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Barton Cylinder

Barton Cylinder
The Barton Cylinder is a Sumerian creation myth, written on a clay cylinder in the mid to late 3rd millennium BC,
which is now in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Joan Goodrick
Westenholz suggests it dates to around 2400 BC[1]

The cylinder is inscribed with a Sumerian cuneiform mythological text, found at the site of Nippur in 1889 during
excavations conducted by the University of Pennsylvania. The cylinder takes its name from George Barton, who was
the first to publish a transcription and translation of the text in 1918 in "Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptions".[2] It
is also referred to as University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Catalogue of the
Babylonian Section (CBS) number 8383. Samuel Noah Kramer referred to it as The Nippur Cylinder and suggested
it may date as far back as 2500 BC.[3] The cylinder dates to the Old Babylonian period, but Falkenstein (1951)
surmises that the composition was written in Archaic, pre-Ur III cuneiform, likely dating to the Akkad dynasty (23rd
century BC). He concludes a non-written literary history that was characterised and repeated in future texts.[4] Jan
van Dijk concurs with this suggestion that it is a copy of a far older story predating neo-Sumerian times.[5][6]

The most recent edition was published by Bendt Alster and Aage Westenholz in 1994.[7] Jeremy Black calls the
work "a beautiful example of Early Dynastic calligraphy" and discussed the text "where primeval cosmic events are
imagined." Along with Peeter Espak, he notes that Nippur is pre-existing before creation when heaven and earth
separated.[8] Nippur, he suggests is transfigured by the mythological events into both a "scene of a mythic drama"
and a real place, indicating "the location becomes a metaphor."[9]
Black details the beginning of the myth: "Those days were indeed faraway days. Those nights were indeed faraway
nights. Those years were indeed faraway years. The storm roared, the lights flashed. In the sacred area of Nibru
(Nippur), the storm roared, the lights flashed. Heaven talked with Earth, Earth talked with Heaven."[9] The content of
the text deals with Ninhursag, described by Bendt and Westenholz as the "older sister of Enlil." The first part of the
myth deals with the description of the sanctuary of Nippur, detailing a sacred marriage between An and Ninhursag
during which heaven and earth touch. Piotr Michalowski says that in the second part of the text "we learn that
someone, perhaps Enki, made love to the mother goddess, Ninhursag, the sister of Enlil and planted the seed of
seven (twins of) deities in her midst."[10]
The Alster and Westenholz translation reads: "Enlil's older sister / with Ninhursag / he had intercourse / he kissed her
/ the semen of seven twins / he planted in her womb"[7]
Peeter Espak clarifies the text gives no proof of Enki's involvement, however he notes "the motive described here
seems to be similar enough to the intercourse conducted by Enki in the later myth "Enki and Ninhursag" for
suggesting the same parties acting also in the Old-Sumerian myth."[11]

Barton's translation and discussion

Barton's original translation and commentary suggested a primitive sense of religion where "chief among these
spirits were gods, who, however capricious, were the givers of vegetation and life." He discusses the text as a series
of entreatments and appeals to the various provider and protector gods and goddesses, such as Enlil, in lines such as
"O divine lord, protect the little habitation."[2] Barton suggests that several concepts within the text were later
recycled in the much later biblical Book of Genesis. He describes Ninhursag in terms of a snake goddess who creates
enchantments, incantations, and oils, to protect from demons, saying: "Her counsels strengthen the wise divinity of

Barton Cylinder
An", a statement which reveals a point of view similar to that of Genesis 3, (Genesis3:1) 'Now the serpent was more
subtle than any beast of the field." Barton also finds reference to the tree of life in the text, from which he claimed:
"As it stands the passage seems to imply a knowledge on the part of the Babylonians of a story kindred to that of
Genesis (Genesis2:9). However in the absence of context one cannot build on this." Finding yet another parallel
with Genesis, Barton mentions that "The Tigris and Euphrates are twice spoken of as holy rivers and the 'mighty
abyss' (or 'well of the mighty abyss') is appealed-to for protection."
His translation reads: "The holy Tigris, the holy Euphrates / the holy sceptre of Enlil / establish Kharsag."

Further reading
Alster, Bendt. 1974. "On the Interpretation of the Sumerian Myth 'Inanna and Enki'". In Zeitschrift fr
Assyriologie 64. 20-34.
Krecher, Joachim. 1992. UD.GAL.NUN versus "Normal" Sumerian: Two Literatures or One?. In Pelio
Fronzaroli, Literature and Literary Language at Ebla (Quaderni di semitistica 18). Florence: Dipartimento di
Linguistica, Universit di Firenze
Bauer, Josef. 1998. Der vorsargonische Abschnitt der mespotamischen Geschichte. In Pascal Attinger and Markus
Wfler, Mesopotamien: Spturuk-Zeit und frhdynastische Zeit (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 160/1). Freiburg /
Gttingen: Universittsverlag / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

[1] Miguel ngel Borrs; Centre de Cultura Contempornia de Barcelona (2000). La fundacin de la ciudad: mitos y ritos en el mundo antiguo
(http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=3yPVFGPr0aoC& pg=PA46). Edicions UPC. pp.46. ISBN978-84-8301-387-8. . Retrieved 24 May
[2] George Aaron Barton, Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptions (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=nn5hAAAAMAAJ&
printsec=frontcover& dq=miscellaneous+ babylonian+ inscriptions& source=bl& ots=f9Tqkb8rHg&
sig=fNUlMe6MbiOARgsCsZH2pRSs528& hl=en& ei=ssvVS43MFYSclgfGr7W6CQ& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=1&
ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage& q& f=false) (Yale University Press, 1918).
[3] Kramer, Samuel Noah (2007, original publication 1961). Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third
Millennium B.C. (http:/ / books. google. co. uk/ books?id=t16tDOHZLLEC& pg=PA28& dq="Nippur+ cylinder"& hl=en&
ei=2fHVS-bpOs2fOJmn6YsO& sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=1& ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage& q="Nippur
cylinder"& f=false). Forgotten Books. p.28. ISBN978-1-60506-049-1. .
[4] Bendt Alster, "On the Earliest Sumerian Literary Tradition," Journal of Cuneiform Studies 28 (1976) 109-126. (http:/ / www. jstor. org/
stable/ 1359501)
[5] Norsk orientalsk selskap; Oosters Genootschap in Nederland; Orientalsk samfund (Denmark) (1964). van Dijk, J. J. A., Le motif cosmique
dans la pense sumrienne in Acta Orientalia 28, 1-59. (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=41E_AQAAIAAJ). Munksgaard. . Retrieved
24 May 2011.
[6] Lindsay Jones (2005). Encyclopedia of religion (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=vjQOAQAAMAAJ). Macmillan Reference USA.
ISBN978-0-02-865743-1. . Retrieved 24 May 2011.
[7] Bendt Alster and Aage Westenholz, "The Barton Cylinder," Acta Sumeriologica 16 (1994) 15-46. (http:/ / cdl. museum. upenn. edu/ s/ x/
resources/ barton-cylinder. pdf)
[8] Espak, Peeter. The god Enki in Sumerian Royal Ideology and Mythology, Tartu University Press, 2010 (http:/ / dspace. utlib. ee/ dspace/
bitstream/ handle/ 10062/ 15915/ espak_peeter. pdf;jsessionid=54A91837C3AAA6666B5A952ACB757AE2?sequence=1)
[9] Thorkild Jacobsen; I. Tzvi Abusch (2002). Jeremy Black in Riches hidden in secret places: ancient Near Eastern studies in memory of
Thorkild Jacobsen (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=S4s5MveufJgC& pg=PA44). Eisenbrauns. pp.44. ISBN978-1-57506-061-3. .
Retrieved 24 May 2011.
[10] Ji Proseck (1998). Piotr Michalowski in Intellectual life of the Ancient Near East: papers presented at the 43rd Rencontre assyriologique
international, Prague, July 15, 1996, p. 240. (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=NcuRAAAAMAAJ). Oriental Institute.
ISBN978-80-85425-30-7. . Retrieved 24 May 2011.
[11] Espak, Peeter., Ancient Near Eastern Gods Ea and Enki; Diachronical analysis of texts and images from the earliest sources to the
neo-sumerian period, Masters thesis for Tartu University, Faculty of Theology, Chair for Ancient Near Eastern Studies, 2006. (http:/ / dspace.
utlib. ee/ dspace/ bitstream/ handle/ 10062/ 958/ espakpeeter. pdf;jsessionid=F71776D1F928C8B023CAFF1BB333185A?sequence=5)

Barton Cylinder

External links
Barton, George Aaron., Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptons, Yale University Press, 1918. Online Version
Cuneiform digital library initiative - CBS 08383 (
CDLI - The Barton Cylinder (
A Ninurta narrative (the Barton cylinder), The Diachronic Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Faculty of Oriental
Studies, University of Oxford (