Language and Deception in the Gilgamesh Flood Story

Martin Worthington

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

The Flood story in the eleventh Tablet of Gilgamesh includes a mysterious message from the god Ea, featuring a rain of cakes and wheat. Since 1890 scholars have suspected some deliberate ambiguity (a forecast of the Flood disguised as a message about something else), and while the different proposals for how this may work make for a fascinating case study in the history of Akkadian philology, none of them quite work. A new solution is offered in this paper, and its broader implications are explored.

Martin Worthington, ISAW Visiting Research Scholar, is Senior Lecturer in Assyriology at the University of Cambridge. Specialising in Babylonian and Assyrian grammar and literature, he is currently writing a volume of essays exploring literary-critical interpretations of Mesopotamian literature. He recently co-organised and directed a film of the Babylonian folk tale The Poor Man of Nippur, in the original language.

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