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AI Illustration of Eridu, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River ( Rick/ Adobe Stock)

Eridu and Ubaid: Temples of the God Enki and His Consort Ninhursag

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Ancient Sumerian mythology tells that Eridu, considered one of the most southern of the settlements close to the Persian Gulf, was inhabited before the flood when, according to the Sumerian King list: “ When kingship from heaven was lowered, the kingship was in Eridu, In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years. Alaljar ruled for 3,6000 years,” but modern archaeology traces it back to what is called the Ubaid Period, 5400 BC. Eridu was regarded as a place of great religious significance, since it was the dwelling of Enki, one of the trinity of Sumerian gods, his father being the supreme god An and his brother being Enlil.

A bearded Enki gazing over the water ( Paolo Gallo /Adobe Stock )( la source de l'info /Adobe Stock) 

According to Julian Reade (1991) Enki’s original abode was a meagre mud brick hut, built during the Early Ubaid Period, which eventually developed into the magnificent temple called House of the Aquifer. It was believed Enki rose from Abzu, a primeval deity of a subterranean fresh water source, and thus Enki was considered the god of water. He had fertilizing powers as lord of the waters, but also the fertilizing power of semen. Enki is the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian god Ea, god of deep waters, wisdom and magic.

God Ea, a statue from Khorsabad, (late eighth century BC) Iraq, now in the Iraq Museum (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Tale of Enki and Ninhursag

In the Sumerian epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water (also the Sumerian word for semen), is living with his consort in the paradise of Dilmun (where the fresh waters of the aquifer mingle with the salt waters of the Persian Gulf), but there is no water in this paradise. Enki instructs Utu, the sun god (tutelary god of Larsa) to bring fresh water: “ Dilmun Drinks the Water of Abundance, Her wells of bitter water, behold they are become wells of good water, Her fields and farms produced crops and grain, Her city, behold it has become the house of the banks and quays of the land.


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Dr Micki Pistorius has an Honours Degree in Biblical Archaeology

Top Image: AI Illustration of Eridu, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates RiverRick/ Adobe Stock)

By: Dr Micki Pistorius

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Dr Micki

Micki Pistorius is a South African psychologist, author and journalist. As a child, Micki’s natural curiosity was cultivated by both her parents and developed into an insatiable interest in history, art and literature. Her passion for history, archaeology and human... Read More

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