Thursday, 28 April 2022

Cow and calf ivory

Decorative carved ivory with a cow suckling her calf and licking its tail among (very stylised) papyrus flowers. Neo-Assyrian, 9th-7th c. BC. Found in Nimrud, Iraq. Currently in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad...

Take a good look at the scene depicted on this ivory...

Pic by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin


Now have a look at this: Another decorative carved ivory with a cow suckling her calf and licking its tail among (much less stylised) papyrus flowers.  No idea where it was found. Currently in the Ashmolean museum, Oxford and apparently "it was probably carved in Syria, 850–700BC"

Pic: Ashmolean museum

It must have been a very popular theme at the time...Cause while wondering through Mesopotamian section in the Louvre museum last weekend, I came across three Neo Assyrian ivory plaques, all found in Arslan Tash, all dated 800-700BC and all depicting the same scene: A cow suckling her calf...

Pic: Louvre museum

Pic: Louvre museum

Pic: Louvre museum

Why? Well, one possible explanation could be this: These objects are not (only) decorative...

Well they wouldn't have been if they were made in Ancient Egypt...There, papyrus flowers were sacred plants of the Egyptian mother goddess Hathor...Sacred mother goddess Hathor...Celestial Cow goddess Hathor...Who is often depicted emerging from the flowering papyrus thickets...

To understand why papyrus was sacred to Hathor, we need to look at the association of Hathor with Mehet-Weret, another "Celestial Cow goddess" whose name means "Great Flood" and who was thought to bring the inundation of the Nile River which fertilised the land...

Mehet-Weret, had no independent cult of her own. It is presumed that Hathor absorbed most of her attributes as early as the Old Kingdom, as many references of the two as identical are found in Pyramid and Coffin Texts...

Now Mehet-Weret is goddess who causes the annual Nile River flood. The flooding of the Nile is the result of the yearly monsoon Mar/Apr and Jul/Aug causing enormous precipitations on the Ethiopian Highlands...

This rain causes the nile water flow rate and water level to start rising from May/Jun

And interestingly, the period (Apr/May), right before the Nile water level begins to rise, is marked by a bull animal calendar marker...And has been in Eurasia and North Africa since Neolithic...Animal calendar marker which we today know as Taurus zodiac sign...

But which has nothing to do with stars...This animal calendar marker marks the start of the Eurasian wild cattle calving season. So originally it was a wild cow and calf marker...I talked about this in my post "Ram and bull"...

So Hathor, Mehet-Weret (The Great Flood), arrives during the time when wild cows start giving birth to their calves and start producing milk...Interestingly, Hathor was said to be a "wild cow whose udders were spilling milk on the earth"...

Oh yeah, Taurus is also the beginning of summer, the season marked with the bull throughout Eurasia and North Africa since Neolithic too...In Egypt that is the season during which the Nile water levels rise until the river floods Jul/Aug...I talked about this in my post "Symbols of the seasons"...

Oh and: Hathor arrives carrying sun between her horns...Translation: The half of the year dominated by the sun, starts when the wild cows start calving...In Taurus...

So if the above two ivories were carved by Ancient Egyptian artists, that would explain why the cow and the calf scene wouldn't have been "only decorative"...I think...But what about papyrus?

As I said, papyrus plant was sacred to Hathor. 

The main annual ritual associated with Hathor was the so called "Ritual of Plucking Papyrus for Hathor" which appears to have been an invocation, offering and pacification ritual...

This is the depiction of the ritual. Goddess Hathot emerges from the papyrus thicket on a sacred boat and is greeted by the woman who offers her papyrus flowers...

Apparently: "the ritual has extremely early origins and may have become a ritualised form of the simple act of picking papyrus flowers as votive offerings for the goddess Hathor"...Why papyrus and not some other plant?

Apparently: "papyrus symbolised life, joy and renewal"...Why papyrus and not some other plant?

The answer can be found in this paper: "Ecology and biomass production of Cyperus papyrus L. on the Nile bank at Damietta, Egypt" by Mamdouh S. Serag...

In this article you can find this chart...It seems that if you wanted to go plucking papyrus flowers, the best time to do it was during Taurus (April-May), right at the time of the arrival of the the great flood, Mehet-Weret, Hathor...Calving wild cow...

All of this happens right at the time when the Nile water level start to rise...So flowering of the papyrus plants announces the arrival of Hathor, Mehet-Weret, Great Flood...

I talked about this in my post "Holy cow"...

No wonder papyrus flower symbolised life, joy and renewal. No wonder papyrus flowers were sacred to Hathor and were plucked and offered to her as a sacrifice...No wonder papyrus flowers were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians...

Soooo....The two original carved ivories are calendar markers for Apr/May - when wild cows calve and papyrus plant flowers and Nile water level starts to rise...As I said, a pretty important part of the year in Ancient Egypt...Even more important thing in Ancient Mesopotamia...

As the sun's elevation rises, the earth starts to warm...Which cause the snowmelt to start in the mountains North-East from Mesopotamia...


Which causes the snowmelt runoff to increase and peak in Apr/May (Taurus 🙂)

And it is this snowmelt that is the main contributor to the water flow of Tigris and Euphrates...Which also peaks in Apr/May (Taurus)...

In Mesopotamia the flood was thought to be caused by the god of fresh water and flood Enki who: "stood up full of lust like a rampant bull, lifted his penis, ejaculated and filled the Tigris with flowing water. He was like a wild cow mooing for its young in the wild grass..."

At the same time "Enki placed in charge of the whole of heaven and earth the hero, the youth Utu (Shamash), the bull standing triumphantly, audaciously, majestically...the great herald in the east of holy An...with a lapis-lazuli beard, rising from the horizon..."

Pic: Penn museum

I talked about the link between bull and flood in my posts "When Utu steps up into heaven", "Butt chewing", "Green Pastures", "Shamash young and old"...

So the above two carved ivories made a lot of sense to Mesopotamians and probably weren't "only decorative" to them either...

Apparently no one knew why Enky was "like a wild cow mooing for its young", or why Hathor was "a wild cow", or why papyrus was so sacred to her, or why these carved ivories depict cow and calf among papyrus flowers...Until I started researching animal calendar markers...Weird...

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Papyrus harvest time

This is a drawing of an Ancient Egyptian papyrus boat. 

And a papyrus plant. 

The papyrus plant grows wild in Egypt in the marshes along the Nile river. The harvested papyrus plants are tied into bundles and these bundles are then tied together to make boats...

According to "Papyrus making 101" page about making of the papyrus, "in ancient times, the entire plant was pulled from the root at harvest time. It is unknown at what time of year the ancient Egyptians harvested papyrus, or whether mature papyrus was preferred over young papyrus"...

Here is a great depiction of the papyrus harvesting, currently kept in the Met museum which dates to 1479–1458BC. You can see that the papyrus plant is pulled out from the root all right. What we can also see is that the papyrus plant is in full bloom...

This is kind of important for determining when the papyrus harvest took place. According to the stats collected in the "Ecology and biomass production of Cyperus papyrus L. on the Nile bank at Damietta, Egypt" by Mamdouh S. Serag, papyrus flowering season peaks in Apr/May and is pretty much finished by Jul/Aug...I talked about this in my post "Holy cow"...

So if papyrus was picked during the flowering season, it was picked between Apr/May and Jul/Aug...But I think we can further narrow down the period when the papyrus harvest took place. This is the east wall relief from the tomb of Ptahhotep...

You can find photos of all the reliefs in the  "The mastaba of Ptahhetep and Akhethetep at Saqqareh" published in 1900, but these photos are not very clear... 

So I will here use the drawings from this page on the https://www.osirisnet.net website which are a bit clearer.

The first register depicts a herd crossing water. The continuation of the representation is dedicated to the gathering of blooming papyrus, its processing and its transportation in bundles. Bundles used for the construction of (small) boats, an activity represented in the fifth register.

The important thing here is that the cattle swim in river covered in blooming blue water lilies (blue lotuses)...And on Nile river, blue water lilies bloom in Jul/Aug/Sep...

The people are harvesting papyrus during the time when both papyrus and water lilies are in bloom. If papyrus blooms Apr/May/Jun/Jul/Aug and water lilies bloom Jul/Aug/Sep, the the time when both of these plants are blooming is Jul/Aug. The peak of the flood...

Is this when papyrus was harvested by the ancient Egyptians? 

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Monday, 25 April 2022

Кривий танець


Girls dancing "Кривий танець"  (Wavy, Curvy dance), a ritual dance which was in the past performed at the beginning and the end of the Easter celebrations in the Kyiv region of Ukraine...

Anatoly Bogorod, from the Museum of Ivan Gonchar says that "According to most researchers..."Wavy, Curvy Dance", due to the imitation of wave-like movement, was intended to magically influence the filling of rivers and streams with the water released by the spring snowmelt...

The dancing choir was formed from the young girls who already had their first period, young maidens. This links the young girls period with the young (spring) earth period, snowmelt...

Another Pre Christian spring custom, which was added to the Easter celebrations. 

Interesting thing here is the wavy line symbolising flowing water...

Like on this, the end of the 3rd, beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, Bactrian, perfume or cosmetic bottle, depicting winged goddess among flowering tulips. Bactrian, the end of the 3rd, beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, Louvre Museum...

I talked about this object in my post "Tulip goddess"...

Or on these Neolithic pottery shards found in Iran, depicting leopard, animal which mates when the snowmelt starts...



I talked about this in my post "Spots and stripes"...

Or on this Sumerian seal depicting Enki in his flood boat...

I talked about this in my post "Rain and flood"...

Jack and the magic beans

In this article I will propose that some of our myths about sky gods are in fact very very old scientific theories which tried to explain the available observed phenomena in the best possible way with the knowledge of the universe people possessed at that time...

Actually I would even argue that we would most likely explain the same observed phenomena today in the same way, if we weren't taught all that "science stuff" at school that some "smart scientists" figured out already, so we don't have to...

So I will start with telling you where the super cool image from the first tweet is from. It's from Prohodna cave in Bulgaria, which was possibly used as an early sky god temple. I talked about this in my post "The eyes of the sky god"...

This is a bit of a knotted story, and I have been struggling which thread to pick first. So I will start with a fairytale: Jack and the magic beans

Jack, not the brightest  boy in the world, sells his family's only cow for handful of "magic beans"...

Everyone thinks this is the most stupid thing done by the most stupid kid, but the beans turn out to be really magic, and grow into enormous plant that reaches all the way to the "land in the sky"...


The land in the sky is where a "giant" lives. And the giant has pile of treasure. Jack, who suddenly gets super smart and cunning, of course steals the treasure from the "stupid" giant...

When "giant" realises what's going on, he chases Jack, follows him down the magic bean, which Jack cuts and "giant" plunges to his death. The End...

What does this have to do with sky gods? It's just a silly story...Well, first this is not the only version of this story...There are many more from many different cultures and you can read about them here:  "The Composition of 'Jack and the Beanstalk'"...

Interestingly, in some versions it is St Peter, the gatekeeper of Heaven that the hero meets up in the land in the sky, and not a giant...This is very interesting as Heaven was originally imagined as the land in the sky...

Well actually: God made "firmament" and called the "firmament" Heaven...What's a firmament? Well It's a stone dome, covering the flat earth, separating our sky from the rest of...Well the rest...At least Hebrews believed that it was so...

But Hebrews didn't of course invent this themselves. They copied it, like most of their religion, from Mesopotamians...The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky (heaven) as a series of stone domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering the flat Earth.

And of course we know who lives in Heaven...God...You know the guy who, according to the story of the prophet Elijah, lights fire on the altar (presumably by lightning) on which an ox was laid as a sacrifice...And then gives rain which ends famine... 

Canaanite Baal, but this time in Hebrew...By the way, the same God in Heaven, is the guy who throws "fire and brimstone" on your head when he gets pissed off...

Interesting...I love this definition of "brimstone": "an archaic term synonymous with sulfur, evokes the acrid odor of sulfur dioxide given off by lightning strikes"...Cause lightning is the only weapon of sky gods, everyone knows that...

So The God is a Thunder God then, and fire and brimstone is just an euphemism for lightning...

I don't think so...

Why?

Cause that would not explain why people thought a solid land in the sky populated by murderous giants (sorry sky gods, you know they were imagined as giants, right?) was something "logical" and "self explanatory"...

And they definitely did think that... And they were definitely shitless of the "wrath of (sky) god"...I mean don't get me wrong, thunder and lightning can be terrifying...

And in agricultural societies, the guy who controls sunshine and rain has absolute power over people's lives...I talked about it in my posts "The power of the thunder giant" and "Lords of divination"...

But as I said that does not explain why people were terrified of giants living in the stone land above our sky...

And why thunder gods wielded (most likely stone head axes) as their weapon, which is why people worshiped prehistoric stone axes as "thunder stones"...I talked about this in my post "Kataibates"... 

But this can help explain all this: people believed that thunderbolts were made of stone...You can read more about it in "The changing meaning of 'thunderbolt'"...

A 15th-century engraving depicts the town of Ensisheim in present-day France being struck by a thunderbolt...

Ha! That looks an awful lot like a meteorite, right? And guess what meteorites smell like? Apparently , sulphur...You know, the brimstone...You can read more about this here and here...

And when they start falling from the sky, they look like this...You know, fire and brimstone...Now that is something to be terrified of...I mean seriously shitless...

I mean giant stones are falling from the sky...Someone must be throwing them down...It has to be a giant...And in order for him to have enough stones to throw on our heads, he must be living on a stone land above the sky. Which has to be a dome, as the earth is obviously flat...

If you were observing rocks falling from the sky, which caused destruction and fire and which smelled like brimstone, how would you explain all that?

I think that the above is the logically tightest explanation based on our ancestor's knowledge of the universe...Anything else would be just a fantasy 🙂

One last thing. Apart from (stone) axes, sky gods loved clubs. Like this one which Baal raises above his head...

By the way, these were stone topped clubs...Like these ones:

Egypt, Pre Dynastic, 3200 - 3000 BC

Mesopotamia, Sumerian, Dynasty of Lagash c. 2400–2300 BC

Like above mentioned Baal for instance...He is holding a mace (club) above his head...Why?

Well stone head maces were modelled after club originally wielded by this guy: Orion. The greatest hunter, the father of the gods...I talked about this in my post "Grandmother's cudgels"...

And the clubs he was armed with looked like this...And they smelled of brimstone as they smashed the sinners to smithereens, and set the their houses on fire...Cause Orion's club is the source of the Orionides meteorite shower...

The Mighty Smighter, the Giant living in the stone sky, armed with a stone club (or a stone mace or a stone axe depending on your preference) and on whom all the later Terrifying Sky Gods were modeled on...

Eventually, stones stopped falling from the sky (as frequently as they once used to fall). When sky gods got pissed off they "shot thunderbolts at you" which people for some weird reason believed were made of stone...

Oh and Proto Indo Europan root for god (deywós) is derived from the root for sky (Dyēus)...

And interestingly the Serbian word "Div" derived from this root for god means giant...