Ancient Mesopotamian underworld

underworld in Sumerian culture

The ancient Mesopotamian underworld, most often known in Sumerian as Kur, Irkalla, Kukku, Arali, or Kigal and in Akkadian as Erṣetu, although it had many names in both languages, was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground.

Ancient Sumerian cylinder seal impression showing the god Dumuzid being tortured in the underworld by gallu demons


  • Sisig (a god of dreams), the son of Utu, will provide light for him in the nether world, the place of darkness. When a funerary statue is made in honour of someone, whoever they may be, for future days, mighty youths [...] will form a semicircle at the door-jambs and perform wrestling and feats of strength before them. In the month Nenejar, at the festival of the ghosts, no light will be provided before them without him (i.e. Gilgamesh).
  • Oh Gilgamesh! Enlil, the Great Mountain, the father of gods, has made kingship your destiny, but not eternal life but life in-- lord j'c Gilgamesh, this is how to interpret the dream. [The end] of life should not make you feel sad, should not make you despair, should not make you feel depressed. You must have been told that this is what the bane of being human involves. You must have been told that this is what the cutting of your umbilical cord involved. The darkest day of humans awaits you now. The solitary place of humans awaits you now. The unstoppable flood-wave awaits you now. The unavoidable battle awaits you now. The unequal struggle awaits you now. The skirmish from which there is no escape awaits you now. But you should not go to the underworld with heart knotted in anger.

See also