HoST Fall 2011

Week of 9/6–9/8

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Assignment 1

Enuma Elish


 Updated: 10/13/11 4:50 PM


Remember to REFRESH.



Notice in Fig. 4 (above on the right) the arrangement of the various levels and the serpent, the crescent moon, and what appear to be stars above the buildings.

Can you speculate on who and what is being shown in these levels using the Enuma elish as a guide?

Any of you having trouble opening the PDFs, here are a couple of ideas.  Try right-clicking them and downloading them to your hard drive.  Then open them with your Adobe Reader.  Or you might need to upgrade your Adobe Reader.  Here is a link.  AdobeReader.  Write me if you are having problems and I'll figure something out.


UPDATE: It seems that many of the PDF problems are related to browsers.  Chrome appears to be problematic.  So if you have a problem with a PDF, try another browser. That may solve it. 


For Tuesday:  (You have about 4 days to get this done, so start as soon as you can.)

The following readings are from and about the Enuma elish, the Babylonian creation story [the Babylonian "Genesis," if you will].  The Enuma elish (ÒWhen aboveÓ) was composed sometime bet. 1500 and 2000 BC. (Probably in 1st Babylonian Dynasty 1895-1595 BC and quite likely during Hammurabi 1792-1750 BC.)

IÕm giving you 2 short overviews by 2 different authors/editors/translators: Bulliet (et al.) and Jacobsen.  Each author has his own set of important ideas and each has his own way of referring to the characters. This makes things very confusing if you donÕt take notes.  For example, Nudimmut = Ea = Enki depending on the reading. I suggest you pay attention to footnotes and keep track of names and relationships as you read.  This will save you time in the long run.  The story is about gods, heroes, chaoses, primal forces and people and the relationships between them all. How do these differ from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic ÒGODÓ?  Might they be called something else rather than such a loaded term as "god?" 


1-Read pp. 167-183 and 190-191 in Jacobsen_Treasures_of_Darkness-Enuma_elish_excerpt-4.6MB.pdf.  I suggest you take notes on the cosmic layout as you read this. The indented parts are quotations from the Enuma elish and the rest is Jacobsen's interpretation and commentary, which is very useful for understanding of this story.  ca. 18pp


2-Read this very brief description of the celebration of Marduk from Bulliet, et al.: Bulliet_EnumaMarduk-629KB.pdf.  This is very, very sketchy, but interesting.  It describes the battle nicely, however it has little to say on the genealogy. 2pp


3-Homework- Write and Draw: Everybody has to do this "homework' assignment. Please illustrate an episode from the Enuma Elish.  First choose an episode using the readings provided above.  Then find your episode in the translation done by Alexander Heidel in this PDF - EnumaElishHeidelTrans100dpiExcerpt-3.7MB.pdf. [Some people are having trouble downloading this.  Here is another bigger version of the Heidel translation.  Maybe it will download better.??? EnumaElishHeidelTrans120dpiExcerpt-7.1MB.pdf]  The translation is contained on pages 18-60.  Notice if there are any differences between your sources. Use the Heidel translation to help you illustrate your section.  [Suggestion: Use the translation for some comic-book-style captions to your illustrations, or thought bubbles, or dialogue bubbles.  Also feel free to ad lib your own dialogues or descriptions.]  Make it clear where you are getting the quotes from in the Heidel translation by giving the page number, tablet number, and line number. Come up with a system to give this information and describe this system so that I can understand what and where you mean. You may do the illustrations any way you wish. They may be photographs or drawings or collages or ink blots.  They may be arranged like a comic book or one giant poster or they may be organized differently depending on how you want to do this. It is up to you.  The final product can be a PDF, a jpeg, a word.doc, a website or a physical thing on paper.  Whatever.  But they must have text helping the viewer/reader understand what is happening. Create an illustrated version that you could hand to your grandmother and she could figure it out.  You should write up an introductory paragraph to lead into your episode and intersperse commentary here and there describing what is going on. Then write up a final paragraph leading out of your episode with some pithy commentary. Feel free to update the story or make it historically accurate or set it in the future and make it into a science fiction story É or a western or a kung-fu scriptÉ Have fun with it.  ItÕs a weird story, so donÕt hesitate to be weird. You will notice that the various versions we read donÕt even agree on all details so you have some wiggle room for interpretation.


Here are the bullet points for this homework assignment:

          1. Choose a section of the story from the Jacobsen translation and/or the Bulliet reading[s].

          2. Find your chosen section in the Heidel translation linked above.

          3. Write a paragraph or two setting up your section of the story.  Explain anything weird that you might be doing so that the reader can follow your comic.

          4. Create a comic-book-like interpretation of the section you have chosen.

          5. Use the Heidel translation for captions, dialogue, or thought bubbles and cite the Heidel by giving page number, tablet number, and line number.  It could look like this: "Heidel, p45, tablet III, line 6."  Feel free to modify the Heidel translation to suit your purposes.  So if you are making this into a Kung-Fu version, you could give Marduk nunchuks made from lightning bolts or something like that and modify the Heidel quotations to fit this scenario.

          6. Write a closing paragraph that both closes your sequence and discusses what your scene might mean in the larger scheme of the creation of the universe.  For example, you might mention how salt water and fresh water mingle where the Mesopotamian rivers meet the sea and how this reflects the reality of the people writing this story... or you could mention how humans are created to be subservient to the gods and how this might reflect Mesopotamian society of this period.... There are no wrong interpretations.  You are trying to figure out what this proto-cosmological text is about.  It's really weird.  It's an early attempt at explaining why the world is the way it is.  Most of us still don't know why the world is the way it is.  So feel free to speculate heavily.


Remember, if it was boring to do it will be really boring for me to grade. I donÕt like being bored.  So give yourself enough time to do a good job on this.  Presentation is important.  Make this look nice.  If you send it to me as an email attachment, please try to keep it below 10 MB.


For Wednesday:  Read McClellan Dorn (the textbook) pp. 31-42 on early civilizations. 

If you still don't have this book, here is a PDF that contains these pages from an older edition. McClellan%26Dorn-31-55.pdf [2.8MB]


For Thursday:  Read McClellan Dorn (the textbook) pp. 46-54 on writing, reckoning, and time-keeping.  [If you use the PDF from above the pages are pp. 45-54.]


Citations for the assigned readings:


Bulliet, Richard W., Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, and David Northrup. The Earth and Its Peoples : A Global History. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.


Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis; the Story of the Creation. 2d ed. Chicago,: University of Chicago Press, 1963.


Jacobsen, Thorkild. The Treasures of Darkness : A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

I am putting up an essay assignment that you could choose to do in addition to the regular assignment (not instead of the regular assignment).  If you think you want to do it, just read the essay descriptions in the Class Policies– HoST– Fall – 2011 and email me if you have any questions.


Essay Options:  Because there is a rather big homework assignment for this week, I doubt anyone will choose to do an essay.  But if anyone really wants to do it, feel free. However, I'm not putting up any specific instructions for these.  Next week I'll give more explicit instructions for the essay options.  Talk to me or email me if you really want to do this essay and I can help you figure out what to do with it.  See the class policies page for instructions on length and format.


The "short essay" only needs to incorporate this week's readings.  If you wanted to, you could also incorporate earlier assignments, outside readings, or the following extra materials.


If you want to do a "long essay," here are some additional sources that can be used. If you are interested in any of this stuff, write up an essay that incorporates this with the general assignment. 


- Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis; the Story of the Creation. 2d ed. Chicago,: University of Chicago Press, 1963.  The following pages are from HeidelÕs commentary found in this PDF: Heidel_ChIII-OldTestamentParallels100med-5.2MB.pdf.  [All figures referred to in the text are at the end of this PDF. You probably already downloaded this PDF in section #5 of the readings.]

-pp. 114-130: The Creation of the Firmament to the Creation and Fall of Man. Structural similarities and theories of origin.

-pp. 139-140: Concluding Remarks. [We are all reading this in class, but it makes more sense if you read pp. 114-30 before it.]




-Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. "The Babylonian Man in the Moon." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 51 (1999): 91-99. Beaulieu_BabylonianManInTheMoon.pdf




-Jacobsen, Thorkild. "The Battle between Marduk and Tiamat." Journal of the American Oriental Society 88, no. 1 (1968): 104-108. Jacobsen_BattleMardukTiamat.pdf

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Stuff to look at and ponder...


Map copy



Optional cosmology of interest.

The Man in the Moon....


Above: This is a depiction of the moon from a Babylonian astrological/astronomical tablet.  A divine hero-king on the left, likely Marduk or a similar deity, is seen locked in combat with the forces of chaos, seen here as a lion-dragon, possibly Tiamat or basmu [Tablet I.141], one of TiamatÕs offspring. Notice how the lion-dragon-serpent is in the shape of a crescent moon. This may reflect the Babylonian poetic tradition that lunar eclipses were caused by celestial demons attacking the moon. 


Below: Weidner (a Mesopotamian scholar) has proposed that this image [VAT 7851] is a literal drawing of what people thought they could see in the moon.  I have superimposed the drawing onto a photograph of the moon and made the parts line up with his theory.  I canÕt say that I see what he thinks the ancient MesopotamianÕs saw.  The last (low resolution) image is probably a truer image of what they would have seen before telescopes.  [To be perfectly honest, I sort of see the scene in reverse as shown in the 4th image that follows.] 




I sort of see it if the drawing is inverted with MardukÕs

sword held high and and ready to strike.


Where is the top of the moon?

Does the moon ever perceptibly change?

Perhaps the image in the moon is found in light areas, not dark ones?

Am I being too literal?

What do you see in the clouds? 

Puppy dogs?  Flowers?  Demons?

Perhaps weÕll do some Freud later in the term and see what it all means.


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In the News....

–If you run across an interesting story, let me know–


This one is about DNA sequencing of the bubonic plague.

Wade-HuntingforMassKillerinMedievalGraveyards.pdf [386 MB]

Review Materials- 1-EnumaElish-Babel-Rosetta-ClassEnuma.pdf [11.6 MB]

This may be way more than you want.

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