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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte

Ed. by Bickel, Susanne / Frankfurter, David / Johnston, Sarah Iles / Pironti, Gabriella / Rüpke, Jörg / Scheid, John / Várhelyi, Zsuzsanna

Together with Beard, Mary / Bonnet, Corinne / Borgeaud, Philippe / Henrichs, Albert / Knysh, Alexander / Lissarrague, Francois / Malamoud, Charles / Maul, Stefan / Parker, Robert C. Y. / Shaked, Shaul / Stroumsa, Gedaliahu Guy / Tardieu, Michel / Volokhine, Youri

CiteScore 2018: 0.26

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.132
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.435

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The Head of Humbaba

Sarah B. Graff
Published Online: 2013-09-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2012-0009


A large corpus of terracotta plaques bearing the image of the demon Humbaba/ Huwawa, a major character in the Gilgamesh epic, have been excavated from late third and early second millennium BCE contexts at numerous sites in Mesopotamia. This essay explores the motif of Humbaba’s severed head within its ancient Near Eastern context in order to demonstrate that the head differs from other images of decapitation, as a representation whose supernatural power is unaffected by death. It concludes that the terracotta plaques were interpreted in sophisticated and multivalent ways by ancient audiences: as visual narratives representing a key moment in the epic; as apotropaic images displayed to guard transitions; and as important omens recorded in the past, which had the potential to reappear in the present.

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Published Online: 2013-09-19

Published in Print: 2013-09-01

Citation Information: Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, Volume 14, Issue 1, Pages 129–142, ISSN (Online) 1868-8888, ISSN (Print) 1436-3038, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2012-0009.

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