An “Egyptianising” Underworld Judging an Assyrian Prince? New Perspectives on VAT 10057

14 Aug 2017

This article makes the case for an Egyptian connection in the Neo-Assyrian tablet VAT 10057, commonly known as the Underworld Vision of an Assyrian Prince. It opens with a discussion of past work on this tablet, a synopsis of the text, and a survey of the evidence for Egyptian people and culture in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. It then proceeds to analyse specific lines of the composition which may reveal signs of what is termed “Egyptianising” influence. One description in particular, featuring a god standing atop a crocodile, is highlighted as especially convincing on the basis of a very close match with contemporary Egyptian iconography of the god Horus. In the light of this principal evidence, other possible but less definitive examples are put forward. The article also discusses the nature of the “Egyptianising” elements, assessing the possibilities of both purely descriptive and conceptual connections with Egyptian culture, and what this might indicate about the people behind the text. The “Egyptianising” elements are also located in the broader context of the composition, and their place in a complex Mesopotamian text also incorporating some Elamite elements is considered. Overall, the article aims to demonstrate that some sort of Egyptian connection was present, although it concedes that its scale and nature are perhaps impossible to gauge. It is hoped that this piece will encourage other scholars to pursue connections between Egypt and Assyria with renewed vigour, demonstrating that textual analysis may prove fruitful in this area.