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Dedicating magic: Neo-Assyrian apotropaic gurines and the protection of Assur


Carolyn Nakamura

Abstract
As counterpoint to conventional studies that evaluate ancient systems of magic against the logic of rational thought, this paper situates magical practice as a mode of knowing and producing anterior to such logic, engaged in the reproduction of society. The discussion converges on Neo-Assyrian apotropaic gurine deposits, which provided magical protection of a priest-house at Assur. It is argued here that apotropaic magic engages in a mode of secrecy that underwrites protective power in the social eld. These material assemblages, as mimetic expressions of myth and dedication, congure protection in a play on the public secret, the pathos of the real as really made up. Protective power, therefore, emerges in this process that compels the perception and experience of a transformed and protected reality.

Keywords
Mesopotamia; Assur; magic; apotropaic gurines; mimesis; dedication; material practice; production of space.

Technologies of (re)production Magic is a mode of relating to things in the world; and this mode, which engages materiality to negotiate the human experience of transcendent powers and supernatural beings, delineates a process of bringing forth that which is invisible, imagined and powerful into the hard-core realm of human perception and understanding. Heideggers analysis of the Greek concept of techne nds particular relevance here; techne serves to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way, it denotes a producing in terms of letting appear (Heidegger 1977a: 361, emphasis added). But techne also expresses a mode of knowing, the essence of which consists in the revealing of beings: to know means to have seen, in the widest sense of seeing, which means to apprehend what is present, as such (Heidegger 1977b: 184). Viewed as a technique or technology,
World Archaeology Vol. 36(1): 1125 The Object of Dedication 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd ISSN 0043-8243 print/1470-1375 online DOI: 10.1080/0043824042000192687

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magic belongs to both a knowing and a producing that foregrounds materiality. The magical object (or substance) presents an imagined reality that is apprehended and experienced as real. Here, magic takes advantage of the recursive exchange between concept and experience, imagination and physical reality; its power resides in this inherent instability of social life, unleashed in the letting appear, the bringing forth of the invisible into the material realm. Magic, with this capacity to transform reality, serves as an affective technology (Meskell in press) and engages in the reproduction of society. Viewed in these terms, the material practice of magic constitutes nothing less than a reproductive technology. Dedicatory practice joins and often converges with magic under this concept of techne; like magic, dedication forges and transforms networks of social relations, mediating between worlds and beings, effectively reproducing society. The current discussion explores certain modalities of techne in a ritual of Mesopotamian apotropaic magic: the strategic burial of protective gurine deposits under house and temple oors during the Neo-Assyrian period of ancient Iraq (c. 934610 BC). This practice engages magic and dedication to create or bring forth protection. And it is the material production of socially powerful space and object-beings that achieves this goal. I consider the apotropaic process in terms of how conceptions of dedication and mimesis, which trace back to the mythic origin of humans, congure magical protection. I would suggest that the deposition of these assemblages as dedicatory caches mimics the creation of world order and traces out paths of magical agency such that social reality becomes transformed. What I nd compelling here is the idea that the production of society hinges on a maneuver of metaphysical proportions the simultaneous duplication and obliteration of human selves at their origins and how this secret converges with material practice to form a socially powerful reproductive technology. As such, magic orbits around something anterior to reason, a way of knowing contingent upon a secret that congures the production of humans and their society.

The secrecy of objects Something which is involved in the very nature of social relations, something which lies at the heart of these relations, which is part of the groundwork of society, and which necessarily and continuously entails negative consequences for part of society, cannot appear as such in the representations individuals and groups produce of their society. (Godelier 1999: 173) This something that Godelier alludes to as a primary condition for the production and reproduction of society, is what Taussig names as the public secret: that which is generally known but cannot be articulated (1999: 5). And this knowing what not to know provides a social skill essential to being a person, a social being, and is no less essential to society itself (ibid.: 195). The secret, more than just a thing, is a process (Canetti 1984: 290; also see Taussig 1999: 144), a process which permeates and congures various reproductive technologies. In greater Mesopotamia, the public secret enshrouds the myth of human origins: the fact that humans create the gods or beings who create human life and society.

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Dedicating magic 13 This imagined reality underscores a culturally mediated worldview a secret or truth within that inhabits and is sustained by social practice. Materiality is key in this dialectic: certain devoted objects confront a kind of hard-core understanding of the world with the process of public secrecy, amounting to a participation between matter and spirit, appearance and essence, and ideal and real (Taussig 1999: 192). Such objects locate and present the synthesis of that which can and cannot be expressed or represented to society (after Godelier 1999: 137); namely, the true nature of the relationship between humans and their imaginary doubles. Anterior to the division of mind and body, there is mimesis: the age-old and rather profound faculty that stands somewhere at the beginning of language, the beginning of memory and the mediation of experience in-the-world. In Mesopotamia, this mimetic faculty merges with the public secret to reproduce and create social life; the original substitution of gods for humans that simultaneous duplication and effacement of human selves at their origin constitutes the secret whose possibility assures the possibility of society because this obliterating of real humans and replacing them with imaginary beings, this repressing beyond consciousness of the active role of man in the origins of society . . . is necessary in order to produce and reproduce society (Godelier 1999: 137). This social reality locates power in an ur-presence created by the miming of humans into original being (the divine). This is Taussigs miming the real into being (1993: 1056), as it were, writ large at the origins of human society. And this original mimesis of the self is notable on two accounts: rst, this self-miming is tantamount to self-obliteration at its origins; second, the copy not only assumes the power of the original, but magnies the power of the original. Original mimesis, therefore, accomplishes the creation of a powerful, divine super-presence through self-obliteration. By and large, humans truly believe in and experience this divine presence and being. This fact gets at the most provocative aspect of the public secret: that the original creation of absence the absence of physical being (both human and divine) ensures, no less than produces, the presence of a powerful spiritual being that is experienced and perceived as real. This reality of undeniable presence through absence congures the public secret as social power; and this power emerges through a cunning reversal: the secret as made by persons in turn becomes the secret making persons (Taussig 1999: 121). It is in this surrender to the thing made, to the creation taking over the creators, that we nd the pathos of the real as really made up (ibid.). The inviolability of this surrender to imagined, invisible divine beings congures sacred power, since the gods give back; they give back to humans their rules and customs as idealized and sacred realities. In turn, humans constantly reproduce and reform these ideals through social and material practice. It is this convergence of myth, power and materiality in public secrecy that I take as a departure point for understanding an ancient Mesopotamian reality in which clay gurines became magically powerful and powerfully real.

The apotropaic In Mesopotamia, the Neo-Assyrians (c. 934610 BC) devoted a signicant amount of thought and endeavor to their relationships with the rst beings: the divine owners of the

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universe who gave them life and civilization. Not surprisingly, this primordial debt to imaginary, invisible beings gured profoundly in how humans made sense of their world. A relationship pregured by the obligation of service and devotion to the gods probably provided an organizing principle for myth, magic, religion, state administration and kingly power. Archaeologically, we can interrogate this phenomenon through material practice. The early excavations of ancient Mesopotamian cities unearthed provocative Neo-Assyrian deposits buried beneath room oors (Fig. 1): brick boxes often containing clay gurines portraying mythical beings gods, animals and various hybrid types found singly, in pairs or groups of seven. Notably, ancient humans placed these boxes under particular areas: anking doorways, along walls, in corners, thresholds and the middle of rooms. These assemblages, found at Assur, Nimrud, Nineveh, Kish, Ur and Babylon, conformed closely to a practice recorded in various ritual texts (Gurney 1935; Smith 1926; Wiggermann 1992). These texts suggest that the ritual served to purify and protect individuals and buildings from disease and evil forces, and entailed a protracted series of elaborate ceremonies and acts performed by a trained practitioner. Previous studies of these materials provide detailed gurine catalogs (Klengel-Brandt 1968; Rittig 1977; Van Buren 1931), iconographic analyses (Ellis 1967, 1995; Green 1983, 1986, 19937; Wiggermann 19937) and mythological and textual analyses (Wiggermann 1992). Such studies, although rigorous and thorough, fall short of doing justice to the sophistication of this ancient practice. Particularly, the scholarship conspicuously omits any account of these data in terms of social practice. These apotropaic assemblages are evocative precisely because they present a material imprint of human practice in space and time; moreover, ritual texts and a substantial corpus of research on Mesopotamian cultural history can add considerable depth and detail to the interpretation of this practice. Modern scholarship, therefore, needs to theorize and contextualize various gestures of apotropaic practice, drawing from multiple classes of data. With this goal in mind, I revisit a case study from Assur (Andrae 1938; Klengel-Brandt 1968; Preusser 1954) and consider how apotropaic deposits might be seen in terms of a reproductive technology, negotiating humandivine relations towards the localization and production of protected space.

AQ7

Figure 1 Positions of brick capsules 116 in the Haus des Beschwrungspriesters (after Miglus and Heidemann 1996: Plan 132c).

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Dedicating magic 15 Of human origins: the gift that takes The conception of world origins was debated over nearly four millennia in various mythologies of diverse Mesopotamian cultures, peoples, and polities. Although various mythologies constantly re-negotiated conceptions of world order and creation, certain ideas of human origins and their place in the world endured throughout the region. One of the most prevalent ideas maintained throughout the mythic tradition is the divine creation of humans as servants of the gods. In most cases, the great god Ea/Enki conceives humankind as a substitute to free the gods from having to labor the earth for their sustenance. The Atrahasis epic recounts the creation of humankind from a mixture of clay of the apsu and the blood of a slain rebel god (Tablet I, 21013). Other myths relate divine human creation using only this clay (Enki and Ninmah, 246) or blood (Enuma elish, Tablet VI, 33). These materials of human creation are relevant to the mimesis of protective beings and will be discussed later on. But currently, I am concerned with how this mythological theme delineates the creation of humankind in terms of eternal human servitude to the gods. Humans are born servants. This fact pregures the cunning human ability to make demands through the dedicatory gift, the giving that takes. The Mesopotamian gods are the true owners of all things and possessions in the world, including those procured from the earth. The divine gift of life establishes a primordial debt, which places humans in eternal obligation to labor and provide for the gods, but, in performing this service, humans simply return what rightfully belongs to the gods. Humans have nothing to give but themselves; from this position, they can only demand (Derrida 1992: 142). And what they demand is that the gods give what they have to humans give them the resources to live, produce and thrive but also give by taking them, by taking what they are and by taking them such as they are (ibid.: 144). In other words, humans as servants (what they are) who have nothing (such as they are) demand to be taken under the care of the gods; this is the demand for protection. Episodes from the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh epics depict how humans are able to negotiate protection of their precarious existence (as both useful servants and annoying over-breeders) through unanticipated gifts of devotion. In these stories, people narrowly survive scourges sent by the gods rst plague and then ood with help from Ea and by presenting offerings to win back the gods favor. After the ood, Utanapishtim (also known as Atrahasis), the father of the only surviving human family, presents an offering to the mass of remorseful, heartbroken and hungry gods: Then I set out everything in all directions and sacriced [a sheep]. I offered incense in front of the mountain ziggurat. Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place, and [into the re] underneath [or: into their bowls] I poured reeds, cedar and myrtle. The gods smelled the savor, The gods smelled the sweet savor, And collected like ies over a (sheep) sacrice. (Kovacs 1992: 102, lines 15561) This suppliant, more than obligatory, act of offering proves to be a highly effective method of persuasion. Humans redeem their existence by fullling their original purpose: to

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provide gifts, dedication and devotion to the gods. And, with these acts, humans nd they can demand protection of their existence from the gods. God-given protection ensures the reproduction of society, since the gods, those substitute beings who replace humans at their origins, give [humans] back their own laws and customs, but in a sacred form, idealized, transmuted into the common good, into a sacred principle which brooks no argument, no opposition, which can only be the object of unanimous consent (Godelier 1999: 174). The process of reversal in the dedicatory gift recalls the uncanny exchange in the secret of origins: the creation taking over the creators. This process, in which the categories of having, being, giving and taking merge, becomes a precondition of social being (following Derrida 1992: 144). The role of dedication in the public secret, therefore, produces and congures the nature of protection. Techne inhabits dedication as the two-sided coin of creation/protection. Dedication creates in the sense that it reproduces necessary conditions of social life: the life and essence of the divine; and it preserves (protects) in that it makes this creation actual. Herein lies the public secret in the form of the gift that takes back, and what it takes back is power.

Dedicated mimesis Say you the stone or wood, or silver is not yet a god? When then does he come to the birth? See him cast, molded sculptured not yet is he a god; see him soldered, assembled, and set up still not a god; see him bedizened, consecrated, worshiped; hey, presto! He is a god by a mans will and the act of dedication. (Minucius Felix, translated in Walker and Dick 1999: 117) In the context of Neo-Assyrian apotropaic magic, dedication engenders a protected reality by creating the presence of powerful beings in the material world; these are protective deities and spirits that come to inhabit the world as a presence that is apprehended as real. Neo-Assyrian magical gurines perform the fulllment of the wish for protection. More precisely, they manifest this wish. Dedicatory gestures, which animate this magical practice, are not merely the obligatory acts of servants, but specic requests; they constitute the apotropaic, the defense that goes on the offensive (Derrida 1992: 142). In short, dedication takes a creative role in this context; it grounds the process that transforms matter into being. Also essential to this transformation is the mimesis of divine creation. The ritual text, Sep lemutti ina bit ameli parasu, to block the entry of the enemy in someones house demonstrates the dedicatory mode that inhabits the entire creation of the protective gurine, from the consecration of the clay, dedication to the gods and declaration of being: Incantation: Clay pit, clay pit, you are the clay pit of Anu and Enlil, the clay pit of Ea, lord of the deep, the clay pit of the great gods; you have made the lord for lordship, you have made the king for kingship, you have made the prince for future days; your pieces of silver are given to you, you have received them;

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Dedicating magic 17 your gift you have received, and so, in the morning before Samas, I pinch off the clay NN son of NN; may it be protable, may what I do prosper. .... [As soon as] you have recited this, you shall speak before Samas as follows: [statues] of Ea and Marduk, repelling the evil ones, [to] be placed in the house of NN son of NN [to] expel the foot of evil, I [pinch off] their clay before you <in> the clay pit. (Wiggermann 1992: 13, lines 15161) These instructions recall the gift that takes: your pieces of silver are given to you . . . your gift you have received. This consecration of ritual materials reduplicates the human obligation of giving back that which already belongs to the gods; this in turn sets up the request/demand for power: may it be protable, may what I do prosper. These instructions call for the re-enactment of creation itself from the utterance of words to the pinching off of clay all dedicated to Samas, the sun god (see Black and Green 1992: 54). In this dedicated mimesis, human creation assumes the power of original creation amounting to a demonstration that transforms reality (after Taussig 1993: 106). The clay becomes the clay of the deep the original matter from which the world was created fashioned into a powerful being with divine or supernatural powers and qualities. The thick lime plaster which coats many of the gurines, often obscuring their distinctive features, may be associated with divinity and protection (see Mallowan 1954: 87). Speculating further, it seems possible that this plaster represents melam, the luminous, visible mark of the supernatural. Provocatively here, the spirit of supernatural being comes to inhabit a physical reality that presents a blatant sham for a double: miniature clay gurines dipped in thick lime plaster. But, with mimesis, the copy need not be a good or accurate copy (Taussig 1993: 13). I would suggest that this intentional creation of a humble copy constitutes a cunning dissimulation akin to what Taussig calls defacement, an act which produces violated representations such that they are no longer merely symbols, but come to life (1999: 30). The poor counterfeit, like a built-in form of defacement, brings insides out, revealing a powerful presence through the labor of the negative. The power of the spirit spills forth into a controllable presence through this very negation of the secret; the secret (the human creation of the divine) becomes articulated, performed, exposed, as if to propel the gure beyond the mere status of powerful object and merge into powerful being, but this revelation becomes concealed immediately in the dedicatory gesture amounting to the very creation of being in thing. And the thingness of being is essential here. Humans mediate their relationships between worlds and beings materially, such that this communication locates and structures a perceptible reality. Apotropaic gurines present a palpable presence-in-the-world, as object-beings with the life of protective spirits and as a collective demonstration of a protected reality. By bringing the imaginary into the realm of direct perception, apotropaic assemblages mime a protected reality into being.

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Images of the underworld The demonstration of protection involves further mimetic acts at the level of producing protected space. By the Neo-Assyrian period, Mesopotamians conceived of an underworld, populated by various beings, both benevolent and malevolent: deities, dead gods, slain heroes and monsters, spirits of dead humans, and demons. Numerous sources locate the underworld underground, beneath the surface of the earth (Black and Green 1992: 180; Bottero 1992: 2735). This idea follows from a traditional Mesopotamian conception of a vertical and bipolar universe where the earth, inhabited by living humans, separated the Heavens from the Netherworld (Bottero 1992: 273). Certain ritual practices reinforce this notion of an underworld located underground, the most obvious being the burial of the dead in the ground, thereby effecting their passage to their proper residence in the nether world. The burial of apotropaic gurines may also reinforce a related conception of space. Most of the mythological creatures and gods depicted in apotropaic gures dwell in the apsu, the underground fresh water ocean. The placement of these powerful copies underground may act to channel or enervate their power, as they are brought forth to being in their proper realm. Notably, dedicatory practices often involve burial underground. Evidence of dedicatory caches and foundation offerings throughout various Mesopotamian cultural periods (Ellis 1968; Van Buren 1931) suggests that the gesture of burial has certain and, perhaps, multiple meanings in ritual contexts. The placement of apotropaic gurines underground is also interesting from the perspective of liminal space. The surface of the earth acts as a boundary that delineates the border between the underworld and the living world of humankind. Many of the evil forces targeted in apotropaic practices spirits, ghosts, gods and demons nd their proper dwelling place in the underworld. But such unsettled or summoned beings are able to leave this realm through cracks and holes in the earth and cause harm to humans. This permeability recalls Lefebvres notion of visible boundaries which give rise to an appearance of separation between spaces where in fact what exists is an ambiguous continuity (1991: 87). And this continuity locates potential; the surface of the earth, permeable to both benevolent and malevolent beings from the underworld, presents potential for threat and danger, but also for aid and protection. At the household scale, other liminal boundaries include corners, walls, thresholds, doors and windows. Indeed, one ritual text specically designates corners, doorways, windows, roofs and attics as areas in need of protection and purication (Wiggermann 1992: 17, lines 2459). The door is both an entrance and exit; it keeps in, protects, secures, but also lets pass, invites and tempts (Bachelard 1994: 222). Similarly, corners are part walls, part door and designate spaces of hiding, protection and immobility (ibid.: 136). Such liminal areas designate areas that are in-between or in transition at margins. As such, these areas could be regarded as powerful since they locate potential.

Producing protection The apotropaic assemblages from Assur offer roughly 117 clay gurines, thirty-four deposits and eight general gure types, two of which have subtypes (Table 1; for detailed

AQ1

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Dedicating magic 19 catalog, see Klengel-Brandt 1968). The Haus des Beschwrungspriesters (Andrae 1938; Klengel-Brandt 1968; Preusser 1954), the best-known example at Assur, provides an ideal case for theorizing the deposition patterns of Neo-Assyrian apotropaic gurine assemblages. This Neo-Assyrian house belonged to a priest family and probably accommodated a temple school during Sargonid times (Weidner 19379). The context is particularly remarkable given that it not only provides material evidence of the apotropaic ritual, but textual evidence as well. KAR 298 (Gurney 1935; Smith 1926; Wiggermann 1992), the inventory of gures which describes the production, use and placement of apotropaic gurines, originates from this house along with many other literary and magical texts. A contextual analysis of this practice, drawing upon material, textual and mythological data, will help illuminate certain Neo-Assyrian conceptions of protection. Three different gurine types in sixteen known deposits are located in the priest house: the six-curled lahmu with spade (Type VIIa, Plate 2, thirteen gurines), the bird-apkallu with cone and bucket (Type Ia, Plate 3, fteen gurines) and the sh-apkallu (Type II, Plate 4, twenty-one gurines). The gures stand in brick boxes made from three or four bricks placed upright about 35cm under oor level (Plate 5). Eleven of sixteen excavated gurine deposits occur in room 3, and have notable deposition patterns (Fig. 1). Within this room, capsules 1 and 48 contain pairs of Type Ia and VIIa; these deposits occur anking the north-east doorway, in front of the NW door threshold, in the middle of the room and in all corners except for the west corner, which Preusser suggests might have been robbed (1954: 58). Capsules 10 and 11 contain Type II in groups of seven and

AQ2

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Plate 1 Brick capsules in room 3 of the Haus des Beschwrungspriesters (after Preusser 1954: table 28a).

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Carolyn Nakamura fourteen, respectively; these two deposits occur in themiddle of room 3, oriented perpendicular to each other. Alternatively, capsule 10 could be viewed as positioned in front of south-east doorway, which would conform to the KAR 298 placement of the seven sh-apkallu guarding the entrance to the ritual chamber or bedroom (1516). Interestingly, capsules 6, 10 and 11 do not cluster in the direct center of the room but within the path between the north-east and south-east doorways. Wiggermanns reading of ritual texts suggests that, within this apotropaic ritual, the apkallu gurines act as puriers and exorcists whose presence continuously protects the inhabitants against evil inuences (1992: 96). As such, he predicts that the apkallu gurines would be placed in the private, more internal rooms of the house.

AQ4

Plate 2 Bird-apkallu, VA 4890, Ht 11.9 cm (after Preusser 1954: table 29c).

Plate 3 Six-curled lahmu, VA 4895, Ht 12.6 cm (after Preusser 1954: table 29c).

Furthermore, gurines of gods and monsters (Fig. 2), whose task is to defend against demonic intruders, would be stationed in the outer entrance and at strategic points within the house (ibid.: 97). However, the practice at Assur does not conform to this appealing analysis. Although, based on Preussers assumption that the door into courtyard 7 provides the entrance to the house (1954: 58), room 3 appears to be a well-enclosed interior Plate 4 Fish-apkallu, VA 5484, room, the locations and types of deposits do not follow Ht 11.7 cm )after Preusser 1954; textual prescription. The sh-apkallu deposits do occur
table 29a).

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Dedicating magic 21

Plate 5 Brick capsule 11 with sh-apkallu gurines (after Preusser 1954: table 28b).

exclusively in room 3 of the house, but the lahmu/bird-apkallu deposits occur in interior rooms 2 and 3 (capsules 111), near the house entrance (capsule 12) and in other areas (capsules 13, 14). Moreover, the lahmu/bird-apkallu pairing never occurs in the texts, and the identication of lahmu as an apkallu gure is insecure, if not contentious (Ellis 1995; Wiggermann 1992: 14752). This divergence supports Richard Elliss suggestion that the relation between apotropaic theory and practice at this time engendered a creative intellectual endeavor, one that could compensate for the uncertainty, vagueness and disagreement that characterized the process (1995: 1645). The histories and identities of apotropaic gures animate this practice with various mythical and supernatural associations and therefore might contribute a certain dimension to the meaning of protection in this context. In the Neo-Assyrian period, these often-divergent proles come under the rule of Marduk (Green 19937: 248). The text Sep lemutti ina bit ameli parassu locates the apkallu and lahmu as creatures of the apsu: the statues repelling the evil ones, of Ea and Marduk (Wiggermann 1992: 87, line 159). Various apkallu gures come to represent the Babylonian Seven Sages, mythological antediluvian beings who rst brought the arts of civilization to humankind (Black and Green 1992: 1634; Wiggermann 1992: 756). Monsters, who previously engendered various forces of life, death, peace and destruction that intervene in human affairs, become known as Tiamats creatures, the servants and defeated enemies of Marduk (Wiggermann 1992: 14752, 19937: 229). As such, these supernatural beings provide complexly appropriate gures of protection. Like humans, monsters are servants. Unlike humans, monsters are not born servants; rather, they are born rebel warriors who become

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AQ8

Figure 2 Apotropaic gurine types found at Assur. 1. Drawing after Richards in Black and Green (1992). 2. The identication of the lahmu gure is controversial; it names both a cosmogonic deity and one of Tiamats creatures (Wiggermann 1992: 1556), and also may represent an apkallu sage (Ellis 1995: 165; Russell 1991: 184, fn. 27).

servants in their defeat. Their essential being as rebels completely overthrown, disarmed and acquired by the gods, monsters are reduced to mere pawns and extensions of divine will and rule. As defeated enemies, monsters only serve; and, as apotropaic gures, they serve protection: the embodiment of appropriated aggressive being and force controlled and redirected into defensive power. From this vantage, monsters seem well suited for the apotropaic: the defense that goes on the offensive. There is undoubtedly something of the public secret at work here, not only in the ip-op of offense and defense, but in the dialectics of what is hidden and manifest in the hybrid physiognomies (Bachelard 1994: 111). Although the issue cannot be further explored here, this point of hybrid physiognomy articulates well with the notion of liminality discussed earlier. Suitably then, the apotropaic gures found in the priest house embody those beings with powers suitable for protection. The bird and sh-apkallu carry various instruments that purify, effect release and remove sin: the mullilu (cleaner), bandudd (bucket) and libbi gisimmari (offshoot of the date palm), respectively (Wiggermann 1992: 669). Lahmu the monster embodiment of the preservation of life (ibid: 152) becomes specically associated with Marduk when carrying a marru (spade), the symbol of the god. The apkallu and lahmu, therefore, engender powers of purication and divine protection, respectively. In the context of the priest school, the pairing of purication (bird-apkallu) with the protection of Marduk (lahmu) might nd particular salience in terms of legitimizing the priestly power under the authority of Marduk; at the very least, this apotropaic team might provide a non-specic idiom of the apotropaic appropriate for general placement within the house.

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Dedicating magic 23 Considered collectively, the assemblage of Neo-Assyrian apotropaic gurines in room 3 suggests linked conceptions of protection and dedication. The installation of various beings underground to guard dangerous liminal areas such as corners, doors, oors and thresholds delineates a protected space: a space of localized power and of a mythological locality. Notably, these assemblages also localize dedication in objects and space. The creation of powerful beings in apotropaic deposits engages the process of the public secret tantamount to the reproduction of certain social relations and realities: the priestly power of purication, Marduks protection of humankind and a particular conception of being and world order. The dedicatory mode anchors protective power, permeating the mimetic praxis which creates the apotropaic: the miming of creation, being, world order and protection. As such, apotropaic deposits engage the process of the public secret as dedicatory gifts that demand protection and localize this power in designated spaces.

Concluding remarks I have suggested that the efcacy of apotropaic magic emerges in the dedication of mimesis: a constellation of mimetic gestures which create power in the process of public secrecy. From this perspective, the magical capacity itself, as a certain quality of mimetic excess tantamount to transformation, becomes operative in ancient social practice. And, if we follow the redoubled movements between dedication, protection and magic, we indeed nd that secrecy lies at the very core of power (Canetti 1984: 270). While we can never know exactly how Mesopotamians conceived of apotropaic power in their rituals, it is clear that their magic constitutes and engages in a particular mode of knowledge, one that does not easily t a Western paradigm. Consequently, the modern study of ancient life necessarily concerns the problematic task of transposing the views of one culture to another. Such interpretation treads even more delicate terrain when it involves the articulation of ancient practice with contemporary theory and philosophy (see Asher-Greve and Asher 1998: 35). Despite these difculties, such a project remains a worthy pursuit since it attempts to situate ancient life in terms that engage a modern audience and have social resonance across a wider register. From this vantage, Mesopotamian magical practice emerges from the shadow of knowledge dened by modern reason and becomes salient as a socially reproductive technology.

Acknowledgements I am grateful to Lynn Meskell for her support and encouragement of this project. I am also grateful to Tom Aldrich, Robin Osborne and an anonymous reviewer whose thoughtful comments on earlier drafts helped clarify the ideas presented here. Needless to say, all mistakes and misrepresentations remain my own. Research for this project was funded by a generous grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Columbia University

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Carolyn Nakamura

References
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Smith, S. 1926. Babylonian prophylactic gures. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1926: 695ff. Taussig, M. 1993. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. London: Routledge. Taussig, M. 1999. Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Van Buren, E. D. 1931. Foundation Figurines and Offerings. Berlin: Hans Schoetz. Walker, C. and Dick, M. B. 1999. The induction of the cult image in ancient Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian mis pi ritual. In Born in Heaven Made on Earth: The Making of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East (ed, M. B. Dick). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, pp. 55122. Weidner, E. F. 19379. Neue Bruchstcke des Berischtes ber Sargons achten Feldzug. Archiv fr Orientforschung, 12: 147. Wiggermann, F. A. M. 1992. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Groningen: Styx. Wiggermann, F. A. M. 19937. Mischwesen A. In Reallexicon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatichen Archaologie (eds E. Ebling and B. Meissner). Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, pp. 22245.

Carolyn Nakamura is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department at Columbia University. Her main interests include social theory, magical systems and visual culture.