Width: 8.300 cm
Height: 8.400 cm
Room 55: Mesopotamia
Clay mask of the demon Huwawa
From Sippar, southern Iraq, about 1800-1600 BC
For use in divination
One method for predicting the future in ancient Mesopotamia was the study of the shape and colour of the internal organs of a sacrificed animal. Experts compiled records of these signs or omens together with the events they were believed to predict. A cuneiform inscription on the back of this clay mask suggests that the intestines might be found in the shape of Huwawa's face in this mask. Huwawa (also called Humbaba in some texts) was a monster who appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh. He was guardian of the Cedar Forest (probably referring to the Lebanon in the late version of the tale) but was defeated by Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
The mask is formed of coiled intestines represented by one continuous line. Such an omen would mean 'revolution'. The divination expert who made the mask is named in the inscription as Warad-Marduk. It was found at Sippar, the cult centre for the sun-god Shamash, who was responsible for omens.
S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creati (Oxford University Press, 1991)
H. McCall, Mesopotamian myths (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)
J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)