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The Flood Motif as a Stylistic and Temporal Device in Sumerian Literary Traditions

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AbstractRecent scholarship suggests the Flood motif and its literary representations may have emerged and developed relatively late in Sumerian literary traditions. To investigate how the Flood motif gained its entry in the literary traditions, the current study traces the dissemination of the temporal expression egir a-ma-ru ba-ur3-ra-ta “After the Flood had swept over . . .” and its variants in Sumerian mythological and chronographic sources during the Old Babylonian period. This study seeks to demonstrate that when the Flood motif first emerged explicitly in Sumerian literary traditions it manifested as an innovative stylistic and temporal device for introducing the primeval time of origins as well as for marking the (re-)beginning of time. Coming to grips with this initial stage of development of the Flood motif will shed important light on some key conceptual and literary processes through which the Flood motif and its mythological and chronographic representations formed and evolved during the Old Babylonian period.

Affiliations: 1: Oriental Institute, University of Oxford Pusey Lane, Oxford, OX1 2LE United Kingdom, Email:, URL:


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