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Ruin Hills at the Threshold of the Netherworld
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Ruin Hills at the Threshold of the Netherworld

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Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
In the Ba‘al Cycle’s description of the threshold separating the realms of the dead from that of... mehr
Ruin Hills at the Threshold of the Netherworld
In the Ba‘al Cycle’s description of the threshold separating the realms of the dead from that of the living, the key reference point is described as “the two tells (at) the boundary of the netherworld” (CAT 1.4 viii, 4). The specific word used to describe both topographical features is tl, the tell, an object well known in the archaeology of the Near East. The objects here are significant because they are literally ruin hills; specifically, they represent artificial topographical features. This nuance of the word tl distinguishes it from concepts of cosmic mountains shared with other cultures, but relates it to occurrences of the Sumerian cognate in terms such as DU6 KU3 (“Sacred Tell”) and SA%AR.DU6.TAG4 (roughly translated as “burial tell”). This paper will begin with an archaeological and philological analysis of the Semitic term tl, informed by Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope, in order to foreground the mythological valence of the two tells in the Ugaritic epic myth. The meaning instantiated by the word tell, as “ruin” and “hill,” allowed it to serve as an embodiment of time and space in the Ba‘al Cycle and other ancient Near Eastern literatures, demarcating cosmological thresholds and delineating boundaries of competing space.