Published: Dec. 5, 2021

McClanahan Essay Prize Lecture

Dance of Dumuzi: the Choreography of Mesopotamian Space and Ritual
Hannah Slough, University of Colorado Boulder

Thursday, January 20, 2022  |  7:00 p.m.  |  Virtual webinar

Modified image of Mesopotamian cylinder seal

Modified Mesopotamian cylinder seal

In this study I examine the way ancient dancers in Mesopotamian region between the Tigris and the Euphrates used the movement of their bodies to create spaces of healing and protection and to connect with their gods. I argue that dance was a means to alter or access the religious potency in spaces that lay outside their usual discernible landscape–what I call “transpatial value.” Indeed, evidence from the proto-literate period through the Old Babylonian period (ca. 3400-1600 B.C.) provide us with three artistic motifs that suggest these dances were performed in ritual contexts: chain dances, the bow-legged dance, and the foot-clutching dance. I present a new interpretation of the “foot-clutching dance” as a staging of the Sumerian myth “The Death of Dumuzi” (ca. 1900-1600 B.C.). This dance, likely performed at public events, was a means for Mesopotamians to understand and ritually contend with unseen forces of good and ill.

This lecture is free and will be hosted on Zoom.
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This essay prize and lecture is sponsored by Mary E.V. McClanahan.  CU Classics is grateful for her generous support.

View the PDF poster here