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Sumerian terra-cotta demon face to ward of evil, made soon after 2000 BC

[Humbaba, demon guardian of the Forest of Cedars].
[Elam? (on the northwest Gulf coast, now in Iran), soon after 2000 BC]. Terra-cotta face (8.5 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm) in bas-relief, slightly concaved on the back.
€ 2,950
A terra-cotta face of the male demon or ogre Humbaba, also known as Huwawa, guardian of the Forest of Cedars in the realm of the Sumerian gods, which some versions of the epic situate in Elam. He is best known from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, an historical King of Uruk in Sumer (southern Mesopotamia, now in Iraq) sometime before 2500 BC. The legends of Gilgamesh's adventures were established shortly before 2000 BC, and the present face dates soon after that. Gilgamesh decided to gain fame by boldly entering the realm of the gods to kill Humbaba and cut down many of the sacred cedars. He took along his more reluctant companion Enkidu. When they meet Humbaba they are terrified, but after an epic battle and with the help of the sun-god Shamash they defeat him. At Enkidu's urging, Gilgamesh cuts off Humbaba's head, but as he dies Humbaba curses Enkidu. They fell and take home many of the cedars, including the largest and most magnificent one, but Enkidu dies as a result of Humbaba's curse.
In Sumer, where Gilgamesh was regarded as a hero, Humbaba is generally depicted as hideous and terrifying. The present example has a much cheerier expression, possibly an indication that it comes from Elam (on the Iranian shore of the northern part of the Gulf) rather than Sumer. Such a face could be used as an amulet to ward off evil.
In very good condition.
Cf. P. Amiet, Élam (1966), pp. 268, 285-286 & fig. 229; A. Spycket, Les figurines de Suse, vol. 1 (1992), p. 142 & plate 101.
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Islamic culture  >  History & Religion
Middle east & islamic world  >  Arabian Peninsula & Gulf States