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Shaping the Goddess Inanna/Aštar: temple construction, gender and elites in early dynastic Mesopotamia (ca. 2600–2350 B.C.)

Palmero Fernandez, M. (2019) Shaping the Goddess Inanna/Aštar: temple construction, gender and elites in early dynastic Mesopotamia (ca. 2600–2350 B.C.). PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00085500


The goddess Inanna/Aštar is usually described as the goddess of love and war, as well as the morning and evening stars (i.e. the planet Venus). Thorkild Jacobsen famously described Sumerian Inanna as being “truly all woman and of infinite variety.” She is also associated (together with the god An) with the city of Uruk, where she is described as the patron goddess of the Eanna religious precinct from prehistoric times. The interpretation of the deity is intrinsically linked with literary compositions from the Old Babylonian period, such as Inanna’s Descent, or Iddin-Dagān A hymn. However, the evocative power of such texts tends to overshadow the analysis of the evidence that exists for the cult of the deity beyond the literary character and obscures the critical investigation of the invention of traditions as legitimising practices that can build social cohesion as well as create inequality. It is within the context of the shaping of elite identity and the onset of dynastic kingship towards the end of the Early Dynastic period that this dissertation explores, from a gender perspective, the construction of the identity and image of the goddess Inanna/Aštar. On the basis of the recontextualisation of archaeological evidence from three case studies (Mari, Aššur and Khafajah) and the analysis of commemorative practices and associated epigraphic material, this dissertation will demonstrate that, from an archaeological and textual perspective, the existing evidence does not support beyond reasonable doubt that Inanna/Aštar was worshipped in Uruk or elsewhere from prehistoric times. Instead, the flourishing of temple architecture during the Early Dynastic period suggests that such practices were the result of conscious efforts to circumscribe sacred authority in order to utilise it as a tool to reorganise social logic and eventually concentrate secular power in the figure of a male ruler. Gender dynamics are examined in order to better understand the roles that male and female individuals played within the temples dedicated to the goddess, and how said dynamics and associated ritual practices co-constructed the image and identity of the goddess in relation with the construction of the image of the king.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Matthews, R. and Matthews, W.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:85500


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