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Casco Bay Assyriological Institute (Chebeague Island, ME 04017)
Barbara Nevling Porter (Project Director: November 2003 to September 2006)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$18,563 (approved)
$18,563 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 6/30/2005

What is a God? Anthropomorphic and Non-Anthropomorphic Aspects of Deity in Ancient Mesopotamia

A five-day conference of five scholars to consider anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic aspects of deity in ancient Mesopotamia.

This project brings together five experts in different aspects of ancient Mesopotamian culture to reassess how Mesopotamians imagined their gods. Current understanding of the gods of Mesopotamia emphasizes their nature as powerful divine persons, the principle form in which gods appear in myths, hymns and prayers. In other texts, however, and in visual images, gods take a wide variety of non-anthropomorphic forms, ranging from planets to trees, crowns, lapus lazuli, harps and temples, which are labeled as gods and receive offerings alongside other gods. Many of these other texts and images, however, present complex interpretive problems and have not been widely used by historians of religion attempting to define the nature of Mesopotamian gods. The project will bring together specialists in Mesopotamian astronomy, art history, literature, ritual, and archaeology to collaborate in creating a new model of Mesopotamian gods that will reflect the full complexity of the evidence. They will each write a substantial paper, meet for four days to compare and discuss their findings, and then publish their revised essays, with a summary of their discussions, in a book intended to revise current ideas of Mesopotamian religion and improve our understanding of its influence on concepts of the divine in later western religious traditions.