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Tablets From The Sippar Library V. An Incantation From Mīs Pî

  • F. N. H. Al-Rawi and A. R. George


The tablet IM 124645 was excavated in 1986 in niche 3 A of the library. It offers a version of an incantation from Tablet III of Mīs pî, the series of rituals that accompanied the restoration and re-animation of divine statues. In the incantation a purification priest requests the gods Ea, Šamaš and Asalluḫi to “determine the destiny” of the divine statue so that it may be provided with a mouth to eat and ears to hear. Our knowledge of this incantation is slightly improved by the discovery of the new manuscript.

In addition, IM 124645 clarifies our understanding of a tablet from Hama inscribed with a longer version of the incantation. By virtue of the subscript of the Hama tablet, ana lumun(ḫ ul) ṣēri(m u š), “against the evil portended by a snake”, this incantation was considered by its editor, translators and others to be a n a m . b ú r. b i. The incantation is catalogued by W. R. Mayer as Ea, Šamaš, Marduk/Asalluḫi l b. Mayer lists as duplicates the two Kuyunjik fragments, Sm 290 and Sm 1414. Of these two pieces the former is clearly Mīs pî, and duplicates the beginning of the incantation (Sm 290 rev. 6′–10′ // IM 124645 1–4). The latter piece, still unpublished, duplicates slightly more of the text (Sm 1414 1′–8′ // IM 124645 1–7), indeed enough to show that, like IM 124645, it lacks the section characterized by verbs in the 2nd person pl. (Hama 7–11). Thus Sm 1414 joins IM 124645 as a second published source for the shorter version of the incantation, while the Hama tablet remains, for the moment, the sole certain witness to the longer version. Sm 290 is too barely preserved to be sure which version it held.



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2. In view of the fact that so little is missing at the beginning of the line, the first word is restored after Sm 290 rev. 7′: da-a-a-an (Læssøe, , Bīt Rimki, p. 2654; Pl. 3, no. 10) rather than the Hama tablet: [da-i]-nu di-ni (Læssøe, , Iraq 18, p. 61, 2).

4. Where the Sippar manuscript has giš-ḫur-ra the Hama tablet has signs that Læssøe read is-qé- ˹e˺-[ti]; however the copy (and the space available) suggests there gišḫur˺-r[i]. Sm 1414 has, probably, also giš-ḫ[ur-ri] (1. 4′).

5. In the Hama tablet for Læssøe's [mu]-kin 7 read now [pa-qí]-du (1. 6), with Sm 1414 5′: pa-qí-du. Where Sippar has na-bu-ú Hama reads [mu]-du-ú (1. 7). However, Sm 1414 has b]a-nu-ú (1. 6′), for which nābû may be a simple error, if not a true variant.

6. In the version of the incantation given by the Hama tablet several lines of additional material fall between tēlilti (1. 7) and ša ili, and the latter phrase opens a clause read by Læssøe as šá DINGIR u ˹d˹[Iš-tar] ta-ḫ[a-ṭa k]a-lis pa-rak-ku (1. 11). Whether that is correct may be open to doubt, but on Sippar it is difficult to obtain satisfactory meaning if ša ilī begins a new clause.

9. Note the unconventional orthography for šangammāḫu, which is usually written in Sumerian (s á n g a. m a ḫ) or phonetically. At the end of the line a reading eri-du 10ki! might also be considered. In the Hama tablet one may now read e[ri-d]u 10 instead of Læssøe's ˹i˺-[du]-u (1. 19). The self-identification of the officiant as one who wields the magic of Eridu is common in exorcistic texts (which rules out a reading urusìp-par 5). It is sufficient to quote just one other example: ka.tu6.gál er i d uki. g a . k e4 nam. šub // a-šip eri-du10 šá ši-pat-su nak-lat a-na-ku, “I am the exorcist of Eridu, whose incantation is skilful” (CT 16 28, 52–3: Utukkū lemnūtu).

12. In the Hama tablet read now ˹eb˺-[bu-t]u.

13. The development aškus<arkus is not unexpected (see GAG §35 c), but the phonetic writing is most unusual, and probably symptomatic of a manuscript written at dictation.

20. The sign a 1 a m, here and in two unpublished duplicates from Kuyunjik which duplicate ll. 18 ff. (courtesy of C. B. F. Walker), means that the broken word in the Hama tablet (1. 26) must now be restored ṣa-al- [mi, “statue”, not ṣa-al-[li, “sleeper” (Læssøe; CAD Ṣ, p. 74; Š/l, p. 362; AHw, p. 1077), or (mu)-ṣa-a-al-[li, “suppliant” (Caplice). [See now Mayer, W. R., Or NS 63 (1994), p. 117, citing other instances also.] This reference to a statue, especially, makes it clear that the incantation given on the Hama tablet belongs, like that on IM 124645, to Mīs pî. The fact that the Hama tablet bears a subscript which appears to indicate that the incantation was recited as a n a m .búr. b i against snakes must be understood as an example of borrowing from one genre to the other. An incantation that begins in a very similar fashion and is clearly of the n a m . b ú r. b i genre is edited by Caplice, R. I., Or NS 40 (1971), pp. 156–8 (catalogued by Mayer, Untersuchungen, as Ea, Šamaš, Marduk/Asalluḫi 1 a). This may have encouraged a general confusion as to what were the particular functions of the various incantations to this group of deities.

22–3. The emendations follow the unpublished Kuyunjik manuscripts. At the beginning of 1. 23 ilu šū means, of course, the deity incarnate in the statue, and Læssøe's restoration [LÚ] (so also Caplice) is no longer tenable.

25. This short colophon defies immediate decipherment. Is šá-GA-NI a personal name (“according to PN”)? Alternatively, is it an unexplained cryptic writing for šáṭir (“written according to dictation”), or a cryptography gone wrong (i.e., šá-ṭur! =šá-ṭir x)?. Less probable are makkūrīšu(n í g . g a . n i), “according to (a tablet in) his possession,” and šá labirīšu(s u m u n!. n i), “according to its original.”

Tablets From The Sippar Library V. An Incantation From Mīs Pî

  • F. N. H. Al-Rawi and A. R. George


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