History Podcasts

Mesopotamian ‘Demon of Epilepsy’ Discovered on 2700-Year-Old Tablet

Mesopotamian ‘Demon of Epilepsy’ Discovered on 2700-Year-Old Tablet

A researcher studying an ancient Assyrian cuneiform tablet has found an image of a demon. The demon was believed to have been the cause of epilepsy. The tablet was used to treat health conditions, and the discovery of this ‘epilepsy demon’ is allowing us to better understand the era when medicine and magic were one.

The ‘epilepsy demon’ was found by Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen, during research work sponsored by the Edubba Foundation. He is a noted Assyriologist, who studies the ancient Assyrian people, who lived in what is now Northern Iraq, south of the modern city of Mosul. The Assyrians created an important ancient civilization that established two Empires and the first professional army. The civilization flourished between 2000 and 600 BC.

The ‘epilepsy demon’ can be seen at the bottom of the image, horns and face to the left and legs to the right. Source: Troels Pank Arbøll / University of Copenhagen

Epilepsy Demon Discovered

The researcher was re-examining a cuneiform tablet that is dated to 2700 years ago. It is written in a variant of Akkadian, a Semitic language, which was once widely spoken in the Mesopotamian region, but is now extinct. The cuneiform system of writing uses symbols to represent a complete word or sound. Cuneiform is notoriously difficult to interpret, and only a small number of specialists can read it accurately.

Full shot of the cuneiform tablet showing the ‘epilepsy demon’ circled in red. (Olaf M. Teßmer / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Vorderasiatisches Museum )

As he was studying the tablet, the expert discovered a partially damaged image on its back. He investigated the crude drawing and he soon made out that it was a figure. The figure had horns, a lizard’s or snake’s tongue, and more than one tail. Arbøll realized that he had found a demon and after reading some more of the cuneiform, he found that it “was the cause of the dreaded illness Bennu-epilepsy,” according to Futurity.

  • Mesopotamian Magic: Ancient Tablets Reveal a World of Witches, Sorcerers and Exorcists
  • Demonic Exorcisms in the Temple Schools of Mesopotamia
  • Neurologists speculate that Joan of Arc heard voices because she suffered from epilepsy

Demonic Possessions and Exorcisms

The Assyriologist identified the demon, which the ancient civilization believed to cause epilepsy. The Assyrians and other cultures referred to epilepsy as Bennu. This was a widely feared condition that is described in the cuneiform writing. On the tablet, the symptoms included seizures, unconsciousness and mental illness. Another symptom was that those afflicted would cry like a goat.

The researchers drawing of the ‘epilepsy demon’ based on the cuneiform tablet. (Troels Pank Arbøll / University of Copenhagen )

Ancient people such as the Assyrians believed that diseases and illnesses were caused by supernatural beings, gods or black magic. They believed, like the Sumerians, that certain spirits caused people to fall ill, and these could be identified by specific symptoms. Curing illness was concerned with exorcizing people of evil spirits, such as the demon Pazuzu or the evil goddess Lamashtu.

Arbøll stated that “healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused by drugs, rituals, or incantations,” according to Futurity. In ancient Mesopotamia, skills such as exorcism were taught in temple-schools, which could possibly be the world’s first medical schools. They would have routinely used cuneiform tablets in their treatments.

Drawings of demons and spirits are very rare on cuneiform tablets, although they often appear on bronze plaques thought to help to expel demons. The University of Copenhagen quotes Arbøll as saying that “this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy.”

Lunacy Through History

Typically, the healer would not have drawn the figure of the demon who caused a specific illness, and this makes the find so important. The tablet also gives us some insights into the beliefs regarding the demon. Arbøll stated that the tablet suggests that the demon “acted on behalf of the lunar god Sîn when it inflicted a person with epilepsy,” reports The University of Copenhagen . The Assyrians believed that there was a link between the moon and this condition, and this influenced many other cultures. The words lunatic or lunacy in English are ultimately derived from lunar, an adjective relating to the moon.

This chance discovery shows that ancient ideas about healing were very influential down the centuries. Moreover, it adds to our knowledge of Assyrian beliefs about the supernatural and healing. The findings of the research are published in the Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes.


Researcher discovers terrifying epilepsy demon on 2,700-year-old clay tablet

A 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet from ancient Iraq describing medical treatments has suddenly revealed a secret &ndash a hitherto overlooked drawing of the demon that the ancient Assyrians thought caused epilepsy. It is the earliest illustration of a demon that can be associated with epilepsy.

The demon can be spotted at the bottom of the image, horns and face to the left and legs to the right- See also the researcher’s drawing below.

When Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll was studying a 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet with ancient medical treatments at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin four years ago, he accidentally discovered a partially damaged drawing on the reverse of the tablet. A drawing that, on closer inspection, turned out to be a demon with horns, tails and a snake’s tongue which, according to the text, was the cause of the dreaded illness Bennu-epilepsy.

Assyria

Assyria was an ancient kingdom and later empire on the river Tigris in the fertile part of present-day northern Iraq. Assyria was named after the city of Assur, located approximately 100 km south of the Iraqi city of Mosul, as well as the main deity Ashur. Assyria is one of the earliest civilisations, and the history of ancient Assyria dates from approximately 2000 to 612 BCE.

Cuneiform

The text, which Troels Pank Arbøll has studied, is written in a dialect of the now extinct Semitic language Akkadian. It was written in cuneiform, where the signs represent entire words as well as sounds in a system reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs. They were pressed into clay tablets with a reed stylus. Therefore, texts may be subject to interpretation because the signs can be ambiguous.

Troels Pank Arbøll has read and interpreted the original clay tablet at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin. It was here that he discovered the hitherto unnoticed drawing of the demon.

“We have known for a long time that the Assyrians and Babylonians regarded diseases as phenomena that were caused by gods, demons or witchcraft. And healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused with drugs, rituals or incantations. But this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy, which the Assyrians and Babylonians called Bennu, explains postdoc Troels Pank Arbøll. He adds:

“Drawings of supernatural powers are very rare on cuneiform tablets with magical and medical treatments. When there is a drawing, it usually depicts one of the figures that the healers used in their rituals, not the demon itself. But here we have a presentation of an epilepsy demon as the healer who wrote the text must have imagined it.

Lunacy through history

Bennu-epilepsy, which is one of the diseases described in the 2,700-year-old text, was feared in ancient Iraq symptoms included seizures, loss of consciousness or sanity, and, in some cases, the patients cried out like a goat.

“The text also states that the demon acted on behalf of the lunar god Sîn when it inflicted a person with epilepsy. So the Assyrians and Babylonians believed that there was a connection between the moon, epilepsy and insanity. In the following millennia, this idea became widespread, also in our part of the world, and it can still be detected in the English word ‘lunacy’. In other words, the views on illness, diagnoses and treatments in the earliest civilisations have had a significant impact on later perceptions of illness, even in recent history, “says Troels Pank Arbøll.

Troels Pank Arbøll has recently published an article about his findings in Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes. His research is supported by the Edubba Foundation.


This Demon, Immortalized in 2,700-Year-Old Assyrian Tablet, Was Thought to Cause Epilepsy

A demonic figure with curved horns, a forked tongue, a tail and a reptilian eye has long lurked unobserved on the back of a 2,700-year-old clay tablet housed at Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum, a new study published in Le Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes suggests.

University of Copenhagen Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll discovered the rare illustration while studying the cuneiform text five years ago. Researchers have known of the artifact’s existence for decades, but as Arbøll tells Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe, he was the first to notice the creature’s damaged outline. The writing on the tablet suggests its creator viewed the demon as the cause of convulsions and other involuntary movements then called bennu but now understood as epilepsy.

Per the study, the anthropomorphic figure measures around 2.5 inches tall and one inch wide. Its neck is long, and its body appears to be covered in scales or hair. Although the majority of the demon’s torso has been effaced over the centuries, its claw-like hands and feet remain partially visible.

Magic and medicine were intertwined in ancient Assyria. According to a University of Copenhagen statement, the Assyrians believed diseases were caused by gods, demons or witchcraft. To treat these afflictions, healers turned to drugs, rituals or incantations.

Interestingly, explains Arbøll to Metcalfe, the newly described drawing differs from spiritual images typically found on cuneiform tablets. Unlike “comparable drawings, which generally depict a figurine made during a ritual to remove the illness,” the tablet depicts an “actual demon.”

As the researcher notes in the statement, the work presents the mystical being “as the healer who wrote the text must have imagined it.”

The tablet’s text indicates that ancient “doctors” would have blamed bennu’s occurrence on a demon acting on behalf of the Mesopotamian moon god Sîn. The standard prescription, according to Arbøll, was to wear a leather amulet and breathe in smoke from certain ingredients charred on hot coals.

Arbøll previously completed a separate analysis of cuneiform tablets cataloging the medical training of a man named Kisir-Ashur. This microhistory offered new insights on ancient Assyrian medical practices, including how doctors were “trained in the art of diagnosing and treating illnesses, and their causes,” the Assyriologist told ScienceNordic’s Bo Christensen in 2018.

Like the tablets studied for this earlier survey, the demon manuscript was unearthed in Kisir-Ashur’s private library. He and his family lived in the city of Assur, located in what is now northern Iraq, around 650 B.C., though Live Science’s Metcalfe points out that the bennu text in question was likely copied from a far older document.

Kisir-Ashur and others like him are often described as exorcists, but Arbøll told Christensen that this title is a mistranslation, as these individuals also handled non-spiritual issues.

“He does not work simply with religious rituals, but also with plant-based medical treatments,” the researcher said. “It is possible that he studied the effects of venom from scorpions and snakes on the human body and that he perhaps tried to draw conclusions based on his observations.”


An Epilepsy ‘Demon’ on a 2,700-Year-Old Tablet

Credit: Olaf M. Teßmer/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Vorderasiatisches Museum

A 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet from ancient Iraq depicts the demon that the ancient Assyrians thought caused epilepsy.

It’s a previously overlooked element of the tablet describing medical treatments.

The demon is visible at the bottom of the image—horns and face to the left and legs to the right.

Credit: U. Copenhagen

When Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen was studying the tablet at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin four years ago, he accidentally discovered a partially damaged drawing on its reverse. On closer inspection, the drawing turned out to be a demon with horns, tails, and a snake tongue that, according to the text, was the cause of the dreaded illness Bennu-epilepsy.

Assyria is one of the earliest civilizations, and the history of ancient Assyria dates from approximately 2000 to 612 BCE.

Assyria was an ancient kingdom and later empire on the river Tigris in the fertile part of present-day northern Iraq. Assyria took its name from the city of Assur, located approximately 100 km (62 miles) south of the Iraqi city of Mosul, as well as the main deity Ashur.

The text is written in a dialect of the now extinct Semitic language Akkadian. It was written in cuneiform, where the signs represent entire words as well as sounds in a system reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs. They were pressed into clay tablets with a reed stylus. Because the signs can be ambiguous, the text is subject to interpretation.

“We have known for a long time that the Assyrians and Babylonians regarded diseases as phenomena that were caused by gods, demons, or witchcraft,” says Arbøll. “And healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused with drugs, rituals, or incantations.

“But this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy, which the Assyrians and Babylonians called Bennu.”

“Drawings of supernatural powers are very rare on cuneiform tablets with magical and medical treatments. When there is a drawing, it usually depicts one of the figures that the healers used in their rituals, not the demon itself. But here we have a presentation of an epilepsy demon as the healer who wrote the text must have imagined it.”

Bennu-epilepsy, which is one of the diseases described in the 2,700-year-old text, was feared in ancient Iraq symptoms included seizures, loss of consciousness, or sanity, and, in some cases, the patients are described as crying out like a goat.

“The text also states that the demon acted on behalf of the lunar god Sîn when it inflicted a person with epilepsy. So the Assyrians and Babylonians believed that there was a connection between the moon, epilepsy, and insanity,” says Arbøll. “In the following millennia, this idea became widespread, also in our part of the world, and it can still be detected in the English word “lunacy.”

“In other words, the views on illness, diagnoses, and treatments in the earliest civilizations have had a significant impact on later perceptions of illness, even in recent history.”

Arbøll reports his findings in the Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes. The Edubba Foundation supports his work.


Assyrians blamed demon 'Bennu' for epilepsy

Situated at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, the 2,700-year-old tablet had been originally discovered at the library of a family of exorcists who lived in Assur, which is now in northern Iraq.

Assyriologist Troels Pank Arboll from the University of Copenhagen had recently been analyzing the stone when he discovered a drawing that had been overlooked for years.

On closer inspection, it appeared to be a demon with horns, a tail and a forked tongue.

It turned out that this demonic figure was 'Bennu' - a demon that the Assyrians believed was responsible for the involuntary muscle movements associated with epilepsy.

The text on the tablet contains details of remedies designed to treat the condition.

"I was the first one to notice the drawing, despite the text having been known to researchers for decades, so it is not easily seen today unless one knows it is there due to the damage on the manuscript," Arboll told Live Science.

"This specific drawing is a depiction of the actual demon, instead of other comparable drawings, which generally depict a figurine made during a ritual to remove the illness."

I have a new article out on a newly discovered drawing of a Neo-Assyrian demon connected to psychological and neurological disorders, which may be the earliest illustration of epilepsy in a demonic form (see drawing)! Available for free via following link https://t.co/Wo2P6MUoMp pic.twitter.com/lAVNZX7bAm

— Troels Pank Arbøll (@PankTroels) November 8, 2019

Similar stories based on this topic:


2,700-year-old tablet depicts epilepsy ‘demon’

A 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet from ancient Iraq depicts the demon that the ancient Assyrians thought caused epilepsy.

It’s a previously overlooked element of the tablet describing medical treatments.

The demon is visible at the bottom of the image—horns and face to the left and legs to the right.

(Credit: U. Copenhagen)

When Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen was studying the tablet at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin four years ago, he accidentally discovered a partially damaged drawing on its reverse. On closer inspection, the drawing turned out to be a demon with horns, tails, and a snake tongue that, according to the text, was the cause of the dreaded illness Bennu-epilepsy.

Assyria is one of the earliest civilizations, and the history of ancient Assyria dates from approximately 2000 to 612 BCE.

Assyria was an ancient kingdom and later empire on the river Tigris in the fertile part of present-day northern Iraq. Assyria took its name from the city of Assur, located approximately 100 km (62 miles) south of the Iraqi city of Mosul, as well as the main deity Ashur.

The text is written in a dialect of the now extinct Semitic language Akkadian. It was written in cuneiform, where the signs represent entire words as well as sounds in a system reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs. They were pressed into clay tablets with a reed stylus. Because the signs can be ambiguous, the text is subject to interpretation.

“We have known for a long time that the Assyrians and Babylonians regarded diseases as phenomena that were caused by gods, demons, or witchcraft,” says Arbøll. “And healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused with drugs, rituals, or incantations.

“But this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy, which the Assyrians and Babylonians called Bennu.”

“Drawings of supernatural powers are very rare on cuneiform tablets with magical and medical treatments. When there is a drawing, it usually depicts one of the figures that the healers used in their rituals, not the demon itself. But here we have a presentation of an epilepsy demon as the healer who wrote the text must have imagined it.”

Bennu-epilepsy, which is one of the diseases described in the 2,700-year-old text, was feared in ancient Iraq symptoms included seizures, loss of consciousness, or sanity, and, in some cases, the patients are described as crying out like a goat.

“The text also states that the demon acted on behalf of the lunar god Sîn when it inflicted a person with epilepsy. So the Assyrians and Babylonians believed that there was a connection between the moon, epilepsy, and insanity,” says Arbøll. “In the following millennia, this idea became widespread, also in our part of the world, and it can still be detected in the English word “lunacy.”

“In other words, the views on illness, diagnoses, and treatments in the earliest civilizations have had a significant impact on later perceptions of illness, even in recent history.”

Arbøll reports his findings in the Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes. The Edubba Foundation supports his work.


Demonic Explanation: Disservice to Those With Epilepsy

A scholar spotted the long-overlooked image (its horns and face are at left, its legs on the right) while conducting research at a Berlin museum. (Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Vorderasiatisches Museum, Olaf M. Teßmer)

Health Editor’s Note: There are many causes for epilepsy which is simply misfiring/malfunction of the neurons (brain cells) in the brain. The brain works by electrical impulses moving to the next neuron and the disorder/disease of epilepsy results from abnormal electrical activity of the brain and is not a specific disease but a group of symptoms that present with over stimulation of the neurons. Epilepsy is relatively common with about 0.5% of the population being affected.

Epilepsy is classified as to its origin (idiopathic-genetic) or symptoms (acquired or organic) with having a physical cause such as injury to the brain at birth or later, brain tumor, or endocrine disorder. Seizures may be barely noticeable, maybe experienced with someone pausing when he or she is speaking. Seizures may be very noticeable as someone can loose control of motor function (can involuntarily urinate and move limbs in an exaggerated fashion), have severe tremors, inability to swallow, become unconscious and be in a very helpless/vulnerable state.

Whatever the cause for seizures, the seizures are due to a physical reason (s) and not someone being cursed by some demon or another person for any actions he or she might have taken. No one does anything evil to be given epilepsy. Seizures are not a sign that someone is possessed or going to harm anyone else.

As is the case with many ancient/and not so ancient explanations of scientific data, when you cannot see or understand what is really happening, then the unexplainable/that which is not understood, takes on a sign that something awful, which cannot be seen, has caused the process. Because of the nature of how seizures may manifest and how this appears to an onlooker, someone with seizures were said to be possessed as they did not really have conscious control over his or her movements during the time of the seizure. This article is just proof of how seizures and demons came to be linked to each other. While it would appear that the link between seizures and demons was an idea from ancient times, I would think that there are certain people who continue to believe the falsehood that those who have seizures should/will be thought of in a maleficent light……Carol

This Demon, Immortalized in 2,700-Year-Old Assyrian Tablet, Was Thought to Cause Epilepsy

By Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

A demonic figure with curved horns, a forked tongue, a tail and a reptilian eye has long lurked unobserved on the back of a 2,700-year-old clay tablet housed at Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum, a new study published in Le Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes suggests.

University of Copenhagen Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll discovered the rare illustration while studying the cuneiform text five years ago. Researchers have known of the artifact’s existence for decades, but as Arbøll tells Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe, he was the first to notice the creature’s damaged outline. The writing on the tablet suggests its creator viewed the demon as the cause of convulsions and other involuntary movements then called bennu but now understood as epilepsy.

Per the study, the anthropomorphic figure measures around 2.5 inches tall and one inch wide. Its neck is long, and its body appears to be covered in scales or hair. Although the majority of the demon’s torso has been effaced over the centuries, its claw-like hands and feet remain partially visible.

Magic and medicine were intertwined in ancient Assyria. According to a University of Copenhagen statement, the Assyrians believed diseases were caused by gods, demons or witchcraft. To treat these afflictions, healers turned to…..Read More:

Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law Katie – two granddaughters Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

ATTENTION READERS
Due to the nature of independent content, VT cannot guarantee content validity.
We ask you to Read Our Content Policy so a clear comprehension of VT's independent non-censored media is understood and given its proper place in the world of news, opinion and media.

All content is owned by author exclusively. Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, other authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images within are full responsibility of author and NOT VT.


Archaeology news: Researchers stunned by demonic detail discovered in Iraqi cave

Link copied

Archaeology news: Researchers stunned by demonic detail discovered in Iraqi cave (Image: UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN)

When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Sometimes they'll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer. Our Privacy Notice explains more about how we use your data, and your rights. You can unsubscribe at any time.

A 2,700-year old clay tablet was discovered in a cave in Iraq but has been kept in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin for the past four years. On the tablet, a horned figure which appears to be part human-part goat is depicted &ndash a demon known as Bennu. The image shows the monster standing tall, with hoofed feet, a tail and a snakes tongue poking out of its mouth.

Related articles

Along with the drawing are symptoms of &lsquoBennu-epilepsy&rsquo, which the ancient Assyrians thought was epilepsy caused by the demon.

The symptoms of the disease included: seizures, loss of consciousness or sanity, and, in some cases, the patients cried out like a goat, according to the research published in Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes.

The Assyrians believed diseased were inflicted by gods and demons, and the uncovered drawing shows how the ancients believed that diseases such as Bennu-eplipsy could be cured by rituals.

Furthermore, the researchers believe it is the first known recording of epilepsy and its symptoms.

The demon had horns and a snake tongue (Image: UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN)

The demon can be seen at the bottom of the tablet (Image: UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN)

Lead researcher Troels Pank Arbøll from the University of Copenhagen said: &ldquoWe have known for a long time that the Assyrians and Babylonians regarded diseases as phenomena that were caused by gods, demons or witchcraft.

&ldquoAnd healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused with drugs, rituals or incantations.

&ldquoBut this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy, which the Assyrians and Babylonians called Bennu.

&ldquoDrawings of supernatural powers are very rare on cuneiform tablets with magical and medical treatments.


Demon with Horns and Forked Tongue Found on 2,700-yr-old Assyrian Tablet

An Assyrian tablet featuring a chilling demon has been identified. Some years ago, a clay tablet written in an extinct Semetic language, Akkadian, was discovered in northern Iraq at the ruins of the city of Assur where modern day Qalʿat Sharqāṭ is located. The tablet, according to Futirity, uses cuneiform, one of the most ancient writing systems which uses wedge shaped characters, and it is estimated to be about two thousand seven hundred years old.

It was found among other tablets in the library of Kisir-Ashur, a medical doctor who also performed exorcisms and other supernatural rituals. Kisir-Ashur was a medical student and practitioner in about the 7 th century BC. The tablets, now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, show the progression of the education and experiments of Kisir-Ashur as well as lists of cures and medicinal plants.

Scientists have examined this particular tablet over the years, but, according to Live Science, it wasn’t until 2016 when Troels Pank Arbøll of the University of Copenhagen studied the tablet during a postdoctoral fellowship and noticed what seemed to be a demon drawn on the reverse side of the tablet.

The depiction is shown here in red. (Image: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Vorderasiatisches Museum/Photograph by Olaf M. Tessmer)

According to Arbøll’s research paper at Academia, the drawing of the demon on the Assyrian tablet, partially missing, can only be seen at a ninety degree angle and “the figure is roughly 6.4 centimeters high and 2.6 centimeters wide, and it is clearly anthropomorphic.” He notes the drawing shows curvy horns, a serpent-like forked tongue, and a long tail.

Its horns and face are at left, its legs on the right. (Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Vorderasiatisches Museum, Olaf M. Teßmer)

Arbøll states that this particular demon was believed by Assyrians to be a servant of the Mesopotamian god, Sin, who was responsible for what they termed madness. The writing with this image discussed cures for seizures caused by bennu, or what we would term epilepsy.

This particular Assyrian tablet shows the demon that inhabited the body and caused epileptic seizures. It is unusual to find a drawing of a demon in a medical text, according to Smithsonian Magazine generally images depicted figurines used in healing rituals.

I have a new article out on a newly discovered drawing of a Neo-Assyrian demon connected to psychological and neurological disorders, which may be the earliest illustration of epilepsy in a demonic form (see drawing)! Available for free via following link https://t.co/Wo2P6MUoMp pic.twitter.com/lAVNZX7bAm

— Troels Pank Arbøll (@PankTroels) November 8, 2019

Ancient Assyrians believed almost all illnesses were caused by ghosts, gods and goddesses, and demons used as agents by the Mesopotamian moon god Sîn, among others. According to Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine: ancient sources, translations and modern medical analysis by Jo Ann Scurlock found on Google Books, a passage in medical texts used at the time states that doctors believed that if a person’s illness bothered them at night, it was caused by a ghost.

When an infant choked, had yellow skin (jaundiced), and would not nurse, it was caused by the “hand” of Gula. A particular passage relates that if the left side of the patient’s throat was red, he would recover but if it was yellow it would be a long illness. If the right side of the throat was yellow the patient would succumb. If there was swelling on the left side of the neck, the patient would recover, but if the swelling was on the right side, he would as well succumb.

While Assyrian physicians had a good understanding of the symptoms of illnesses, it was the causes they couldn’t get right as they had no knowledge of germs and inherited diseases. They did, however, recognize mental illness as a valid issue, something modern medicine has only recently addressed.

Ancient texts describe both clinical depression and bi-polar disorder as separate problems although they believed the cause was that the gods and goddesses were angry at the individual.

Mesopotamians knew of good health practices and had sewers and bathrooms in their homes. Their lavatory demon was Sulak who would strike if hands were not washed. They were aware that cleanliness played a big part in reducing disease and commonly washed before eating and rituals. They may have known about sterilization as well, as some medicines were boiled and reeds were used to cut umbilical cords, and they understood contagion and the need to quarantine some individuals.


Ancient Clay Tablet Reveals Terrifying Epilepsy Demon

A 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet from ancient Iraq describing medical treatments has suddenly revealed a secret – a hitherto overlooked drawing of the demon that the ancient Assyrians thought caused epilepsy. It is the earliest illustration of a demon that can be associated with epilepsy.

When Assyriologist Troels Pank Arbøll was studying a 2,700-year-old cuneiform tablet with ancient medical treatments at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin four years ago, he accidentally discovered a partially damaged drawing on the reverse of the tablet. A drawing that, on closer inspection, turned out to be a demon with horns, tails and a snake’s tongue which, according to the text, was the cause of the dreaded illness Bennu-epilepsy.

"We have known for a long time that the Assyrians and Babylonians regarded diseases as phenomena that were caused by gods, demons or witchcraft. And healers were responsible for expelling these supernatural forces and the medical symptoms they caused with drugs, rituals or incantations. But this is the first time that we have managed to connect one of the very rare illustrations of demons in the medical texts with the specific disease epilepsy, which the Assyrians and Babylonians called Bennu, explains postdoc Arbøll. He adds:

"Drawings of supernatural powers are very rare on cuneiform tablets with magical and medical treatments. When there is a drawing, it usually depicts one of the figures that the healers used in their rituals, not the demon itself. But here we have a presentation of an epilepsy demon as the healer who wrote the text must have imagined it.

Epilepsy through history

Bennu-epilepsy, which is one of the diseases described in the 2,700-year-old text, was feared in ancient Iraq symptoms included seizures, loss of consciousness or sanity, and, in some cases, the patients cried out like a goat.

"The text also states that the demon acted on behalf of the lunar god Sîn when it inflicted a person with epilepsy. So the Assyrians and Babylonians believed that there was a connection between the moon, epilepsy and insanity. In the following millennia, this idea became widespread, also in our part of the world, and it can still be detected in the English word 'lunacy'. In other words, the views on illness, diagnoses and treatments in the earliest civilizations have had a significant impact on later perceptions of illness, even in recent history, "says Arbøll.

Arbøll. (2019) A Newly Discovered Drawing of a Neo-Assyrian Demon in BAM 202 Connected to Psychological and Neurological Disorders. Journal des Médecines, pp. 1-31.

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


Watch the video: Επιληψία στο (January 2022).