ELAM vi. Elamite religion



vi. Elamite religion

The information furnished by archeological excavations in Persia and by cuneiform documents permit a summary description of some aspects of Elamite religion from the end of the 3rd millennium B.C.E. until the Achaemenid period. As most of this material comes from Susiana (mainly Susa, Čoḡā Zanbīl [q.v.], and Haft Tepe), a region under strong Mesopotamian influence, it is difficult to extrapolate specifically Elamite features. Some such features can be identified from finds on the Persian plateau, however, particularly at Kūrāngūn, Naqš-e Rostam, and Tal-e Malīān in Fārs; Mālamīr in Ḵūzestān; and Šahdād in Kermān; and at Liyan (Būšehr) on the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, certain details can be drawn from Mesopotamian documents, both written and iconographic. Analysis of the Elamite religion thus requires isolation in the Susian documentation of elements that are not Mesopotamian and that can be compared with what is otherwise known from the Persian plateau and adjacent areas.

The pantheons.

In texts from Susa written in Sumerian, Akkadian, or Elamite (see vii, below) and in Mesopotamian documents relating to Elam more than 200 divinities are mentioned as having been honored in Susiana and on the Persian plateau. This total results from several factors.

It is essential first to differentiate the divinities by origin. As Susa remained in the Mesopotamian orbit for a very long time, several Sumerian and Akkadian deities (Inanna, Ea, Sin, Belet-ali, IM, Šala) had temples in Susa or in Elam or enjoyed a degree of popular acceptance, as is clear from the many personal names that include as elements the divine names Adad, Ea, Enlil, Erra, Sin, and Šamaš, to cite only the most common. Most oaths were taken in the name of Šamaš (often associated with Inšušinak or Išnikarab), though no temple was dedicated to him. Some gods, particularly Inšušinak (whose name in Sumerian means “lord of Susa”), seem to have been specifically attached to Susa or Susiana; they include Išnikarab (Išmekarab, a god, not a goddess; W. G. Lambert, 1976-80), Lagamal (Lagamar; for variant signs, see Hinz and Koch), and Manzat (W. G. Lambert, 1989).

Several divinities from the plateau can be connected to the pantheons of the principal geopolitical entities that constituted Elam (see i, above), for example, Pinikir, Nahhunte, Hutran, Humban, and Kirmašir in Awan; Hišmitik and Ruhurater in Šimaški; and Napiriša (reading of dGAL established by Hinz, 1965), Kiririša, Simut, Kilah-šupir, Silir-qatru, and Upurkupak in Anshan and its hinterland. It is difficult, however, to assign other Elamite divinities to specific local pantheons.

It is therefore also useful to distinguish the deities in this heterogeneous ensemble by period. Although certain gods and goddesses were honored throughout the history of Elam (e.g., Inšušinak, Pinigir, Humban, and Nahhunte), many were worshiped only in certain periods. For example, there was a cult for Ea and Enzag (the great god of Dilmun), who shared a temple with Inšušinak, only in the sukkalmah period, under Temti-Agun (Scheil, 1939, p. 10; see Table **). Anunitum was worshiped only in the time of Atta-hušu (Scheil, 1939, p. 9).

Finally, the gods can be differentiated by the nature of the sources. In royal inscriptions official divinities are mentioned, those who had temples or played a role in religious rites, whereas economic texts reveal through onomastics the names of those who enjoyed genuine popularity (Zadok; Scheil, 1930; idem, 1932; idem, 1933; idem, 1939). From such evidence it can be observed that, historically, personal names changed from predominantly Meso-potamian to almost exclusively Elamite.

Discontinuities in the archeological record nevertheless complicate reconstruction of the pantheons. Almost half the Elamite gods attested in Sumerian and Akkadian sources are unknown from Elamite texts; for example, of five Elamite gods assimilated to Ninurta (King, pl. 12 ll. 1-5) only Inšušinak is otherwise known, and of the seven brothers of Narundi (King, pl. 24) only Nahhunte and Igišti are otherwise known, the latter exclusively through inclusion of his name in personal names. Of nineteen Elamite divinities enumerated by Aššurbanipal (q.v.) in the 7th century B.C.E. (Aynard, pp. 54-55) five are otherwise unknown. It is surprising, furthermore, that Enlil, whose name figures prominently in onomastics, never had an official cult, whereas Šilhak-Inšušinak built, probably at Susa, a temple dedicated to a certain Šak-ammar-haništa, known only from a single inscribed brick (Walker, p. 135).

The Old Elamite period. During the Awan phase Susa was under the domination of the Sargonids, who nevertheless left few traces of their presence. Nothing is left from Sargon or Rimuš, and their successor, Maništusu (ca. 2269-55 B.C.E.), appears to have been the first king to build there; the two bricks surviving from his temple are too fragmentary to reveal the name of the god to whom it was dedicated, however. Ešpurm, governor of Susa for Maništusu, dedicated a statue to the goddess Narundi (Scheil, 1908, p. 1), and a scribe dedicated a statue to NIN.NE’.UNU (Scheil, 1905 no. 2) for the life of Naram-Sin (2254-18 B.C.E.). In fact, an initial impression of the Elamite pantheon is furnished by the treaty of Naram-Sin, which survives in the Elamite language and begins with an enumeration of about forty divinities, of whom the names of thirty-three are preserved (König, no. 2). As the treaty was actually concluded between Naram-Sin’s Susan vassal and the contemporary ruler, perhaps Hita, of Awan, these gods were probably either Suso-Mesopotamian or Awanite. Half of them appear only in this document; of the others a dozen had cults in Susa or in Elam in one or another period or through all periods: Pinigir, Huban, Nahiti (earlier spelling of Nahhunte), Inšušinak, Simut, Hutran, Siašum, Manzat, Narida (Narundi), Narzina, and Kirmašir, mentioned in that order.

The last dynast of Awan, Puzur-Inšušinak, conquered Susa but did not impose his own pantheon. With the exception of the goddess Narundi, whose origin is debatable, and of Šugu, a god otherwise unknown, it was the Suso-Mesopotamian divinities to whom he was devoted. He built various monuments for Inšušinak, the local god. Two statuettes were dedicated to Belat-Terraban and Narundi respectively; in curses on those who might mutilate these monuments he invoked Inšušinak and Šamaš, Enlil and Enki, Ištar and Sin, Nin-hursag and Narundi, and sometimes Nergal. Furthermore, from the economic texts (Legrain) it seems that the majority of personal names were of Mesopotamian origin and that the divine names from which they were composed were almost always the names of Meso-potamian deities, especially Ea, Šamaš, Erra, Adad, Ištar, and Innana but sometimes Amal, Enzu, Nabium, Nisaba, Enki, Ningirsu, Nindar, Šulpae, and others. Aside from Narundi and Manzat, few Elamite divine names are attested in such contexts.

In the Ur III period in Mesopotamia Susa fell under the domination of the Sumerians, and Šulgi (2094-47 B.C.E.) built a temple to Inšušinak and another to Ninhursag of Susa (M. Lambert, 1970). He also inscribed a carnelian bead to Ningal (Scheil, 1905, p. 22). A maritime trader dedicated a mace to Ninuruamudu for the life of Šulgi. Šulgi’s successor, Amar-Sin, left no trace on the Acropolis at Susa, but one of his officials dedicated for him a bronze tablet addressed to Nungal. Finally, Amar-Sin’s successor, Šu-Sin, left several bricks with his name and titles but no mention of a specific temple or god; they may have come from a public building, rather than a religious one. It is no surprise that Inšušinak was surrounded by exclusively Mesopotamian deities, but it is surprising that the first Šimaškians who ruled at Susa before the fall of Ur imposed no divinity from the plateau. Kindattu and his successor, Idadu I, built or restored several sanctuaries dedicated to Inšušinak, as can be seen from inscriptions of Šilhak-Inšušinak (König, nos. 48, 48a, 48b, 39). In the curse on a ritual basin dedicated to the temple of Inšušinak (Scheil, 1905, pp. 16-19) Idadu invoked only Mesopotamian divinities: Samaš, Ištar, and Sin. During the troubled period that followed, the various Šimaškian rulers of Susa, notably Tan-Ruhurater and his spouse, Mekubi, continued to build temples for Inšušinak and for his consort at that time, Innana (Scheil, 1913, pp. 24-26).

Direct evidence from the long sukkalmah period, broadly confirmed by the inscriptions of Šilhak-Inšušinak, shows that Inšušinak continued to dominate the Acropolis at Susa, where he was surrounded by a majority of Suso-Mesopotamian gods. Ebarat, Silhaha, and Atta-hušu built and restored the temple of Nanna. Atta-hušu also built temples to such Mesopotamian deities as Ninegal and Annunitum, as well as to Narundi. Under Kutir-Nahhunte and Temti-Agun, Inšušinak shared a temple with Ea and Enzag, and another was dedicated to Išnikarab. Most rulers, however, devoted their efforts to restoring the various monuments dedicated to Inšušinak.

The Middle Elamite period. At the end of the sukkalmah period the Elamite gods made a timid appearance in onomastics (Steve, personal communication), but it was with the Kidinuids that they gained official recognition in Susiana. Kidinu and Tepti-ahar styled themselves “servant of Kirmašir” (Steve, Gasche, and De Meyer, p. 92; Herrero, 1976, p. 104), and in oath formulas Ruhurater was sometimes substituted for Šamaš.

The real change, however, can be seen in the works of the great king Untaš-Napiriša. With the construction of Dūr-Untaš (Čoḡā Zanbīl) he broke with the past. First, the inscribed bricks found at the site (Steve, 1967) show that many Elamite divinities were introduced into Susiana at that time. Half the twenty-six gods mentioned came from the Suso-Mesopotamian pantheon; the other half were Elamite. This equal division was reflected in the titles of the sovereign, who always called himself “king of Anshan and of Susa” (or “of Susa and Anshan” in Akkadian inscriptions). The reforms that he undertook went much farther than the simple introduction of Elamite gods into the official cult in Susiana, however.

In fact, the religious complex at Čoḡā Zanbīl is dominated by the ziggurat, the two phases of which illustrate the change in the king’s political and religious orientation. The first phase consisted of a structure with a square courtyard in which rose a small ziggurat; the high temple (kikunnum) on the ziggurat was of glazed bricks and dedicated only to Inšušinak, lord of the province. This first ziggurat was destroyed, however, and the buildings around the courtyard incorporated into the first story of the great ziggurat that has survived. It was then dedicated jointly to Napiriša, the great god of Elam, and Inšušinak, the great god of Susa (Ghirshman, 1966; Roche, 1986). In granting primacy to Napiriša over Inšušinak in this second building phase the king intended to show the primacy of Anshan over Susa.

Furthermore, Untaš-Napiriša introduced gods from the high plateau into other cities of Susiana. At Susa he built a temple to Upurkuppak, stating explicitly that previously this Elamite goddess had not possessed one (König, no. 14). She was also worshiped at Čoḡā Pahn (in the archeological literature distinguished from another site of the same name by the designation K(huzistan) S(urvey)-102; Wright and Stolper, 1990) and Gotwand (Steve, 1987, no. 5). Mašti and Tepti had a temple at Deylam (Vallat, 1983). Untaš-Napiriša also continued to dedicate temples to various Suso-Mesopotamian divinities at Susa (A.É.A. EŠŠANA, IM, Nabu, NUN.EŠŠANA, etc.), where the clergy must have been disturbed by the intrusion of gods from the high plateau.

This elamization of the Susian pantheon progressed under the Šutrukids. Inšušinak remained the principal divinity, receiving the largest number of dedications, but Napiriša and sometimes Kiririša took precedence over him. For example, the eighteen known names of members of the royal family include as elements divine names, those of the three principal Susan divinities (Inšušinak, Išnikarab, and Lagamal) but otherwise only of Elamite divinities. On one stele (König, no. 54) Šilhak-Inšušinak mentioned a dozen deities, of whom only Nannar was of Mesopotamian origin.

The Neo-Elamite period. The elamizing trend continued until the fall of Elam. After his victory at Susa Aššurbanipal carried off the statues of nineteen deities, which he listed by name; all had apparently Susan Elamite names. Despite the misleading spellings, the names of several deities are recognizable, including those with the most prestige: Inšušinak, Simut, Lagamal, Pinigir, Hutran, and Kirmašir (Aynard, pp. 54-55).

In the Neo-Elamite period, although the principal divinities in the pantheon (Inšušinak, Napiriša, Lagamal, Pinigir, Nahhunte, etc.) continued to be honored, lesser known or previously unknown gods came to the fore, among them Mašti and Tepti at Mālamīr, Šašum at Kesat, and Šati and Lali (among many others) at Susa. The most popular god was Hu(m)ban, who had been mentioned second in the list of gods in the treaty of Naram-Sin. In this period his name appeared as an element in half the royal names and in many other names as well (Scheil, 1907). He did not, however, have a temple at Susa. All these gods were thus essentially Elamite; even the Mesopotamian name of the goddess DIL.BAT, to whom Šilhak-Inšušinak dedicated a temple, could actually have been an epithet for the goddess Mašti.

In summary, in the Old Elamite period most of the divinities honored at Susa were Suso-Mesopotamian. The only real exception was Narundi, and it could be asked whether she was not also Mesopotamian (or “Babylonian,” as surmised by Genouillac, 1905, p. 14) or, rather, Susan; her cult is already documented for the period of Maništusu, and she is mentioned before Inšušinak in the treaty of Naram-Sin. She is next attested in the curses of Puzur-Inšušinak. Finally, Atta-hušu dedicated a temple to her. Nevertheless, she subsequently disappeared from Elamite documentation, only to reappear in the Mesopotamian texts, where she was identified as the sister of the seven great gods or as the wife of the Igigi. The Elamite gods Šugu and Enzag are attested only once. Mesopotamian dominance ended with the Middle Elamite period, when gods from the plateau began to invade Susiana, a trend that continued to accelerate until the end of Elamite history. Although at first Inšušinak remained the principal deity in this pantheon, beginning with the political and religious reforms of Untaš-Napiriša he had to cede first place to Napiriša, the god of Anshan, and sometimes to the latter’s consort, Kiririša. Anshan predominated not only over Susiana but also over the other geopolitical entities that constituted Elam; for example, in the time of Šilhak-Inšušinak Hutran of Awan was identified as the son of Napiriša and Kiririša, the Anshanite divine couple.

The pantheon exactly reflected the political situation: The Elamite kings installed in Susiana became semitized, then, beginning with Untaš-Napiriša, progressively elamized the province, to which Elam was eventually reduced.

Nevertheless, any modern reconstruction of the Elamite pantheon must of necessity be full of errors, largely because the sources come mainly from Susiana. Anshan has furnished only a few relevant documents. It is known that Siwepalar-huppak built a temple there (Stolper, 1982), but it is not known for what god. Much later Hutelutuš-Inšušinak dedicated a sanctuary jointly to Napiriša, Kiririša, Inšušinak, and Simut (M. Lambert, 1972; Reiner, 1973). As for later economic texts (Stolper, 1984), they include names with divine elements like Huban, Hutran, Pinigir, and Inšušinak. The information from Liyan is equally slight: From a dedication of Simut-wartaš to Kiririša and several Middle Elamite II and III bricks inscribed to Napiriša, Kiririša, and the Bahahutip gods (Pézard, 1914), it seems that Kiririša was the tutelary goddess of the place.

Places of worship.

Two broad categories of ritual site can be distinguished: open-air sanctuaries and buildings. In the first category three merit special attention: Kūrangūn, Īza/Mālamīr, and Naqš-e Rostam.

At Kūrangūn (Seidl, 1986) a relief was carved at the top of a cliff, probably in the 17th century B.C.E. The principal scene includes a god seated on a throne formed by a human-headed serpent, an animal attribute of Napiriša (not Inšušinak, pace de Miroschedji, 1981); he holds in his hands the rod and the disk, symbols of supreme power, from which gush forth the waters of life. He is surrounded by seven figures, of whom one goddess, wearing a horned tiara, is probably his consort, Kiririša. To the left is another scene, perhaps from the Neo-Elamite period, of a procession composed of three superimposed ranks of praying figures descending toward the principal scene.

The rock reliefs at Īza/Mālamīr are divided into two groups, those at Šekāf-e Salmān southwest of Īza and those at Kūl-e Farah to the northwest (Vanden Berghe, 1963; De Waele, 1981). Each includes several ritual scenes: processions, musicians, animal sacrifices, and the like. It seems that the images preceded the accompanying inscriptions (König, nos. 75-76), which are of the late Neo-Elamite period, the first half of the 6th century B.C.E.

Although very badly mutilated, the Elamite rock reliefs at Naqš-e Rostam (Seidl, 1986) illustrate the persistence of holy sites. To one scene carved in the Old Elamite period Neo-Elamite artists have added two figures, probably the king and the queen, but this group has been largely obliterated by a relief of the Sasanian king Bahrām II (276-93 C.E.). In between four Achaemenid sovereigns (Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II) had their tombs dug into the cliff, and subsequently several other Sasanian kings added reliefs to the site. Naqš-e Rostam thus remained an important religious site for more than two millennia.

These three examples of open-air sanctuaries show that the Elamites visited holy places in procession, in order to perform their rites. It is not impossible that ritual sites for the general population were always open. At the best-known religious complex, Čoḡā Zanbīl, the buildings are relatively small and must have been accessible only to the clergy and the royal family; on the other hand, between the second and third enclosure walls a large space was left free of all construction and could have accommodated large numbers of faithful during the most important ceremonies.

At Susa remains of religious architecture from the Elamite period are poor, probably because the relevant levels were seriously damaged by later occupations. The only material evidence that has survived is the Old Elamite temples of Inšušinak and Ninhursag, flanking a mass that could have been the ziggurat (de Mecquenem, 1911), and a small square temple built by Šutruk-Nahhunte II (Amiet, no. 380). Nevertheless, various documents permit reconstruction of this religious complex. Aside from the Elamite dedications, there is a bronze model (inscribed ṣit šamši “sunrise”) of an ablution ceremony with two nude priests surrounded by various buildings and monuments (Gauthier). Two Mesopotamian documents are even more explicit: a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, probably representing the city of Susa (Amiet, no. 430), and a narrative of the sack of Susa by Aššurbanipal (Aynard, pp. 53-59). These disparate sources of information permit a schematic reconstruction for the period best documented by the texts, that of Šilhak-Inšušinak (though the complex could not have differed fundamentally in other periods). On the acropolis (uru.an.na/alimelu) a sacred quarter (kizzum) was reserved for sanctuaries. It was dominated by the ziggurat (zagratume), a tower of several stories. At the top of the ziggurat the high temple (kukunnum) was decorated with one or two pairs of horns, and at the base of the ziggurat was the low temple (haštu). Nearby rose a monumental gate (hiel, sippu). The entire ziggurat complex was set in a sacred grove (husa). Although the temples (siyan) of the main gods were built close by, some, like the “exterior temple” (kumpum kiduia), were built on the Apadana (outside the kizzum). The latter building, which contained the suhter, a chapel for effigies of members of the royal family (Grillot, 1983), seems to have played a more political than religious role, however. It is probable that every important Elamite city possessed a similar complex, though probably smaller than the one at Susa.

It is curious that the word “ziggurat” (Elamite zagratume; no word borrowed from Akkadian has the suffix -me) is never attested for Susa. The only two ziggurats mentioned explicitly in Elamite texts are those at Čoḡā Zanbīl (Steve, 1967) and Čoḡā Pahn (Wright and Stolper). As for haštu, although the word is documented in only one inscription (König, no. 48), it is the text in which Šilhak-Inšušinak enumerated eighteen Elamite kings, from the Old Elamite II period to his own immediate predecessors, who had built or restored the haštu, which demonstrates the importance of this building. It is apparent that in Elamite inscriptions a single element could designate a whole complex; for example, whenever a kukunnum is mentioned it is plausible to deduce the presence of a ziggurat. By analogy, therefore, the “temple of the grove” may have represented the entire religious complex associated with death. As Šilhak-Inšušinak boasted of having restored about fifteen “temples of the grove” throughout the country, the cities mentioned probably possessed religious complexes similar to the one in Susa.

Most of the important elements in this schematic reconstruction have been found at Čoḡā Zanbīl, where the ziggurat dominates the sacred precinct known as siyan-kuk. All the temples, except that of Nusku, were built within the second enclosure wall, some of them abutting the first enclosure wall, which surrounds the ziggurat. The ziggurat, an essential element of the complex, was built on an earlier foundation 105 m2 and must originally have had five stories (Ghirshman, 1966), the fifth being the kukunnum, constructed of glazed bricks imitating silver, gold, obsidian, and alabaster (Steve 1967, nos. 1, 31-32). It was surrounded by a wall against which three chapels were erected on the outer south side. On the north the wall was interrupted by the temples of Išnikarab and Kiririša, whereas that of Napiriša was connected to it. In the space between this wall and a second wall the temples of several gods were built. In order from the southeast to the northeast they were the temples of Pinikir, Adad and Šala, Šimut and Nin-ali, the Napratep gods, and after a wide interval that of Hišmitik and Ruhuratir. Not all these buildings were on the same plan, but all were of relatively modest dimensions.

Religious buildings originally of mud brick were gradually restored with baked brick; a few among them were partially or entirely covered with glazed brick beginning in the reign of Šutruk-Nahhunte I, who even claimed (König, no. 17) to be the first to have used this luxury material. The majority of those that have been excavated contain votive inscriptions, but the statues of gods mentioned in the texts have rarely been recovered.

Religious life.

The essential role of the gods was to give life, to preserve it as long as possible, and finally to take it back, accompanying the dead to the other world. These different aspects of the divine prerogative can be illustrated by many examples. For example, several cylinder seals found at Čoḡā Zanbīl are inscribed “It is for the god (to give) life; it is for the king to save it” (Reiner, 1970b, p. 134). Humban-numena declared that “from the bosom of his mother Napiriša and Inšušinak created his name” (Steve, 1987, no. 3). Throughout Elamite history royal dedications show that the kings built temples to protect their own lives and sometimes those of the entire royal family. The simplest formula in such texts is “I, so-and-so, have built such-and-such a sanctuary and, for my life, I have offered it to such-and-such a god.” But more specific requests were addressed to different divinities for a long and favorable and happy reign, for long life, and for a prosperous lineage (Grillot, 1982).

Nevertheless, death seems to have been the principal preoccupation of the Elamites. Most religious buildings were connected with the cult of the dead, and the principal gods were closely associated with the passage of the dead into the next world. The association of the grove with the funerary cult is certain from Aššurbanipal’s narration of the sack of Susa: “Their secret groves, where no foreigner had penetrated, where no foreigner had trampled the underbrush, my soldiers entered and saw their secrets; they destroyed them by fire. The tombs of their kings, ancient and recent … I have devastated, I destroyed them, I exposed them to the sun, and I carried off their bones to the country of Aššur” (Aynard, 1957, pp. 56-57). Furthermore, the relief from Nineveh that probably represents the Acropolis at Susa (Amiet, no. 430) shows that the religious complex was built in a grove.

The importance of the temple in the grove is also illustrated by a stele of Šilhak-Inšušinak (König, no. 48), in the inscription on which the king claimed to have restored about twenty temples throughout the empire, the majority of them “temples of the grove.” In the same inscription he enumerated eighteen of his predecessors who had restored the haštu of Inšušinak at Susa, suggesting a relation between these two important elements of the kizzum. Although most of these temples were dedicated to Inšušinak, some were dedicated to Lagamal, Suhsipa, and Napiriša. Kiririša and Inšušinak had temples in the grove at Čoḡā Zanbīl (Steve, 1967, nos. 25, 34; Grillot and Vallat, 1978, p. 83). At Čoḡā Pahn (KS-3) Šilhak-Inšusinak built one for Inšušinak and Lagamal (Stolper, 1978), and in his account of his Elamite campaign Aššurbanipal mentioned a grove of Manziniri, a god unattested elsewhere (W. G. Lambert, 1989).

The gateway may have symbolized the entrance of the dead person into the next world. The one represented on the Nineveh relief is surmounted by three figures in the posture of prayer, which recalls an epithet of Kiririša: “lady of life, who has authority over the grove, the gateway, and he who prays” (Grillot and Vallat, 1984, p. 22). The gods to whom these gateways were dedicated were those most closely associated with the netherworld: Inšušinak (König, nos. 35, 36, 40), Išnikarab (König, no. 37), Lagamal (König, no. 30), and Napiriša and Inšušinak together (König, no. 79). It was also at the gateway of Inšušinak that Puzur-Inšušinak ordered the sacrifice of a sheep accompanied by chants, morning and evening (Scheil, 1902, p. 5).

Although many gods were associated with the cult of the dead, three played a particularly important role: Inšušinak, the weigher of souls, and his two assistants, Išnikarab and Lagamal. A few small funerary tablets (Bottéro, pp. 393-401), though very badly preserved, give some idea of the passage into the other world: The dead person, preceded by Išnikarab or Lagamal or both presents himself in the haštu (in the Akkadian texts šuttu, a synonym for haštu) before Inšušinak, who decides his fate. This scene seems to be illustrated on a number of cylinder seals, where it is commonly identified as a “presentation scene,” even though it is more probably a depiction of the last judgment (Vallat, 1989).

After judgment the dead person was buried. Different types of burial, from the simplest to the most elaborate, are attested from excavations in Susiana (de Mecquenem, 1943-44). The corpse, wrapped in matting, could be interred directly in the ground, with a few objects, particularly pottery intended to receive funerary offerings. At different periods small tombs were built of mud or baked brick and sometimes of both; they could be used for single or multiple burials, the latter collective, as at Haft Tepe, or successive, as at Susa. Sometimes a tomb, usually vaulted, was provided with a shaft, which permitted successive burials of members of a single family. In some secondary burials the long bones of the dead were collected in large beakers and the skulls deposited in vases. Sometimes tubs or coffins protected the corpses. These different types of burial probably reflected the social status of the dead. The single feature common to all burials was the presence of offerings, varying in richness with the period and social class of the dead: from simple pottery to a lavish funerary assemblage including jewels and weapons, cylinder seals, and a variety of other objects, even chariot wheels (Amiet, no. 103).

It is curious, however, that very few Elamite royal tombs have been discovered. The tomb at Haft Tepe was probably not that of Tepti-Ahar (pace Negahban, 1990; Reiner, 1973), and the various rather austere tombs at Čoḡā Zanbīl (Ghirshman, 1968) contain no element that would permit them to be ascribed to anyone. As for Susa, it may be that the baked-brick tomb in the vault of which the ṣit šamši was found can be attributed to Šilhak-Inšušinak, but, as it was robbed in antiquity, this attribution remains hypothetical. Aššurbanipal claimed, in the narrative of his last campaign, to have destroyed the tombs of the Elamite kings during the sack of Susa, and he may well have done so. Another element also deserves consideration in connection with funerary types: Hermann Gasche (personal communication) has pointed out that, contrary to Susan (and Meso-potamian) practice, no tomb had been dug in the great houses of the sukkalmah period, which were veritable small palaces that must have sheltered the aristocracy. This absence could thus reflect typically Elamite preference, as does the presence in certain contemporary tombs of terracotta funerary masks (Ghirshman, 1962), perhaps the descendants of the funerary busts discovered at Šahdād and dating from the Šimaški period (Hakemi, 1972).

Another prerogative of the gods was to confer and protect kingship. Puzur-Inšušinak spoke of “the year when Inšušinak looked at him (and) gave to him the four regions” (Scheil, 1908, p. 9). It was also Inšušinak who conferred kingship upon Humban-numena and the latter’s son Untaš-Napiriša (König, nos. 4, no. 13), but it was Manzat who conferred it on Igi-halki (Steve, 1987, no. 2).

In the Elamite pantheon goddesses played a more important role than elsewhere. The enumeration of forty deities in the treaty of Naram-Sin begins with Pinigir, goddess of love and procreation, who was worshiped throughout Elamite history and had an aštam, or temple of fertility; she was very frequently represented in art (Spycket, 1992). In addition, various local divinities were goddesses: Kiririša at Liyan, Upurkupak at Čoḡā Pahn (KS-102) and Gotwand, Mašti at Mālamīr, Manzat at Deh-e Now (q.v.).

The Elamite pantheon was formed from the combination of the pantheons of the principal geopolitical entities that constituted Elam; it is not therefore astonishing that different gods played the same role or possessed the same attributes. Several gods and goddesses had the epithet “great god,” which it is probably correct to understand as “the supreme god”: Inšušinak, Napiriša, Humban, Nahhunte, Kiririša, Manzat, and so on. In addition, several deities were protectors of the gods (Mašti, Napir), of kings (Inšušinak, Kiririša, Napir), or of Elam (Silir-katru). Kiririša and Mašti were “mothers of the gods.” Several deities were particularly linked to death by the epithet lahakra (of death): Inšušinak, Kiririša, Upurkupak, and perhaps Ruhuratir and Tepti.

Although the Elamite sources, which do not include any mythological texts, are not very informative on the character of the gods, a few Mesopotamian texts help to fill this gap, though they often seem schematic and artificial and are, for the most part, of late date. Sometimes they even contradict Elamite information; for example, in Elam Nahhunte was considered the sun god, but in a Mesopotamian text he is called the moon god (Civil, 1974, p. 334). Nevertheless, identification in Akkadian texts of Lagamal with Nergal (W. G. Lambert, 1980-83) and Napiriša with Ea (Reiner, 1958, pp. 50-51) is not without foundation. Lagamal is indeed an infernal deity, and, on the relief from Kūrāngūn, Napiriša is identifiable by his throne, formed from a human-headed serpent; he also holds as attributes of power the disk and the rod (forerunners of the orb and scepter of Western monarchies), from which gush forth the living waters. He thus seems the equivalent of Ea, Mesopotamian god of the waters. On the other hand, Iabru, who was assimilated to Anu, is unknown from the Elamite sources, and there is no evidence that Humban shared the characteristics of Enlil. Finally, no Elamite epithet permits the conclusion that any god was of warlike character, though the Mesopotamians assimilated seven Elamite divinities to Ninurta (King, pls. 12 ll. 1-5, 11 l. 37, 24 l. 17).


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(F. Vallat)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: December 13, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 3, pp. 335-336 and Vol. VIII, Fasc. 4, pp. 342

Cite this entry:

F. Vallat, “ELAM iv. Linear Elamite,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, VIII/3, pp. 335-336 and VIII/4, p. 342, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/elam-vi(accessed on 30 December 2012).