By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
Who were the gods of Eridu? From the texts dating from historical times we know the names of Enki, the goddesses Nammu and Damgalnunna, and the divine couples Lahmt and Lahamu and Tiamat and Apsu. The single most important concept associated with Eridu is Apsu (Sumerian abzu). (Leick 2001, p 19)
Eridu (modern Abu Shahrain) is a notable site for its Ubaid assemblage and famous ziggurat.
The Ubaid period was initially discovered by Sir Woolley at Tell al-Ubaid and the deepest layers at Ur, and was divided into Ubaid I and II eras. However, in the extreme south at Eridu there was discovered an early set of Ubaid phases, Ubaid 1 and 2; the later phases Ubaid I and II were thus renamed Ubaid 3 and 4. These early phases each had their own assemblages of ceramics, including the unique tortoise vessels in Eridu VIII and the terra cotta female figurines.
Outside of the conventional household Ubaid material assemblage, there was a temple at Eridu which provides early continuity to later developments and also illuminated societal organization in its era.
Ziggurat at Eridu
Eridu had a ziggurat with only two stages yet reaching seventy feet high (Jastrow 1915, p 29-30). The tower was crowned by a small chapel or chamber, likely housing a statue of Eridu's deity Ea.
The early Ubaid temple at Eridu was a small structure about the size of a house, but contained stamp seals, craft residues, food production tools and elaborately painted (perhaps cultic) pottery. Later Ubaid temples at Eridu continue to resemble houses, and in fact contained craft residues and food production tools that were indistinguishable from what was found in houses. However, what did separate the temples from their domestic counterparts was the presence of architectural elaboration and fine wares. Thus, Eridu not only illuminated assemblages and architecture of the Ubaid era, but also shed light on societal organization, physical aesthetics (ie, tattooing and cranial deformations on the female figurines) and provided a continuity to the study of temple development.
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