Monday, October 5, 2015

New Fragment Reveals More about Humbaba

Photo © Osama S.M. Amin

A newly discovered tablet is part of the Gilgamesh Epic, translated by George Smith in 1872. It is a fragment of Tablet V. This fascinating find will reside in the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Iraq. 
The ancient texts of the Babylonian poem Enūma Eliš and the Epic of Gilgamesh reside in the British Museum. These were the discoveries of George Smith, a British bank-note engraver who in 1866 wrote to the Assyriologist Sir Henry Rawlinson seeking permission to look at the fragments and casts of Assyrian inscriptions in the British Museum. Rawlinson granted Smith access and Smith began to decipher the cuneiform texts. Rawlinson later hired him to help catalogue the museum’s cuneiform inscriptions, including those excavated by Austen Henry Layard at Kyunjik (ancient Nineveh) in the 1840s and 1850s. 

Smith describes his discovery in his book The Chaldean Account of Genesis:

“I soon found half of a curious tablet which had evidently contained originally six columns of text; two of these (the third and fourth) were still nearly perfect; two others (the second and fifth) were imperfect, about half remaining, while the remaining columns (the first and sixth) were entirely lost. On looking down the third column, my eye caught the statement that the ship rested on the mountains of Nizir, followed by the account of the sending forth of the dove, and its finding no resting-place and returning. I saw at once that I had here discovered a portion at least of the Chaldean account of the Deluge.”

Smith found that the Deluge tablet was the 11th tablet in a 12-tablet epic poem. On December 3, 1872, he presented his findings to the newly founded British Society of Biblical Archaeology and speculated that more of these tablet fragments would be found. Smith himself found a new fragment of the Chaldean Flood account when he began excavating at the palace of Assurbanipal at Kouyunjik.

Now this newly found fragment and tells more of the story.

The forest over which Hambaba ruled was full of cedars, cicadas, monkeys and exotic birds. Hambaba, also called HuWawa, is described as a foreign ruler. HuWawa is a Nilotic name and suggests that this ruler is of Nilotic origin, like Nimrod, the son of Kush. Hu refers to the authority or power of the ruler's word and wawa refers to the place of many waters. HuWawa is an honorific title similar to Nim-Rud/Rwd or Nim-Lot.

In 1876, George Smith wrote that, "Nearly thirteen hundred years before the Christian era, one of the Egyptian poems likens a hero to the Assyrian chief, Kazartu, a great hunter...and it has already been suggested that the reference here is to the fame of Nimrod. A little later in the period BC 1100 to 800, we have in Egypt many persons named after Nimrod, showing a knowledge of the mighty hunter there." (The Chaldean Account of Genesis, p. 313) Smith concluded that the Egyptians learned of Nimrod from the ancient Babylonians. However, the textual evidence today suggests that the Babylonian account speaks of a ruler whose ethnicity was Nilotic.

In the Gilgamesh epic Humbaba is killed along with the Bull of Heaven. The killing of these companions has substantial pictorial representation on a variety of objects from the third through the mid-first millennia B.C. Though some Babylonian accounts speak of Humbaba as "evil," his celestial companion has a Messianic character.

Ra's bull in the sky is symbolized by the Sun. In the Ancient Pyramid Texts (2400-2000 BC) the King addresses the celestial bull saying, "Hail to you, Bull of Re who has four horns, a horn of yours in the west, a horn of yours in the east, a horn of yours in the south, and a horn of yours in the north! Bend down this western horn of yours for me that I may pass."

The Horus name of Thutmose III was "Horus Mighty Bull, Arising in Thebes."


DManA said...

I look at the landscapes around these ancient middle eastern tells and I wonder, how in the world did they survive in this blasted wasteland. Maybe it wasn't a wasteland back then?

So I'm wondering, in this story of Gilgamesh clear cutting a beautiful forest, is there some hint of regret for what they had done, were doing to their environment?

Environmentalism is a theme on Genesis. God put man in the garden not to have a holiday but to tend it. Conserve it, not burn it down.

Alice C. Linsley said...

You are assuming that the present aridity of that region is the result of human actions. See Genesis and Climate Change.