Assyrian Ceremonial Bucket (Banduddu)

Assyrian Ceremonial Bucket (Banduddu)


Samizdat

“Here he works along two lines: on the one hand, he demonstrates how the succession in the chain of written composition in the first millennium is dominated by Eaapkallusummanus on the other hand, he shows how the written lore of the ummanus was collected and systematized as a secret revelation belonging to this alleged chain of transmission.

Click to zoom. Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the 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 I will provisionally attempt to support.
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, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet, which is posted lower on this page.
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 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. My suspicion is that this ring would be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail available.
This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, called a chaplet by Anthony Green and Jeremy Black, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

He admits that there are other voices, even in the first millennium, but this is the dominant tendency. One may object to Lenzi’s work, that he goes too far in his effort to systemize the material.

If influential ummanus first in Assyria and then in Late Babylonia saw it as a priority both to bring together their lore under specific rubrics, and to establish a theology of revelation and transmission, going back to one god, Ea, they had quite a task, given the vast variety in the material they inherited from the millennium before.

We think the most important aspect of Lenzi’s impressive detailed examination of the sources is that he manages to show that there was a strong tendency toward systematization. There was an attempt to bring together the lore of the different scholarly professions into series given distinctive labels: these compositions belong to the lore of this profession–bārûtu, āšipūtu, kalûtu, asûtu, tupšarrūtu.

There was also the clear tendency to claim compositions belonging to the lore of these professions as secrets revealed by the gods in antediluvian time and restricted to the ummanus in present time.

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts determined, 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 in the illustration above, as well.
The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu, and indicative of divinity or semi-divinity.
The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū. I would like to say that the bull is sacred to Anu, but Assyriologists insist that Anu is never depicted in Mesopotamian art.
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 the illustration above resembles this ring.
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, the “recumbent crescent,” as Black and Green describe it, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device 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

At the crucial point in this chain, we find the apkallus, above all Uanadapa, who were those who brought the divine knowledge to the humans.

The analyses carried out by van der Toorn and Lenzi are fully in accord with our own observations. There is a clear division between the first group of seven apkallus and subsequent sages and scholars in all three lists: Bīt Mēseri, Berossos, and the Uruk tablet.

They express this differently, but the tendency is clear. Bīt Mēseri lists seven apkallus “born in the river” and then four apkallus “of human descent.” Berossos lists seven apkallus before the flood and then one great scholar in the tenth generation after. The Uruk tablet lists seven apkallus before the flood, one afterwards, and continues with ummanus.

The antediluvian apkallus are closely connected to the divine realm, above all to the god Ea. “To be born in the river” means to be engendered in the abode of Ea. Oannes in Berosses (sic) goes to and fro the sea, the abode of Ea. But not only Ea is involved.

In our reading of the relationship between the Adapa Myth and Bīt Mēseri we found that the first apkallu, U-an, “the light of heaven” (An), was an echo of the fate of Adapa in the myth, fragment D, where Adapa is adopted sage by Anu.

This name of the first sage is reflected both in the Catalogue, in Berossos and on the Uruk tablet.”


Samizdat

“Here he works along two lines: on the one hand, he demonstrates how the succession in the chain of written composition in the first millennium is dominated by Eaapkallusummanus on the other hand, he shows how the written lore of the ummanus was collected and systematized as a secret revelation belonging to this alleged chain of transmission.

Click to zoom. Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the 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 I will provisionally attempt to support.
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, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet, which is posted lower on this page.
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 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. My suspicion is that this ring would be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail available.
This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, called a chaplet by Anthony Green and Jeremy Black, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting.

He admits that there are other voices, even in the first millennium, but this is the dominant tendency. One may object to Lenzi’s work, that he goes too far in his effort to systemize the material.

If influential ummanus first in Assyria and then in Late Babylonia saw it as a priority both to bring together their lore under specific rubrics, and to establish a theology of revelation and transmission, going back to one god, Ea, they had quite a task, given the vast variety in the material they inherited from the millennium before.

We think the most important aspect of Lenzi’s impressive detailed examination of the sources is that he manages to show that there was a strong tendency toward systematization. There was an attempt to bring together the lore of the different scholarly professions into series given distinctive labels: these compositions belong to the lore of this profession–bārûtu, āšipūtu, kalûtu, asûtu, tupšarrūtu.

There was also the clear tendency to claim compositions belonging to the lore of these professions as secrets revealed by the gods in antediluvian time and restricted to the ummanus in present time.

This design is perplexing. I am uncertain whether it depicts a human apkallū, an ummanu, or, as earlier analysts determined, 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 in the illustration above, as well.
The wings on the figure are typical of an apkallu, and indicative of divinity or semi-divinity.
The fact that the figure stands on a bull, however, suggests that this is a depiction of a deity, rather than a human apkallū. I would like to say that the bull is sacred to Anu, but Assyriologists insist that Anu is never depicted in Mesopotamian art.
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 the illustration above resembles this ring.
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, the “recumbent crescent,” as Black and Green describe it, indicative of the Moon god Sin. Or, it could just be a damaged ring, similar to the device 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

At the crucial point in this chain, we find the apkallus, above all Uanadapa, who were those who brought the divine knowledge to the humans.

The analyses carried out by van der Toorn and Lenzi are fully in accord with our own observations. There is a clear division between the first group of seven apkallus and subsequent sages and scholars in all three lists: Bīt Mēseri, Berossos, and the Uruk tablet.

They express this differently, but the tendency is clear. Bīt Mēseri lists seven apkallus “born in the river” and then four apkallus “of human descent.” Berossos lists seven apkallus before the flood and then one great scholar in the tenth generation after. The Uruk tablet lists seven apkallus before the flood, one afterwards, and continues with ummanus.

The antediluvian apkallus are closely connected to the divine realm, above all to the god Ea. “To be born in the river” means to be engendered in the abode of Ea. Oannes in Berosses (sic) goes to and fro the sea, the abode of Ea. But not only Ea is involved.

In our reading of the relationship between the Adapa Myth and Bīt Mēseri we found that the first apkallu, U-an, “the light of heaven” (An), was an echo of the fate of Adapa in the myth, fragment D, where Adapa is adopted sage by Anu.

This name of the first sage is reflected both in the Catalogue, in Berossos and on the Uruk tablet.”


The Burning Cauldron: The Neo Assyrian Empire Defended

Scholars refers to so-called men who have distinguished themselves in a particular practice related to a particular field of religion-science that is not tied to temple-complex maintenance. Priests were those who operated a temple complex such as for example: the Ziggurat of Ur Etemenniguru (temple whose foundation emits aura), had a preeminent priesthood who manage the complex. The complex is operated as an economy and frankly, as a sort of business. These temples give loans, start restaurants, operate mining activities, sell/purchase slaves, operate fisheries, operate fields, hold feasts and so forth. Aside for the monarch and his palace, the temples are the wealthiest institution in the empire and the most expansive likewise, they are the basis for the royal palatial complex economy, its origin. Originally, it was believed that said temples preceded the state in Mesopotamia, this is a great possibility, and may explain the power of said temples in an otherwise absolute monarchy format in Mesopotamia. Regardless of this, due to the nature of the temple complexes as a sort of business operation on behalf of an entire cadre of hundreds and for the largest temples, thousands of servants, employees and priests such people cannot be regarded as scholars.

Thus scholars are people who practices one of the following without being embroiled in the temple complex economy:

-Medicine or roughly doctors. These people would be taken as pupils or inherited their expertise from a parent. We know of many so-called doctors within Mesopotamia from the Early Bronze Age onward. Their occupation however had no sort of formal education and it was simply a combination of folk medicine expertise, skills in certain types of healing magic and so forth. The greatest of these doctors were under the employ of kings and resided in courts. There, they would take an apprentice who would succeed them in their occupation. In Assyria, we have records of many such great doctors, some of whom were so renowned that they were sent to far away kings such as the king of Hatti in order to instruct their physicians.

Most doctors produced compendiums on their works and or compiled incantations that they repeated and instructed their clients to. However, the better doctors did not rely simply upon magic and were experts in what they would call, proactively killing demons or easing the symptoms of demons, which involved taking different substances and concoctions. As a rule mind you, disease was said to come directly from evil sorts of magic, whether from curses or from demonic presences.

-Astrologers. These are men whose learning began also by way of apprenticeship in temples and would learn the complex set of omens associated with the stars and their movements. In turn such people were also what we might call, the mathematical experts of the civilization. However, there was no pretense of secularism, everything they did was to understand certain divine occurrences that emerged in reality through the movements of stars, the activity of the environment and so forth. Especially there was a focus upon the zodiac, omens and the sky. Their work would have been performed at the royal court or in their own workshop, often provided for by a wealthy patron, namely the palace, a temple, a merchant or a noble house.

Additionally, said astrologers would dabble into religious opinion, as they were essentially priests who had no role in the activity of management of finances and devoted themselves wholly to the activity of understanding the Great Gods and their envoys in the sky. This is where so-called divergence opinion from a scholar would arise.

There would be others but of a more rare sort. There is no sort of guru or philosopher 'occupation' and all of these occupations are related in large part to a greater religious idealism. So when we talk of scholars, we are primarily referring to men who are in some way independent priests not in the duty of management and hence in the opinion of the day, not priests. As priests were specifically the group whose occupation was tending to the needs of the tokens of the Great Gods, their idols in the temples and in maintaining the traditional temple economy with its entire cadre of employees and slaves.

John7755 يوحنا

The Years 580-565 BCE in Art and Form, Royal propaganda and Depiction in the Dual Monarchy.

Throughout the reign of Sinbanipal and his younger brother, Dagon-zakir-shumi, one of the most enduring motifs in depictions and inscriptions across the Dual-Monarchy, was that of the Brothe-King motif. This motif was exemplified as depicting the two kings of the Dual-Monarchy doing the same acts at the same time and in the same setting. Likewise, an inscription in this motif operates under the idea that instead of a single king performing an act, ‘the Royal Siblings have done so and so.’ As a motif it was most especially common in the outer parts of the empire, notably the varied Protectorates, the city of Harran, Aleppo, Washukani, Mari and in Carchemish.

The Brother Motif and its strength and divergences can be reasoned in this period as broken into several phases. 580-578 BCE, or the period of diversification, 578-570 BCE, the zenith and 569-565 BCE, transforming motifs and reimagination.

In the first period, the Brother King motifs began originally in the Southern Protectorate with the foundations of different shrines and battles being waged by a human figure who has a shadowed figure behind or in front of him. This early version of the Brother-King motif gave the impression of the Great King as a doubled entity who moves as a single unit, rather than truly distinct kings. This phase was the common before 580 BCE and was a sort of pre-diverse motif. Its motif is found most commonly in Tima, Uruk, Babylon, Mari Kurigalzu and the rebuilt township of Wasukani. However, increasingly from 581-580 BCE, the brother-king motif wherein the two-kings are a united entity who simply has a shadow in his likeness, is removed in favor of the following features:

Firstly, the two kings are distinct individuals often doing different acts, yet all contributing to whatever is occurring. Secondly, the two kings are often accompanied by new symbols and emblems representing different motifs. We also see in this period, distinct icons nearby or around the kings that display to the viewer the identity of whom. Further, the pure wealth of depictions, that is different scenes and settings displayed far outpace that of Sinsharishkun, displaying that the bureaucracy that now dominated Sinbanipal’s reign was very interested in the propagation of royal ideology across the empire.

The Assyrian triangle of Kalhu, Ashur and Nineveh. In this region, the primary depiction of the Brother-King motif was simply depicting traditional Assyrian iconography but with the two doing these acts independent of one another. The motif however does prominently display unique aspects to the new motifs, namely two kings are displayed with an image of an ax often appearing from the clouds or in other cases a great mace. As the mace or the ax emerges from the clouds, there is a hand that pushes forth from the cloud. Indeed every new inscription in the Assyrian triangle will make depictions and create clouds above said figures, perhaps with an intention of highlighting the primacy of Assur, the Lord of the Sky.

In one such example of the Triangular mode that was innovative is that the Brother Kings are depicted with two differing symbols that are made into small circular icons above the crown of the king. For Dagon-zakir-shumi, the emblem is a great tree rising from the bottom of the circle upward and a set of stream-like lines flowing on either end on the sides. Sinbanipal is meanwhile represented by the emblem of the Assyrian monarchy since 720 BCE, that of a man grabbing two lions by the neck and pulling them to himself. The two kings are represented as being less muscular than in the prior motifs, namely less immense legs, and arms. However, the dress has become more elaborate overall and the kings are depicted in a more dynamic motion always.

Both kings are seen wearing the typical conical bucket crowns of the past. However, due to a precedence set in Kalhu in the year 579 BCE, the new trend in depictions except for statues, was to depict the long fabric exuding from the tall crown as much longer than prior versions and as blowing in some sort of wind. Traditionally, the large conical crown possessed a fabric band extending from around the crown to just beneath the shoulders. The informal crown composed of a wrap around the forehead that had these two fabrics reaching the same length downward. However, in new depictions, the large conical crown possesses a massive set of fabrics extending outward and flopping in the wind as the two kings often take postures of moving forward (that is taking a step-in stride). The fabric blowing in the wind is so long that should it be let to lie flatly, would reach the bottom of the king’s thighs and blowing in the wind they appear especially magnificent. The new depiction is intended to display seemingly that the king is a dynamic force that engages with foes and marches against the foes.

By the year 575 BCE, we see in the Assyrian triangle a remarkable series of depictions that retell a set of romantic versions of different campaigns that incorporate the two kings doing different acts. In one example that is often retold is a scene of a great hunt, wherein Sinbanipal holding a long mace is seen marching in stride towards a large boar. His body wearing a full set of scale armor painted white that extended to his ankles in a full suit that was tightened together around the torso with a torso belt. Underneath the full set of scale armor was a paint of red paints with white circles and then a pair of red boots with high laces. His crown long and conical and his extended fabrics from his crown dancing in the wind, of white color, his crown red and yellow. His skin a sort of olive color and his hair and beard a deep brown, his eyes of an ebony color (‘that of the predator’) and his hand holding the mace possessing a clear golden bracelet. His right arm holds the mace, whilst his left hand is free and his palm is turned towards the sky, the fingers closed and pointing towards the prey. The mace a color of complete ebony and atop the mace is the word, ‘palaqu’ or to smite, indicating that this is the divine speaking mace, the Sharur.

Behind the Assyrian king is Dagon-zakir-shumi, who stands with a long robe of intricate style in the traditional Akkadian style. However, he wears pants underneath and long laced boots. Draped around his left shoulder is a Scythian styled bow colored brown and having a tied fabric of yellow color around its lower part. His crown is the traditional for Karduniash, a more cylindrical shape than the conical Assyrian crown. It is colored entirely gold and two fashioned horns are embossed on each side of the crown moving towards the forehead, these are the color of white. His crown’s long fabrics dance in the wind with one seeming to be pointing to the sky and the other pointing towards the ground, the fabrics having the color of white with red orange stripes. His robe is divided into three parts, the shirt of red color and then the doubled-skirt covering much of the legs with one longer in the back and the other longer to the front edge going left (exposing his boots and pants on the right). Both skirts are red and have yellow bottoms with orange tassels. His pants are yellow, and his boots are orange with red laces. Underneath his shirt however flows a long sleeve wool shirt of a brown color that acts as a gambeson-like material. Dagon-zakir-shumi’s hands then are positioned upwards towards the heavens praising the divine while his brother challenges the boar in battle.

Above both brothers is the sky, which is shown by a set of blue and white colored clouds which among them we see different symbols in the sky. These symbols are as follows, a great crescent moon suspended in the sky above Dagon-zakir-shumi followed to its east by a sun symbol and to its right by a six-pointed star. The three representing the Divine trinity of Ishtar, Sin and Shamash.

Beneath the two kings we see a ground painted brown alongside a golden border beneath the brown and beneath this border we have a collection of courtiers and warriors assembled in bunches all with their hands raised in praises and in the case of warriors, holding highly swords, maces and axes.

This image represents a height in the Brother-king motif and one of its most enduring images. Differing from past representations other than the brother-king motif itself, is in clothing and in setting. Firstly, we see carrying over from the reign of Sinsharishkun, the great admiration the Assyrian monarchs have for Scythian or otherwise northern armor and dressing styles, especially the display of boots, pants, long sleeve gambeson styled shirts and the usage of large coats of scale armor instead of lamellar. Likewise, the importance of showing outstretched hands in adoration of that above them alongside the flowing garments made to seem excessive is unique in Assyrian depictions up to this point. Furthermore, the positioning of scenes displays the Deification Factions preferred model of society, that of the adoring subjects’ hands raised in worship of the Dual-Kings and the Dual-Kings beneath the Great Gods.

In Harran, a similar depiction series also existed prominently in the form of the two-kings usually displayed in acts of piety to the Great God Sin. A unique example, has the two kings holding a great mace with one hand each while facing each other and above them is the great crescent moon which possesses a series of lines exuding from it shaped as boomerangs, implying the ‘evil aura’ of Sin. This inscription from 573 BCE, displays a series of motifs common in the Upper Euphrates valley, that is the two kings depicted holding objects with each hand while seated beneath a certain divine symbol. In the upper parts of the Euphrates north of Harran however into Hatti and Carchemish, we see the beginnings of the new style that is called the ‘Divine-impersonation motif.’

This Divine Impersonation motif began in the city of Carchemish and nearby locales to the north in Kizzuwatna. As a motif it differs in that headed by major court officials in the areas, commissioned depictions of the Great King in sole form that is as the King of Assyria and impersonating divinity. This began around 571 BCE with a depiction of Sinbanipal in the city of Carchemish as a man with a prominent crown with four horns, an ax in his left hand and a collection of lightning bolts in the other. His body being covered by a simple robe incrusted with a lightning bolt symbol. Stretching out from his great divine crown is four long fabrics outstretched. His feet and legs bare as his body stands in an oddly contorted manner, in an almost dancing like silhouette. His entire outfit being a deep blue and black and his eyes depicted as a color of lapis lazuli in commemoration of the Goddess Ishtar. His beard brown and curling from his chin down.

In such a scene, Sinbanipal is depicted as a Great God, namely a combination of Ishtar and Adad. Ishtar represented in the blue coloring and in his aspect of dancing. Whilst he is Adad with the ax of the great tempest and the collection of lightning bolts in his hand. The four horned and four fabric crowns also represents divinity in general. This Deified impersonation motif seems to have been developed by gentleman Ishme-Rabu (Listen to the lord), a eunuch and artisan in the employ of the Wing of Adad. After the year 569 BCE, he was called to Haran and then to Kalhu to commission and perform his unique deification works which became the new standard for Assyrian depictions from 568 BCE onward alongside the still in use, but less popular Brother-King and ‘traditional’ motif.

Brief mention of varieties in individual cities

Assur, always the most traditional city and the depictions here are in older styles and settings.

-579 BCE: Sinbanipal and his famous conquest of Media is depicted in the omnitemporal format in a hunt of a great stag. The omnitemporal format being wherein there is no flow of events, all things are happening at once. The Great King fires a stag from atop a great chariot while his brother Dagon-zakir-shumi with a long polearm stabs it from inside the chariot. The chariot driver is a well armored Assyrian fighter.

-577 BCE: Sinbanipal is depicted standing straight aloft on a hilltop wearing a robe and a great crown with two long flowing fabrics, both pointed downward to the earth. In his hand is a large seal. Above him and slightly to the right is the image of Assur, holding a bow and to his sides are great wings and a symbol of water flowing is around him in a circle that extends from his chest to his torso, leaving his head above the circle. Beneath him, a series of boomerang like indents are made that are extending towards Sinbanipal.

-575 BCE: Sinbanipal and Dagon-zakir-shumi are depicted in an omnitemporal scene commemorating the conquest of Media. The work is important in that it is double-sided, with a border separating the two-kings, thus not displaying them together. Altogether, omnitemporal, Dagon-zakir-shumi on the bottom panel is shown seated in Babylon, then with a great tree which he is watering with one arm and clipping with a knife in the other, then he is shown doing rituals and sacrifices to Marduk with a group of attendants behind him. Afterwards, he is shown crushing the Chaldeans in battle and in the final scene he is shown tossing a head in the air while a group of five soldiers hold their hands aloft to towards the sky. The final scene we see the depiction of Shamash in the sky.

Above in the realm of Sinbanipal, we see Sinbanipal seated in Kalhu, then seen taking the omens, then we see him calling the nobles and issuing orders, then we see him marching which is used as a connection between each scene (that is each scene is connected to the next by way of a line of soldiers seemingly in foot march). The later scenes show him performing a hunt, killing a leopard, then defeating his enemy by running over them with chariot and then finally he is shown besieging and at the same time, pulling down systematically the walls of the city of Ecbatana. After this, it displays a tempest in the form of a spiraling cyclone overtaking a group of men dressed in Median style and a atop the cyclone an ax seated within a bow sits. Then we see women and children being carted off towards the west. In the final scene we see the dedication to Assur by Sinbanipal as he returns to Kalhu.

Kalhu, the effective capitol of the Assyrian kingdom, it is known for displaying the Great Kings embarking on hunts, climbing mountains and in building palaces. For Kalhu in specific, we see the Great King Sinbanipal as a great builder of palaces and often seated on a throne.

Nineveh, the largest city in Assyria and the second largest in the empire. It is most famous for the depictions of the brother-kings in acts of redistribution as well as battle and warfare. A curious example from the city in the deification phase, 567 BCE, displays Sinbanipal holding a sack that he holds upside down. His crown large and the fabrics extending from a divine crown are painted golden and bronze. Meanwhiel the bag he has held upside down shows ingots of gold, small humans with chains wrapped around their necks, fish, symbols of grain and seeds dropping from the bag downward. Beneath this mélange of items, is a representation of manifold hands receiving the objects. Covering his body however is an aura-like symbol with flaming characteristics that exude from his body, that are painted red and black. In such a scene, he is depicted as a combination of Dagon and Nurgle, with his primary action of looting and then redistributing as prosperity unto the state of Assyria which is the manifold hands beneath the items distributed.

Haran, we see the most constant depiction motif being that of the dual holding of items and of the over representation of the divine figures that rule the sky. Adad, Sin, Ishtar, Shamash and Assur and an under presentation of other deities. However, a truly unique example merged in Haran first in 566 BCE, that of the depicting Sinbanipal as having two faces alongside the divine crown alongside himself standing straight and holding a great spear with both hands. The spear is pointed sharply and emits a boomerang aura from its tip that creates cracks of lightning. His four fabrics are two as black and two as a light grey, while his clothing his that of a full suit of scale armor painted grey and underneath a long sleeve black gambeson-like cloth. As will be discussed later, this depiction is displaying Sinbanipal as a combination of Ilawela and Adad. Above his crown however is a Great Crescent moon, depicting Sin as directing his path.

Babylon, the largest city in the empire and its center of highest culture. Babylon is the most important for the brother-king motif by the year 575 BCE, with many depictions of this in both reliefs and in statues. One such example is wherein the Brother Kings a re depicted in 573 BCE holding seals while standing with their backs faced each other. From the seals there emits an evil aura, which unlike the boomerang shapes in Assyria and the north, are depicted as deep cuts into the relief edging outward like rays. Scenes such as these displaying the power of seals and the power of magic are the primary motifs of the city of Babylon in this period. The only motif that compares equally is that of the gardening motif, which displays the Great Kings a great gardener of massive forests and of tending to trees alongside exotic animals. In the revamped palace of Babylon constructed by Dagon-zakir-shumi, massive amounts of botanical and exotic creatures are shown, all fawning over and being guarded by soldiers or by the Great Kings.

In other depictions in the palaces and in public reliefs, is that of a divine combination of Shamash and Marduk. Dagon-zakir-shumi in year 568 BCE is depicted in a public relief on a free-standing block in the market of Babylon as a man with the divine crown, a strong arm pointing to the sky holding a seal. His hand is golden while his skin is olive, the seal in turn emits the evil aura going outward in all directions. In his right hand faced upwards, he holds a measuring weight. The depiction placed in the main marketplace depicts the Great King as protecting the space for commerce with both justice and with his evil aura.

We will continue to discuss this later, I think that you will have gotten a good idea of some aspects of the new and changing royal propaganda of this period. If you have any questions or comments on this, feel free to say so!

John7755 يوحنا

Not to worry, I do have someone who will compile in some time some of these examples, both from Sinsharishkun and from the reigns of Sinbanipal and Dagon-zakir-shumi. Thank you for the concerns and compliments though!

One reason why the brothers are depicted so equal, is fears of the civil war that nigh destroyed the realm during the reigns of Shamash-shuma-ukin and Assurbanipal. Considering that the civil war was predicated upon one king claiming authority over the other and not respecting each other's inscriptions, the brother-king motif indeed intends to harden the unity of purpose and destroy civil war possibilities. Furthermore, the Ten Fingers and Deification Faction, though they are greatly invested in Sinbanipal, at their root, they also wish to maintain a relatively pacific internal situation, too much turbulence over the thrones would see to a true destruction of palatial power and of the prowess of the generals of low birth, as nobles will become much more invested and powerful as arbiters of the crown. As would the priesthood not affiliated with Sin worship, as they coagulate into seeking to determine the election for themselves.

Regarding the final sentence, that is indeed a worry. Do not forget how the Ten Fingers chastised Dagon-zakir-shumi and have begun to fear him due to his brazen campaigns and warmongering. Their anger was subsided however by Sinbanipal whose preference to his younger brother remains. Also, as Sinbanipal has yet to produce a male heir, the heir to both thrones is Dagon-zakir-shumi and his first born son, Ariba-Adad, the situation thus is not as easy as they would make it seem.

John7755 يوحنا

The death of Pirukamon of Bithynia and Anatolia in 569-568 BCE

The great king of the greatest of the Skudra states, Pirukamon, king of the Bithynian kingdom perished in the year 569 BCE. His kingdom had become great during his lifetime, straddling the Bosporus Strait, and composing the more fearsome armies in the region. His conclusion of treaties with Athens alongside secret treaties with the Governors of Hatti had protected his state and permitted his constant aggressive measures against the Odryssian and Lydian kingdoms to his south and southeast. His death led to a short-term series of conflicts between his sons.

The conflict between these four sons is mostly unknown. What is known, is that the Ankuwan Recollection (Assyrian chronicle in Ankuwa), reports that Kadashman-Shamash the Field Marshal and Lord in Hatti, sent a force of Cimmerian mercenary and Tabali warriors to Nikomedia to ‘assert despotism.’ In this sense, it would seem Kadashman-Shamash was playing a side in the civil war in Bithynia.

Regardless of the situation, Pirukamon’s eldest son, Pirukamon II was rapidly defeated and slain in Nikomedia by his second bother, Denzibalus. Denzibalus assumed kingship that year and then crossed the straits into Europe and battled against an army composed of his two brothers, Skerdalas and Zerbolum. Denzibalas dispatched both brothers and winning his conflict there, besieged Byzantion until he received an affirmation of submission from the city.

Denizbalas thus returned to Nikomedia and consecrating his reign, he embarked upon a series of southern raids against the Lydian kingdom under Alyattes. A by this period, time honored tradition in the Bithynian kingdom, the Bithynian army pushed south from Dorylaion, an increasingly husk of a city, into the lands inhabited by the Thyni a vassal of the Lydians. These raids incurred conflict with Alyattes who was defeated by Denzibalus in late 569 BCE. However, Denzibalus was unable to turn his gains into more and was forced to flee in December of 569 BCE after Alyattes recovered some of his power and rebuffed the enemy. Alyattes countered with a raid on the north using its Thyni vassals.

The Lydo-Thynian force was forced to retreat however before regaining only meagre morale rewards for having drove into enemy lands. Lydian hegemonic power was essentially on the extreme decline and the kingdom was having difficulties primarily due to its compromised position between the Skudra states and the Quintuple Alliance to the west and south. Too great an effort from any direction would incur issues in the front that they have left free.

For Alyattes, the situation and its dire consequence was nigh unbearable. Constant attacks from the north were waged, whilst the Trmnyans (Lukka) meanced his borders alongside other members of the Ionian League. Furthermore, the recent campaign of Mukilu-Assur and his retainer Ninurta-shaknu-siriam displayed the hostility of Assyria should the Lydians not conclude submission. This issue meant that Lydia could only defend and offer short term resistance to its enemies, all while its population decreased and waivered from war exhaustion. Once hardened partisans of the reforms of Sadyattes even feared that the situation may be unbearable if the conscription pool is weakened any further.

Alyattes had many options for his position however other than to simply defend, however all were difficult. The first option would be to reaffirm the treaties with Sparta over the defeat in war in 585 BCE. A further reaffirmation would however come likely with further concessions, namely retribution and indemnities for the Ionian League and other Greeks who had been tortured, slain and had their enterprises confiscated by the royal estate. Leon I was a fearsome king and in Sparta, he was a famed warlord and would not take peace for no reason. Furthermore, much of Alyattes’ success has been garnered by gathering a hatred of Greeks within his kingdom. Further, Alyattes could not afford to take a weak posture to the Spartans, precisely due to their boldness increased by Egyptian alliance.

Another option is that of appeasing and paying regular tribute to the Skudra kingdoms to the north and east. Both were intolerable choices, and the Lydian state would only become the target of more attacks. Assyria and its hegemony were a third option however, Assyria was infamous as an evil realm who tortured its vassals and drained them of all their resources, at least in the Lydian and Greek mindset.

At an impasse too was that the Athenian state across the Aegean who was unable to deal with the Lydian kingdom effectively in friendly terms due to its relation with the Ionians who still felt Athens to be a kindred realm. In the east, the Lydians knew somewhat of the Colchean kingdom but was unable to receive much information from this realm. It would seem that sooner or later that the Lydian kingdom would give way.

Ahmose II and the Egyptian Revival

Ahmose II, the young and famed king in Egypt had defeated the so-called Great King Dagon-zakir-shumi and humiliated the Assyrian realm by concluding a favorable peace deal with the empire. These gains were compounded by a series of strategic marriages of Greek brides to powerful dignitaries in Egypt from Sparta and Corinth, the most important of whom was a certain child of Leon I of 16 years of age. In Egypt, this princess arrived two years following Ahmose’s first regnal year. Upon arrival, she took the name Meshenximpt (the well born lady). Ahmose II made this lady his foremost wife and is said to have loved her greatly as his northern flower.

Ahmose II though he arose as a symbol of Egyptian patriotic fervor against the Assyrian-Phoenician influence in Egypt, his true aspirations were one of an Egyptian recovery in the same manner as that of Psamtik II and of Necho II of the XXVI Dynasty. Ahmose II to do this, made sweeping alliances and continued most of the agreements and policies of Psamtik II aside for no longer concluding tribute and submissive postures to the Assyrians. Instead, under a new regime, categorized as the XXVII Dynasty, took on a highly expansionist policy in all directions.

In 571 BCE, two years after his victory against Dagon-zakir-shumi, Ahmose II sent a grand delegation to the city of Syracuse and with that, marched his army south into Nubia. There, Ahmose II rebuilt fort after fort and solidified his control over the area by erecting monuments. His southern travels saw the defeated kingdoms of Meroe and Napata send him tribute as they had done earlier in the reign of Psamtik II. Ahmose II concluded his time in the south by outfitting a trading expedition to travel to the Land of Punt south of Meroe and also another delegation to travel to the land of Sabah to see to the former relations that Psamtik II had held with that aforementioned kingdom.

By 568 BCE, Ahmose II was once again back in Sais and overseeing an increasingly prosperous Egyptian kingdom that, more assured of itself than in prior decades, was improving in all fronts. Firstly, was the infusion of new methods of warfare in the form of a revived Egyptian line structure innovated by Ahmose II in coordination with Greek advisors at court.

This new structure was best represented by the recreation of an elite regiment of Household Warriors loyal to Ahmose II which were created in 570 BCE. Those chosen, were Greek, Egyptian and Nubian fighters of distinction in the infantry lines against the Karduniashi. These infantries were to be well outfitted, with heavy scale armor, alongside heavy iron helms with long spears and heavy short swords affixed to their side. A major point in the Egyptian army moving forward, is its affirmation of what could be called a Mediterranean style alongside the Greeks in opposition to a more northern and eastern style of the Assyrian sphere. That is, the continued wearing of sandals, skirts/robes and the lack of pants. Whilst the Assyrian army became noted as is described, for its adoption of a more northern appearance in apparel since the Mitanni invasion and thence afterwards, with the reign of Sinsharishkun, the so-called friend of the Scythians.

Ahmose II is also noted for implementing measures by which to integrate Hellenic settlers and mercenary into a general Egyptian levied army. The new policy saw levies accumulated from the Nomes (provinces) and from Greek colonists, who given the rights to settler the Delta region, were offered land and rights in exchange for military service of a male from their household. This system it seems was very familiar to the Greek settlers, accustomed to citizenship duties and as such, Ahmose II was able to discover means by which to harness these settlers and also enforce some standards upon them.

With certain beginnings of serious army reform made, Ahmose II was unable it seems at the time to achieve naval reform to his preferred designs. During Necho II, a large Egyptian nav y had been planned to be constructed in the Indian Ocean, alongside a canal and important port cities. This was also planned by Psamtik II, but neither were able to see to the fruition of this policy. Ahmose II put the construction of the Necho Canal on hold thus and also limited city structure in the east of his kingdom and focused more thoroughly on his diplomacy and inducing a better situation economically in Sais. Sais had already been heavily increased in population after the reign of Psamtik II and Ahmose II saw to do even greater by sending new envoys across Egypt and to Greece, requesting settlers to occupy his capitol city.

In regard to religion, Egypt was in a deep decline and changing period. Ahmose II records briefly in 569 BCE that:

“The son of Horus, Great is His Deeds and Mighty is His Land, hath made a rejoice for the Land is to be renewed. Long hath the festivals and the offerings to the prime deities been neglected in the Abodes, see to it shall I that this be rectified.” -Inscription in Sais

He was indeed correct further, Egyptian religion was changing in light of the decline of the New Kingdom, despite a short recovery under the reign of the Nubian XXV Dynasty. Under Ahmose II in his first regnal years, Egyptian religion had progressively become more aligned to localized animistic cults focused in smaller sized towns and away from mortuary temples and or the larger deities and their sites. Furthermore, not withstanding the continuation of royal propaganda, the population, and the royalty itself was much less focused upon divine royalty than in previous iterations of Egyptian rule. Much of this change was derived from a natural change wherein due to weakness of the treasury, no longer overflowing with loot and tribute, the royalty no longer could maintain the same level of splendor in religious ceremony. As such, it was more feasible to sponsor more localized village and township cults.

This religious decentralism was seemingly positive for the sake of harmony and of lowering state expenses. Indeed, Ahmose II and his records indicate a far lower expense on religious activities than the XXV Dynasty which attempted to revive such massive offerings. However, it also came at the expense of royal unity and a progressively less centralized state which lacked the ability to induce the same imperial might as preceding Dynasties. In 569 BCE, Ahmose II concedes to the changes seemingly, indicated by his gifting to smaller cults in a wider area, as opposed to larger sites and of his promotion of a wider syncretic belief system with his new Greek subjects entering the Delta. In 570 BCE, for instance, Ahmose II is depicted on a stele in Sais with a female deity identified as a combination of Isis and Demeter, that is the divine female who lords over the fertility, the Nile River and over the grains of the land. This turn to Isis, syncretic relations with Greek settlers and the local decentralized animism, would become the new trend in religious life through the entirety of the new XXVII Dynasty under Ahmose II.

The Duality Heresy Placed on Trial

In 569 BCE, the full council had taken shape after the preparation phases and the postponing of a general campaign which was expected to be held in 569 BCE. For the moment, the Head of the Guard, Ariba-Ninurta (the former retainer of Ipanqazzu) was placed in a temporary situational title called ‘Commander of the Hill Defense’ (a reference to Duranki) and the retainer of Sinbanipal, Takabu-Assur (Assur makes a ‘swoop’) was placed as interim commander of the Wing of Assur and ordered to conduct drills with the standing army and to raid villages of the rebels in Urartu who though defeated, were still causing trouble.

Other lands were ordered to cease their martial activities, something that was rejected by Cambyses I, who launched military actions against the Dahae to his north against the orders of the Head Sentinel Adad-apal-Duranki in 569 BCE. Adad-apal-Duranki himself had been invoking powers of his office in an attempt to control the Persian vassal to the east for sometime but to no avail, even bringing his worries to Dagon-zakir-shumi, who outright ignored the official. Adad-apal-Duranki, even wrote to the writers of the Kalhu Codex, revered scribes and traditionalists the following:

“Do forgive my recalcitrant tone but worries assail me daily and nightly as to the health of our great land of piety. What great lands and God have we, beyond measure in the universe, yet it is such that in this day officials who notice the danger beyond the back door are shunned and ignored. Meanwhile, those innovators from beyond the desert to the south are able to receive the ear of the Majesty in Babylon and share each the feasts and bestow upon each other they do the titles and honors. What a farce our Great Kingdom has become that men devoted to the Perpetuation of the Family are given little rest and driven from the palace as if he is a lowly foreigner who arrived seated upon a donkey. I write in sincerity to you, for you are the esteemed men of the Land, who know well the past and through the past we can discern the future. Each of you, who are of tenure, renowned in virtue and knowledgeable, may you grant me ease and give offerings to Assur on my behalf, for in this day of uncertainty, what need us most is the certain decisive kingship of the Great Whole Heaven.”


A letter of return was issued by the Kalhu Codex scribes to the effect of admitting to the poor situation and also reassuring him of the truthful eminence of the Great Gods, that the state have little to fear for the favor of the Great Gods come unto the mighty people who stand strong. Adad-apal-Duranki however facing considerable arthritis issues, retired and resigned in the year 567 BCE, to be replaced by his retainer and appointed successor (by Ten Fingers), a certain man who took the name Bulti-Ilawela (Ilawela is the cure). Bulti-Ilawela would continue a conservative tone in his reign and institute a series of new innovations to his occupation that would be attended to later.

Despite Persia, most of the other appendages to Assyria and the vassals submissive, remained unwilling to engage in war without the official approval of the high monarchs who refused to condone new conflicts. Considering this, the Council could begin freely without interruptions from war messages or issues related to this. Indeed, even if they were to come, the Ten Fingers saw fit to create an order of silence to sentries in the Assyrian triangle, forbidding news to reach Sinbanipal or the royal court.

As such, the trial began in earnest. The first topic of the council was to hear to the issues of the new heresy spoken of by the priests in relation to the new Duality postulation. This required first a framing. A member of the Ten Fingers, a man named Ebar-Sin (Sin is beyond) framed the issue in quite plain terms and in a simple manner.

Ebar-Sin holding aloft a cuneiform manuscript containing supposed quotes from the praise of the Duality by Ka’anshish-dugalu-Ishtar. This praise claimed according to the opinions of some, that the Duality was such that the deity exceeded the normal means of the Duranki:

“Praise be to She who hath revealed Herself, She is the Expectation of Duranki and the Embodiment of all things!”

Called to explain the matter was Traditionalist and Kalhu Scribal master, Arinnu-Adad (Adad is the well) who said approximately:

‘The late heretic (a not yet common word and took the people in attendance at surprise) proposes a great and disastrous lie. Espu-kappu, the scion of the late heretic, the abominable one has purported that there exists a duality of the divine. That the Divine exist not as a Host who rule over all things assembled by Duranki, but as a dual entity whose manifestation is that of Great Gods Ishtar and Gula. Their assertion that these two, embody all aspects of the Divine Host, thus replacing them and nullifying need for their worship and hence removal of their temples, palaces and communal devotion.’

This series of statements led the entire room despite the warnings of safeguarding to turn into a sea of murmurs and quiet and hushed voices. Many of the assembled priests had been unaware completely of the heresy or its ideas. Should one have not been in proximity to Arabia and immersed in duties of religious ceremony, you would have had little knowledge of the event. Some major cult centers such as Haran, the priests therein would have never even heard of the heresy, despite its fame in southern lands. Order was not called to the court despite the breach of custom primarily due to the shock momentarily of some of the Ten Fingers who hesitated greatly (emphasized in the Kalhu Codex, an intent to insult them).

After some time, the unfazed announcer ordered Espu-kappu to emerge from his seat and stand in the designated spot and perform a rebuttal and to defend his positions. Espu-kappu and his original words are somewhat interesting and are recorded in various sources in a romantic version or in the Kalhu Codex which heavily comments upon these words.

Espu-kappu entered his placement and gave a lengthy recollection of the foundations of the universe and the creation of humanity and the esoteric proofs for which his position is based:

‘In the beginning there existed but the two beings, Apzu and Tiamat. Tiamat, the Lady of the chaotic dance and Apzu, the passive presence of the abyss. The two whose natures existed as oppositions to each other, danced across the universe upon the face of the void. Their bodies never touching yet ever close in their mingling. For untold breadths of time did they dance among the void, before there emerged from their dance, an aberration, a change in the way of things.

Tiamat and her mate, Apzu existed as the approximate to Divine Power, yet they lacked a creative will, for their minds focused upon the dance upon the abyss. Unbeknownst to the dancers, a star emerged from amongst the void. In this star, stood the universe in its entirety and from it emerged the Zodiac and from it emerged the celestials, Enlil, Anu and Enki. The primordials (Enlil, Enki and Anu) who by their nature, began an act of creation constructing the walls of the Holy Mount of Duranki. The noise of creation excited ears of the mindless dancers. Apzu moved to check and ascertain the source of that which had disturbed him. Upon which, fearing the punishment for unwanted actions, the Primordials trapped Apzu upon his appearance at Duranki and slaughtered him. The death of a being such as he caused a ripple in the universe, upon which Tiamat, now alone and understanding of her role, became enraged and declared war upon the Primordials, thus beginning the war of the heavenly beings.

To consummate the war of the Heavens, Tiamat birthed forth a series of demon-gods who became her children and warriors. She placed as their leader, Kingu who was given a great spear which he held with two hands and he proceeded to make a call for war that frightened the Primordials for their numbers were lesser than their foe.

Yet in a time of need, there emerged from beyond the veil, a being beyond comprehension. She Was a Lady clothed in Divine Aura, an Evil Aura emerged from her hands and from her face, it could not be viewed and was shining with the intensity of the Sun yet in the form of the Morning Star. She spoke unto them with two simultaneous voices. Each the same word, yet in different tones, a splendid design. One soothing and one forceful, fearsome, and majestic. She said unto these assembled a word of assurance. That the Primoridal were to be protected, for Tiamat was her inferior and indeed, she told the assembled the truth, that She had created them.

This Lady of Two Voices was the Duality, a composite Great God, Gula and Ishtar united and never apart, the Mother and Slayer and the Creator and Destroyer. She is the counter to Tiamat and as Tiamat challenged her creative power, made evident in her creation of the Primordials the creative energy and servants of Her Divine Majesty. Her counter was the same as that of Tiamat, she constructed the Great Gods, Sin, Shamash, Nurgle, Ninurta, Marduk, Ilawela, Dagon, Adad and Naboo. She gave all of her symbols, Her power and authority to them as fighters in the coming battle.

Indeed, Good sirs, reconcile, Ishtar and Gula, the Divine Duality, possess all aspects of the Gods derived from her bosom. Regardless of this, the Duality, the Great Being, sent forth her children, the Great Gods who slew and defeated Tiamat in the field of battle. Afterward, the Great Being, the Duality contented Herself to allow Her children to reign supreme over Duranki, yet she remained the possessor of Divine Creation, symbolized by her creation of the Great God Dumuzid, her creation of humanity and her sole role in the ritual sacrifice of Ilawela, the most loyal servant of the Divine Duality.

Yet, our message is to reveal unto the world that the Duality, the Great Being has decreed that our ignorance be ended and that the time of deliberation be at end.’
-----------------------------------
(this is not a full text and not his exact words in tl, which I will discuss in romantic versions later, but my shortened version)

In short, the Kalhu Codex recorded that Espu-kappu is claiming multiple things that would be heresy to its compilers:

-Ishtar-Gula are a single entity.

-Ishtar-Gula precede the other Great Gods

-Ishtar-Gula created the other Great Gods

-Ishtar-Gula are intended to embody all of the aspects of the Great Gods

-All aspects of the Great Gods are derived from the source of Ishtar-Gula
-------------------------------------
The room emerged silent in the conclusion and its ramifications. Stern looks were fastened on the person who spoke and others were contemplating their meanings.


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Do forgive the long delay and the shorter and not as well made update. Matters have been busy, but indeed I will return to normal shortly. Next update (soon) will cover the reaction to the heresy from the attendants. To be clear, this will lead to a more ready and forceful notion of what the foundational myth of the Akkadian faiths is and a series of rules and laws set into stone if you will. All of which will be exciting and of great importance.

I find the more philisophical arguements for the religoius points of view interesting. Given that their doesn't exist at this point anything like an accepted canon of scriptures it will be interesting to see just how this Heresy is disputed (other than by force of course). Just what will be the authority that is appealed to to settle a religous dispute like this? Whatever it is it might have long term consequences as it may thus gain the status of being appealed to in future disputes.

I also find the increasing Egyptian closeness with Greece interesting. We had a similar mixing of Greek and Egyptian culture in otl of course but very much under greek dominance. It will be interesting to see the situation with native Egyptians retaining more power (presuming they do of course retain the power).

John7755 يوحنا

Do forgive the great slow turn for the timeline. We will be going on a short hiatus. We will recover the timeline after the date of the 10th of December. Around that time, the next update and possibly two more in the following days will come. In other words, we will be in a hiatus for the rest of the month of November.

Do forgive the inconvenience.

John7755 يوحنا

The Duality Heresy Put Upon Trial

The presentation set by Espu-Kappu had shocked many in attendance and set back proceedings. Whilst the Kalhu Codex does not record the exact wordings of people who spoke after Espu-Kapu, the Kalhu Codex proceeds into a litany of evils of Espu-Kapu and his opinions. Most especially the denial of the Great Gods and a more interesting accusation deception of the reigning monarch!

Regardless of what occurred, there was much argument in the Council following the speech. The Ten Fingers officiating lost control of the flow of events and feeling repressed, Sinbanipal enforced his will, namely by way of moving from his throne and taking control of the room and declaring his opinion. Whilst the Kalhu Codex simply calls the king confused and deceived by false piety, Sinbanipal exits the Council and declares Espu-Kapu an official at the court in Kalhu and promotes him to the position of 'Advisor of the Royal Court' a supposed advisory role to the king. In the months following the ascent, a series of factional divides emerged in the court whilst war was being prepared by Sinbanipal.

Where prior, the court was divided between three factions, a certain four way split emerged. Various lower nobles, mostly retainers at the court or low administers felt that their position could be rapidly raised by way of holding onto the quickly ascendant Espu-Kapu and as such, sought to increase their rank in the state. Espu-Kapu also began exerting a greater influence upon Sinbanipal who in the following two months showed signs of rejecting the models of bureaucratic governance influenced by the Ten Fingers and also from the overtly imposing mentality of the Traditionalists and Noble factions. According to extra Kalhu textsts such as the 'Babannu dinu hara Adantu' ('wondrous proceedings of the journeyed folk) written in 508 BCE, Espu-Kapu was a simple man who was called to duties and service to the Supreme Goddess and empowered with advice to the Great King for the improvement of Duranki. Whatever his true goals were, the rapidly evolving court of Assyria saw a changing situation in court as of 568 BCE and through the remainder of the following years as lower ranking generals, nobles and administers joined a smaller and new faction of pro-Espu-Kapu officials in court.

The faction possessed little in the way of new ideas aside for Espu-Kappu who sponsored his new religious dogma, rather it seems a creation and alliance of Espu-Kappu and Sinbanipal in the immediate aftermath of the first Council of 569-568 BCE. It focused thus on a combination of protecting the new religious community, Arab interests and also the personal interests of Sinbanipal. Arab interest in the sense that despite the origins of the Duality ideology within Karduniash, it gained much wider appeal in the last ten years within the newly conquered Southern Protectorate, with Arab chiefs adopting forms of Supreme Goddess worship in their clans, giving them attributes similar to local deities in their region and also the aura created by the Ishtar temple constructed in the city of Tima.

In the aftermath of the court, an unofficial council began in the city of Kalhu and nearby Assur under the leadership of Traditionalists. This council was called to bring various faction members and conservative priests from around Assyria to discuss various religious matters. These unofficial proceedings surrounded various topics of religious life and in particular asserting a particular dogma for which to protect some of their views. Whilst nothing came out of this council in the first years, the Kalhu Codex refers to it as the Perpetual Council and it continued on for many years as a club of sorts that eventualized into creators of serious religious change through assertion of dogma (this is a conversation for later).

Thus by the year 568-567 BCE, there developed four factions at courts in total, who often drifted between each other frequently and possessed intermediaries:

Traditionalists: The classical group, by 566 BCE, they came to be called by other factions as 'Perpetuals' (Darutunini) and were known for their staunch opposition to Espu-Kappu and their assertion of royal service, the devotion to the Great Gods wherein the king was simply a governor of their might and advocates of assimilation of foreign subject peoples. Further, the Perpetuals advocated for consistent aggressive expansionism and the destruction of provincialization in favor of greater accumulation of tributary and subject states. Made up primarily of merchants, conservative priests, many of the astrologer intellectuals, aspiring minorities, scribes, and most of the entire temple complex economies covering Mesopotamia.

Deification Faction: The group already widely discussed and by 568 BCE, had controlled the government as the dominant faction for the past twenty years. Often called the secularists (Kibrati, the worldly) by Perpetuals, they advocated a certain deified monarch who upheld a wider social order controlled by loyal generals and bureaucrats. Made up primarily of eunuchs, generals within many of the armies, guardsmen, most ethnic minorities and the majority of the high court bureaucracy associated with Sinsharishkun Reformism. They advocated lack of assimilation of foreign peoples, lessening of expansion, provincialization of the empire, the deification of the monarch and the expansion of palatial construction instead of redistributive measures.

Noble Faction: Often called the Alkakati or the gentlemen, were the faction representing noble interests and made up a heterodox group. The main facet of their faction was that the 100 Old Ones, that being the ruling nobles of Assyria, were to be protected in their estates and freed from royal interference. Further, they fought especially for the ability to wage annual campaigns with royal sanction and fill positions of governorship whilst maintaining their collection of kinsmen within the court to advocate in their favor. By 567 BCE, they were also the faction seeking to block the rise of retainers and low administrators and instead enforce a series of hereditary governmental posts, so as to protect privileges.

Faction of Espu-Kappu: Called the Ubaru (unwanted guest), the faction was made up of anxious retainers, lowly administers, Arabs and the influential Espu-Kappu and his allies in the Southern Protectorate. It was essentially a party with little serious goal except the agreement to whatever Sinbanipal sought to do and the improvment/protection of their constituents and allies.


The stage was set for a period of serious factional conflict and malaise in the Assyrian court, contrasted with the rise of competing regimes in nearby Egypt, Persia, Bactria, Greece and the Caucasian hill country.

---------------
Sorry for the deep delay, I came into a difficult situation in terms of writing. Though rest assured, it is back! I hope you guys like this short update foreshadowing the future disunity and difficulties Assyria is to face.

Dakkafex

Happy to see this back! Don't worry, writing is hard and we all have to take breaks and delay sometimes - at least you didn't go dark for a year like I did on my story.

I did definitely like the foreshadowing in this update, Assyria has been riding high for a while now, and structural issues of governance and social-cultural trends are starting to show themselves in ways that can't easily be papered over with more campaigning.

John7755 يوحنا

Cambyses and the Persian kingdom increase belligerence

The years 569-566 BCE in the Indus Valley, the Arian River Valley and the surrounding areas was just as flammable as the years 578-575 BCE. The competition between multiple states took the greatest precedence.

The Kingdom of the Medes, straddling the southern Arian River who were refugees from the west and newcomers. Arriving in the years 603-599 BCE. Median power in the region had been on the rise since 576 BCE, however new disputes with the Persian kingdom under Cambyses to the west had hampered the efficiency of the kingdom. Nevertheless in 568 BCE, the Median king Ainyava succeeded in expanding the territory of his realm with an invasion into the deserts of Gedrosia. The Gedrosian lands were sparsely populated and where people resided, their towns and herders were linked more closely to the powerful Persian kingdom to their west, than in the relation to the upland Median kingdom in Drangiana. Ainyava pushed into these areas and with very little fighting, subjugated several tribes and captured five towns along the coastline of Gedrosia with a force of only 3,000 warriors. As a result of the conquest of Gedrosia, Perso-Median relations reached an all time low and frequent skirmishes began along their borders and Persia began attempting to contact the Kamboja state to the north of the Medes. In 567-566 BCE thus, a burgeoning Kamboja-Persian alliance began to emerge in the region, whilst a counter alliance formed against this one.

In the north in Bactria, the Dasha kingdom of Bactria under Xeshmi was riding high since 575 BCE with its occupation of the area. However, from 573-569 BCE, internal civil war reigned in the Bactrian kingdom upon the demise of Xeshmi in 572 BCE. Competing clans battled for supremacy across the Bactrian lands and opportunistic Dasha and Scythian clans from the north also migrated into Bactria to join the fighting. The records from Sinsharruderi in the Eastern Protectorate describe it as a period of chaotic anarchy within that land. Regardless, the clans ravaged the land and by 570-569 BCE, the clans had coalesced into two predominant factions of warlords, that of a certain ‘Warlord’ Gaorayana arrayed against a certain competing warlord named Sinah, who in 569 BCE waged a final series of war wherein Gaorayana emerged victorious and according to the Assyrain recollections, took the head of his foe and turned the skull into a drinking cup. Gaorayana united thus the Dasha in Bactria in 569 BCE and from 569-566 BCE, the Dasha became exceptionally aggressive, expanding in various directions.

Gaorayana in 568 BCE began launching ferocious raids upon Kamboja and thus idnrectly supported the Medes in their conquest of Gedrosia by distracting the Kamboja from the north. These raids were highly successful in the acquisition of loot and by 567 BCE, Kamboja had submitted to an annual tribute of slaves and foodstuff to the Bactrian Dasha kingdom. In 566 BCE also, Gaorayana struck in a large raid the Eastern Protectorate, wherein he defeated an Assyrian field army due to the defection of several thousand Cimmerian pastoralists who in turn migrated east into Bactria as allies of Gaorayana. After such as successful attack, Gaorayana proclaimed himself ‘King of the Grasslands, Taker of Immense Tribute.’ His fame became wide and in 565 BCE, the Median and now aged king Ainyava concluded an alliance with Gaorayana and provided the Dasha king with an annual tribute of goats, sheep and cattle, all of which were highly prized by the Dasha as symbols of wealth and prestige. The tribute received by the Dasha only increased however their voraciousness and Gaorayana raided east into the Tarim and accordingly to later sources, was defeated by an army of a confederation called the Gara around the ancient town of Kucha.

Counter to these newcomers, were the Kamboja state and the Gandhara kingdom, who would continually be locked in intermittent warfare with each other. Neither gaining advantage over the other, the Kamboja turned to the Indus valley tribes and the Catarjanau, a powerful pastoral confederation inhabiting the Punjab invaded the Gandhjara state in 567 BCE, and in 566 BCE decimated the Gandhara in the field of battle thrice and reduced the kingdom before a Kamboja invasion of Gandhara, which show the Gandhara king, Abjit dethroned and replaced by a council of nobles who were vassals under the Kamboja and Cattarjanau. The success of the Kamboja state however was critically reliant upon their transfer of tribute to the Kingdom of Bactria to its north and after the conquest of Gandhara, turned its eye to reducing the kingdom of the Medes and throwing off the tribute that they owed to Gaorayana. The Cattarjanau for their part in the Punjab, a collection of notables with the massive success of their campaign in the northwest, began a series of attacks on the other so-called ‘Five Races’ the various Vedic-Aryan tribal confederations in the northern Indus Valley, this would preoccupy their lords from 566-558 BCE. Thus by 557 BCE, the Cattarjanau had formed a tribal league of realms that ruled the entirety of the northern Indus valley in the Punjab excluding the Kashmir and the Gandhara kingdom to the northwest. This league however was frequently breaking into pieces and from 557-551 BCE, was ever in dire problems as the tribes and clans splintered along political factions supported by outlying kingdoms and ethnic interest. The result was however a model for a united Punjabi state, simply one that was hard pressed by rampant division, strong on the defense but due to disunity at home, weak on the offensive.

In the west however, the Kingdom of Persia was making great strides. With the Assyrian threat averted through nominal submission, the Median kingdom now a weaker easter foe, rather than a hegemonic northern enemy and with a new Elamite kingdom amiable to Persia, the king Cambyses oversaw an important period of increasing power for Persia from 570-564 BCE. In this period, Persian tribute to Karduniash reduced to approximately 1/5 of the original requirement. In 565 BCE, this led to a war-scare between Dagon-zakir-shumi and Cambyses but the Karduniash king was ultimately dissuaded by his advisors to ignore the slight in light of the power of Persia and the distance of a campaign. As such, Persia embarked on its own series of diplomatic expansions. Firstly the alliance to Kamboja which cemented an anti-Mede and anti-Dasha faction in the region which in 563 BCE, made good in the form of the Perso-Median war of 563-560 BCE.

Foremost as was mentioned in the Persian kingdin the later years of the reign of Cambyses I, was his moving further away from Assyrian vassalage due to internal issues in Assyria and Karduniash and of the distinct lack of respect that Persia came to hold for the Assyrian garrisons in the north made up of Cimmerian deportees. Furthermore, the continued Persian influence upon Elam was weakened by the rise of the Karduniash influence in Elam which saw the ascendancy of the Akkadian faction in Elam and finally, the rise of the ‘merchant kings’ in Elam, who were discussed in a prior update. Epiru-daru-Shamash, the Merchant King of Elam especially held poor relations with the neighboring kingdom in Persia. From 566-562 BCE, despite the two sharing borders and overlords, trade had declined rapidly according to Elamite toll roles and the two kingdoms moved ever more into a disastrous relation.

Reasonings for this abound, but likely have to do with the loss of influence of the Persian population within Elam, which were forced to flee from Elam after the reforms made by the new Akkadian estate lords and the merchant kings. Who, as was mentioned in the update on the Merchant Kings of Elam, transformed much of the rural population into slaves and ruptured the prior order which admittedly had been more or less complete chaos due to the Chaldean wars that had raged within Elam and neighboring Sumer under Karduniashi control.

Increasingly thus, Persia moved overtly from the sphere of the Dual-Monarchy and towards that of an independent eastern state. Few mor than the Perso-Median war display this reality.

After many years at peace, war was resumed in the eastern fringes of the Eastern Protectorate. After years of mutual raids, the Kamboja state openly attacked the Medes and calling their ally in Persia, engaged in an open war with the Median kingdom along the Arius river and in Gedrosia. In the year of 563 BCE, the Persians made their strike upon the Medes, according to Ishme-Assur who perished in the year 562 BCE, whence the records resume again with Shemu-Ninurta. According to the records of Sinsharruderi, the Persian king Cambyses broke with custom and attacked without approval of his master, the King of Karduniash and thus was liable to incur an infraction.

An infraction was supposedly gained by striking the Medes in the land of Arius and Drangia during the 563-562 Persian campaign in these regions, which saw the Persians push back the Medes and capture several locals along the Arius river whilst also dispatched an army towards Gedrosia in early 561 BCE. After the infraction had been gathered, Shemu-Ninurta angered after his envoys to Persia were consistently ignored, rallied an army of supposedly 7,500 warriors and marched from Sinsharruderi to arrest Cambyses whilst sending a letter to the Ten Fingers and to his ally, Epiru-daru-Shamash the governor and ‘king’ of Elam. According to letters exchanged, Shemu-Ninurta requested aid from Elam should the Persians resist and requested that they send an army of deportees to strike the Persians from the west, whilst he attacked from the north. The response from Epiru-daru-Shamash though never reaching Shemu-Ninurta, rejected any plans of assistance or war with Persia and simply sent a letter rejecting the plan to the border, where it was confiscated by a Persian raiding party and sent to the king of Karduniash.

Bypassing Elam, Cambyses sent a letter to Dagon-zakir-shumi decrying the action of aggression from Shemu-Ninurta and then taking responsibility for defeating him in battle, which he did. Early in the year of 561 BCE, Shemu-Ninurta striking southward into Persia was defeated decisively in battle, barely escaping with his army before in a tragic set of events, was faced with a mutiny and then killed by his deportee army of Aramaens and Cimmerians, who declared on of their bannermen as ‘King of Marhashi’ named Agu-Sin (Sin is the wave) a Cimmerian warrior and chief who took the title readily and gathering an army of up to 11,000, marched upon Sinsharruderi.

Medo-Persian war 561-559 BCE

Whilst overt rebellion had emerged in Marhashi or the Eastern Protectorate, the Persians after defeating Shemu-Ninurta had lost their gains on the Arius river, but by the end of 561 BCE, had captured much of Gedrosia. However, in the north, the war had turned poorly for their allies, with the Medes decisively defeating Kamboja in battle and making rendezvous with a Dahae army from Bactria, struck the city of Kamboja itself and capturing it and looting the city, appointed a puppet council as Median vassals.

The war thus went from a more complex conflict to a direct Perso-Median war. Much of the failures to stop the fall of Kamboja had to do with the Persian focus upon Gedrosia and the Median armies’ sacrifices in Gedrosia, pulling their tribal allies northward to make war in Kamboja, leaving Gedrosia to fall quickly to the Persians. The result, Persia, had overtly chosen its selfish goals over the sanctity of its alliance and suffered the consequence. Nevertheless, the Persian kingdom had a major benefit on its side, a particular skilled prince.

The son of Cambyses I, a certain Cyrus had been given command of the Persian army of 21,000 fighters and led them with a fearsome skill. He had a certain burning ambition and a great fighting spirit who in later years will be regarded as the great scourge in the Kalhu Codex and in other Akkadian sources, as the savior and a figure of high regard and rank.

Leading the army of 21,000 forward, Cyrus, despite his young age defeated the Medes in battle decisively along the Arius river and pushing forward engaged in a fearsome battle against Ainyava and a Dahae army, and after according to later source, a battle of four days, slew a Dahae commander with a bow and riding on horse, with strong bow, delivered the heads of 27 Dahae and Mede warriors to the chariot of his father Cambyses I, who had been watching the battle from a nearby hill. The battle was a victory for the Persians but one at great cost. The Persians lost a significant force, but had in the melee slew the Dahae commander, an unnamed man and injured the already aging Ainyava, king oof the Medes, who defeated and injured, was forced to submit to the Median council seeking peace and the election of an heir to the Median people.

The peace was quite simple, with the Dahae driven from the field and their army deserting to flee north, alongside the injury of Ainyava, the Median war council had a free hand to adjudicate a peace and did so. The Medes conceded all of Gedrosia to the Persian kingdom and recognized the payment of an annual tribute of horses to the Persians and more egregious, was forced to revoke their alliance with Gaorayana, the king of the Bactrian Dahae. This all was completed by around late 560 BCE.

Death of Cambyses I and the Ascent of Cyrus II

Cambyses I already relatively ill and aging, passed in late January of 559 BCE and was succeeded without issue by his heroic son Cyrus II. Cyrus II had already gained immense fame in the war with the Medes and thus was respected and widely beloved by the military and by the priestly classes. His first year, was embroiled in controversy however as the fallout of 561 BCE and the death of Shemu-Ninurta came to be felt in the west.

Aside for these issues, Cyrus II in his first year, began making regular inscriptions in Akkadian rather than Elamite and issued a standard set of weights and measures which had already likely been pioneered by his father Cambyses I and his grandfather Cyrus I. Likewise, his first year was upon a growing seat of importance for Persia and his kingdom made moves in his second year to assert the power of his realm against all incomers and to more thoroughly undermine the increasingly brittle Dual-Monarchy to the west.

The Marhashi Incident of 561 BCE

The death of the Ten Fingers appointee Shemu-Ninurta had only been heard in Kalhu after the army of Agu-Sin had set the countryside around central Marhashi into the flames of rebellion. Shemu-Ninurta had been the first appointee of the Ten Fingers in the Eastern Protectorate without the approval of the Great King and had been one of their hopeful champions at curbing the prior influence of the Traditional faction in Marhashi and maintaining the status quo therein. His death was taken with severe consequences on the already rebellious king.

Sinbanipal had since the council of Kalhu taken a firm dislike of the Ten Fingers and thus split the Deification camp into what could be called Palatials and Royalists, the former supporting the Ten Fingers and the later supporting the king. This faction split was further complicated by the Ubaru faction led by Epu-Kappu who essentially from 565-560 BCE, were the ‘yes men’ of the Sinbanipal restoration. Most of these dislikes emerged from Sinbanipal refusing to permit the Ten Fingers the roles that they had prior enjoyed, namely the appointment of officials and the appointing of palace guards, all of whom became issues of contention. In 563 BCE, the king and the Ten Fingers engaged in a quarrel according to the Kalhu Codex over the appointment of a Captain of the Palace Guard, which led to Sinbanipal reportedly slapping and kicking to the floor one of the eunuch envoys of the Ten Fingers who beginning in 564 BCE, had relocated to a nearby temple of Sin for their place of operation for fear of a place coup against their persons.

Thus, the death of Shemu-Ninurta, who was covertly appointed as Eastern Protector and the news relayed to Sinbanipal led to an eruption of anger in the court, with Sinbanipal issuing angry replies to the Ten Fingers and summons ordering. Meanwhile, the Ten Fingers had already made their move and appointed covertly through their contacts a military general of the Palatial faction named Kadu-Ishtar (Ishtar guards) who was dispatched to the land of Mania to rally the army and allies to destroy he rebellion and ensure the remnant of Ten Finger power in the Protectorate. This became more complicated by Sinbanipal appointing his own Protector General named Kullu-Dagon (Dagon held it together) who was also dispatched to gather the forces to subdue the rebellion in Marhashi.

The situation was thus coming to a final head with the Ten Fingers engaged in a deadlock struggle with the Great King and likewise a disastrous Marhashi incident.

Next update we will go deeper into the court politics leading up to this and draw a clear line of the occurrences and make it more clear the dispute between Sinbanipal and his former eunuch allies in the palace.


The Sumerian ABZU

The Abzu which is often spoken of in Sumerian text, and literally means “Distant water” ab meaning water, and zu translates, far, distant or deep. Many experts have deciphered this, as place that originates ground water. Fresh water that maintains life, with the use of irrigation, but is this the true meaning of the Abzu?

In the Hymn to Elil, the text reads.. “the Abzu which no one can understand. It's interior is a distant sea which Heaven Edge cannot comprehend”. In the curse of Agade, the text reads.. “Abzu. where the fates are determined”. In Sumerian text the Abzu is always preceded by the article “the”, which lends the belief that the abzu is a state of being or state of mind v.s. a specific location. As an example one might say they are going to New York, a specific location, or they may say they are planning to go to “the” city, which implies a state of being, as in shopping, nite life or dinning out.

In the figure (4) above we see the Enki , inside Abzu, atop the Ziggurat with his 2 pole bearers. This all raises the question. What exactly is this ceremonial practice, and what is it's purpose? The Sumerians speak of a “washing of the hands” ceremony, which occurs at the site of the Abzu or in the Abzu. If the washing ceremony occurs in the Abzu, could it refer to a full emergence into water, or through water, as a number of the figures above seem to indicate. In the creation of man text, it speaks of Enki taking clay to form man at the Abzu. In the curse of Agade text, it reads, “May your clay be returned to it's Abzu.” This seems to indicate that “life, creation of life , or the extension of life” would have a significance to understanding the Abzu and it's ceremonies.

In figure (5) above we see an Anunnaki emerging from the Abzu atop the Ziggurat as depicted at the very bottom of the relief. Two upturned vases are pouring water into the vases at the bottom of the relief. The Anunnaki seems to have control over the water. At the bottom of the figure are four wheels of 8 spokes. They represent the wheels at the four corners of the Chariot of the Gods, as does the other four wheels with 16 spokes. The wheel within the wheel. There is clearly a strong connection between the Chariot of the Gods, and the Abzu, which together enhances the abilities and life of the ancient Gods.

In the above figure (6), again the water is pouring from the top vases to the bottom vases as in the Abzu, while the occupant of the Abzu seems to be in a state of ecstasy and is some how connected to the Chariot of the Gods, similar to figure (5). This is very similar to the depictions of Enki and his ability to control water from his body. The Sumerians had the same word for water as for semen, which meant "the beginning of life or the renewal of life", just as irrigated water brings life to a desert. The above figure also seems overjoyed if not in a state ecstacy while in the Abzu. The water is somehow transformed from the Chariot as it enters the Abzu. Both of the above figures are gaining a renewal of life as the water passes over them.

The real purpose of the ABZU? The Abzu is able to transform water to allow the Great Gods to extend their lives. Once in the Abzu they totally immerse themselves in it's water. Without the Abzu the Great gods would simply have grown old like the rest of mankind and eventually died. They had to continually enter the Abzu and immerse themselves in it's water in order to extend their lives. This is the state of being that is referred to as "entering the Abzu". A state of rejuvenation. An exhilarating moment where water itself can be controlled and where one seems to levitate inside the Abzu. This act of growing younger is seen in an ancient Assyrian scroll shown below. An old man becomes young again as they are about to drink water from the chariot..

It's clear that the Abzu is controlled by Enki. This is shown (figure 7 below) by how Enki is depicted in ancient reliefs. The seven stepped Ziggurat is seen as a great god approaches Enki. Enki is seen having water or controlling water from his body, with the pole bearers on either side. Enki is seen to the right (figure 2 below) atop the Ziggurat, as shown by the figure on left, and at the centre of the Abzu, with water surrounding him.
(figures below)

The wavy lines represent water in Sumerian drawings, and it's this water that has been transformed by the chariot of the Gods and is about to be extracted by the figure on the left..This is the water that these Great Gods immersed themselves in the Abzu and extend their lives. This is what is represented by the Tree of life in the middle of the figure..
The water after being transformed. and now gives life.

The great god shown above is not taking water to the tree of life as many have suggested but taking this transformed water away to be used to extend their lives. This is shown by the bucket in the figures hand.

Enki's position within the Anunnaki is greatly enhanced due to his control of the Abzu and his possession of the Tablets of Destiny. The combination of these two items which either enhance, empower or entitle each other, makes Enki a very important and powerful personage.

In the Sumerian text of the curse of Agade, Ninurto takes from Agade all it's wealth, just prior to it's destruction, to Enki's Abzu. The text also reads that the Abzu at Agade has it's poles removed. Thus terminating the ability or power of the Akkadian Abzu. The text also refers to the wealth of Agade's royal throne room. This wealth is stripped from Sargon's royal family. Where does the wealth of Agade's Treasury end?

The text reads, “Ninurto brought the jewels of ruler ship, the royal crown, the emblem and the royal throne bestowed on Agade.” In Isaiah chapter 45, YHWH speaks of a dark and hidden place, that No man may know, where the treasures of the kingdoms of earth are hidden. After Enlil destroyed Yahweh's political kingdom on earth, the Akkadians, and Enki took all their treasures prior to the fall of their capital city Agade, was Yahweh retaliating in seizing many iconic earthly treasures of earthly kingdoms, just prior to their downfall? Did Yahweh seize Babylon's earthly treasures just moments before she fell to Cyrus the Great? Isaiah 45:3, reads as if speaking to Cyrus, “And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and the hidden riches of secret places. ” The word “darkness” would refer to a fearful and forbidding place to man, while “hidden” and “secret” would refer to, No man being able to find these iconic treasures.

Are these treasures stored in an ancient Abzu?

To name a few treasures that no man has found, would be the ark of the covenant and the Cup of Samurais, which weighed 15 talents of gold, or about 1500 lbs. This was essentially a very expensive punch bowl, for rather lavish parties. Golden icons were never melted down or destroyed in ancient times, but seen as war booty, to display over ones enemies. It wasn't until the Greeks, that gold was a means to pay foreign trade accounts or used as a currency reserve. Prior to the Greeks, gold was basically bathroom fixtures for the ruling class. Would many of these iconic pieces, still be hidden from us?


By Antoni A. Ostrasz (1929-1996) with contributions by Ina Kehrberg-Ostrasz

The Hippodrome of Gerasa: A Provincial Roman Circus publishes the unique draft manuscript by the late architect and restorer Antoni Ostrasz, the study of Roman circuses and the complex fieldwork for the restoration of the Jarash Hippodrome, a work in progress abruptly ended both in writing and in the field by his untimely death in October 1996. The manuscript is presented as it is in order to retain the authenticity of his work. It is, therefore, an unusual publication providing the researcher as well as restorer of ancient monuments with unparalleled insights of architectural studies for anastyloses. Compendia A and B have been added to supplement the incomplete segments of the manuscript with regard to his studies as well as archaeological data. This concerns the excavation and preparation for the restorations and the archaeological history or stratigraphic history of the site from the foundations to primary use as a circus to subsequent occupancies of the circus complex. The study of the architectural and archaeological remains at the hippodrome encapsulates the sequence of the urban history of the town from its early beginnings to Roman Gerasa and Byzantine and Islamic Jarash, including vestiges of the seventh century plague and still visible earthquake destructions, as well as Ottoman settlements.

About the Authors
Antoni Adam Ostrasz M.Eng PhD (Warsaw 1958, 1967) began his overseas work as research architect with the Polish Archaeological Centre in Cairo from 1961-1966 before joining expeditions to Alexandria, Palmyra and Nea Paphos. He was commissioned by the Syrian Authorities at Palmyra to prepare the restorations of several monuments, recently destroyed. He continued his architectural studies at Fustat and later joined the ‘Jarash Archaeological Project’ where he studied and restored the Umayyad House and the Church of Bishop Marianos. In 1984, the Dept of Antiquities appointed him as permanent director for the restoration project of the Hippodrome at Jarash.

Ina Kehrberg-Ostrasz graduated in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney where she completed her postgraduate thesis on Cypriot ceramics. She began excavating in Jordan with the University of Sydney in 1975, followed by several international and long-term archaeological projects at Jarash and other Decapolis cities in Jordan. She became Hon. Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, and was made Hon. Lecturer at ANU/Canberra in 2019 where she offers Masterclasses in the study of ceramics and other artefacts.

View or purchase the full volume from the publisher's website: ARCHAEOPRESS

Tell Afis is situated in the Syrian province of Idlib, 50 km SE of Aleppo. The archaeological project directed by Stefania Mazzoni took place between 1986 and 2010, and produced documented evidence of an occupation stretching from the fourth millennium BCE to the Neo-Assyrian period. Areas E2-E4, opened on the western edge of the acropolis, have yielded a continuous sequence, divided into eight phases, spanning the Late Bronze and Iron Age periods. These volumes present the final excavation report of phases V-I which cover the period between the end of the 13 th and the 8 th c. BCE. During these centuries the Northern Levant was marked by important events which deeply changed its political, social and economic order. The political rise and the sudden fall of the Hittite empire, the collapse of the city-state political system, the emergence of new cultural entities attributed to migrants identified with the Sea Peoples quoted by the Egyptian kings Merneptah and Ramses III and the re-organization of the territory in regional polities ruled by Luwian and Aramaean dynasties, are all factors which contributed to the formation of the cultural and political landscape of the 9 th -8 th c. BCE.

The sequence of Areas E2-E4 yields a picture of a site which actively participated in these changes and was able to cross this troubled period by constantly reshaping its cultural and economic structure until becoming in the 8 th c. BCE a flourishing center, likely to be identified with Hazrek, the capital of the Aramaean king Zakkur.

The publication by Fabrizio Venturi is composed of two volumes: the first dedicated to text, the second to plates. The arguments in Volume I are divided into six parts with the following subjects:

Part I is dedicated to a general description of the site and its region and to the history of the site’s excavations. Also presented are the methods used in material recording and the database setting.

Part II is dedicated to the stratigraphy of phases V-I. At the end of each phase description a chapter is devoted to the planimetric analyses of the buildings and to the functional partition of their spaces.

Part III is dedicated to the typological analysis of pottery, divided into chapters corresponding to the different phases. The assemblages are analyzed both on a diachronic level and in comparison with other regional pottery horizons. This part concludes with a chapter in which the development of the Tell Afis production is synthesized together with a relative chronology proposal based on diagnostic materials.

Part IV presents a selection of the collected small finds, arranged in functional and typological categories.

Part V is dedicated to the presentation of the analyses carried out on the organic and ceramic materials. Chapter V.1 shows the results of 14 C analyses which have allowed an absolute chronology proposal, discussed in comparisons with the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean documentation. Chapter V.2 presents the petrographic and geochemical analyses on a selected group of sherds with a particular emphasis on Iron Age I Aegeanizing pottery.

Part VI is divided into six chapters and it presents the excavation data framed in their historical context. Chapter VI.1 analyzes the site in 13 th c. BCE and the dynamics linked to the political expansion of Hittites in the SE Syrian provinces. Chapters VI.2-3 discuss the complex issue concerning the identification of the Sea People migration throughout textual and material culture, the impact that the new Aegeanizing elements had in the Tell Afis local cultural framework and the patterns of their progressive assimilation. Chapter VI.4 is dedicated to the emergence in the site (and in its region) of the Aramaeans. Finally Chapters VI.5-6 are dedicated respectively to the Iron Age periodization of the Northern Levant and the conclusions.

Volume II is divided into the following five sections:

I-II – Introduction, architecture and stratigraphy (maps and plans)

III – The pottery (drawings)

IV – The small finds (drawings)

II-III-IV – Architecture, pottery and small finds (photos)

V – 14 C and minero-petrographic/geochemical analyses (photos)

The volume is authored by Dr. Chrysanthi Gallou .
For ordering information please visit the publisher's webpage HERE

The site of Tell Tweini is located 35°22’18” North 35°56’42” East, on the southern bank of the Rumeilah River in the Syrian coastal plain, approximately 1,5 km east of modern-day Jebleh and 40 km south of Ras Shamra-Ugarit, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Ugarit. Since 1999, the site of ca. 12 hectares is under excavation by the Syro-Belgian team headed by Dr. M. Al-Maqdissi (Department of Antiquities, Damascus - Field B) and Prof. J. Bretschneider (Field A and C).

As one of the few sites under excavation in the Northern Levant with a full archaeological sequence spanning the Early Bronze Age IV (ca. 2400 B.C.) up to the Iron III period (ca. 500 B.C.), Tell Tweini (Field A) is a key site for the study of the developments in the Northern Levant, especially where the Bronze to Iron Age transition is concerned, and an ideal starting point from which to approach the nature of the transitional period. Tweini was part of the Ugaritic Kingdom and is large enough to reflect transformations taking place on a regional as well as a supra-regional scale.

The lead researcher for the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program project was Prof. J. Bretschneide r, Ancient Near Eastern archaeologist and Field Director of the Belgian branch of the Syro-Belgian Tell Tweini Project (Fields A & C) between 1999 and 2005 and Director since 2006. Joachim Bretschneider coordinated and supervised the collection of all the Tweini data and material and managed all available knowledge related to the different periods and disciplines. He organized the production and the publication of the monograph including a full study of assorted topics concerning the A Field - more specifically the loom weights, the pot marks, the glyptic and scarabs, the communal Middle Bronze Age grave, the Cypriot pottery, the bio-archaeology and the landscape - in a proper chronological and socio-political context. Bretschneider worked with colleagues from different fields to synthesize accounts of architecture, stratigraphy, ceramics, other artefacts and environmental data.

This work by Yosef Garfinkel is the fifth volume publishing the results of the extensive excavations at Sha῾ar Hagolan, an 8000-year-old Neolithic village located in the Central Jordan Valley in Israel, comprising one of the most important sites of the Yarmukian culture in the entire region. This volume focuses on the development of pyrotechnology, discussing the initial organization of the pottery industry and the final stages of the production of burnt lime vessels, the so-called White Ware, that preceded it. The volume contains eight chapters that present the pottery assemblage and the clay objects on a typological and quantitative basis, along with petrographic analysis and spatial distribution in completely excavated building complexes. A technological discussion of the pottery technology is offered by a professional modern potter and Neolithic White Ware items are discussed as well.

Please visit the publication pages for volumes 3 and 4 .

The final publication of Level XVI at Mersin-Yumuktepe is the terminal step of a long-term project. The aim of this publication is to integrate the data obtained by J. Garstang during the excavations conducted at Mersin-Yumuktepe (1936-39 and 1946-47) and published in 1953 in the monograph "Prehistoric Mersin," along with those produced during the excavations carried out from 1993-2004 under the direction of I. Caneva, for a comprehensive reconstruction of one of the most notorious levels of occupation at Yumuktepe. The long prehistoric occupational sequence reconstructed by Garstang, the first to have been established in the archaeology of Cilicia, quickly became one of the main references in the Near Eastern, Levantine, and East Mediterranean archaeology. In this framework, the unique evidence represented by the "Citadel" of Level XVI was often considered as a "hallmark" of Yumuktepe and a recurring "topos" of the archaeological discourse dealing with the chalcolithic societies of the region. To confront such a "giant" of Near Eastern archaeology and the heritage left by Garstang has not been an easy task. The integration of heterogenous data produced in the frame of different practices, epistemologies and narratives of archaeology has required a long, continuous and sometimes quizzical process of interpolation and negotiation between past and present archaeological evidence aimed at a detailed and attentive reconstruction of the economic, social and cultural developments of the Early-Chalcolithic community at Yumuktepe.

The volume is edited by Giulio Palumbi and Isabella Caneva.


Iraq Holidays and Festivals

In addition to Islamic-based festivals and traditions, Iraq holidays also include a number of cultural events and religious celebrations. Christmas festivities are enjoyed by the small Christian population that remained in the country after the 2003 Iraq War, while art and other forms of expression are widely observed throughout the country.

Assyrian New Year

The Assyrian New Year takes place every year on April 1 in all countries where Assyrians reside. Marked by festivities, the day is celebrated with long parades in colorful outfits and ancient costumes. Students, dignitaries, men, and women alike join in the parties, dancing in the streets and parks for hours. Just like the rest of the world, Iraqis also celebrated the Georgian calendar New Year on January 1.

Iraq Short Film Festival

Established in 2005, the Iraq Short Film Festival celebrates movies made by and for Iraqis. A series of short films are shown in the Arabic or Kurdish language throughout Baghdad. The event is held August 1 through September 30.

Babylon International Festival

Held once a year, the Babylon International Festival encompasses all aspects of arts and music. The event represents different cultures and civilizations, celebrating science and culture through folkloric ensembles, singing, musicals, stage performances, seminars, workshops, and other activities. Its main goal is to preserve ancient traditions by passing them on to the younger generations. The annual event takes place September 22 through October 1.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day (December 25) is celebrated differently in Iraq than in the west, observed by the few remaining Christians in the country. The day is marked with a ceremonial reading of the nativity story from the Arabic Bible. During the reading, family members hold lighted candles as they listen, and once the story is finished, a bonfire is lighted using the candles and a pile of dried thorns in the courtyard, symbolic of the future of the household in the coming year. Once the thorns have completely turned to ashes, family members jump over the remnants and make a wish. Religious services are also held in local churches, followed by processionals.

Historical Holidays

Throughout the year, Iraqis celebrate historical milestones like Army Day (January 6), Baghdad Liberation Day (April 9), Republic Day (July 14), Ceasefire Day or End of Iran-Iraq War (August 8), and Iraqi Independence Day (October 3).


Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico, The Central Mexican Plateau-Tula and the Toltec Art

At the beginning of this new phase in the history of ancient Mexico, the city of Teotihuacan had been abandoned for near two centuries. According to oral traditions, the city of Tula was founded by a semi-legendary character, Ce Acatl Topiltzin, son of a barbarian leader and a woman who came from a town with an old cultural tradition. In this transition between Teotihuacan and Tula the role of Xochicalco was significant, as some legends told that the young prince of Tula was educated by the priests of that city. In addition, this character was attributed with a series of extraordinary qualities because he was not only represented as the incarnation of the god Quetzalcoatl, the “feathered serpent” born in Teotihuacan, but was described as the civilizing being par excellence, pioneer in the cultivation of corn, creator of the calendar, of the arts, etc, to the point that, centuries later, the Aztecs themselves used the word “Toltec” (which originally meant “people of Tula”) as a synonym for civilized, cultured, artist…

Two views of the Mesoamerican archeological site of Tula (State of Hidalgo, Mexico). Left: The large vestibule in front of the the pyramid B filled with broken columns is known as Building C or Burnt Palace (“Palacio Quemado”) named after evidence that it was burned. Right: The Pyramid B, located adjacent to the Burned Palace, also known as the Temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (“House of the Morning Star”). This pyramid is a five-tiered structure famous for the four massive Toltec statues placed on its summit.

Whatever the truth about this legendary character was, the archaeological evidence shows the ceremonial center of Tula as a pale reflection of what is now left from the classical splendor of Teotihuacan for much of the city of Tula did not survive to this day. This Toltec empire also had a new militaristic approach that was practically non-existent in earlier times. In this way, in the Toltec’s artistic repertoire, the warrior came to occupy the place previously reserved for priests. In Tula as well as in the distant Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatan peninsula where the “Maya-Toltec” art developed in parallel, the themes of eagles and jaguars devouring human hearts, or the gathered skulls of the sacrificed placed on platforms and altars called Tzompantli * begun to appear frequently in artistic representations.

At the top of the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli are four massive columns each carved representing a Toltec warrior. These figures supported the roof of the temple that once stood on top of the pyramid. Each warrior figure was made of basalt, stands over 4.6 metres (15 ft) high, and has an atlatl* or spear thrower, feathered headdress, incense, a butterfly shaped chest plate and a back plate in the shape of a solar disk. These figures are known collectively as Atlantean figures or Atlantes.

The artistic power of the Toltecs is reflected in the great colonnades of the main square of Tula, at the foot of the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (the “star of the dawn” or planet Venus), as well as the so-called “Atlanteans” or Colossians who, dressed as Toltec warriors, supported the roof of this temple. A new repertoire of sculptural forms was created by the Toltec art, such as the “ Chacmool* ” or reclining character, the “Standard bearer” and others, besides the creation of an interesting variety of pottery known as “ plumbate* ” (or pottery with lead) with metallic gleams. As for metals, this is the moment when, finally, the work of metals such as gold, silver and copper appeared in Mesoamerica. In addition, the techniques of the mosaic and the inlays in turquoise, shell and other materials were perfected.

One of 12 Chacmool figures found at Tula. The Tula chacmools date to the Early Post-Classic ca. 900-1200 AD. Contrary to those found at Chichen Itza, the features of the Tula Chacmools are more standardized. The chacmools depict young men with warrior attributes and in the case of those found at Tula they could also have an association with thrones or raised seating platforms. The chacmools at Tula probably represent war captives. A Toltec standard bearer from Tula.

Since the end of the tenth century and for two centuries, Toltec’s hegemony spread in almost all directions taking the boundaries of Mesoamerica to its maximum expansion both to the north of Mexico and along Central America. This was also the moment in which some of the regions that remained outside the great cultural impulse of the classic period began to develop a more lasting sculpture and architecture. This is the case of the Huasteca to the north of the Gulf of Mexico, and to the west of Mexico the Tarascos and other towns.

Examples of plumbate pottery from Tula. Left: A Toltec plumbate head effigy vessel from Soconusco (Chiapas,Mexico), ca. 1000 to 1200 AD. Middle: Toltec ceremonial plumbate vessel from Soconusco, ca. 1000 to 1200 AD. Right: Toltec plumbate vessel in the form of a dog from Soconusco, ca. 900 to 1200 AD.

In fact the western region of Mexico, which had maintained a more modest cultural level with some Olmec and later Teotihuacan influence plus other areas from the pre-Classic period, was fully incorporated into the Mesoamerican culture from the Post-Classic period (1000-1697). These peoples, who until then had been distinguished only by their ceramics of full and sensual forms, continued to produce refined crafts such as tiny and delicate polychrome vessels or the gold and silver objects of the lake area of Michoacan. But alongside these minor arts, a vigorous stone carving with very sharp edges was produced and the so-called “yácatas*” or staggered foundations found in this region were also built with their peculiar combination of circular and rectangular volumes.

Tzintzuntzan was once the ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian Tarascan state capital of the same name. Its name comes from the Purépecha word Ts’intsuntsani, which means “place of hummingbirds”. The Yácatas, top left (Michoacan, Mexico), are five rounded pyramids built over a large Grand Platform and line up looking out over Lake Pátzcuaro. On top of each of the yácatas was a temple made of wood in which the most important rites of the Purépecha people and government took place including burials. Ixtlán del Río is located in the municipality of the same name, on the south west region of the Nayarit State, in Mexico. It is also known as “Los Toriles” and contains the only vestiges of the western cultures in Nayarit. The site has an unusual pyramid for Mesoamerica it is a round construction (top right) of 24 meters diameter by four meters high. With five stairways harmonically distributed around its perimeter and a wall with small cruciform windows on top, it was probably a ceremonial center dedicated to Quetzalcoatl. La Quemada is an archeological site, also known as Chicomóztoc and is located in the Villanueva Municipality, (state of Zacatecas, Mexico). Here are two of its main constructions. At the bottom left is the Columns Hall, a 41 by 32 mt. enclosure, destructed by a fire. In its interior still stand eleven columns that once supported the roof. At the bottom left is the Votive Pyramid, a structure more than 10 mt. high, originally a stairway reached the top of the pyramid where a room or temple constructed with perishable materials apparently existed.

And while this Tarascan region and other places like Ixtlán del Río, in Nayarit, erected their first buildings in stone, Mesoamerican cultural influences spread along the Pacific coast to the North. As for the arid plateaus that constitute the northern area of Mexico, traditionally inhabited by nomadic hunters, they came to house some important nuclei of sedentary culture. This is the case of La Quemada, a semi-fortified place whose existence can be traced back to the times of the splendor of the city of Teotihuacan. Further north, Casas Grandes produced a rich pottery with fine geometric designs in a style that relates to the art of the Southwest United States.

Left: Huastec statue from the Tampico Region, 14th–16th centuries. Top right: Chacmool, ca. 1200-1400 AD from Tarascan, Tzintzuntzan in the State of Michoacán, West Mexico, (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). Bottom right: Two Michoacan figurines or “Pretty Ladies” from the Late Pre-Classic, ca. 500 BC-250 AD.

From the destruction of Tula by the Chichimecas towards the end of the twelfth century, the three centuries before the Spanish conquest witnessed the last waves of nomadic tribes that inhabit the Mexican highlands. And in the midst of the presence of all these small rival states striving to achieve political hegemony, arose the Aztec people destined to reach a glory as high as it was ephemeral.

Casas Grandes (“Great Houses”), also known as Paquimé, is located in the northern state of Chihuahua (Mexico). The site is attributed to the Mogollon culture. The settlement began after 1130 AD and would see the larger buildings developed after 1350 AD. The community was abandoned approximately by 1450 AD. Casas Grandes culture has been linked to other sites in Arizona and New Mexico in the United States. Top left: A view of the Paquime ruins, in Casas Grandes, (Chihuahua). Top right: Pre-Columbian pottery from Casas Grandes, Ramos, ca. 1100 to 1200 AD. Bottom left: Ceramic vessel from Casas Grandes, ca. 1200-1450 AD. Bottom ritght: Ceramic jar from Ramos, Casas Grandes, ca. 1280-1450 AD.

Atlatl: (from the Nahuatl). A spear-thrower, a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw. It may consist of a shaft with a cup or a spur at the end that supports and propels the butt of the dart. The spear-thrower is held in one hand, gripped near the end farthest from the cup. The dart is thrown by the action of the upper arm and wrist.

Chacmool: Often associated with sacrificial stones or thrones, Chacmools were a particular form of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican sculpture that first appeared around the 9th century AD in the Valley of Mexico and the northern Yucatán Peninsula. They depicted a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, supporting itself on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its stomach. These figures possibly symbolized slain warriors carrying offerings to the gods the bowl upon the chest was used to hold sacrificial offerings, including pulque (an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the agave plant), tamales, tortillas, tobacco, turkeys, feathers and incense. In some Aztec Chacmools, the receptacle was known as Cuauhxicalli (a stone bowl to receive sacrificed human hearts). Aztec Chacmools bore water imagery and were associated with Tlaloc, the rain god.

Plumbate pottery: A type of fine pottery made in the Mexico–Guatemala border region in early post‐Classic times, Plumbate pottery was one of the most distinctive style pottery of its time and is considered the only true vitrified (glazed) pottery in Pre-Columbian America. An orange-colored pottery of this kind decorated in a great diversity of styles is associated with the Toltecs, as is a dark-colored pottery with a glossy appearance and incised ornament (plumbate ware). Widely traded, these ware is characterized by its shiny glaze‐like surface that results from the special types of clay used.

Tzompantli: A Tzompantli or skull rack was a type of wooden rack or palisade documented in several Mesoamerican civilizations, which was used for the public display of human skulls, typically those of war captives or other sacrificial victims. It consisted of a scaffold-like construction of poles on which heads and skulls were placed after holes had been made in them. Many have been documented throughout Mesoamerica, and range from the Epiclassic (ca. 600–900 CE) through early Post-Classic (ca. 900–1250 CE) eras.

Yácatas: The distinct five rounded pyramids of Tzintzuntzan (“place of hummingbirds”), the ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian Tarascan state capital of the same name. These large constructions line up looking out over Lake Pátzcuaro, and rest over a large Grand Platform.


Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico, Art of the Oaxaca region-Monte Albán

Besides the Central Mexican plateau, another area that occupies an important place within the rich Mesoamerican archaeological complex is the Oaxaca region which from the last centuries before the present era (during the Upper Pre-Classic period) constituted a vigorous cultural center with marked Olmec influences.

It was in Monte Albán that during an uninterrupted historical development of near two thousand years in the last phases of the Pre-Classic period (1800 BC-200 AD) a series of decisive elements of the Mesoamerican history appeared, such as the creation of a “glyphic” writing system and the crystallization of some mythological concepts based on the oldest clearly identifiable deities whose cult evolved in the following centuries and whose origin goes back to the Olmec cult of the “werejaguar“.

Monte Albán was also one of the first ceremonial centers in Mesoamerica that featured long lasting constructions. The testimonies of the beginnings of this architecture were shaped by large stones with deeply engraved silhouettes of characters represented in a dynamic attitude (and that for this reason have been called “dancers”) and alongside them are some remains of what perhaps was the oldest writing system in the New World. In addition, the strange pointed-base building, still preserved in the center of the large square of Monte Albán, could be the oldest astronomical observatory known in Mesoamerica.

Top: View of the South Platform of Monte Albán. Bottom: The Main Plaza at Monte Albán. It measures ca. 300 by 200 mt. Around it are located the main civic-ceremonial and elite-residential structures. The Main Plaza is bounded north and south by large platforms accessible through monumental staircases. Similarly, by its eastern and western sides the plaza is limited by smaller platform mounds on which once stood temples and elite residences, as well as a ballcourt. The center of the plaza is occupied by a north-south axis of mounds which served as platforms for ceremonial structures.

This early cultural vocation of the inhabitants of Monte Albán will culminate, during the first millennium of our era, in what was the classic splendor of Zapotec art. In the early artistic stages of the Monte Albán culture we can see some influences of Olmec origin that were quickly assimilated and powerfully transformed during the splendor of the Zapotec art just as happened with Teotihuacan influences in the Maya art.

In the same way that the people from Teotihuacan built their great sacred city in the middle of a wide valley and in harmony with the surrounding landscape, the founders of Monte Albán chose for the same purpose the summit of a mountain chain that dominate several valleys. Subsequently, the Zapotecs periodically remodeled the enormous ceremonial center that crowns those mountains and covers an area of ​​almost forty square kilometers. And although only the central part of Monte Albán has been explored and partially restored, all the neighboring hills still have an impressive succession of retaining walls, squares and mounds in ruins.

Top: The “Sunken Patio” at Monte Albán. Bottom: The monumental stairs leading up to the South Platform.

Monte Albán houses one of the most important architectural complexes in all Mesoamerica in which stands out the Great Plaza (Great Square) that measures about four hundred meters long bordered to the East and West by various buildings and limited to the South and North by two immense artificial platforms which, like an “acropolis”, include other groups of buildings. Of these two platforms, the northern one is incomparably the most important with its large “sunken patio” and its gigantic portico* dominating the Great Plaza showing the remains of thick masonry columns ca. two meters in diameter. No less colossal is the stairway that communicates this portico with the square and that’s flanked by a frame of an enormous width.

Top: An example of a “tablero de escapulario”, (“scapular panel”) an architectural feature of Monte Albán buildings. Bottom: The Building J or “astronomical observatory” of Monte Albán in the Main Plaza as viewed from the South Platform.

The ingenious adaptation of the Teotihuacan “talud-tablero” to the Zapotec architectural needs generated the so-called “tableros de escapulario*” (“scapular” panels) that generate lines of shadow that underline the sober monumentality of the whole building. The architectural complex of Monte Albán presents a harmony and a unity that place it among the most amazing artistic realizations of the pre-Hispanic world. Due to its high location, the flexible balance of its masses, and the enormous scale of its conception, Monte Albán embodies one of the most important characteristics of Mesoamerican urbanization: the dominance over large open spaces combined with platforms, stairways and temple foundations.

Diverse examples of funerary clay urns from Monte Albán. Top: pottery Dog (Ethnological Museum, Berlin). Bottom left: a Seated God figure, ca. 250 – 600 AD. Bottom right: a funerary urn with a Deity, ca. 6th century, (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

At the same time that Monte Albán was the main ceremonial center of the Zapotecs, it also functioned as an important necropolis. The cult of the dead, extraordinarily rooted in ancient Mexico, acquired here a primordial place giving rise to an elaborate funerary architecture and the creation of innumerable clay urns. These represent the most characteristic aspect of Zapotec art, while integrating the richest range of mythological beings from animals such as jaguars and bats, relate to the gods of rain and corn, to complex deities, through “escort” effigies or tomb guardians.

Left: Funerary Urn with a seated figure wearing an elaborated headdress (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Right: Jade mask representing a werebat, 200 BC-100 AD (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City).

In the midst of this rich production of funerary urns, stood out by their unmistakable style the figures of deities with haughty faces, seated with crossed legs and wearing tall and complicated headdresses, amidst which a mask was usually attached. Their hands usually rest on their knees, while thick pectorals* hang on their chests. Beside the funerary urns, some objects were carved in fine stones, such as the beautiful mask of the god “werebat” made of several finely polished pieces of jade now housed at the National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico City.

After nearly fifteen centuries of uninterrupted cultural evolution, the Zapotec region suffered the invasion of the Mixtecas towards the tenth century AD at the end of the Classical period. Monte Albán, along with other Zapotec ceremonial centers, continued to subsist in part although with a strong Mixtec influence. This is how the buildings built in places such as Mitla, though framed within the lines of the Zapotec “tablero escapulario” mentioned before, show some exquisite variations around the theme of the “grecas escalonadas “, an indisputable feature of the Mixtec culture that will be discuss next.

Top: The “Danzantes” (dancers) carved on the stone in the monuments of Monte Albán are found everywhere in the site and represent naked men in contorted and twisted poses, some of them with their genitals mutilated. The initial idea that they depict dancers has been replaced to a more recent notion that they represent tortured, sacrificed war prisoners. Bottom left: Another “Danzante” figure from Monte Albán with glyphs. Bottom right: A stone stele in Monte Albán carved with Zapotec glyphic writing.

Pectoral: An ornamental breastplate or form of jewelry worn on the chest.

Portico: A structure consisting of a roof supported by columns at regular intervals, typically attached as a porch to a building.

Tablero de Escapulario: (from Spanish meaning “scapular panel”). “Scapular panel” is a term referring to the type of cornice used in the decoration of the panels of Monte Albán. It consists of a double molding that crowns, perpendicularly with respect to the surface of the earth, the slope of the platforms of the city (the city’s “slope-panels” or “talud-tableros“). This architectural feature will be repeated in constructions of other localities in the Valleys of Oaxaca, like Mitla, Yagul and Lambityeco.


For Further Reading

Liebhart, R.F. “Phrygian Tomb Architecture: Some Observations on the 50th Anniversary of the Excavations of Tumulus MM.” In The Archaeology of Phrygian Gordion, Royal City of Midas, edited by C.B. Rose and G. Darbyshire, pp. 128- 147. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2012.McGovern, P.E. “The Funerary Banquet of ‘King Midas.” Expedition 42.1 (2000) 21-29.

Simpson, E. The Gordion Wooden Objects. Vol. I, The Furniture from Tumulus MM. Leiden: Brill, 2010.


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