The World’s First Female Author, Enhedu’anna

This ancient clay tablet from Babylonia is inscribed in Sumerian cuneiform and dates to the 20th-17th centuries BC. It mentions King Sargon’s daughter Enhedu'anna as the author of a hymn to the goddess Inanna. The tablet has lines written first by the teacher in the first column, with 2 students repeating the hymn in columns 2 and 3.

Enhedu’anna was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BC), founder of the first documented empire in Asia. Enhedu’anna emerges as a genuine creative talent, a poetess as well as a princess, a priestess and a prophetess. She is, in fact, the first named, non-legendary author in history. As such she has found her way into contemporary anthologies, especially of women’s literature.


~ Panel with striding lion.
Culture: Neo-Babylonian
Date: 604-562 B.C.
Medium: Brick, glazed.

From the source: The lion was sacred to Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and war. This striding beast is one of more than a hundred that once lined the lower portion of the walls of a processional way that passed through the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon. During the New Year festival, images of the gods were carried down this street, named ‘the enemy shall never pass’ (aibur-shabu in Babylonian). The lions provided a dramatic, heraldic approach to the gate and served as symbolic protectors and guides for those participating in the ritual.

Assyrian Pazuzu Amulet, 8th-6th Century BC

Carved of basalt or diorite

Pazuzu was an Assyrian and Babylonian demonic god who is represented with a canine head, scaly body, a snake headed penis, the talons of a bird and usually four wings of a bird. He is often regarded as an evil underworld demon, but he seems also to have played a beneficent role as a protector against pestilential winds; a bronze figure of Pazuzu in the Louvre, (accession number MNB 467) is inscribed, “I am Pazuzu, son of Hanpa, king of the evil spirits of the air which issues violently from mountains, causing much havoc.” His close association with Lamashtu, a fierce demon goddess responsible for child mortality, resulted in him being used to counter her powers and send her back to the underworld. Amulets of Pazuzu were positioned in dwellings to act as protective barriers to evil powers, or are often in the form of just a head, as in this example, and were hung around the necks of pregnant women. Pazuzu is popularly known today as the demon from the 1973 film, The Exorcist.

Old Babylonian Plaque with Nergal, 18th-17th Century BC

A D-shaped baked clay plaque fragment with high-relief figure of a standing god Nergal wearing tall cap, with long curly hair and heard, a pair of bull(?) ears, in left hand holding a mace decorated by a double lion’s head, two daggers secured at the belt, a pair of decoration or weapons with lion head finial to the shoulders.

Nergal was a Mesopotamian god of war, plague and negative aspect of the sun. His domain was the Underworld, where he ruled over death together with other deities and later with his wife Ereshkigal. According to one myth, she had been the sole queen of the underworld into which Nergal was sent to apologize for having offended her messenger. There, he was seduced by her, but managed to trick his way out of her realm. Ereshkigal was angry about the loss of her lover and finally had him brought back to her. From this point onward, they ruled the underworld jointly. In his astral aspect, he was connected with planet Mars. As a god of war and underworld, Nergal controlled a variety of demons and evil forces, who are particularly prominent in the myth of Erra as agents of death and destruction