c) Naked Goddess of Sumeria

Naked goddess 

                                             Some interpreters think that the Sumerian seals are decorated with demons from underworld, but Hemtun identifies that most of the portrayals are icons from zodiac and are telling about their world order. Later Zodiacs were modified to keep the hero figure in the centre fighting the animal, two lions or two bulls, which is a common motif in Middle Eastern seals. Many of the Middle Eastern seals show worship of the naked goddess. Hemtun concludes that this naked goddess (Inanna) is representing asterism Auriga, because in one seal, she stands on the ‘oxen’ in ‘Indian style’. Note the similarity between this Sumerian seal and the Indus seal depicting “deity of tree” in the “goat seal”. This seal illustrated here is from Syria (circa 1800 BC) and the naked goddess was the symbol of rain and fertility in Levant.


Figure 13: Naked Goddess. 

(Adapted from seal presentation in Hemtun web site- Catshaman) 

                                     The endless screw in upper corner stands for the River in sky, but it also stands for treaty, tolerance and perhaps the seasons. Compared with some other seals it could also mean the time running in quarters, because in some seal the “time-wave” is depicted as four circles
with a dot inside. The endless screw (time-wave) is very abstract and much like present day infinity symbol (∞). In fact, both the symbols look so similar, it looks like that the present day infinity symbol had developed from the old Sumerian time-wave symbol. Normally, wavy lines are named as serpentine (snake) design. But that is not correct explanation for the portrayal on this seal, because no serpent head is seen on the wavy lines. Waved lines are more likely to express flow and often the time flow. In some Sumerian seals there is a symbol like a fork with wavy legs. That symbol consists of the Serpent and the "harvest" in end of season. Inanna sometimes have it in her hand and the Phoenicians made this symbol equalent to the asterism Crab. The time-wave is indefinite and expresses the indefinite time at the wavy rock. That leads to an idiomatic expression picturing life as a journey on the River of Time. 

                                    Hemtun observes that the style of seals vary with different kings. The languages also vary and sometimes mixed languages are used. Best example for use of mixed languages is the seals from the time of Sargon and that of the Hittites period. However, the point here is that even though there were minor differences in the presentations in the seal, the overall idea was the same in all the seals, heavenly ideas were depicted on the seals to reflect on the earthly events or ideas, and was fully understood by the people of the ancient time. Hemtun says that the iconography was used as a Lingua Franca of Middle East in the ancient times. There are many differences in the myths explaining a single phenomenon. These differences in myths are because much time had passed (3000 years) and many independent cultures had evolved in the Middle East. 

                                 Much of these cultural ideas in the form of myths mixed with the earlier heritage from the leading Sumerian order (3000BC). This cultural lingua franca was prominently in use in Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia and the Aegean world. The world order of that time was a kind of federal society. It begins with independent city-states in Sumer probably. As long as there were space and fertility enough the ritual order kept the societies peaceful except for the "mountain people" in the Sumerian legends. The mountain people attacked settled cities of Mesopotamia and were the main threat to the civilised life of plain people. Sargon of Akkad was the first to unite many cities and reached the Levant around 2300 BC. It is not clear, how much cultural imperialism of Sargon influenced the people of conquered lands, but trade and intermingling of people from different cultures over a period of time had much greater influence on spreading of cultures. 

                                  The Hittite kingdom consisted of small city-states lead by the high priest-king. The duty of priest-king was primarily to lead the seasonal rituals in the same ways as the pharaohs of Egypt were leaders of rituals. Pharaohs of Egypt acted like a “Calendar man”, all the rituals and ceremonies carried out by Pharaohs corresponded with various agricultural seasons. Common people were reminded of the ploughing season and planting season through different festivals at different seasons. The farmers who followed the rituals of pharaohs could carry out agricultural operations successfully within the scheduled time and reaped benefits (better harvest). The role Hittite priestly king was something similar to the Egyptian Pharaohs. This role of kings as “calendar man” reflects on the spread of cultural ideas and uniformity of ideas throughout Middle East and Levant. 

                                     Hittites conquered Babylon around 1600 BC and soon influence of Sumerian symbolism could be seen on the symbolism of Hittite, since usually the stronger culture influences the weaker. The Hittite world order seems to have influenced Europe very much as we see in the symbolism during Bronze and Roman Age. We should not forget that Sumerian language and cuneiform script became what Latin has been for Europe. General estimate of historians is that the Sumerian dictionary contained around 65000 words. Scribes and writers of nearby areas freely borrowed and used the words from old Sumerian documents and word lists. This resulted in spread of Sumerian language and adaption of the same as lingua franca of Middle East, Anatolia and Levant.