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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

by Graff, Sarah B., Ph.D., New York University, 2012, 475; 3524156
Abstract (Summary)

The demon Humbaba or Huwawa, best known to modern scholars for his role in the Gilgamesh epic, was an important figure in the visual and literary culture of the ancient Near East. The earliest known representations of Humbaba may date as early as the Akkadian period, and by the late third-early second millennium BCE his iconography had been codified as a distinctively wrinkle-faced, grimacing anthropomorphic figure or isolated head. Images of Humbaba alone, or attacked by the heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu, continued to appear in ancient Near Eastern art through the Achaemenid period, and outside of the Near East went on to influence fearsome creatures such as the Gorgon. The literary lifespan of Humbaba in the Gilgamesh texts, and in divination literature in which his distinctive visage was linked to a number of omens, spans a similarly long period of time. The canonical image of Humbaba seems to have originated in southern Mesopotamia, but spread throughout the Near Eastern world and beyond in subsequent centuries. It is argued here that the prevailing interpretation of Humbaba as an apotropaic figure does not adequately describe his function as a guardian of liminal places and states, including temple and palace entrances, and of sexual intercourse and death. This dissertation marks a first attempt to gather all available images of Humbaba and related iconography, to provide a rigorous framework for identifying Humbaba visually and tracing the development of the image, and to analyze the corpus with relation to literary, archaeological, and art historical evidence. Objects discussed include terracotta plaques and figurines, glyptic, stone sculpture, vitreous materials, metalwork, and ivory.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Welch, Katherine, Bahrani, Zainab
Commitee: Fleming, Daniel, McCredie, James, Thomas, Thelma
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, Near Eastern Studies
Keywords: Humbaba, Huwawa, Iconography
Publication Number: 3524156
ISBN: 978-1-267-58390-1
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