The Exta and its Organs

Among the parts of the exta attested in extispicy reports are parts of the liver, the lungs and their parts, the heart, the intestines, the vertebrae, the breast-bone, the stomachs, etc. The liver itself as a whole is never an object of examination in extispicy reports; its parts are. The term "liver" (amūtu) occurs, in fact, only twice in the Old and Middle Babylonian reports.[[93]] This is not the case in the omen texts. Omens concerning the liver were collected and integrated into omen compendia already in the OB period,[[94]] and later into tablets 14, 15, and 16 of the expository text multābiltu, chapter 10 of the haruspicy corpus (bārûtu).[[95]]

Unlike the liver, other parts of the sheep, such as the lungs and the heart, are frequently noted in the observations as whole organs and are often described as being normal (šalmu), especially in OB and MB reports. As for the lungs, this organ as a whole, as well as its numerous parts are attested in the present corpus. Some of the most common of these are the 'middle finger' (= the accessory lobe of the right lung) and the 'cap' (= apical lobe?) of the lung. The heart as a part of the exta whose salient features (i.e., abnormalities) call for discussion is attested already in OB Mari.[[96]]

The parts of the exta enumerated in the extispicy reports appear in what may be called a canonical order, one which remained practically unchanged through the centuries. The parts of the liver enumerated in the Sargonid reports and queries, for example, appear in an order similar, if not entirely identical to that of the OB and MB reports. As in the latter, they begin with the 'station,' followed by the 'path,' the 'strength,' and the 'well-being,' or their parts. The inspection proceeded in a counter-clockwise direction, usually ending with the 'yoke' or the 'increment.' Such differences between the Sargonid reports and those from earlier periods as there are, aside from expected differences in orthography, lie mostly in the choice of protases from the omen compendia. This choice reflects, in the case of the former, the practice of extispicy in the first millennium as we find it in the omen series bārûtu and compendia such as KAR 423.

93 See JCS 11 no. 8 r.15; 37 135:23.

94 Passim in YOS 10 11, ete.; cf. Jeyes, JCS 30 (1978) 232f.

95 Tablet 14 of the multābiltu is preserved in TCL 6 1 (cf. CT 20 1:29-31).

96 In the correspondence of Yasmah-Adad and Išme-Dagan (ARM 4 54). For a discussion of this letter, see Starr, JCS 27 (1975) 242ff. Another part of the heart, kiṣru (short for kiṣir libbi) is mentioned in an extispicy report from Mari, JCS 21 227 L:22 and n. 59; cf YOS 10 42 i 35. For OB omens derived from the heart and its parts, see YOS 10 41 r.72ff; 42 i 1-ii 47.

Ivan Starr

Ivan Starr, 'The Exta and its Organs', Queries to the Sungod: Divination and Politics in Sargonid Assyria, SAA 4. Original publication: Helsinki, Helsinki University Press, 1990; online contents: SAAo/SAA04 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 []

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