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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