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RE: [ANE-2] Re: The peacock in Mesopotamian and Elamite art

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  • Robert M Whiting
    On Tue, 8 Mar 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote: ... As Francesco pointed out, once you get to the ePSD site you have to search for what you want. Down at the
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 8, 2011
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      On Tue, 8 Mar 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:

      <snip>
      > Perhaps someone else on the list can speak to the Sumerian term. Your
      > link just took me to the Penn site, not to the actual entry. One
      > question would be regarding the age of the earliest attestation. Just
      > because a word is known in Sumerian does not mean it was used in the
      > third mill BCE.

      As Francesco pointed out, once you get to the ePSD site you have to search
      for what you want. Down at the bottom of the page at the center there is
      a blank rectangle. This is the search bar. Type haya in there (or type
      peacock if you prefer) and then click on the "GO" button. Or, you can use
      the URL http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/epsd/cbd/sux/H.html (WARNING: You
      have to scroll down to find the haya entry). From there, there is a link
      to the ePSD entry.

      The Sumerian is d=ha-ia3(NI)=mu&en, where d is the divine determinative
      and mu&en is a postpositional determinative indicating names of birds.
      There are apparently only six occurrences, 1 lexical (OB HAR-ra=hubullu
      IV, 2 examples) and 5 from Sumerian literary texts. The ePSD entry has a
      link to the ETCSL references to the literary texts. The term is
      apparently onomatopoeic since one of the literary references translates as
      "cry of the peacock". The lexical examples are available at CDLI, but you
      have to search for them. Unfortunately there is a fairly common Ur III
      divine name, d=Ha-ia3, that is often a theophoric element in personal
      names. It likely has nothing to do with peacocks.

      Since the references to haya are all literary/lexical as opposed to
      administrative/economic recording live or dead peacocks, there is really
      no evidence that there was ever a peacock in Mesopotamia in the third
      millennium. The literary reference were doubtless written by someone who
      had seen (or heard tell of) a peacock, but who's to say where or when.

      Bob Whiting
      whiting@...
    • MarcC
      Here is the URL for Niek Veldhuis discussion of Haya: http://tinyurl.com/45zkyme Marc Cooper Missouri State
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 8, 2011
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        Here is the URL for Niek Veldhuis' discussion of Haya:

        http://tinyurl.com/45zkyme

        Marc Cooper
        Missouri State
      • Trudy Kawami
        Thank you so much, Bob. Rather as I suspected, it s a very special but uncertain kind of bird. Thank you also for advice on how to navigate Penn s site. I
        Message 3 of 10 , Mar 9, 2011
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          Thank you so much, Bob. Rather as I suspected, it's a very special but uncertain kind of bird. Thank you also for advice on how to navigate Penn's site. I badly needed it!
          Trudy Kawami

          From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Robert M Whiting
          Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 8:11 PM
          To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [ANE-2] Re: The peacock in Mesopotamian and Elamite art



          On Tue, 8 Mar 2011, Trudy Kawami wrote:

          <snip>
          > Perhaps someone else on the list can speak to the Sumerian term. Your
          > link just took me to the Penn site, not to the actual entry. One
          > question would be regarding the age of the earliest attestation. Just
          > because a word is known in Sumerian does not mean it was used in the
          > third mill BCE.

          As Francesco pointed out, once you get to the ePSD site you have to search
          for what you want. Down at the bottom of the page at the center there is
          a blank rectangle. This is the search bar. Type haya in there (or type
          peacock if you prefer) and then click on the "GO" button. Or, you can use
          the URL http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/epsd/cbd/sux/H.html (WARNING: You
          have to scroll down to find the haya entry). From there, there is a link
          to the ePSD entry.

          The Sumerian is d=ha-ia3(NI)=mu&en, where d is the divine determinative
          and mu&en is a postpositional determinative indicating names of birds.
          There are apparently only six occurrences, 1 lexical (OB HAR-ra=hubullu
          IV, 2 examples) and 5 from Sumerian literary texts. The ePSD entry has a
          link to the ETCSL references to the literary texts. The term is
          apparently onomatopoeic since one of the literary references translates as
          "cry of the peacock". The lexical examples are available at CDLI, but you
          have to search for them. Unfortunately there is a fairly common Ur III
          divine name, d=Ha-ia3, that is often a theophoric element in personal
          names. It likely has nothing to do with peacocks.

          Since the references to haya are all literary/lexical as opposed to
          administrative/economic recording live or dead peacocks, there is really
          no evidence that there was ever a peacock in Mesopotamia in the third
          millennium. The literary reference were doubtless written by someone who
          had seen (or heard tell of) a peacock, but who's to say where or when.

          Bob Whiting
          whiting@...<mailto:whiting%40cc.helsinki.fi>



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Trudy Kawami
          Thank you, Marc. This is also very helpful. I looked into francolins and found this lovely image of a black francolin - who could be called jeweled with that
          Message 4 of 10 , Mar 9, 2011
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            Thank you, Marc. This is also very helpful.

            I looked into francolins and found this lovely image of a black francolin - who could be called "jeweled" with that lovely plumage.

            http://www.north-india.in/fauna/Birds/black_francolin.htm

            As for haya being like the call of a peacock, well from personal experience I highly doubt it. The peacock (& peahen too) have exceedingly shrill & piercing voices that they use at all hours of the day or night. They are not continually vocal, but when they speak you can't help but hear.
            Trudy Kawami (NYC where, yes, we have peacocks)

            From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of MarcC
            Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2011 1:12 AM
            To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [ANE-2] Re: The peacock in Mesopotamian and Elamite art



            Here is the URL for Niek Veldhuis' discussion of Haya:

            http://tinyurl.com/45zkyme

            Marc Cooper
            Missouri State



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Francesco Brighenti
            Dear List, ... I have come to think that the German archaeologist Burchard Brentjes was sincerely convinced that the griffins represented in Mitannian glyptic
            Message 5 of 10 , Mar 12, 2011
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              Dear List,

              Trudy Kawami wrote:

              > I can only note that Brentjes may SPECULATE and Stein may ASSERT,
              > but neither are archaeolozoologists. Neither do they cite
              > osteological or other objective evidence for peacocks. There are
              > many birds with crests, but few that have identifiable showy tails
              > like the peacock. Birds with large vertical showy tails are not
              > common in the arts of the ANE until the Parthian or Sasanian
              > periods. These representations, usually called simurg/senmerv do
              > not have raptor's beaks. They are clearly based on peacock images.
              >
              > [...]
              >
              > Underlying many of these speculations is the assumption that all
              > connections with South Asia were somehow direct and that the
              > movement of one thing, the peacock for instance, meant that all
              > ideas & practices connected with it moved as well. If you accept
              > Brentjes' & Stein's identification, then you must also consider all
              > the Aegean griffons to be peacocks as well.

              I have come to think that the German archaeologist Burchard Brentjes was sincerely convinced that the griffins represented in Mitannian glyptic art included an exotic (= Indian) peacock-aspect within their hybrid iconography; yet, Brentjes' is, in my opinion, a gross speculation based on optical illusion (details below). Numerous proponents of an Indian origin of the elusive Mitanni Indo-Aryan-speaking folks have stressed this theory of Brentjes' to the utmost in order to assert that the Indo-Aryan-speaking groups supposedly residing in the Kingdom of Mitanni had migrated there from India (the peacock's homeland), and not from Central Asia as is generally held by mainstream scholars.

              Besides those reproduced in my post archived at

              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ANE-2/message/13207 ,

              I have found some more citations from Brentjes' works illustrating his theory:

              1) "Maskenträger und Greifen mit dem Krönchen der Pfauen fallen besonders auf und weisen weit nach dem Osten, da die Wildpfauen die Grenzberge zum Iran nicht überschritten haben und Pfauentänzer noch im heutigen Indien ein große Rolle spielen" (B. Brentjes, _Der Tierstil in Eurasien_, Leipzing, E.A. Seemann Verlag, 1982, p. 56).

              My rough English translation:

              "[In Nuzi cylinder-seals] mask carriers and griffins with the coronet of peacock are particularly noticeable and point far to the east, for wild peacocks did not cross the mountains bordering on Iran and peacock-dancers still play a big role in today's India."

              2) "[T]he Mitanni (with Aryan gods and Aryan names) brought peacock-dancers and mythical mixed creatures with peacock-heads to Mesopotamia in the 17th or 16th century BC (Brentjes, 1976). This could be an element of an Aryan-migration, but they came from the east, not from Europe" (B. Brentjes, "Indo-Aryan Problem and Archaeology of Eurasia", _Journal of Central Asia_ 11 [1988], p. 144).

              3) "[T]he gryphon with a high crest known from Pazyryk (Brentjes and Vasilevsky 1989: pls. 20-21) [...] resembles the eagle-headed demon of Assyrian art and is similar to the peacock-demon incised on Mitanni seals" (B. Brentjes, "‘Animal Style’ and Shamanism: Problems of Pictoral Tradition in Northern in Central Asia", in J. Davis-Kimball et al. [eds.], _Kurgans, Ritual Sites, and Settlements: Eurasian Bronze and Iron Age_, Oxford, Archaeopress, 2000, p. 261).

              However, I now realize that the *sole* criterion used by Brentjes to identify the bird-headed monsters and demons represented on Nuzi cylinder-seals as "mixed creatures with peacock-heads", "peacock-demons", and "peacock-dancers" variously, is the peacock-like crest most such mythical beings are provided with. Brentjes calls this iconographic feature "das Krönchen der Pfauen" ('the peacock's coronet' -- see citation above); yet, unfortunately for him, there is *no other* iconographic feature (e.g. peacock-tail, peacock-"eyes", etc.) attached to those mythical beings that may suggest their symbolic association with the peacock. Their beak is, in most cases, hooked, and peacocks do not have hooked beaks (thanks, Trudy, for pointing this out to me!). Therefore, Diana Stein's assertion that "[in Nuzi cylinder-seals] the griffin has bird (peacock) head" (see at <http://tinyurl.com/6yspuk6>), which was possibly influenced by Brentjes' theory, appears totally unwarranted.

              Indeed, according to other specialists in Mitannian cylinder-seals the "triple crest" of both the griffin(-monster) and griffin-demon depicted at Nuzi (where nearly 10% of the 1000 seals carry the griffin motif) consists, in the majority of cases, of three feather-elements, each of which ends in a curl. A cylindrical drill was used to engrave the curls of the griffin's crest elements. Such drill holes are technically *identical* to those representing the twisted ends of the plumes in all of the bird's wings engraved on Nuzi seals -- cf. the "Index of Seal Impressions" at pp. 246ff. in Stein's book at

              http://tinyurl.com/683lm79

              Let us now see how other scholars have described the crest of the griffin-beings depicted on the cylinder seals from Nuzi:

              From E. Porada, _Seal Impressions of Nuzi_, New Haven, American Schools of Oriental Research, 1947:

              "[A] griffin[-monster] with the crest of three feathers [...] is the usual representation on sealings belonging to the Elaborate Style [i.e. the second-generation cylinder-seals of Nuzi according to Porada's own classification -- FB]" (p. 40).

              "The most frequent representations show [the griffin-demon] with a crest of three feathers and a curl hanging down to the nape of his neck; his body is human, but he has the claws of a bird. He has [...] both arms and wings. Less frequent are those representations where the crest is replaced by one large feather receding from the source of the griffin's beak. On a few sealings, especially those where a double-headed griffin-demon is represented, the heads are plainly those of birds, with neither crest nor large receding feather" (p. 74).

              From J.L. Crowley, _The Aegean and the East: An Investigation into the Transference of Artistic Motifs between the Aegean, Egypt and the Near East in the Bronze Age_, Jonsered, Paul Åströms förlag, 1989, p. 51:

              "For eastern traditions it is Mitannian art that creates the true Griffin motif. Its iconographical features are crest with curl and three elements, violent action poses, and selected details from the Heraldic Poses repertoire."

              QUESTION:

              ***A crest made of three feather-elements ending in a curl is not necessarily a peacock's crest, is it?***

              As to Brentjes' supposed "peacock-dancers", they are actually identified by Porada as griffin-demons portrayed in a (likely) dancing pose:

              "Masked dance [...] -- In a few instances [on Nuzi cylinder seals], figures can be quite clearly recognized, I believe, as wearing masks. In all these cases (Nos. 93, 651, 791, 792) the masks are those of griffins. The head and wing of the griffin are apparently made of one piece and seem to be drawn over the head and part of the upper body of a human personage. The appearance of this type of 'griffin-demon' accordingly varies completely from such representations as No. 793, where the head of the griffin rises organically from a human neck and the wings grow from the shoulders. On No. 792 such a griffin-mask appears in contest with a lion. In place of a realistic struggle, however, the two figures, lion and griffin-mask, give the impression of executing the rhythmic steps of a dance figure. This suggests the possibility that a masked dance is here represented, and that, as anticipated above, this type of dance should be added to the choreographic repertoire of Nuzi. The other two representations of the griffin-masks show them with a vase, from which a stream of water flows on No. 791. Both actions, ritual dance and libation, could have been easily performed by priests and observed by the engravers of our sealings. The fact that masks were used in religious practices of the Akkadian conjurer-priests (cf. Oppenheim JAOS LXIII p. 32), which are documented by texts, supports this contention. One of these masks was the _pân is.s.ûri¬_, the mask of a bird; the identification with our griffin-mask is obvious. We thus have two representations of the griffin-demon on the sealings of Nuzi: one, the portrayal of a human conjurer-priest who bound the mask over his head and thus became the griffin-demon whose beneficial functions he acted out; the other, the griffin-demon as the genuine superhuman creature in whom the features of the bird (such as the head and claws) were organically combined with a human body" (Porada, op. cit., pp. 120-21).

              Best,

              Francesco Brighenti
              Venice, Italy
            • Francesco Brighenti
              ... After doing some additional research, I can declare that the mystery of B. Brentjes claim about some standard poles from Susa bearing the peacock
              Message 6 of 10 , Mar 15, 2011
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                Trudy Kawami wrote:

                > We have strayed quite a bit from the Elamite aspect that you first
                > raised. If the "standard pole" that you mentioned came from Susa,
                > it should be in the Louvre. Their ANE collection is quite
                > searchable. Perhaps you could at least find its acc. no. (should be
                > Sb & then some digits) so I could look at it.

                After doing some additional research, I can declare that the 'mystery' of B. Brentjes' claim about some "standard poles" from Susa bearing the peacock motif is solved.

                Actually, the English translation "standard-pole", chosen to designate one of such objects in an article of Brentjes', is mistaken. What the German scholar means by that term is, in case, 'a standard top (made of metal)'. Indeed, in a German article of his he calls that same artifact either "Hammer" or "Standartenkopf".

                The pieces Brentjes refers to in a number of publications of his in order to show that Old Elamite art knew (before 2100 BCE) of the "peacock motif", are just two. One is a silver socketed hammer preserved in the National Museum of Iran, and the other, a bronze shaft-hole hammer preserved in the Louvre Museum. Both these ceremonial weapons can, in fact, be broadly defined as 'standard
                tops'. They are illustrated with drawings in French archaeologist R. de Mecquenem's article "Têtes de cannes susiennes en métal" (_Revue d'Assyriologie et d'Archéologie orientale_ 47 [1953], pp. 79-82), which is available online at

                http://tinyurl.com/4acbpug
                (silver socketed hammer: Fig. 2.3; bronze shaft-hole hammer: Fig. 2.4a)

                These two drawings by de Mecquenem are reproduced in some publications of Brentjes' to visually support his own ideas on the presence of a "peacock motif" in Old Elamite art. As one can easily show, however, there is no support for Brentjes' alleged discovery of a "peacock motif" on these two metal pieces recovered during excavations at Susa.

                Details:

                1) Brentjes' "proto-Sênmurw" (as he interprets what he opines to be a mixed mythical animal represented on the silver socketed hammer from Susa, Fig. 2.3 in de Mecquenem's article):

                Excerpt from B. Brentjes _Der Tierstil in Eurasien_, Leipzig, E.A. Seemann, 1982, p. 58:

                "Ein ähnlicher Hammer mit Pfauenschwanz trägt einen Schlangenkopf und erinnert damit an den späteren iranischen Senmurv, den Pfauendrachen der Sasaniden."

                My tentative English translation of the above passage:

                "[A] hammer with peacock's tail carries a snake head, and because of that it is reminiscent of the later Iranian Senmurv, the peacock-dragon of the Sassanians."

                However, in an English article published by Brentjes just one year later, the "snake" has become a "mammal":

                "[T]he oldest form [of the Sênmurw] was found in old-Elamite art. A 'standard'-pole from Susa [...] combines the head of a mammal with the tail of a peacock" (B. Brentjes, "Contributions to the Iconography of Some Picture-Motifs of Central Asia", in G. Barthel and L. Rathmann, [eds.], _The Arab world and Asia between Development and Change_, Berlin, Akademie, 1983, p. 283. Here it may be noted that Brentjes erroneously adds that "an inscription refers [this artifact] into the time of king Shulgi", whereas it is *the other* artifact from Susa he discusses, i.e. the bronze shaft-hole hammer in the Louvre, that bears that inscription!).

                It must also be noticed that de Mecquenem, at p. 80 of his article linked to above, tentatively identifies the extremely stylized animal-head forming the curved portion of the hammer in question as a bird's (raptor's or gallinacean's) head. Therefore, there appears to be total uncertainty as to what animal the head belongs to. But what I want to specially stress here is that the "peacock's tail" mentioned by Brentjes is identified as such by him on the basis of no objective evidence. Indeed, according to de Mecquenem this is not the artistic rendering of a bird's (not to say a peacock's) tail, but rather a "wing placed by the side of the [hammer's] socket, [...] identified by some ribs [and] ending in four simulacra of curls" (p. 80; translation from French mine). The "peacock's tail" -- and, together with it, the inference that this is a representation of a "proto-Sênmurw" -- is merely a speculation of Brentjes'.

                1) Brentjes' "peacock-hammer" (as he interprets the bronze shaft-hole hammer from Susa, Fig. 2.4a in de Mecquenem's article):

                See also the two pictures of this artifact in the Louvre's website at

                http://tinyurl.com/6x9u42p
                (the caption at the Louvre recites: "Marteau orné de deux têtes et d'un plumage d'oiseau. Inscription du roi Shulgi 'héros puissant, roi d'Ur, roi de Sumer et d'Akkad'.")

                De Mecquenem (p. 80 in the article) states that what Brentjes would have later interpreted, also in this case, as a hanging tail decorated with "eyes" that would therefore be likely to again have the peacock as a model ("einem hängenden Schwanz, der mit »Augen« geschmückt ist, also wahrscheinlich wieder den Pfau als Vorbild hat", p. 58 in Brentjes' book _Der Tierstil in Eurasien_ cited above), is a wing analogous to that of the silver socketed hammer from Susa described above on account of its being decorated on both faces by three series of triple ribs ending in three buttons or curls (p. 80 in de Mecquenem's article). Even the two bird's heads do not resemble peacock's heads at all -- they may respectively belong to a raptor and a gallinacean instead, yet this, too, is speculative.

                According to a more recent study, "[this] weapon is of a type closely related to votive axes or tops of standards from eastern Iran and Bronze Age Bactria in western Central Asia. The long plumes on [sic -- FB] the bird's heads suggest that they may belong to supernatural birds, probably double-headed bird-demons -- a type of fantastic animal that may have had its origins in eastern Iran" (E. Carter et al., "The Old Elamite Period, circa 2700-1500 B.C.", in P.O. Harper, J. Aruz & F. Tallon [eds.], _The Royal City of Susa: Ancient Near Eastern Treasures in the Louvre_, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, p. 92). Also archaeologist T.F. Potts (_Mesopotamia and the East: An Archaeological and Historical Study of Foreign Relations ca. 3400-2000 B.C._, Oxford Committee for Archaeology, 1994, p. 176) says this bronze hammer is typologically Bactrian with plume-like extensions at the back ending in curls and birds' heads rising from the top, and is surely an exotic item. A very similar hammer of purer stylization and finer workmanship, dated to the same period (ca. 2000 BCE), is also said to be from Bactria (G. Ortiz, _In Pursuit of the Absolute: Art of the Ancient World from the George Ortiz Collection_, London, Royal Academy, 1994, p. 15) -- see picture at

                http://tinyurl.com/5sqphbs

                It remains to see whether the other artifact too -- namely, the above referred silver socketed hammer from Susa -- can have originated in Bactria. This is not impossible if one considers that the plume-like extensions at its back, rendered by means of ribs ending in lock- or button-like curls, are typologically almost identical to those observable in the bronze shaft-hole hammer preserved in the Louvre, which, as we have seen, is currently thought to be of Bactrian origin. If this were the case, Brentjes' theory about the appearance of a "peacock motif" in Old Elamite art before 2100 BCE would simply crumble, given that the two metal objects he attempts to base it on would, in this case, prove to be two non-Elamite artifacts. Anyway, even if one or both of those two artifacts could be shown to have been produced in Elam, Brentjes' assertion that they display "tail"-extensions decorated with peacock-"eyes" would remain unsubstantiated, being merely a personal *opinion* of his not shared, so far as I could ascertain, by any other ANE specialist.

                Best,

                Francesco Brighenti
                Venice, Italy
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