WATERS: a project focused on tracing aquatic symbols and metaphors in Lower Mesopotamia religion (c. 3300 - 1800 BCE)

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The ancient Mesopotamian religious system found its roots in a human emotional response to experiences within physical reality, whose raison d’être was attributed to numinous entities. The human anxieties before this extraordinary divine power were appeased by the elaboration of mythical-ritual discourses that explained the experiences within a reality controlled by deities. Given that the natural elements were used as “raw material” to create symbolic motifs and metaphors, these religious discourses also constituted a system of knowledge about the reality they were drawn upon.
When one investigates Lower Mesopotamia (modern southern Iraq), it becomes obvious the strong impact that changes within its aquatic environment had in the different dimensions of its inhabitants’ everyday life. The abundance but also the menaces within the natural rhythms of fluvial courses, lakes, marshes and
of the coastal area of the Arab-Persian Gulf inspired many of the motifs one finds in the above-mentioned religious discourses.
The “ever-flowing water”, for instance, was mentioned in literature as an attribute of aquatic deities, who controlled the rivers and the sea; as an iconographic motif to evoke the abundancy within streams; and even applied to cultic objects used in several rituals. The diversity of aquatic motifs can thus allow us to
evaluate the importance of Nature to its inhabitant’s emotional/religious constructions in ancient times.
Hence, tracing and analyzing Lower Mesopotamian aquatic symbols and metaphors through an interdisciplinary approach, which intertwines the theoretical and methodological apparatus of History of Religions and Environmental History, has a profound potentiality to further the knowledge on this civilization.
WATERS, an exploratory project that we have recently elaborated, is thus the materialization of the interdisciplinary work we have been developing together. With this paper, we aim to present the outline of this project, thus contributing to the discussion on nature-culture systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2022
EventIII International Meeting Histories of Nature and Environments: More than just Biodiversity, School of Tourism and Maritime Technology - Politécnico de Leiria - Escola Superior de Turismo e Tecnologia do Mar (ESTM), Peniche, Portugal
Duration: 24 Nov 202226 Nov 2022


ConferenceIII International Meeting Histories of Nature and Environments


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