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Women in ancient art

1.“Shall she be called a woman”:Ancient Near Eastern souces of imagery

By:Betty Schlossman, Hildreth J. York

In “ Woman’s art journal”,vol.2,no.2, 1981-1982, pg.37-41

“Many of our cultures attitudes towards women have their origins in the biblical and pre-
biblical times and may be examineted in the light of or Judeo-Christian tradition.Acestea, la
randul lor isi au radacinile in modul de a vedea viata al oamenilor din Orinetul antic.”

2.Ancient Near Eastern Terracottas
with a catalogue of the collection in the
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
P.R.S. Moorey

The numerous miniature images of clay that have survived from the ancient Near East are
witness to
perhaps the most important unknown in modern knowledge of the daily lives of people in
many parts of
the region, from the earliest village communities soon after 10,000 B.C. through to the time of
Achaemenid Persian Empire in the fifth to fourth centuries B.C. These terracottas relate
primarily to the
beliefs and rituals of ordinary people, in many cases particularly to women in domestic rather
than nondomestic
settings. This is their unique significance. All other comparable surviving material and written
evidence relates almost exclusively to the magico-religious ideologies and practices of local,
male, urban élites.(prefața)

The term terracotta is used conventionally here to embrace not only images of clay,
generally no more than
twenty centimetres high that have been kiln-baked, like pottery, but also similar images that
were only
lightly baked or simply sun-dried and thus were more vulnerable to damage and destruction.
Such images
are easily “taken in hand”. They include, most often, representations of human beings, or
deities and
demons in human form, and animals, which again may or may not have had a supernatural

In historic periods, at least, terracottas were generally associated with family life
within households rather


As the magic of ordinary people. with the relevant bibliographic references. where they were notably various. 186. period by period.1). Here it is taken for granted that it is no more likely to be helpful in research into the ideologies of ancient peoples (cf. two primary interpretative frameworks are used here. as in Babylonia and Assyria. Each provides its own special perspectives with its own particular advantages and disadvantages. prosperity and general well-being and. this is very apparent. even in historic periods. but taken together they are more powerful analytically than exclusive concentration on one or the other would be. white magical means were routine on the one hand to restore health.Women in ancient art than with corporate rituals or cults in official shrines and sanctuaries. In these ancient communities magic was regarded as amoral.(prefațã) Broadly speaking. Thus the word is used recurrently to describe what does not seem reasonable to a Christian or a Positivist. and to offer a focus for a general. was rarely if ever written down (cf. assessment of them. when relevant written evidence is available. Increasingly. n. on the other. if concise. The peoples of the ancient Near East were not ill-at-ease (as we so often are) with a single system for deities. anthropologists regard any distinction between magic and religion as difficult to sustain in studies of living groups of people. regardless of occupation and rank. embracing both cultural insiders and cultural outsiders. (general introduction p. it and its relevance to terracottas is more than usually elusive. not immoral. They are anthropological and ethnological analogy and comparative evidence from written sources for ancient magic and religion. it was central to the lives of all people. however. to avoid or avert disaster and evil in a world GENERAL INTRODUCTION -7- 2 . was generally conservative and its primary themes often remarkably enduring. Indeed. The Ashmolean Collection is representative enough to provide within a single set of covers a survey of the types of terracottas. unlike that of kings and courts. in contrast to that of élite equipment in precious or semi-precious materials. Reiner 1995. devils and human beings.6) Ancient Magic and Religion In western tradition magic has usually been treated as something to be condemned or explained away as an alien phenomenon. Voigt 1983. Their imagery. VIII). particularly in Mesopotamia. neither clandestine nor marginal. Indeed. Where Mesopotamian texts bear witness.

Women in ancient art where people saw themselves as threatened in their daily lives by innumerable supernatural demons of all kinds as well as by human sorcerers. sacrifice). as among the saints of Christianity. prevent or reverse a specific situation or state (for example. to prevent natural disasters. for example. magic was universally used to alter reality or failing that to keep it at bay. deities are likely to have varied much more from place to place than urban deities did. 2) vehicles of magic [not distinguished from religion] or figurines which are manipulated and in many cases disposed of as a key element (simulation) in rituals intended to produce. indeed perhaps preferred to the official pantheon. Deliberately harmful or black magic. or to protect one’s own health or property. They derive predominantly from urban. musical performances. to cause harm to other persons. In rural communities. it needs to be emphasized that our understanding is no less biased by the ancient written sources. or representations of supernatural beings used primarily as symbols or objects of worship (prayer. probably generated in ways very little different from those used in beneficial or white magic. they were also to be found in private houses and in rural contexts. figures used to teach values. where local or minor deities are likely to have been honoured. at times using images and practices far removed from those of statedirected cults (cf. Moreover. A domestic altar or shrine has various potential roles: it may shelter the spirits of ancestors. 3) didactic or teaching figures. In short. sexual facts 3 .6-7) Apart from the general distorting effect of modern western attitudes to magic. to insure fertility or healthy children. to cure illness). Terracottas were certainly current within them but. offerings. imagery and rituals. ethnographical studies indicate that women rather than men sustain household religion. Even such hostile magic was generally not forbidden in any legalistic sense. its animals and its crops. and promote both the fertility and prosperity of the family. state-controlled religious establishments with their formalized doctrines. significantly. both in public shrines and at household altars.(p7) “1) cult figures.(p. protect the house and household from evil spirits. was amongst the numerous evils against which protection had to be sought. whether in town or country. Kramrisch 1983).

1cm. S2 14 Approached her and overflowing with joy en-gaged her in conversation: Q 15 "I want to outfit you with the cape of ladyship. - Mar. McCown et al.Enlil and Ninlil: The Marriage of Sud Author(s): Miguel Civil Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society. 108 (Tell Asmar). hand-modelled.(p. their symbolic content and the specific functions they served have to be distinguished. right arm held down her side. 4) toys. The position of the arms and the free-standing form is particularly distinctive. fig.] have already tried to deceive my mother and made her angry. 103.. In any assessment of the role of terracottas in the daily lives of those who made and used them for a variety of purposes. Headless female figurine. 14–17). This is the type of female terracotta taken to be characteristic of the Akkadian Period (Barrelet 1968. 1. Functional groupings may well have crosscut groupings based on morphological or technological characteristics. pl. by Members of the American Oriental Society. 38 (Nippur). 70. No." S2 17 In her youthful inexperience Sud answered Enlil: 18 "(If) I want to stand proudly within our gate.3282 (X. Even if it may be possible to identify who or what is represented.2350–1650 B. or figures used for entertainment. the conversation(?) is finished.9) Akkadian to Old Babylonian Periods in Babylonia (c. you will be [ . 1983). Spycket 1992. may imply that she is wearing a long garment. .pg 8 Although there is likely to have been a relationship between form and function. pl. columnar with damaged hollow base (free-standing). 1940.. AN1927." 22 Enlil spoke to Sud a second time.Women in ancient art and sexual mores during initiation ceremonies. Studies in Literature from the Ancient Near East. S2 16 How I believe in your beauty.2) 3. left arm bent at the elbow with the hand cupping the left breast. after standing in the street. . 25–35. Moorey 1978.(pg. specific function is rarely likely to be evident from the form of the terracotta alone. Frankfort et al. C09 (figure). out of my presence! Q 21 [Others . 1967. S2 23 Once 4 . fig. W: 4.) 72.. baked. Dedicated to Samuel Noah Kramer (Jan. cream slip on a pink core. 43-66 13 He looked around and found the woman of his choice. 122: 1–3. that does not in itself resolve the question of what activity the terracotta was involved in. The absence of any indication of the navel or genitals. Vol. conical breasts in applied clay. previously indicated.457: Monument Z) H: 7. S2 who dare give me a bad reputation? 19 What are your inte[ntions]? Why do you come S2 here? S2 20 Young man. It is not clear whether the women of this type are naked or not.5cm. Fiche 2: C11. nos 93–6 (Tello). pp. whether it be natural or supernatural. (even if) you are not a honorable person.C. 186). and 5) representations of deceased persons (as well as of people or animals associated with the deceased) used as mortuary furniture” (Voigt 1983.

4. the luscious woman of my choice will stay close to her mother.Women in ancient art more conversing with her and standing close to her: 24 "Come. 47 [. 145 May the fate I have decreed for you come to pass. 42 Do not go to her empty-handed.]. 142 You two make love on the 'hill. 148 In the sleeping quarters. like you. make them last a long time. 49-59 [too broken for translation] 60 He repeated to her. could give counsel daily to the Great Mountain? 63 What could I contest in the king's message which (his) slave has received64 If there is truth in what you have told me-and may there be no falsehood. 37 I will give her a present of the Kiur as her favorite private quarters. 31 'I am an unmarried man. the most beautiful of all. Nanibgal spoke flatteringly to the emissary:1 61 "Advisor. fit for his king.65 Who could reject the one who bestows such exceedingly great favors? 66 [The message] from your House gladdens our hearts and livers. the matter rests in your hands. . in the flowered bed pleasing like a cedar forest. may he tell you: 'Beloved.. 45 He wasted no time [. let it be spread throughout all foreign countries. 46 Entered the Ezagin. 34 I am Enlil. 25 Kiss me.. she asked him (about the message). ever observant. 35 Let the name of your young daughter become Ninlil. 33 I want to send you presents in my name. I will place in your hands the life of the black-headed people..' have children afterwards. 151 The Lord whose word is pure(?) decrees the fate of the Lady. the Lady-Who. take her a treasure with your left hand. 140 May he embrace you. may abun-dance precede you. let the people . prostrated himself before her on her throne. 40 And. 48 Enlil's [emissary] stood [before her]. open wide!' 141 Never forget charms and pleasure. the great gods. may he treat you well. as for you. Bring me back her answer speedily.Gives-Birth and the Lady-of-the- Open-Legs." 44 When Nuska. 39 Let her apportion the duties among the Anunnas. Let us consider that amends have been made. I will have a talk with you. poured the best perfume over her face. 38 Let her live with me in the Ekur. he arrived at Eres. the Head of the Council. 36 I will present her the Gagissua as her storehouse.].. 43 Waste no time. may joy follow you.' 41 When you get there. spontaneously. the august royal dwelling. Nanibgal's residence. go with head held high into the August House. 143 Entering the House and living there. 150 He [sat] on the throne of his Enlilship.Enlil and Ninlil 5 . 147 She made her enter the Ekur of lapis lazuli. I send you a message concerning my wishes. my darling of the beautiful eyes." 146 Aruru grasped her hand and took her away into the August Shrine. 67 By bringing the bridal gifts and his personal presents the insult is wiped away 139 "May you be Enlil's favorite wife. pg 58-60 Oxford database. please be my wife. 149 Enlil made love to his wife and took great plea-sure in it. the Lord of heaven and earth. 62 Who. accept my bridal gifts. I am the noblest. had re-ceived Enlil's instructions. and stood up to bless her (his wife)." 26 The words had scarcely left his mouth that she went into the house in front of him. 32 I want to take your daughter as wife. Let her (also) decree fates. 144 Let the population line your way.. give me your consent. the woman of his choice: 152 He gives her the name Nintu. the offspring of Ansar. I want to speak to you.

bowing to submit to their judgment. At each gate she had to remove a piece of clothing. she gave wisdom to her. the ruler of the underworld.don't bathe in it! Ninlil. they do not know kissing. Many songs and hymns describe Inanna herself as eager for sex and as sexually active A narrative of the fertility god. parts of which are quoted below. he looked at her. theology. he looked at her. his eye was bright. Father Enlil -. "The Exaltation of Inanna" indicates how she was described as all powerful and reigning in heaven. and ritual. he will look at you! The Great Mountain. The shepherd who decides all destinies -. and Inanna.his eye is bright. he looked at her.his eye was bright. "My vagina is small.Women in ancient art 13-21 At that time the maiden was advised by her own mother. The river is holy. sexual desire dies. descended into the underworld of Hades. it does not know pregnancy. She had a dominant role in the royal marriage ceremony in which kings were ritually united with Inanna in order to engender the fertility of the kingdom. Related to her identification with growth. and in her absence. was her association with sex. Dumuzi. he will look at you! Straight away he will want to have intercourse. Enlil said to her. She arrived completely naked before the royal powers. he will lay hands on me! But right now. Various versions of the myth agree that Dumuzi and Inanna. Ninlil was advised by Nun-bar- ce-gunu: "The river is holy. Inanna was not released 6 . The poem. "I want to kiss you!". and fertility. 5. The Great Mountain. the woman bathed in the holy river. the lord's eye is bright. Her presence is involved in the attraction between the sexes. "I want to have sex with you!". The king said to her.his eye is bright. abundance. the queen of heaven and earth. he kissed her there. She was associated with the fertility of the crops and animals and with life in general. at this one kissing he poured the seed of Nergal-Meslamta-eda into her womb. consummated marriage. after a passionate courtship. Father Enlil -. In her descent she had to pass through seven guarded gates. Ereshkigal.Inanna Inanna (Ishtar) enjoyed great popularity and had a major role in Sumerian mythology. Held hostage and subjected to indignities. don't walk along the bank of the Id-nunbir-tum! His eye is bright. but he could not make her let him. he will want to kiss! He will be happy to pour lusty semen into the womb. Through their marriage the vital forces of nature increased. As Ninlil walked along the bank of the Id-nunbir-tum. desiring to visit her sister. woman! The river is holy -. he will look at you! The shepherd who decides all destinies -. became in Babylonian accounts the story of Tammuz and Ishtar. the lord's eye was bright.his eye was bright. Inanna. no one will stop me from telling this to my girl friend!" He had intercourse with her there. At this one intercourse. she will slap my hand! If my father learns of it. My lips are young. and then he will leave you to it!" 22-34 She advised her from the heart. but he could not make her let him. If my mother learns of it.

Inanna was permitted to return to earth for a few months each year. Bridegroom. The purpose of the rite is to arouse and ensure the future fertility and productivity of the realm by uniting two figures that symbolize the powers of sexual vigor and fertility. she makes love to him on her bed. arouse. in the pure lap. especially that of the fields and flocks. It seems to have been meant to promote. Against such a background we must view the sacred marriage ritual. Amausnumgalanna lies down beside her. "You are surely my beloved. 7 . A bridal sheet to rejoice the heart. In the street. The people cleanse the rushes with sweet-smelling cedar oil. dear to my heart. Man lies down in his [own] chamber Maiden lies down on her side. when holy Inanna has stretched out on the bed. he caresses her pure lap. Bull springs not upon cow. A central concern of Mesopotamian culture was the vigor and fertility of life. dear to my heart. When the lady has stretched out on the bed. During her absence underground. provided she could find another hostage to take her place. A bridal sheet for Inanna and Dumuzi. and perpetuate vitality. all vegetation on earth died. They arrange the rushes for the bed. fertility. Sexual desire did not seem constant among the animals. honeysweet. They spread a bridal sheet over the bed. ass impregnates not jenny. The vegetative cycle reflectd a pattern in which growth and fertility were not constant. and sexuality by uniting a king (or ruler) with Inanna. a man impregnates not a maiden. The Iddin-Dagan Hymn expresses this clearly: The king approaches the pure lap with lifted head."3 The sexual conjoining brought fertility to the land and demonstrated the metaphysical connection between human sexuality and the survival and regeneration of the world.Women in ancient art and resurrected until Enki sent gifts. in the pure lap. Lion. a pattern in which they sometimes seemed to vanish. she says to Iddin-Dagan. Goodly is your beauty. with lifted head he approaches the lap of Inanna. The encounter between king and goddess was sexual and the ancient texts describe their embrace. who personified or controlled these powers. A bridal sheet to sweeten the loins.

Bridegroom. Your place goodly as honey. In Plow my Vulva. honey filled. honeysweet. It is a balbale-song of Inanna. Lion. let me stand tremblingly before you. You. the very imagery of Inanna as a well-watered field is an agricultural metaphor. Your spirit. you have taken your pleasure of me. You have captivated me.5 A goddess-mother is also shown as close to her daughter. Lion. sleep in our house until dawn. my lord protector. Give me pray of your caresses. My precious caress is more savory than honey. Bring [your] hand over it like a gishban-garment. she will give you delicacies. Bridegroom. Tell my mother..Women in ancient art Goodly is your beauty. I know where to gladden your heart. sleep in our hourse until dawn. Thus it was the mother's responsibility to safeguard the pubescent girl and deliver her safely to marriage. Your heart. wide field which pours out grain Water flowing from on high for the lord. Bridegroom. your breast is your field. My lord god. Lion. You have captivated me. your breast is your field.I will drink it from you. pray lay [your] hand on it. Inanna. I would be taken by you to the bedchamber. wide field which pours out plants Your wide. let me stand tremblingly before you. Bridegroom. My Shu-Sin who gladdens Enlil's heart. Cup [your] hand over it like a gisbhan-sikin-garment. My father. bread from on high .4 Other sacred marriage texts echo these sentiments.. Let us enjoy your goodly beauty. because you love me. as is the image of Inanna's breast in "Your breast is your field": O Lady. Your wide. In the bedchamber. Give me pray of your caresses. I know where to cheer your spirit. when 8 . to whom she renders advice and who is accountable to her. I would be taken by you to the bedchamber. let me caress you. he will give you gifts. In a Dumuzi-Inanna courtship song. I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.

promises to bring the food she desires. for when he declares himself ready to come to the gate of her mother to ask for her in marriage.Women in ancient art Dumuzi urges Inanna to frolic with him in the moonlight. putting on eyeliner. it might appear unusual that she looks to Dumuzi for food. She transcends gender polarities. advises her to go bathe in the pure canal.copulating. I am one who knows not kissing. In two major mythic texts. Nevertheless. the mother cautions her daughter in proper sexual behavior." She does not intend to reject Dumuzi. the one who gave me water will no longer give me water. "the one who gave me food will no longer give me food. In the Myth of Enlil and Ninlil. or perform "wifely" duties. Thus. the societally approved and regulated breaking of a norm actually serves to reinforce it. those of Enlil and Ninlil and the Myth of Enki and Ninhursag. Inanna does not violate social convention. and impregnate her. She is to do this in order that Enlil see her. for his part. Ninlil's mother. As in all ritualized rebellion. and cultic dancers wear costumes that are male on the right and female on the left. Inanna is overjoyed. and is said to turn men into women and women into men. 9 . At her festivals men dress as women and women as men. when she appears in her aspect of the young sexually desirable girl. She does not weave. Inanna is known in Sumerian literature as goddess of sexual attractivenesss and desire. I am one who knows not copulating." Yet Inanna is not domesticated. Ishtar serves not only to transcend gender. she lives the life of young men. In this cultic gender mix and in its hymnic acknowledgement. anointing herself with oil. Inanna prepares for her wedding by washing herself. I am one who knows not that which is womanly -. she is a sexual innocent: I am one who knows not that which is womanly -. but ultimately to protect it. She refuses to learn the stories Dumuzi calls "the women-lies." Like them she loves warfare and seeks lovers. Dumuzi. Inanna replies. The sense of husband as provider of food is found in the lament for the dead Dumuzi in which Inanna mourns the loss of her provider.. Like them she is called "manly. The cult of Inanna represents this role of boundary-keeper of the gender line. dressing her hair. kiss her. unlike other women.kissing. Nunbarshegunu. She preserves her virginity until her wedding. 7 When we consider Inanna's function in the provision of fertility and abundance. In her lack of encumbrances. She is a woman in a man's life. she is placed at the boundary of differences between man and woman. and putting on jewelry. "What lies should I tell my mother?" Despite her love for Dumuzi. cook.

.. they still had tremendous influence. which gives him unparalleled power.. caring mother and also that of the wise counselor that provides guidance. whom she has also taken in as a son. a male.. Ninsun. Lost in his wanderings.. "O Shamash." (George. that will soon come into Gilgamesh's life.html Gender Roles in the Epic of Gilgamesh In the Epic of Gilgamesh. gender is a topic worthy of discussion. From the very beginning of the book. I shall make him your equal. http://www. Take Ninsun. The obvious role of men in the Epic of Gilgamesh is that of the position of power. Gilgamesh seeks guidance from his mother. he seeks the advice of his mother. After passing through the twin mountains of Mashu. full of concern. Furthermore. the sun God. Each skill and craft had its patron deity. on the other hand. Again. to protect Gilgamesh and Enkidu. at least in the human world. Ninsun takes on her motherly role by praying to Shamash. lets no daughter go free to her mother.. are male. is the most powerful God. for example. A mighty comrade will come to you.. rise against Humbaba the mighty gale winds.Women in ancient art The presence of both gods and goddesses in the Sumerian pantheon provided a divine counterpart for earthly communities and implied that the cosmos was ruled by male and female powers. she plays the role of the guiding. Gilgamesh encounters Shiduri. It is ironic because after his blatant abuse of power and mistreatment of women. I. gender plays a significant role in terms of Ninsun being a wise woman in a motherly position. the mother of Gilgamesh.. With all the women that play a role in the Epic of Gilgamesh. While women were not the most powerful gods nor the strongest or wisest of humans. This is evident in the way he rules. I." (George. play many more roles than men in this classic. the axe you saw is a friend. Clearly. Though the main characters of the story. Gilgamesh and Enkidu.and I. Anu. they decide to go to the cedar forest and take on Humbaba. the tavern keeper. gender plays a very significant role. and the drinking of beer.albany. When he has two dreams about an axe and a meteor. not only is Gilgamesh the king of Uruk.. She plays the role of the loving. "By day and by night his tyranny grows harsher. he is forced to seek advice from her on how to reach Uta- napishti. After Enkidu and Gilgamesh become the best of friends. but he is also two-thirds divine. The tavern keeper Ninsun is not the only woman that takes on the role of a wise woman who provides guidance. each of whom had a specific function. 288-291). 88-93).. the eating of grain. as 10 .let rise thirteen winds and Humbaba's face darken. lets no girl go free to her bridegroom. comforting mother by analyzing his dreams and relating the two objects to something "My son. At this point. and be his friend's saviour. women did not play a necessarily minor role. let the weapons of Gilgamesh then read Humbaba!" (George. III. Enkidu. Goddesses were in charge of the three activities the Mesopotamians considered civilizing: the wearing of cloth. 69-75) Mother Women.

She uses the power of sex and curiosity to lure Enkidu away from his wild environment. 47-54). After having sex for seven days and seven nights. learned the ways of morality and man. http://www.. 1800-1750 BC From southern Iraq A major acquisition for the British Museum's 250th anniversary This large plaque is made of baked straw-tempered clay. Enkidu was no longer able to return to live amongst the animals and was forced to learn the ways of civilized life. From Uta- napishti's wife who convinced Uta-napishti to tell Gilgamesh about the plant that would make him young again to the examples mentioned above. this display of power ultimately has the most significant effect on Gilgamesh's life. which Shamhat taught him. and was even convinced to go stand up to the mighty king of Uruk. Rejected and angered. several women were put in roles that had important effects on the men they encountered. this is not much different from the society we live in today. She wears the horned headdress characteristic of a Mesopotamian deity and holds a rod and ring of justice. but she used this power to dominate and hurt the men that loved her. While many may believe that women have still not reached the point of true equality. Ishtar's role in the Epic of Gilgamesh was a very powerful one in which she manipulated both men and gods to get what she wanted. It can easily be seen that while men were considered to be the most powerful and wisest humans and gods. Clearly. While the two conquer this opposition. but struck him down and broke his wing. Knowing that her love would eventually lead to his loss of independence and power and his ultimate downfall. "You loved the speckled allallu-bird. in one way or another. women also play powerful roles. The Gods decide that Enkidu.bookrags. Shamhat clearly possessed the upper hand over Enkidu. He points out her previous relationships. Of course.. Gilgamesh's best friend and loved the horse. modelled in high relief." (George.Women in ancient art mentioned above. symbols of her 11 . The 'Queen of the Night' Relief Old Babylonian. The figure of the curvaceous naked woman was originally painted red. Take Shamhat for example. must die for this act. it is hard to say that they are inferior and the significance of their roles in society is undeniable. which ultimately led to the friendship between Enkidu and Gilgamesh. She tells him how to reach Uta-napishti and the dangers that lay in between and tells him to find Ur-shanabi so that he may continue his journey. The girl In addition to providing guidance. but you made his destiny whip. it is a woman that he seeks advice from in one of his weakest moments. Not only did she use it to get the man she wanted. Ishtar exercises her divine power and has her father send the Bull of Heaven against Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh rejects her marriage proposal. Ishtar also takes on the role of a powerful woman. women had the power to significantly influence these men. He succumbed to her every word. It is easy to see that at this point in the epic. so famed in battle. The goddess of love used her sexual power over men. spur and lash.

The feet are carved in high relief against the back support and the toes and ankles are clearly indicated. from the perspective of gender differences. mould-made plaques from Babylonia from about 1850 to 1750 BC. The wavy hair is held in place by two plain bands. The same goddess appears on small. indicating that she is a goddess of the Underworld. (24. Inlay of shell and lapis lazuli survives in her left eye. Her long multi-coloured wings hang downwards. Inanna temple. She stands on the backs of two lions. 2600–2500 b. and a scale pattern indicates mountains. The best-preserved statues at Nippur are those that were buried within the temple furniture. shell.c. Sexuality. Crane. Level VIIB Limestone. The goddess and god. I believe. social interpretation of sexual practices. the goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld. The figure could be an aspect of the goddess Ishtar. ca. Early Dynastic IIIA. The background was originally painted black. and lapis lazuli H. similar to those of the two owls that flank her. are emblematic. Her garment is draped over her left shoulder and falls in folds indicated by two incised lines along the border of the otherwise smooth fabric. Such deliberate burials suggest that temple offerings and equipment remained sacred even when no longer in use. Nippur. broadly understood as the generation. Her legs end in the talons of a bird of prey. is the ongoing behavior that informs gendered identities". known in the Bible as Lilith. Borrowing from S. 1962 (62. like this example.70. masculinity is a composite of traits that contrast with feminine ones 12 . 9 3/4 in. or Ishtar's sister and rival. Mesopotamia. the Sumerian goddess of abundance. Nrgal and Ereshkigal The myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal (polysemous like other myths) reflects. The plaque probably stood in a shrine. expresses and embodies views about human sexuality and the relationship between men and women. Ereshkigal is demoted to the position of spouse of Nergal. who then becomes the ruler of the Underworld. Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war. . Frymer-Kensky. who interprets the myth as part of the general trend "towards total marginalization and privatization of goddesses" after Sumerian times.Women in ancient art divinity. and curly locks hang down on either side of the face. I would define gender as "the exterior. specific to a particular society. Moreover. Thermoluminescence tests confirm that the 'Queen of the Night' relief was made between 1765 and 45 BC. possessing what the ancients considered to be feminine and masculine human traits and characteristics. suggesting that she was associated with the night. crude. expression. or the demoness Lilitu. and organization of desire. T.9 cm) Rogers Fund.2) This statue of a standing woman with her hands clasped in front of her chest was found in the plasterings of a mud-brick bench located in one of the cellars of the Nippur temple of Inanna.

13 .Women in ancient art . Instead. kissing her and wiping away her tears. read: " Or else I (Ereshkigal) will not decree death at all. imply that he would long before have complied with her wishes. if only he had known what they were. Far more detailed and informative are the details of the later version. Though Nergal´s violence is emphasized. Alster . His brief words at the end. Foster proposes that the "expansion and revision of the story developed its motif of sexuality. . To sum up. The goddess´ s instructions to Namtar consist of two parts .an appeal for pity and two threats. it reveals how gender relations ought to have been structured. The wording of these two lines is significant: the use of each other implies a mutual and egalitarian sexual relationship between the two gods. Nergal´s readiness to listen to what Ereshkigal has to day may well mirror the regard men often had for women´s understanding and prudence. could use aggressiveness to subdue the woman. and in fact makes this the cause of Nergal´s triumph rather than his derring-do. he does stop to listen to her. if one can assume that we have in the story a picture of how relations between men and women ought to have been. And if the myth does not reflect how gender relations were actually structured in Mesopotamia. B. is relevant: "The common tendency in ancient literature is not to describe ordinary people directly. which raised many questions that may now be resolved with the new reading. R. whose loquaciousness as a female trait is perhaps implied. The man. B. A significant binary opposition existed between the two: active male as against passive female. Nergal says little in this passage. but only indirectly in the guise of deities. Much has been written about Ereshkigal´s impurity here. His potential for consideration is carefully noted in his relaxing his grip on her. I will not pass judgement for the great gods". "The two embraced each other and went passionately to bed". but the aggression should have been restrained and even mitigated once the goal of domination was achieved. the following picture emerges. though incomplete. if necessary. in contrast to Ereshkigal. who has done much seminal research on Mesopotamian literature. Concern and tenderness were components in a good relationship between the sexes. which is replete with subtleties and psychological insights. according to the androcentric perspective of Mesopotamian literature.

She held the lapis-lazuli measuring rod and measuring line in her hand. She placed a golden ring on her on her head. man. She covered her body with a pala dress. headgear for the open country. come" over her She took a wig for her forehead. the garment of ladyship.ox.gatewaystobabylone.cgi?text=t.2&charenc=j# 14 .1.Women in ancient art www. She put a Inanna in the underworld 14-19 She took the seven divine powers. let him come" on her eyes. she went on her way.orinst. http://etcsl. She collected the divine powers and grasped them in her hand. She placed mascara which is called "Let a man come. 20-25 She placed twin egg-shaped beads on her breast. She pulled the pectoral which is called "Come. She hung small lapis-lazuli beads around her neck. With the good divine powers.