Blane W. Conklin, «Arslan Tash I and other Vestiges of a Particular Syrian Incantatory Thread», Vol. 84 (2003) 89-101
The first part of this article is a new translation and interpretation of the first incantational plaque from Arslan Tash in northern Syria. Each of the three succeeding sections identifies and discusses elements of this incantation that find resonance in texts from Ugarit, Egypt, and the Hebrew Bible, respectively. At Ugarit we find texts predating Arslan Tash which describe incantational activity involving Horon and the Sun-deity, both of whom are present in the Arslan Tash text, and who have similar roles in the two traditions. Horon is also present in Egypt during the last centuries of the city of Ugarit, and is there also associated with the Sun-deity and performs similar functions as at Arslan Tash. In the Passover account of Exod 12 there are several elements in common with Arslan Tash, albeit in the distinctive form that might be expected in the theological and literary tradition of the Hebrew Bible.
Arslan Tash I and other Vestiges of a Particular Syrian Incantatory Thread *
The first incantatory plaque from Arslan Tash contains an incantation to keep harmful night-time creatures from entering the house until the sun rises. This spell is effected through the assistance of a host of deities, including As\s\ur, Horon, and the Sun-deity. In this brief contribution I offer a translation of this incantation from Arslan Tash (AT1) with select comments on particular orthographic, grammatical, and interpretive matters, and I present evidence for the presence of some of these incantational elements in three different sources in the Ancient Near East: Ugarit, New Kingdom Egypt, and the biblical Passover account in Exod 12.
I. Arslan Tash I
In 1939 R. du Mesnil du Buisson published the first of two plaques he had purchased in 1933 from a peasant in Arslan Tash, ancient H}adattu, in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey1. The artifact dates to the 7th century B.C. It has a hole drilled through the top of it, and the text is written around and upon three engraved figures on recto and verso2. On the recto are two figures, one above the other. The upper figure is a winged animal with large claws and a human head wearing a single-horned helmet; the lower figure is a wolf-like creature devouring a human being, whose legs are protruding from the creature’s mouth. Though the term "sphinx" has been used for the sake of convenience to refer to the upper figure, this is not a certain identification, and art historians have yet to pronounce definitively on the character of all these figures. On the verso is a non-animal creature — perhaps a deity — wearing a helmet, standing astride, and raising an axe in his right hand.
The language of the inscription is Phoenician, though the writing of the letters reflects a regional Aramaic hand; and there are some possible Aramaisms in the orthography and grammar as well3.