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Another Early Dynastic Incantation

Niek Veldhuis < >
University of California, Berkeley

ED IIIa, Fara, Abu Salabikh, magic, medicine

§1. Among the tablets recently made available in photograph in CDLI is a perfectly preserved ED tablet, now kept in the Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, Belgium (O.1920), that contains two incantations. The photograph does not allow a secure identification of every individual sign, but due to some measure of redundancy and the rules of the genre almost every line may be read with some degree of confidence. The present note is meant to draw attention to this tablet, which adds another exemplar to a rather rare genre in early Sumerian literature (see Krebernik 1984; 1996; and Cunningham 1997, chapter 2). A fuller study of the text will require collation of the original.

§2 Date and provenance of the tablet must be determined on internal grounds. The sign IM (or tum9) is written with the two final verticals (NI2). While NI2 and IM are two separate signs in Fara, this distinction was already largely abandoned in Abu Salabikh (Krebernik 1998, 277). On the other hand, Utu is written without determinative, which points to an early dating (see Krebernik 1998, 284). In general, the sign order appears to follow the reading order of the signs. Based on these grounds, one may perhaps date the text to the ED IIIa period, probably a little later than the Fara corpus. To my knowledge, there is no internal evidence to suggest a provenience. The gods named are all widely known and revered; some of the motifs used in the incantation are known from Fara, but the Fara/Ebla duplicates demonstrate that such motifs could have a wide distribution.

§3 MRAH O.1920
i1.en2-e2-nu-ru IM mu-ziIn heaven a wind arose, sahar mu-zion earth dust swirled;
4.imu5 mu-zisouth wind rose,
5.immir mu-zinorth wind rose;
ii1.dal-ha-munand dust storm; lu2the body of a man
4.utu lu2 he2-DUMay Utu come to? the man.
5.dnanna lu2 he2-DUMay Nanna come to? the man.
6.eme-gal2 inim May the eloquent, of brilliant
mulx(AN.AN) speech,
iii1.lugal dingir abzuking, god of the Abzu,
2.lu2 he2-DUcome to? the man.
3.imu5He (they?) saw south wind,
4.immirnorth wind,
6.dal-ha-mundust storm, lu2and the body of the man.
8.igi-na mu-bar
9.dMA-gu10My MA-god,
10a-zu5the physician,
iv1.e-tax(TAgunû)-e3came out.
2.UD.KA du11-gaIncantation
3.dnin-girimx(BU.KU6.DU)of Ningirim.
empty space
i1.dinanna ku3Holy Inanna
2.u2? den-lil2and? Enlil present
4.kur bad3and saw in the high mountains
5.imu5south wind,
6.immirnorth wind,
8.dal-ha-mundust storm,
9.ku6 mušen-gin7–like fishes and birds– lu2and the body of the man.
2.igi-na mu-bar
3.dMA-naHis MA god,
4.a-zu5the physician,
5.e-tax(TAgunû)-e3came out.
6.UD.KA du11-gaIncantation
7.dnin-girimx(BU.KU6.DU)of Ningirim.

§4 Commentary

§4.1 The text shares phraseology with the incantations number 4 and 5 in Krebernik 1984, which both deal with north wind, south wind, and the body (su-bar) of a man. The Fara incantations are both attested in two collective tablets (SF 54 = Krebernik 1984, 382-383 and TSŠ 170). The Fara texts use the verb ru (to blow), the new text has zi(g) (to rise). An Ur III incantation that includes some of the same phraseology was recently published by van Dijk and Geller 2003, no. 9.

§4.2 Obverse

i 6 The sign combination I.IGI.MAŠ (also obv. iii 5 and rev. i 7) is apparently another kind of wind, paired with dal-ha-mun. The translation “gale” is just a guess; the reading remains entirely unclear to me.
ii 1 For the sign MUN (DIMgunû) see Civil 1984, 162-163.
ii 4 The absence of case markers makes it hard to propose an interpretation for DU. Reading gub, one may translate “May god so-and-so assist the man,” assuming a comitative case for lu2.
ii 6 I do not know of other attestations of eme-gal2 or inim mul. The expression eme-gal2 is patterned after inim-gal2, etc.; see Black 2000.
iii 8 In this text -na represents the third person possessive; see also dMA-na (reverse 2, 3) which parallels dMA-gu10 (obv. iii 9). In the present line (and in reverse 2, 2) -na may indicate third person possessive plural, if we are to take all the gods mentioned as the plural subject of the verb.
iii 9 The identity of dMA is unknown to me; apparently dMA is the personal god or a guardian angel (also rev. ii 3).
iv 1 The use of TAgunû (better visible in rev. ii 5) for -ta is usually restricted to UD.GAL.NUN texts (Krebernik 1998, 302). The verb may also be taken in a transitive sense: “(...) the physician took it out.” One may compare here Krebernik 1984 text 18c.
iv 3 GIRIM is probably written A.BU.HA.DU here (not every sign is clearly visible); the sign A is absent in rev. ii 7, adding still another possible spelling to the list in Krebernik 1984, 233ff.

§4.3 Reverse

i 2Reading of this line is very uncertain.
i 3At this place a god name would fit better; dig-alim, however, is excluded by the visible sign elements.
i 9Reading and function of this line are unclear to me.


Black, J.
2000“Some Sumerian Adjectives,” ASJ 22, 3-27 [appeared 2005].
Civil, M.
1984“Studies in Early Dynastic Lexicography II.3: Word List D 50-57 (ARET 5 no.23),” ZA 74, 161-63.
Cunningham, G.
1997Deliver Me from Evil: Mesopotamian Incantations 2500-1500 BC (=StPohl SM 17. Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1997.
Krebernik, M.
1984Die Beschwörungen aus Fara und Ebla. Untersuchungen zur ältesten keilschriftlichen Beschwörungsliteratur (=TSO 2). Hildesheim: Olms Verlag.
1996“Neue Beschwörungen aus Ebla,” ViOr 10, 7-28.
1998“Die Texte aus Fara und Tell Abu Salabih,” in Bauer, Josef, Robert K. Englund, and Manfred Krebernik. Mesopotamien: Späturuk-Zeit und Frühdynastische Zeit (=OBO 160/1). Freiburg, Switzerland: Universit√§tsverlag, 237-427.
van Dijk, J. J. A., and M. J. Geller
2003Ur III Incantations from the Frau Hilprecht-Collection, Jena (=TMH 6). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Version: 23 April 2006