received by Email on April 25, 2010
Anunnaki e Igigi are two recurring terms
in Mesopotamia mythology, describing what we now consider as having
been Sumerian and Akkadian deities.
These terms, particularly Anunnaki, are
used in both Sumerian and Babylonian literature, this latter using
the Sumerian words and glyphs instead of the proper Babylonian ones.
This makes hard to determine what or who the Anunnaki really were,
etymology of the word is uncertain.
In myths, Anunnaki are often described as the ‘gods of the
nether-world’, with a negative or violent approach, e.g. in the myth
known as “the descent of Inanna to the netherworld” where her sister
Ereshkigal unleashes the Anunnaki to kill her; sometimes they are
depicted as workers in the underground world, miners, and many other
times as some sort of ‘sages’, wise-men of the ‘Council of Twelve’
having such a role as ‘regulators’ of the life for human-kind. In
some other myths we find the Anunnaki waging battles against each
others, occasionally with the partnership of certain human kings.
The name Igigi instead is less used, and it almost always
describes a portion of the Anunnaki (300 of them, as we read in the
Enuma Elish) residing in Heaven
and who occasionally went down to Earth (KI), as in the tale
about Marduk marrying Sarpanit.
We should notice by now that there is a parallel between the
Anunnaki of Sumerian mythology and
the Nefilim of Semitic/biblic
traditions. In fact the Hebrew root NFL has a meaning that is not
only ‘to fall’, but also ‘to descend’.
Translating the Nefilim as ‘the one who
have descended’ or ‘the ones who descend’, we can integrate this
meaning with the name Anunnaki, that involves the two Sumerian
AN (sky - heaven)
KI (earth - land)
But are the Nephilim ALL the Anunnaki?
The answer should be ‘NO’.
The Nephilim are only a part of the
Anunnaki, and I consider it may be significant to identify them with
What I would like to point out in this article is the linguistic
matter, not the mythological one; all the tries to give an
etymologic source of the term Anunnaki has been unsuccessful, so
that nowadays we have various version who differ both in the
transliteration and in the involved meanings.
Most scholars translate Anunnaki as
‘Sons of Anu’ or ‘The heirs of Anu’, with Anu being the chief deity
of the Sumerian pantheon, by dividing the term as An.un[na]. But
this translation and the concept it expresses leaves out the
fundamental particle KI.
John Halloran, who published his last Sumerian Lexicon in
2004, on his website (Sumerian
questions and answers) proposes:
a-nun-na(-k): noble stock; fear,
dread ('offspring' + 'master' + genitive)
d-a-nun-na(-ke4-ne): the gods as
a whole; the gods of the netherworld, as compared to the
dnun-gal-e-ne, the great gods of heaven
As we see, the particle KI is completely
ignored. In the first definition the final -K is translated as a
genitive case, and in the second one Halloran proposes that KI would
actually be KE4-NE, another genitive form as reported in his
ke4: often occurs at the end of
a genitival compound which functions as the actor or agent
of the sentence (ak, genitival suffix 'of', + e, ergative
Another theory says that Anunnaki must
be transliterated as A.nun.ak.e, where AK is a genitive (this based
on Thorkild Jacobsen’s material).
But how can we trust these translation that have sense only when
letting a particle out of the analysis? These translations would be
acceptable if we ONLY had the form Anunna, which is actually the
most used. In the Sumerian period in fact we have always Anunna
or Anunna Gods occurring. It is in Akkadian times that we
find the use of Anunnaki.
The fact that this form is used in
Akkadian Cuneiform makes it easy to understand that it may not be an
error, because the term occurs as a non-subordinated form.
One who says that the term AK is always
a genitive, and the term Anunnaki is the genitive case of Anunna, is
indirectly saying that every time the Akkadian scribes used the
cuneiform for Anunnaki, rendering the KI, they were mistaking
Sumerian grammar and writing. This is impossible, because Akkadian
grammar was more complex and had more subordinating particles than
An error of this matter could only be
made in the opposite case, when we render a more complex language in
a simpler one, because we go to a higher grade of abstraction.
What is made for sure, in the term Anunnaki, is that the
particle AN means ‘Sky/Heaven’, and the particle KI means
‘Land/Earth’, so the meaning of the name is something in relation
with both heaven and earth. In my opinion the Sumerian term
Anunna describes the ‘gods of heaven’, and the Akkadian term
Anunnaki describes the act of these ‘gods of heaven coming on
It is in fact in the Akkadian period that we find the term IGI.GI,
this too coming from Sumerian roots.
The already mentioned Sumerian Lexicon
igi: n., eye(s); glance; face;
aspect, looks; front (reduplicated ig, 'door') [IGI archaic
frequency: 21]. v., to see.
gi(4): to surround, besiege; to
lock up (circle + to descend into).
gi(17): n., young man (small and
thin like a reed).
By using these rendering and
transliteration, we can extend the ‘young man’ meaning to talk about
the younger gods, or the ‘to surround/besiege’ can be a validation
of the concept that Igigi were described as the gods that remained
in the sky, surrounding the earth.
Besides, the term IGI.GI could also be a reduplication of the root
IGI = ‘to see’.
In fact reduplication of particles was
often used as a plural or to mean an emphasis, like we find in the
Flood Tale when the boat of Ziusudra is called:
In this case, the emphatic use of IGI
reduplicated is consistent with the meaning of ‘The
Watchers’, the same term used in the Bible to identify