These remarks are a little late, but for what it's worth....
In the "Tips from the Jeweler's Bench, Issue #98" was an article by
Celia Rabinovitch, entitled "Matter into Metaphor,"
apparently reprinted from Metalsmith Magazine, Spring 2002. Her
analysis and the artwork pictured were very interesting. But in the
first few paragraphs were some statements that are not entirely
For example, "In archaic cultures ...the smithy... [was] revered
and even feared by the rest of society." For the Ancient Near East
(Mesopotamia), which has not only the world's earliest writing
system but also early and splendid metalworking, there is no
evidence for such a view of metalsmiths at all.
Ms. Rabinovitch quotes Mircea Eliade's book, The Forge and the
Crucible, but as I recollect (I wrote a lot about this issue in my
M.A. thesis), Eliade does not use any cuneiform texts published
later than about 1936, as evidence for his ideas on connections
between early smiths and fear/reverence from their society. The
cuneiform sign for metalsmith occurs in the earliest cuneiform
texts (ca. 3,000 BC), but it is in lists along with dozens of other
professional designations. Neither in mythology nor in any other
kinds of cuneiform literature, over a 3,000-year period, are smiths
singled out for any special fear or reverence. Nor is there any
Mesopotamian evidence for Eliade's statement (quoted in Rabinovitch's
article), about "...the ambivalent, eccentric and mysterious
character of all mining and metallurgical operations."
Perhaps Rabinovitch's statements are accurate for other times and
societies, but they don't fit ancient Mesopotamia.
Peace, Judy Bjorkman