BAR 36:04, Jul/Aug 2010
Tell Abu Habbah, Iraq
This grotesque and deeply furrowed clay mask from the ancient city of Sippar (modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq) in southern Mesopotamia portrays the face of the mythical demon Humbaba, the ferocious, unsightly creature of the Epic of Gilgamesh who guarded the fabled Cedar Forest and was ultimately slain by the hero Gilgamesh and his partner Enkidu. In Mesopotamian lore, Humbaba’s contorted face was often thought to resemble the twisted, sinuous path of coiled entrails, depicted in this mask as a single, continuous line that twists and turns to form and define all of the demon’s horrifying facial features. Amazingly, this quite-detailed coiled portrait of the ancient demon measures only 3.25 inches wide, about the width of a standard business card.