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The Wall of Uruk: Iconicities in Gilgamesh

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image of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions

"The Wall of Uruk: Iconicities in Gilgamesh". This article examines the invitation in the SV prologue to Gilgamesh (I 1-28) as a device to engage the reader in a series of iconic acts that aim to preserve heroic glory. Since two artifacts in particular—the wall of Uruk and the inscribed tablet—mediate these acts, I investigate the nature of artifacts in general in the poem, and specifically focus on three: the corpse of Enkidu, his funeral statue, and the divine fruit in the garden at the end of Tablet IX. These three stand related to each other as a series of iconic representations of the emplacement of life within various bodies. In the context of these representations, the lapis lazuli tablet on which Gilgamesh allegedly inscribes his tale also figures as a kind of body: a relatively permanent one that appropriates the reader's voice through the act of recitation to grant Gilgamesh perpetually renewable life.


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