Arts and Cultures - Ancient Sumerian Legend of Flood and Ziusudra

Arts and Cultures

Dr Archana Verma

There's a Sumerian tablet found from Mesopotamia, which describes a flood legend during the time of king Ziusudra, the ruler of Shuruppak on the bank of Euphrates. Archaeologists have found traces of flood sediments in the riverine tracts which have been carbon dated to c2900 BCE.

The Sumerian Kings List describe him as the last king before the great Flood. Scholars relate Ziusudra and flood legend to the later legends from Mesopotamia from Akkadian epic, the Epic of Gilgamesha nd the Old Testament legend of the Flood.

Ziusudra is described as having reigned as both king and priest. In the Sumerian tablet describing the legend of flood, the passage describing the circumstances leading to the flood are now lost. It says that the kingdom was at the city of Kish at this time. Flood sediments datable to 2900 BCE have been found from Kish.  

After the lost passage, gods are said to have decided to send a great Flood on Shuruppak. Enki, the ruler of underworld and seas, warns Ziusudra about the coming flood and directs him to build a large boat. The passage giving the directions about how to build the boat is again lost. The epic again resumes to describe the onset of the flood. For 7 days, a terrible storm is said to have raged and the huge boat tossed on the waters. 

Finally, after 7 days, the sun rises. Ziusudra opens a window, salutes the Sun (Ulu) and sacrifices an ox and a sheep. He venerates An (sky) and Enlil (deity of wind and breath). Finally, his boat is taken to Dilmun in the present Bahrain. This was a prosperous and important trading city and was linked to Meluhha, the ancient name thought to be of Indus Valley Civilisation. Dilmun is sybolic of happy, prosperous living without any miseries. The epic describes this place as Kur Dilmun. It is thought that Kur can mean distant land, but it can also mean mountain.

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