Newly Discovered Tablets Reveal Lost Lines From The Epic Of Gilgamesh
By Katherine Derla, Tech Times | October 9, 3:31 AM
The Epic of Gilgamesh recounts the story of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, Babylonia's ancient city. Gilgamesh is joined is his journey by Enkidu, a wild man initially created by the gods to kill Gilgamesh and stop the king from terrorizing his own people.
The two men became friends after an initial fight and journeyed to far lands together defeating monsters along the way.
The story is considered literature's first great accomplishment. Its chapters were etched in ancient tablets and the story was pieced together from the fragments recovered over the years. The story traces its roots to the 18th century B.C. Followers of the epic are familiar with the 1853 version discovered in Nineveh, the ancient Mesopotamian City which is now modern-day Iraq.
During the U.S.-led war in Iraq, ancient sites and museums were sacked. The initiative to 'intercept' the black market trade of archeological artifacts was started by the Sulaymaniyah Museum. Smugglers were paid to 'intercept' these treasures during their journey abroad. The scheme worked.
In 2011, the Sulaymaniyah Museum was able to acquire a collection of tablets from a smuggler. Some of the tablets were intact but covered with mud while the others were broken in fragments. The excavation site remains unknown but experts believed they were retrieved somewhere in Iraq (Mesopotamia) and Babel (Babylon).
Professor Farouk Al-Rawi from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England examined the collection of tablets being sold by the smuggler. The assyriologist even found fake tablets. The smuggler said there was a tablet for the Epic of Gilgamesh in the collection and asked for a large sum of money. Al-Rawi examined the three-piece fragmented tablet and advised Sulaymaniayh Museum Director Hashim Hama Abdullah to buy it.
Reading and translating the cuneiform texts on the tablet took five days in November 2012. Experts believe the text was engraved by a writer in the neo-Babylonian era (626-539 BCE). Twenty new lines were discovered and added to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The lines described Gilgamesh and Enkidu's adventure into the 'Cedar Forest' where they killed a forest demigod called Humbaba.
"Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the cedar to take home to Babylonia, and the new text carries a line that seems to express Enkidu's recognition that reducing the forest to a wasteland is a bad thing to have done, and will upset the gods," said Andrew George, the associate dean fo the School of Oriental and African Studies who assisted in translating the cuneiform texts.
The new Epic of Gilgamesh tablet was given the code T.1447 tablet and now resides at the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Iraq.
Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson