Sunday, 31 October 2021

Mysterious Creature

Akkadian Cylinder Seal with a Mysterious Creature, Mesopotamia, 2300-2200 BC. Description: A carved white marble seal with two ibexes flanking a stylised tree and a bird-man figure...

What's all this about?

Well first, these are not ibexes. These are Goitered gazelles...See the horns? 

Gazelle. 


Ibex...


They are flanking a tree, which is usually indication that this is a depiction of the tree of life...

In Mesopotamia, the climatic year is divided into hot/dry half and cool/wet half...

It is this rain that supports (the tree of) life in Mesopotamia...And the arrival of the life giving rain, is announced by the beginning of the mating season of Ibex goats, which starts in Oct/Nov...

I talked about this in my post "Green pastures" about this votive plaque from Tell Asmar, Iraq...


Which is why Ibex goat is the most depicted animal in Mesopotamia and Iran...I talked about this in my posts 

"A vessel from Tepe Hissar" about the "Goat of rain"


"Goat petroglyphs from Iran" about the development of the "God of rain" from "Goat of rain"


 "Goat carrier" about sacrificing goats to gods...

But gazelles have the the same mating season as ibex goats. Which is why they are here used to represent the same idea as ibex goats: It is this rain that supports (the tree of) life in Mesopotamia...And the arrival of the life giving rain, is announced by the beginning of the mating season of Goitered gazelles, which starts in Oct/Nov...


This is why gazelles and ibexes are sometimes even used together to emphasise that they have the same meaning as animal calendar markers. Like this seal that I talk about in my post "Pissing gazelle"

 

It is that rain that turns desert into green pastures...Which is why gazelles are found on the base of the statue of the god Abu, also known as the "father of the pasture". I talked about this in my post "Abu"...

Interestingly, this guy could be just another incarnation of Ninurta, the god of rain, who was originally imagined as a huge storm bird, then as a bird man and then as god with a pet (monster) bird...I talked about this in my post "The judgement of the Birdman", about this amazing Babylonian seal...

The reason for this is that the rain season in Mesopotamia coincides with the mating season of vultures who at that time perform their synhronised flying routines...

So, gazelles, tree of life and a bird man with outstretched wings...The rains are coming...Rejoice...

The judgement of the birdman

This is a very interesting seal from the Babylonian period (I presume first half of the 2nd millennium BC), currently in the Penn museum

The birdman, who has head, arms, chest of a man and the body, legs, feet, wings and tail of a bird, is led by a divine officer, with clasped hands, wearing a long skirt. From behind, he is pushed by the second divine officer, who carries a club, and short skirt...


At the end of the procession, a human worshiper, with bare head, short hair, long beard and plaited skirt brings a kid (baby goat) as an offering...

He is probably a king. I explained why in my post "Goat carrier"...

The birdman is brought before the seated Enki/Ea, who is surrounded by streams, with fish swimming along the stream towards him...He is holding a round vase in his left hand....Above him is a crescent moon pointing upward and stars...

It is one of several seals kept in the Pen Museum which show "the judgment of the birdman". Here is another one...

Very cool...What does this mean? 

To figure this out, we need to look at another, much older and much cooler seal. This one, apparently from Nipur, and dated to before 3000BC depicts "the judgment of the bird, not the birdman"... From "SOME SEALS OF THE BABYLONIAN COLLECTIONS"...


The eagle is captured by two divine attendants and probably brought in judgment before Enki/Ea. The bird – this time not a birdman – is fighting with claws and wings to free himself...

One attendant has caught him by the leg and kneels down as if to avoid his wings and beak. The other stands up and grasps one flapping wing while striking him with a short club...

A third officer leads in front with a club on his shoulder. All have the horned mitre, the symbol of divine officers, their hair tied in a loop behind, and flounced skirt leaving bare the upper body...

Soooo??? Remember my article "Pero" about ferns, feathers, lightning, feather/fern like lightning scars and thunder gods? 

In it, I talked about Ninurta/Ningirsu, Sumerian thunder god, who was in the earliest times imagined as a huge black bird, with outstretched wings...An eagle (vulture)...The Thunderbird....

"...and when Gudea sees the god Ninurta/Ningirsu in a dream the god still has the wings of his old form, the Thunderbird..."

And I then talked about the evolution of the eagle (thunderbird), into the eagle man (birdman), and then further into a thunder god (who can transform into an eagle, can ride on an eagle or has eagle as his sacred animal, avatar)...

Could the birdman on the Babylonian seals be Ninurta/Ningirsu in his old birdman form? And could this bird on the Nipur seal be also Ninurta/Ningirsu in his oldest, thunderbird form?

But why would Ninurta/Ningirsu be arrested and brought before Enki/Ea to be judged? Well, remember my article about "Ninurta and the turtle"?

There is a "weird" Sumerian text called "Ninurta and the turtle". In it, the Rain god Ninurta contemplates to overthrow the Flood god Enki. Enki gets the wind of it, and then unleashes a deadly turtle, which digs a huge hole and drags Ninurta into it...

This apparently nonsensical story makes a lot of sense, when you look at Ninurta, Enki and the turtle as calendar markers. 

The climatic year in Mesopotamia is divided into two halves: summer, hot and dry half (Apr/May-Oct/Nov) and winter, cool and wet half (Oct/Nov-Apr/May)...

The winter starts in Oct/Nov, with the rain, brought by the rain god Ninurta...And right at that time vultures start their mating season...Huge eagles with outstretched wings gliding below the gathering clouds performing their mating ritual flights...

And it ends in Apr/May...With the flood, brought by the flood god Enki...And right at the end of the rains season, at the peak of the flood, the Mesopotamian softshell turtles start digging huge holes in river and canal banks to lay their eggs...

The rain season starts with the beginning of the vulture mating season and ends with the beginning of the flood and the turtle mating season...Turtle drags eagle into the hole in the ground...Rain season ends. Flood starts...Enki overpowers Ninurta...

This is what "Ninurta and the turtle" story symbolically depicts. So "imprisoning" of the the bird and the birdman, and bringing them to be judged by Enki/Ea, is another symbolic depiction of Enki/Ea overpowering Ninurta/Ningirsu...

One last thing. The moon...

The moon pointing up is another sign that we are talking about winter, the rain season...

I talked more about this in my post "Seven stars of scorpio" where I analysed this amazing Mesopotamian seal


The moon points up between Ninurta (beginning of rain season) and Enki (end of the rain season). 

Which is why moon (god) is so important...

So... My hunch (from "Pero" ) that the names of all these "Per" thunder gods: Slavic Perun, Baltic Perkūnas/Pērkons, Finnish Perkele, Albanian Perëndi, Indian Parjanya, Thracian Περκων/Περκος, are derived from PIE "*perH-" meaning feather, wing, to fly, just got more support...

Amazing really...

Goat carrier

One of several gold and silver statuettes of a worshipper (probably a king) carrying a sacrificial goat. Susa, Iran, c. 1500–1200 BC (Middle Elamite period)...The statuette is really cool, but this next thing is even cooler:


"...in order to make the neglected rites appear magnificently, in order to restore Nippur, as the lead GOAT of the nation"...From "Old Babylonian Period (2003-1595 BC)"

This is an excerpt from an inscription of Ur-Ninurta (1859 – 1832 BC) found in Nippur, which commemorates setting up of a bronze image of the king holding a votive goat...

Apparently, in Sumerian language, goat was used as a metaphor for a leader. And no one really knows why, cause the explanation found in "Concepts and Metaphors in Sumerian" is that "This is related to the fact that the Sumerian society was highly dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry" 🙂

Which of course is a complete rubbish...Why not sheep? Sheep were a lot more important in Mesopotamian agriculture...Or cows? Equally significantly more important to the early Mesopotamians than goats....

So why then goat=first, most important?

The leader is the first, the most important person. So goat must have been seen as equally first and most important animal...Was it? Well of course it was...Before there was god, there was goat...

In Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Iran, Central Asai, the Ibex mating season, marked by vicious buck fights, starts in Oct/Nov. 

Which coincides with the start of the rain season...Elam (Susa) climate charts:

Precipitation

Temperature

Which is why during the Neolithic, and Bronze Age, ibex was the most depicted animal in these lands. Ibex, The Goat of Rain, whose mating brings rain...I talked about this in my post "Goat petroglyphs from Iran"

Ibex goat was directly linked with rebirth of nature...With the transformation of the dead yellow desert into lush green pasture...Kind of a very very very bid deal in Mesopotamia...I talked about this in my post "Iranian goat of rain"

By the way Markhor goats, which have the same mating season, were equally venerated. 

I talked about this in my post "Goat in a tree"

The Goat of Rain was the first God...The most important god before irrigation was invented...Then The Goat of Rain, became a Goat Dude, a dude with goat horns...I talked about this in my post "Strider"...


Then a dude whose sacred and sacrificial animal was goat...I talked about this in my post "Goat petroglyphs from Iran



And then finally a god to whom you sacrifice a goat...Gods' favourite...So no wonder the word "goat" also meant "the first" and "the most important"...

And considering the sacred status of goats, what was the actual meaning of the statues and plaques, depicting kings carrying goats (baby goats, kids)? This one is from Tello and is kept in Louvre...


In the article "A Shulgi Statuette from Tello" the author proposes that this is because goats were used by kings for extispicy, a practice of using anomalies in animal entrails to predict the future...

But sheep were used in these rituals as much as goats...I talked about this in my post "Humbaba"...

And I can't really see how that would make the "goat carrier" into "standard royal representation type"...How that would make kings write inscriptions like this: "The year in which Ammisaduqa, the king, had made the image of him carrying a kid against his chest"...

But if goat was god, the first, the most important god...

Eagle dance

Leroy Golf was an American who worked in the oil industry in the Middle East in the 1930s and 1940s where he acquired a number of very interesting seals...

Leroy returned home around 1950 and died shortly thereafter. He had no family and only one close friend, a Mr. Henderson in Kansas who inherited his collection...

Mr. Henderson died in 1974, when the collection was wrapped up and placed in a carpenter’s wooden chest in the attic. Mrs. Henderson died in 2001 and the Leroy's collection, along with the contents of the house, was then sold to a local second hand dealer...

The items were sold by her on eBay or to other dealers in 2002 and 2003...

I wonder if the local second hand dealer knew what she was selling...

Today I would like to talk about one of these very interesting seals. This one found in North Mesopotamia-Syria, and date do about 1800–1500 BC.


Why is this seal interesting? Cause all the symbols depicted on it point at the same time of the year: winter. Suggesting that this is a complex calendar marker...

The seal depicts two birds with outstretched wings facing each other. The birds are depicted over what looks like a mountain. A crescent moon is depicted above one of the birds...Why?

I would suggest that the birds depicted on the seal are eagles, more specifically vultures. Just like this one depicted on this older sea, also found in Syria, and was dated to about 3000-2000 BC. and also from Leroy Golf collection.

The way they are depicted, facing each other, looks almost like they are fighting...Or dancing, jumping, with outstretched wings...

There is a dance from the Dinaric mountains of the Balkans called Oro. It is danced usually during wedding ceremonies, by a man and a woman facing each other, jumping with outstretched arms...


You can see the eagle dance performance by a folk ensemble here


The locals says that the name of the dance comes from the local word for an eagle "oro" and that the dancers are imitating the mating dance of eagles. More precisely vultures...

I talked about this dance in my post "Shield of Achilles"...

 

Why was I talking about this dance in a post about the Shield of Achilles? Cause this dance is identical to the description of the dance from Iliad...Check the above blog post...

Anyway, what the dancers of this Balkan mountain dance are trying to imitate is this: courtship aerial display performed by vultures at the beginning of their mating season...

I talked about this in my post "Double headed eagle". Cause the vultures performing this aerial dance look like this from the ground...

The beginning of the Vultures mating season coincides with the beginning of the cool wet season (Nov-Apr), Mesopotamian winter, and spans this season. This is the only time when rain and snow fall in this part of the world...

This is why the rain god was originally imagined as huge black eagle, then as an eagle man, then as a man with a pet eagle...

I talked about this in my posts "Pero", "Abu", "Eagle dude from Aleppo", "Pillar 43", "Giant eagle dude with mouflons", "Strider"...

Vultures nest in the mountains north east of Mesopotamia and Syria. And it is the the rain and snow that fall on these mountains, when vultures dance in the air above them, during the cool wet half of the year, that feed the two great rivers, Tigris and Euphrates...

These mountains are Abzu, the source of sweet water from Sumerian mythology...I talked about this in my post "Shamash young and old". 

In it I analysed this seal showing young (spring) sun god Shamash/Utu, climbing the mountains of Abzu towards Enki (sweet water) who is imprisoned (the ice and snow on the mountain tops) to free him (melt the ice and snow)...Over 70% of all the water flowing down Tigris and Euphrates comes from annual snowmelt... 

These mountains are also E-Kur, the mountains of the gods, the original heaven on earth...From where gods brought grain, agriculture and culture in general to Mesopotamia. I talked about this in my post "How grain came to Sumer"...

So the interpretation that the mountain depicted under the two birds is "the sacred double mountain of Mashu, the sacred mountains that Gilgamish had to pass before he could reach the land of the gods" is not off the mark at all...

I explained why we should look for this sacred "Cedar Mountain" North East of Mesopotamia in my post "Humbaba"


So we have two eagles dancing above the mountains...Which means winter...Now do you see the crescent moon depicted above one of the two dancing eagles? It is pointing upwards. Which only happens during winter...

This is another common symbol for winter...I talked about winter moon in several of my posts. 

Like "Lions vs buffalos" about this Akkadian seal


Or like "Seven stars of scorpio" about this Mesopotamian seal 


Now do you see this "star" above the ploughing scene? Next to the moon? That's Sirius, which appears in the night sky with the moon at the beginning of winter. At the time when grain fields are ploughed and grain is sown in Mesopotamia...

After the first rains brought by the eagles dancing over the holy mountains...

That's as far as I can go today. Finally, we are left with 3 dots...I have no idea what they mean...I will have to leave that symbol, which I have seen on other seals too, for some other time. I think this is quite enough for today...