The Victory of Marduk

Two mythological scenes, probably portraying episodes from the Mesopotamian creation epic Enuma Elish, decorate this silver goblet found in the ‘Ein Samiya cemetery. An enormous necropolis stretching almost two miles between Dhahr Mirzbaneh and ‘Ein Samiya, about nine miles northeast of Ramallah, the cemetery contains some 150 tombs with thousands of burials, mostly from the Middle Bronze Age I (2200–2000 B.C.E.).

The reliefs, rendered in repoussé (pressing or hammering from the opposite side), appear in the drawing above. At left, a Janus-like, double-faced figure holds out a plant in each hand. Its lower limbs consist of the hind parts of two animals (probably oxen), between which rests a disk with eight segments. Facing the double-faced figure on its right, and presumably on the broken left side as well, an undulating serpent rises like a charmer’s snake. To its right, another scene portrays two figures (one nearly obliterated) wearing fringed skirts and holding a band between them. The band seems to cradle a disk, interpreted as a solar disk, which has 12 segments and a face in the middle. Another thick-bodied snake lies below the band.

The distinguished Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin interpreted the scenes as represting the victory of Marduk over Tiamat. Originally the patron god of the city of Babylon, Marduk had become the king of the gods by the time of the composition of Enuma Elish (c. 1200 B.C.E.) Tiamat (Akkadian for “sea”) was the female half of the primordial couple.