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Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Revolt Of The Parking Lots: Sumeria

Gilgamesh statue at Sydney University (Samantha/Flickr/Creative Commons)


Iraqi Museum Discovers Missing Lines From the Epic of Gilgamesh
One of the world's first great stories just got a new chapter
By Marissa Fessenden     October 7, 2015

It's not unusual for fantasy epics to endure for years. (Right, Game of Thrones fans?) But even George R.R. Martin would be shocked to learn about the century-and-a-half wait for a new chapter of the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world's oldest written stories. The Sulaymaniyah Museum in Iraq has discovered 20 new lines to the ancient Babylonian poem, writes Ted Mills for Open Culture.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates back to 18th century B.C., was pieced together from fragments that tell the story of a Sumerian king who travels with a wild companion named Enkidu. As Mills explains, scholars were well aware that new fragments of the poem could possibly turn up — modern readers are most familiar with a version discovered in Nineveh in 1853 — and during the war in Iraq, as looters pillaged ancient sites, they finally did. The Sulaymaniah Museum acquired the tablet in 2011, as part of a collection purchased from a smuggler, according to Osama S.M. Amin at Ancient History Et Cetera:


The previously available text made it clear that [Gilgamesh] and Enkidu knew, even before they killed Humbaba, that what they were doing would anger the cosmic forces that governed the world, chiefly the god Enlil. Their reaction after the event is now tinged with a hint of guilty conscience, when Enkidu remarks ruefully that … "we have reduced the forest [to] a wasteland."


At this point, I self-effacingly note that I, too, have studied Ancient Sumerian, and many a wedgie (cuneiform) did I read.  The word used for "wasteland" in the last paragraph cited is also used for "parking lot" !    (And sometimes for "used car lot", but that is a rare variant.)

It makes one wonder if Joni Mitchell also read Sumerian at University.

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