Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Not Applicable

Advisor Role

Not Applicable


This thesis attempts to elucidate the concepts of death and the netherworld found within Sumerian and Semitic literary texts. This particular topic has received very little attention in the past but studies of a similar nature have tended to take a fairly general approach dealing with Mesopotamian concepts in their entirety. Sumerian and Semitic cultures have not been distinguished due to the large number of similarities which were seen to exist between their societies, cultures, and religious ideas. More recently, however, such a methodological procedure has been found to exist within the literature of the two cultures. With this in mind the attempt of this thesis is to study traditions of death and the netherworld from a comparative perspective. The texts are examined individually within the Sumerian and Semitic corpora of texts, and conclusions are drawn from each set of documents to establish Sumerian traditions of death and the netherworld and Semitic concepts of the same. A comparison of the findings reveals that while a great similarity in language and descriptive material exists between the two bodies of material, the basic thrusts of the two cultures were essentially different. Sumerian traditions reveal a great concern for human beings as they enter the netherworld. Interestingly, they also reveal that the existence which the deceased was thought to experience in the underworld had many positive as well as negative aspects. The Semites, however, had little concern for humanity. Their focus was essentially quite negative and dwelt mostly on the activities of the netherworld deities who were portrayed in gruesome terms and with violent natures. These differences add to the cumulating evidence which suggests that scholars need to distinguish more carefully between Sumerian and Semitic societies and thought patterns.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season