the procedures to be performed when a house should be protected from demonic attack. Consequently the rituals described have some common denominators, but also clear differences.

The rituals describe in great detail how figurines should be made of the seven apkallus. These figurines should then be addressed in an invocation to make them represent the apkallus themselves. In the case of Bīt Mēseri, where an ill person is concerned, the figurines should be arranged in the ill person’s room, close to his bed; in the case of Šēp Lemutti the figurines should be deposited in the foundation of the house.

Apotropaic figurine deposit found in room S57 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. Adapted from Curtis and Read (1995:112). (From Nakamura).

Apotropaic figurine deposit found in room S57 of Fort Shalmaneser at Nimrud. Adapted from Curtis and Read (1995:112). (From Nakamura).

We are here at a point where textual and archeological evidence support one another. An abundance of such small figurines are found in boxes buried in the foundations of houses and palaces from the Neo-Assyrian and the Neo-Babylonian period.

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.”

Because of the detailed description of their appearance in the rituals, it is not difficult to identify the excavated figurines as the same entities described in the rituals. The excavated figurines are representations of the seven apkallus.

(Cf. F.A.M. Wiggermann, “Mischwesen A,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie (RLA) 8, Berlin, 1993-7, pp. 222-25, 222, 224.)

Moreover, having identified the small figurines, it is also possible to identify many of the large reliefs that flanked the entrances to the palaces of the Neo-Assyrian kings. Here the small figurines were blown up in large scale representations of figures with the same appearance as the small figurines, corresponding to the descriptions in the rituals.

(Cf. For a detailed examination of the evidence, Dieter Kolbe, Die Reliefprogramme religiös-mythologischen Characters in neu-assyrischen Palästen, EH, Reihe 38, Frankfurt am Main, 1981, III-VII, 14-30.)

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.

There are three kinds of apkallus: fish-apkallus, bird-apkallus, and human apkallus. The fish-apkallu is represented as a fish-garbed figure, with a human body and a carp cloak (cf. the description in Berossos).

The bird-apkallu is represented as a griffin; he has a human body, wings and a bird’s head.

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

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

(Cf. Anthony Green, “Mischwesen B,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie (RLA)  8, Berlin, 1993-7, pp. 246-64, 252; Anthony Green, “Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figures,” Iraq 45, 1983, pp. 87-96.)

The representation of the human apkallu is more uncertain. A. Green suggests that these apkallus were imagined as genii, figures with human bodies and wings, holding a bucket in the one hand and a cone in the other.

Now compare this Nimrud bas relief from the Louvre: an ummânū sprinkles water with a mullilu cone in his right hand, holding his banduddu bucket in his left. This ummânū wears bracelets with a concentric circular design, and rosettes are not apparent. This ummânū also wears the common horned headdress of Anu, but with three stacked layers of horns. As noted elsewhere, this headdress is surmounted by an object that resembles a partial fleur de lis. From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.  Louvre, AO 19845

Now compare this Nimrud bas relief from the Louvre: an ummânū sprinkles water with a mullilu cone in his right hand, holding his banduddu bucket in his left.
This ummânū wears bracelets with a concentric circular design, and rosettes are not apparent.
This ummânū also wears the common horned headdress of Anu, but with three stacked layers of horns.
As noted elsewhere, this headdress is surmounted by an object that resembles a partial fleur de lis.
From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.
Louvre, AO 19845

Figures of fish-apkallus and bird-apkallus are found in Babylonian Ur and in several of the major Assyrian cities, Nimrud, Aššur and Nineveh. They are found in royal palaces and in houses assumed to belong to the guild of the āšipū, “exorcists.”

This depiction of a fish-apkallū of the purādu-fish type guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud.<br /> A fish's head can be seen on the Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of his body.<br /> It is important to recall that the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallū of this type.<br /> Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE.<br /> From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).<br /> Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)<br /> 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/

(Cf. Dessa Rittig, Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik magischer Bedeutung vom 13.-6. Jh. v. Chr., MVS. München, 1977, pp. 70-85, and pictures 20-31.)

The apkallus were, as stated, not only manufactured as prophylactic figurines. It is possible to find them in numerous examples of monumental art in Assyrian palaces. The fish-apkallu is also found in Persian Persagadae, placed at the entrance to the Audience Hall.

(Cf. Trudy S. Kawami, “A Possible Source for the Sculptures of the Audience Hall, Pasargadae,” Iran 10, 1972, pp. 146-8.)

In this bas relief from Nimrud, human apkallū, the ummánū, kneel and tend to a sacred tree.  Both ummânū wear horned tiaras and display rosette bracelets on their wrists. Bracelets are also apparent on their upper arms.  In the lower register, bird-apkallū raise mulillu cones to sprinkle water in a gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin.  As is typical, the banduddu buckets are in their left hands.  Interestingly in this case, the bracelets of the bird-apkallū are atypical. No rosettes are apparent.

In this bas relief from Nimrud, human apkallū, the ummánū, kneel and tend to a sacred tree.
Both ummânū wear horned tiaras and display rosette bracelets on their wrists. Bracelets are also apparent on their upper arms.
In the lower register, bird-apkallū raise mulillu cones to sprinkle water in a gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin.
As is typical, the banduddu buckets are in their left hands.
Interestingly in this case, the bracelets of the bird-apkallū are atypical. No rosettes are apparent.

In the Assyrian palaces the apkallus are guarding the sacred tree, the king, and deities. Thus the apkallus were not only invisible present in rituals (sic); they were manufactured as figures and represented in impressive monumental art.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 129-31.

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

Mastering Matters

“In the material register, Neo-Assyrian figurine assemblages present a physical gesture of miniaturization, hybrid form, and concealment. I have intimated that such material gestures disclose a magic technology as a symbolic and sensual logic that conspires with and against conventional value-producing forms.

The question now becomes one of how this material reality presents protection. I would suggest that in the context of apotropaic performance, a material economy that produces a miniature, hybrid, and hidden reality anchors and accomplishes an experience of human mastery.

Furthermore, this suite of gestures skillfully sustains the belief in divine power and order through a cunning reversal. The collision of Neo-Assyrian socioreligious beliefs with this material making engenders a force that cannot be contained or mastered by narrative closure.

This resistance to such mastery, in effect, secures magic’s very power. Magic does not seek the restoration of balance or the resolution of contradiction (Taussig 1993:126), rather it renders such contradiction immaterial, and in doing so, masters the system which defines the conditions of its disclosure.

The slippage between meaning and matter, belief and practice, enshrouds magic in secrecy that is at once opaque and transparent. As both contingent and autonomous, the magical object secretes indeterminacy into the structure that conceives it, holds it at a distance and thereby masters it.

Artifacts congeal processes of making — the simultaneous forging of objects, selves, relations, cultures, and worlds — in a gesture of becoming. To make is to transform, and such transformation derives from the human enactment of both the self and the world.

If we accept Bakhtin’s idea that to be means to communicate, then figurines are self-creating works that specifically address communications among various beings, human, animal, divine, and supernatural.

They provide the material site for the human action of creation which moves back on the human creators themselves (Scarry 1985:310), and this reverse process acts in complicit as much as disruptive, subversive, and obfuscating ways.

Notably then, the process of material creation discloses a certain “mimetic excess” (cf. Taussig 1993) whereby reproduction amounts to metamorphosis, self-amplification to self-effacement, and divergence to unity.

Bird-apkallū, with hands on their chests, and banduddu buckets in their left hands.

Bird-apkallū, with hands on their chests, and banduddu buckets in their left hands.

The Neo-Assyrians crafted protective figurines as clay or stone copies of various mythological and supernatural beings. Their form as miniature, portable, durable, free-standing, three-dimensional objects confronts humans within a distinct relationship; namely, this material choreography reproduces powerful beings in a reality that assumes an anthropocentric universe for its absolute sense of scale (following Stewart 1984:56).

The materiality of the figurine thereby discloses the authority of humans over the copy, and hence over the original. Here, the production and reception of the copy itself becomes a “dramatic form of (social) experience” (Jenson 2001:23), namely, that of human mastery.

Whether deity, double, ancestor, spirit, or animal, the “original” comes to inhabit a material reality of human design. As petrified and choreographed “life,” the figurine recreates the human as master in this relation, a relation whereby humans, as all-powerful giants, assert and play out their desires within the diminutive tableau of the figurine.

The specific “bundling” of material properties of the figurine provides an enduring frame and anchor for the various ways in which other subjects relate to it thereafter. As a thing, the petrified miniature object will always encounter and constitute subjects as vigorous, gigantic masters with the capacity to possess, manipulate, command, and destroy.

Through this production of figurines, Neo-Assyrian apotropaic rituals trace out complex, and even disorienting, relations between humans, deities, and various supernatural beings in space and time.

Throughout the ritual, the āšipu priest creates protective beings in a perpetual mode of dedication to important deities who are the “creators” of humankind. I have previously argued that these acts of dedication constitute a giving that takes back (Nakamura 2004); here, dedication is a demand for protection, a dialectic of giving that gives back more in return.

Protection then arises from the “mimetic slippage” that exacts a brash assertion of human mastery over divine power, masked through a posed reality of servitude. Apotropaic rituals enact a radical synthesis of material work and belief that configures a force capable of surmounting contradiction.

The durable material gestures of miniaturized scale, hybrid form, and concealment inscribe the subterranean landscape, effectively preserving a desired past for the future. In this way, an idiom of protection arises in the material enactment of memory.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 31-3.

Editorial Note on the Apkallu and the Roadmap Ahead

I am breaking the narrative stream to speak directly to the process emerging from our reading on the apkallū, the antediluvian and postdiluvian sages of ancient Mesopotamia.

If you are reading along over my shoulder, you noticed that we digressed from Martin Lang, “Mesopotamian Early History and the Flood Story,” in a post titled On the Date of the Flood.

Martin Lang wrote:

“Berossos’ own knowledge of primordial kings probably goes back to sources that were available in Hellenistic times. The Sumerian King List itself was still known in the Seleucid era, or rather versions of king lists that echo, structurally and stylistically, their ancient forerunners from the early second millennium.

In matching up the primordial kings with the seven sages, the apkallū, Berossos once again works in the vein of contemporary scholars, who demonstrably constructed lists with kings and apkallū in order to advertise their own importance, and the primordial roots of their knowledge, as Alan Lenzi has recently shown.”

I updated that post to include a link to Alan Lenzi, “The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship,” JANER 8.2, 2008, which is serialized and linked in posts below.

I also changed the link to the Sumerian King List to point to the beautiful 1939 edition by Thorkild Jacobsen generously published by the University of Chicago Press, available for free download off the web.

We then dipped into Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nephilim,” in Francis I. Andersen, et al, eds., Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday, 1985, in a post titled On the Apkallū.

This is where I drilled in hard on the apkallū, incorporating bas reliefs and figurines held at the Louvre and the British Museum. Out of numerous posts addressing the apkallū, this one is well-illustrated, and lushly hyperlinked.

Moreover, Anne Kilmer synthesized the supporting research on the apkallū at the time of writing very effectively, so if you are overwhelmed by the other articles, just read this one. It goes without saying that you should not be intimidated by this academic literature. I have made it as readable and accessible as I can.

Yes, there is a lot of it. As I excavate the academic literature on the apkallū the hard way, mining references from footnote after footnote, I get a sense of what it might be like, to be an academic Assyriologist rather than an autodidact.

I do not include everything that I find. I assess and include just those pieces which accrue gravitas in that greater academic community. If you see glaring omissions, please let me know. This note is shaping up to be an academic survey of the literature on the apkallū, and it may save others treading these same paths some time.

Fair warning: our continuing digression into the apkallu will be deep.

As I complete serialization of source texts, I will include links to the posts beneath their citation below. These sources are sorted by date, so we can track the evolution of academic thinking on the apkallū. Our digression includes excerpts from:

After we complete our deep dive into the apkallu, we will return to the Sumerian King List, then resume with Berossos. This is the roadmap ahead.

Editorial note: In some cases citations above which are not followed by links in the bulleted list are internet dry holes, no digital versions are available. In other cases, links are to Google Books editions, which often limit visible pages. Google’s intent is to sell electronic versions of the texts that they scan.

Under these circumstances, I end up rekeying entire articles, at ruinous waste of time. If you have a moment, please send a sweet nastygram to Google asking them to post free and complete eBooks as they continue their vast project to digitize the entirety of human knowledge.

In other cases, I simply have not yet reviewed the articles and posted them. If you are following this project, you see that I post updates nearly every day. Stay tuned.

My purpose in publishing Samizdat is to highlight excerpts from the great books, mining synchronicities from legends and myths. As I point out in the About page, the Deluge was an historical event for the ancient Sumerians.

I now need to update that page, incorporating the research that we have already completed on the Sumerian King List, setting up a future digression into the concept of the Great Year, which Berossos associated with traditions of a Conflagration and the Deluge.

If you wondered where we were going, I wrote this for you.

 Updated 20 November 2015, 23:39 hrs.