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A new chapter in the world’s oldest story...


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The 20 new lines offer some new insights into the epic. Ancient History outlines a few:

  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu saw "monkeys" as part of the exotic and noisy fauna of the Cedar Forest; this was not mentioned in other versions of the Epic.
  • Humbaba emerges, not as a barbarian ogre, and but as a foreign ruler entertained with exotic music at court in the manner of Babylonian kings. The chatter of monkeys, chorus of cicada  and squawking of many kinds of birds formed a symphony (or cacophony) that daily entertained the forest’s guardian, Humbaba.

So the Cedar Forest is a cacophonous abode of the gods. And there's also a curiously modern wrinkle, as George explained to Live Science:

"Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the cedar to take home to Babylonia, and the new text carries a line that seems to express Enkidu's recognition that reducing the forest to a wasteland is a bad thing to have done, and will upset the gods," George said. Like the description of the forest, this kind of ecological awareness is very rare in ancient poetry, he added.

The Epic of Gilgamesh played a clearly prominent role in ancient Mesopotamia and was passed down over the centuries until it got buried and forgotten amid the ruins of the region's many lapsed kingdoms. The Babylonian tablets now under scrutiny are 2,600 years old. The story was only rediscovered by a British philologist in the 19th century, who encountered the epic while toiling away in a musty archive of the British Museum.

I gotta admit, I had not heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh until now.

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