Babette Schnitzlein

Researcher, Bilderfahrzeuge Project


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Bilderfahrzeuge Project Website

Moving gods: Mesopotamian statues and symbols of gods in the second and first millennia B.C.

In the ancient Near East there existed numerous depictions of gods.These consisted of statues as well as images on seals and reliefs. The images could be anthropomorphic or symbolic. Cylinder seals and stamp seals (which created impressions respectively by being rolled on or pushed into a soft material such as clay), and reliefs have, crucially, been found in archaeological excavations. Cuneiform texts also talk about the creation of images of gods and their subsequent handling.

Statues of Gods were not simply images, but representations of gods. They had real, effective power. The creation and restoration of a representation of a god would be accompanied by specific rituals. Only these rituals ‚brought to life’ the image of the god. Next, the representation of the god would be installed in a temple. The meaning of rituals by which representations of gods left their temples should, likewise, not be underestimated. Access to the sanctuary of the temple was usually restricted, so that only when they left their home were the gods visible to a large public. Representations of gods were, furthermore, lent to confederate kings. They could be looted, destroyed, returned or modified.

The question of what role the movement of objects, and accordingly, the mobility of images, played in the constituting of a space of lordship, or of shared religion, ought to be pursued in the context of the ‚Bilderfahrzeuge’ research group. Movement is not understood here simply as movement in a geographical space, but also the conveying of meaning. An example of this is the creation of representations of gods based on received patterns. My research concentrates on Mesopotamia in the second and first millenia B.C., although if necessary it will also address neighhbouring areas. Apart from the representations themselves archaeological findings and cuneiform writings of different text types are used as sources.

Research Interests
Assyriology, Ancient Near Eastern Art, Material Culture, History of Science, Intellectual History, Knowledge Transfer, Aesthetics of Writing

Academic Background
2009–2015 Institut für Altorientalistik, Free University Berlin PhD Assyriology (thesis title: „Untersuchungen zur Schreibkultur Mesopotamiens im 1. Jahrtausend v. Chr. „); 2010-2014 associated PhD-candidate at the DFG Research Training Group 1458 „Notational Iconicity“, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Free University Berlin;
2002–2009 Free University Berlin Magistra Artium (M.A.) in Ancient Near Eastern Archeology, Assyriology and Social and Cultural Anthropology

2010–2012 Elsa-Neumann-Stipendium des Landes Berlin (Scholarship of the State of Berlin)

Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum / Babette Schnitzlein (eds), Keilschriftartefakte. Untersuchungen zur Materialität von Keilschriftdokumenten, Berliner Beiträge zum Vorderen Orient 25, in preparation.