20 New Lines from The Epic of Gilgamesh Discovered in Iraq, Adding New Details to the Story

The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest narratives in the world, got a surprise update last month when the Sulaymaniyah Museum in the Kurdistan region of Iraq announced that it had discovered 20 new lines of the Babylonian-Era poem of gods, mortals, and monsters. Since the poem has existed in fragments since the 18th century BC, there has always been the possibility that more would turn up. And yet the version we’re familiar with — the one discovered in 1853 in Nineveh — hasn’t changed very much over recent decades. The text remained fairly fixed — that is, until the fall of Baghdad in 2003 and the intense looting that followed yielded something new.

Since that time, the History Blog notes:

the [Sulaymaniyah] museum has a matter of policy paid smugglers to keep artifacts from leaving the country, no questions asked. The tablet was acquired by the museum in late 2011 as part of a collection of 80-90 tablets sold by an unnamed shady character. Professor Farouk Al-Rawi examined the collection while the seller haggled with museum official Abdullah Hashim. When Al-Rawi saw this tablet, he told Hashim to pay whatever the seller wanted: $800.

That’s a pretty good deal for these extra lines that not only add to the poem’s length, but have now cleared up some of the mysteries in the other chapters. These lines come from Chapter Five of the epic and cast the main characters in a new light. Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu are shown to feel guilt over killing Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest, who is now seen as less a monster and more a king. Just like a good director’s cut, these extra scenes clear up some muddy character motivation, and add an environmental moral to the tale.

new lines of gilgamesh

The History Blog article has an in depth description of the translation, with links to a scholarly paper on this very important find, and prompts the question, how much more is there to be discovered?

In the video above, Hazha Jalal, manager of the tablet’s section of the Sulaymaniyah Museum talks (in Kurdish) about the new discovery, saying (in translation): “The tablet dates back to the Neo-Bablyonian period, 2000-1500 BCE. It is a part of tablet V of the epic. It was acquired by the Museum in the year 2011 and [then] Dr. Farouk Al-Raw transliterated it. It was written as a poem and many new things this version has added, for example Gilgamesh and his friend met a monkey. We are honored to house this tablet and anyone can visit the Museum during its opening hours from 8:30 morning to noon. The entry is free for you and your guests. Thank you.”

In the meantime, if you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can click here to Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian and Enjoy the Sounds of Mesopotamia.

You can also find the epic in our twin collections, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free and 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

via The History Blog

Related content:

Hear the World’s Oldest Instrument, the “Neanderthal Flute,” Dating Back Over 43,000 Years

Hear the “Seikilos Epitaph,” the Oldest Complete Song in the World: An Inspiring Tune from 100 BC

Hear Homer’s Iliad Read in the Original Ancient Greek

Download 55 Free Online Literature Courses: From Dante and Milton to Kerouac and Tolkien

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (36)
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  • Flavio says:

    well i cant understand coz of her accent.

    Anyways its awesome, epic of gilgamesh is one of most important texts in the Cultural History.

  • Jeffrey Brown says:

    Dan I was pointed to the article by Patrick Rothfuss(author/musician). He linked the article to his facebook followers.

  • Louis says:

    Yes, Rothfuss shared it. Interesting, how you instantly note the impact

  • Rockup says:

    I got here because author Patrick Rothfuss linked this story on facebook.

  • z says:

    her accent is called “speaking kurdish”

  • David Sullivan says:

    Pat sent me.

  • Andrea says:

    I came through a Facebook link shared by an American friend.
    I live in Iceland :)
    Gotta love the power of social media!

  • Arron says:

    Amazing find and I’m glad the policy to obtain objects is in place. It’s not the best thing, but it helps keep items where they belong.

  • Vinicius Watzl says:

    I came here though a Facebook post and have shared it with all my friends in Brazil. Congratulations on the great site. I’ll visit it more often.

  • Spell Right! says:

    Her “accent?” She’s not speaking English, fool.

  • joe riley says:

    Luckily ISIS didn’t get their hands on it first and destroy it!

  • Michael says:

    So she wears gloves but puts her wedding rings over the top?

  • MikeL says:

    I came here and I don’t know who pat is

  • Babrik says:

    My thoughts exactly. What was going through her mind when she did that? She also considered it useful to wear a shining bracelet for the video. If you want to be taken seriously and respected, show some professionalism. That ring is particularly distracting.

  • John Drake says:

    Seriously? An environmental moral? Do you people EVER just let the agenda rest?

  • BignorseWolf says:

    Damn you George Lucas!

  • denbenenki says:

    Please control your rudeness. “Excuse my friend, he was raised in the usa. Nice story…”

  • denbenenki says:

    Excuse me. My reply was meant for MICHAEL (oct 7) and you too Babrik (oct 7). How does one go from an interest in ancient history to a modern Fashion-police?

  • Tom HOOVER says:

    ok–where’s the translation?

  • John Neel says:

    I got to it from a post by my nephew, Jim Parham. It looks to me that the ring is inside the glove. I can’t understand how the woman’s jewelry has any distracting property. I hadn’t noticed it until I read the post.

  • James says:

    Nature worship in a pagan religion?!!! ENVIRONMENTALIST PROPAGANDA!

  • Andy Lowings says:

    You can here our Babylonian and Sumerian versions of some of Gilgamesh ( the Flood for example) sung by Stef Conner with Sumerian Gold and Silver Lyre accompaniment.
    (Lyre ensemble)
    Hope you like it.

  • Robin Baldock says:

    When the topic of Gilgamesh comes it it always reminds me that sholars consider the stroy to have disappeared until it was found in artifacts and revived. Gurdieff though, a turn of the 19th century mystic from somewhere in mid Asia (exzcuse the extreme geralisation here, from memeory) always claimed that he came from a family of story tellers

  • Robin Baldock says:

    …..apologies I hadn’t meant to post my previous unfinished. I’ll continue: Gurdjieff’s claim was that he was taught the epic of Gilgamesh by his father and that it had been handed down through the generations, it was the basis of their spiritual understanding. This then means that the story was “alive’ all along, if only in some small community or communities….

  • Bobby says:

    Old Babylonian right? Not Neo.

  • james white says:

    Not so good Ted….you don’t seem to know much about the subject you write about. Besides looking like plagiarism, you should realize, the epic is many thousands yeats old…not the 18th century and btw..
    It was rediscovered in the 19th century…which means the 1800’s.
    You should be ashamed….

  • Tabaqui says:

    Absolutely fascinating! I love that the government is so diligently trying to keep their history and culture in place, putting the safety of these artifacts above prosecution. Good luck to them!

    And – since you asked earlier, and it seems to be going ’round again…. I saw this story on FB, linked to this page: https://www.facebook.com/Storiarts?fref=nf

  • John McLaughlin says:

    I don’t see a translation of the lines in the article, just a description of their place & meaning to the text. Why is that?

  • Linda Civitello says:

    Kurt Michael Friese and Manuscript Research Evidence.

  • Jill Young says:

    People put rings on the outside of their gloves so that the gloves do not RIP and the object be contaminated, common sense.

  • Oscar Ubeda Segmar says:

    I came here from a steampunk facebook group.

  • Prince Isaac says:

    i found an Adapted and modernized version from the translation of William Muss-Arnolt.

  • ? says:


  • Professor Valerie Austin says:

    I use this site every Fall semester when I teach Gilgamesh, and I also annually link it on my FB page. All told I touch perhaps 1,500 people that way so scarcely have an impact, but this is fascinating to many of us.

  • Bafrin Barznji says:

    We have lots and lots of untold stories of civilizations in the area, the war has destroyed any chance of recovery. It’s a loss for humanity.
    Ps;im from the City of Sulaimaniyah

  • tess says:

    they found 20 lines from the poem from gilgamesh.

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