The Huluppu Tree, Gilgamesh and the Netherworld


The clues to this story in Room 56 at the British Museum include the drawing of tree on a ceramic dish-stand, images of Inanna and Enki, a map showing the location of Inanna’s city, a carved, duck-shaped stone weight for measuring in minas, an ax, a description of the netherworld written on a clay tablet and a model chair.

The story begins with the goddess Inanna rescuing the uprooted huluppu tree floating in the stormy river Euphrates. She took the tree to her city, Uruk, and planted it in her garden. It grew with a crazy girl trapped inside its bark. Inanna asked her brother, the sun god Utu, to help her chop down the tree. He refused. Gilgamesh arrived with his bronze body armour and ax weighing several minas. He chopped down the tree. The crazy girl escaped and flew far away. Gilgamesh promised to make a bed and chair for Inanna from the trunk of the tree. From its branches and roots he made items for community activities. These fell into the netherworld. Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu went down to the netherworld to rescue them. He brought back a description of what awaited the dead in the land of no return. It was grim except for babies who died before they were born. They were drinking honey from golden goblets.

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A volunteer assists

Queen of the Night

Queen Puabi’s crown

Heritage Trail quiz

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Participants creating the story world

June Peters tells the story

Enki’s boat in a storm