Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: Protector of the herds, opponent of the wilderness, Lord of the animals. An investigation into the figure of the hero with six curls.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Alexander Pruß, Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus
The mindscape of the Ancient Near East included an abundance of different gods and mythical creatures which were frequently associated with nature or natural phenomena. One of these supernatural beings is the so-called “hero with six curls”, a figure that played an important role in the lives of the Mesopotamian people for several millennia. This is depicted in numerous representations of the figure on a variety of image carriers (cylinder seals, terracottas, reliefs …) from the third to the first millennia before Christ – both in a private and an official context.
The “hero with six curls” is neither a deity nor a normal human; he distinguishes himself through his unusual hair (usually six curls, three on each side of his head). Early depictions often show him as a protector of herd animals and as an opponent of wild animals, frequently with the posture of a “lord of the animals”. Later representations display the “six-curled hero” as a companion of Ea (god of the fresh-water ocean), and in the first millennium before Christ, as part of a group of apotropaic figures.
Even though the “hero with six curls” undoubtedly belongs to the most prominent figures of the Ancient Near Eastern image corpus, he has received relatively little attention so far. Previous work has been dedicated to individual object categories or time periods, while a comprehensive collection of the pertinent material remains a desideratum in research. Therefore, one task of the planned dissertation project will involve compiling archaeological evidence in a database. The second step will entail evaluating the material, which will also incorporate written sources. In addition to the question of the motif’s iconographic development – how can the specific body concept of the figure be derived and which conclusions can be drawn from this with regard to its characteristics? –, the ideological significance will also be examined: What meaning did the motif hold for the people of the Ancient Near East and how did this change over the course of time? By using examples, it can thereby be demonstrated how and why the idea of beings like this emerged and what role they played in everyday existence.