Pesky Purses: Whatever floats your boat

All photos courtesy of the Ancient Enthusiast unless otherwise specified

Where are they going, anyway?

While searching through almost 100 photos of pesky purses the Ancient Enthusiast had collected, it occurred to me that it might be useful to put them in order of date. In doing so, what I discovered about them is quite interesting.

We will start our journey in Gobekli Tepe 10,500 BCE, then move to Iran somewhere between 9000 and 6000 BCE.

As you look at these examples, remember the Ice Age and the last great extinction (some say caused by a comet impacting central Mexico) started about 11,800 BCE and ended about 9400 BCE.


Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe prior to 10,500 BCE:

Untitled2.png                                     Photo by Klaus-Peter Simon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Teppe Yahya, 6000-9000 B.C. Kerman- Iran:


From this point, we go to the Jiroft culture and move around the Mediterranean. I am only showing a very small sample of the artifacts from about 3000 BCE to the 1st century BCE.


Jiroft Culture 2000-3000 BCE:



I like the last one because the figures seem to be swimming and, of course, Oannes is the fish-tailed god who came from the sea to teach the civilizing arts. I believe that Oannes dates back even earlier as first Enki of Sumerian (5300-1940 BCE) lore and then as Ae of Akkadian (2334-2157 BCE) lore. They are all fish-tailed gods from the sea who brought civilization to humankind.

Babylon 1894-141 BCE:

Untitled6.pngBird-Apkallu statuettes


Late Hittite, 1600-1178 BCE:

Untitled7.pngUntitled8.png                                         Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Untitled.pngFortress of Karatepe, Kadril, Osmaniye


Mitanni 1500-1300 BCE:



Phoenician Lebanon, 1200-800 BCE:

Untitled10.pngFragment of the altar with the image of the goddess of Yanouh. Beirut National Museum

Assyrian 700-800 BCE:

Untitled11.pngPlaques depicting a winged demon and a fish-man, probably Oannes


Ancient Armenia   860-590 BCE:

Untitled12.pngUntitled13.pngLower image: Fragment of a bronze helmet


Syro-Phoenician 700 to 600 BCE (time of Nimrod):


Untitled15.pngBottom image drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrûd. From Maspero’s History of Egypt, vol 3. (Public Domain)

The historian Berosus first wrote about Oannes in the later Babylonian era. But, remember, his legend goes back to 5000 BCE when he was known as Enki. Reputed to come from the sea to teach the “civilizing arts,” among them agriculture, language, architecture, mathematics, Enki later became Ae, then Oannes.

Northern Syria 800-750 BCE:


Etruscan 768-264 BCE:



This is where it gets interesting:

Now go back and think about this one:


Where are they going? West, perhaps, to the Americas?

We don’t find much more around the Mediterranean after about 700-500 BCE, but we do start finding them in Central and South America. At about this time the Phoenicians (Carthaginians) were at the high point in their maritime activities. And about this time there were three great invasions of Phoenecia. First the Assyrians (883-605 BCE), then the Babylonians (605-538 BCE), then the Persians (538-332 BCE) took over and ruled the area. Did the “pesky purses” suddenly show up in the Americas with some fleeing Phoenicians?


Peru  700 BCE


Untitled19.pngTomb of the Serpent Jaguar Priests in Peru  

Compare the stone artifact above to those from the Jiroft culture (3000-2000 BCE):



Mexico 700 BCE:

Untitled20.pngBy Cesarth (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

These are from Tula (Tollan), The Capital of Toltec Empire. They are also known as  the Atlantian Columns.

The “warrior” bags these statues carry seem to be a variation found in several Central and South American cultures. There is another Mayan example below.

LaVenta (Olmec) 400 BCE-200 CE:

Untitled21.pngBy Audrey and George Delange (Audrey and George Delange) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Mayan somewhere between 250-900 CE:



Veracruz, Mexico, 600 – 900 CE:


Moche 100-700 CE:

Untitled24.pngUntitled25.pngPainting on vessel (Hocquenghen 1987)   From original research by Aedo Fernando on AE


Tairona, Colombia, 900 CE – 1600 CE:


Now I am wondering–did the image of the pesky purse travel to ancient America with ancient mariners?

We find very few examples in other parts of the world. That is why I think it is not just a matter of “independent invention” that brought the pesky purse to the Americas, but rather a case of diffusion from one specific area to another. But just to be fair, here are the two instances of purses in other parts of the world captured by the Ancient Enthusiast:

4th century CE, Zenica, Bosnia:


Yes, I think this is more likely to be a coincidence, but then….symbols last for millennia, even when their original meaning is forgotten.

Sumba, an island in eastern Indonesia:


My search did not turn up anything concrete about this artifact. Most Sumba “statues” are more Moai like. This may be a later date.

One final connection: Coso Rock Art:

Untitled29.pngUS Park Service photo

Note the date. Habitation of the area started sometime after the last ice age, 10,000 BCE about the time of Gobekli Tepe, our first example.

Now look at this sketch of the rock art with what are being called “medicine bags”:

Untitled30.pngLittle Petroglyph Canyon, California USA . Coso rock art district. Photo is on Stephen Bodio’s Querencia blog.  (Scroll down.)


I seriously doubt this petroglyph is from the end of the Ice Age. But is it possible that it is an ancient symbol carried down generation after generation?

And maybe those pesky purses are Medicine bags as many suggest. Think back to my previous blogs about Chief Joseph’s Cuneiform stone and the Assyrian Star of Ishtar  on his medicine bag…another clue to the ancient past.

The Chief Joseph artifacts date back to the Sumerians and Assyrians 2040 BCE. Were there two migrations? One before 2040 BCE and a second wave about 800-900 BCE. Or perhaps migration was just continuous.

Pesky Purse images in the 20th and 21st Century:

Try as I might, I could not find images from the 20th or 21st  century until my friend, D, put me onto one. To see the images, click HERE.

Reported to contain “lucky charms (talismans) from family and friends, this pesky purse is also alleged to be a secret communication devise. Put on a banquet table, it means, “We leave in 5 minutes.” Changed from arm to arm, it is reported to mean, “Get me away from this boring person, NOW!”

You decide.


New Information just in:

While knitting, I was listening to Laird Scranton’s Lost Origins Interview on YouTube.

He talked about the Maori in New Zealand. They have a legendary figure, Tane, who climbed a mountain (or went to heaven) and came back with knowledge in three handbags, the same number of pesky purses on the Gobekli Tepe carving.

Laird Scranton thinks the shape represents the “squaring of the circle,” so important to sacred geometry. The square, he says, represents our physical dimension and the circle represents another timeless dimension. Squaring the circle is communication between the two. More secret messages in images.


The Ancient Enthusiast for all his help with finding the era and area of many of the artifacts above. And for putting together 100 examples on his Facebook page!

Laird Scranton’s Lost Origin’s blog: Perspectives on Ancient Handbag Images

My friend, S, for pointing out the images on Ancient Enthusiast and my friend D for putting me onto the 21st century usage of the symbol.


Pesky purses revisited

Last December I wrote a blog about Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe and equated “those pesky purses” found at the top with containers for lost knowledge and those holding them as knowledge bearers.

Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe:

pillar.jpgPhoto by Klaus-Peter Simon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Apparently I am not the only one fascinated by “pesky purses” and not the only one to see them as containers for knowledge.

Here is some background:

Graham Hancock first brought up the subject in his book Magicians of the Gods (2015). He was writing about Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe. As Graham Hancock pointed out, the containers, or banduddû can be found in Babylon and are associated with the Assyrian Apkallu:

Wall_relief_depicting_an_eagle-headed_and_winged_man,_Apkallu,_from_Nimrud-2..JPGBy Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


And they are found in South America, most notably on the La Venta Stele:

La_Venta_Stele_19_(Delange).jpgPublic Domain: By Audrey and George Delange (Audrey and George Delange) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons


Here is some new information:

Freddy Silva has written an article for the Ancient Origins website and he has more to say about the “knowledge” these “pesky purses” contain.

His article,  Banduddû: Solving the Mystery of the Babylonian Container is in the member’s section and not generally available to the public, so I will summarize his main points as they relate to my previous blog post. (If you have not checked out Ancient Origins website, do so. You do not have to be a “member” to subscribe and get some really enlightening articles—just not this one.)

In his article, Freddy Silva makes note of the many depictions of the Apkallu around fruit trees:

King-Ashur-nasir-pal-II-1.jpgBy M0tty (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


He equates the tree with the Tree of Knowledge, so famous for bearing the fruit of forbidden knowledge. I would agree. I also see this as an earlier version of the Qabalistic Tree of Life which has three columns and side “spheres:”

tol_map.gifCopyright 2002-Servants of the Light (Used with permission)


We find the Tarot key of the Fool, carrying his “pesky purse” from Kether—the white sphere—to Chokmah—the grey sphere.

RWS_Tarot_00_Fool.jpgFrom Rider-Waite-Smith deck. No longer under copyright.

Pinecones or pomegranates?

Now take a look at the object held up by the Apkallu:

8606000868_78ae19fba6_b.jpg(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Freddy Silva identifies them as the pomegranates, the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. I disagree. I see them as pine cones, representative of the pineal gland, long associated in mystical literature with third eye, and with the ability to “see beyond….” The pinecone is associated with hidden (but not necessarily forbidden) knowledge.

Here is a picture from Freddy Silva’s article showing “real life” banduddû:


banduddu.jpg(Fabien Dany and CC BY-SA 2.5)



Note the serpents on several of them and compare that to the man surrounded by the serpent on the La Vente stele:

La_Venta_Stele_19_(Delange).jpgPublic Domain: By Audrey and George Delange (Audrey and George Delange) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons


Snakes and serpents are a symbol of regeneration, rebirth as Mr. Silva aptly points out in his article. But serpents are also a symbol for kundalini. Now consider the pinecone as the pineal, the “destination” of rising kundalini, as that which awakens the powers of the pineal.

Finally, to quote Mr. Silva, “…the mysterious banduddû seems to be associated with a form of restricted knowledge that links the mortal world with that of the gods.” I quite agree, but for somewhat differing reasons.

He then goes on to postulate that Gobekli Tepe was, among other things, a special “classroom.” Perhaps it was more than that—perhaps it was intended to help preserve and share this special knowledge.


For more information:

Banduddû: Solving the Mystery of the Babylonian Container;

Note: There is so much more in this article than I have illustrated here. I have only touched on some of the major points.

Ancient Origins:

Qabalistic Tree of Life:



Previous posts on “pesky purses:”



Back to Pillar 43: Those pesky purses


The celestial markings on Pillar 43 at Göbekli Tepe are indeed intriguing, but there is more: Those pesky purses decorating the top of the pillar.

In his book Magicians of the Gods,  Graham Hancock points these out along with similar purses or containers from Mesopotamia and  Mexico.

This one from Mexico is called the “Man in the Serpent”:



And these beings are Sumerian Apkallu:


In both examples look at the shape of the purses and at how they are held –are they too similar to be coincidence?

We don’t seem to know who the Man in the Serpent represents–at least I could not find anything in the web–but the three figures, the Apkallu, are the three forms (man, bird and fish) taken by the the Seven Sages who brought the civilizing arts to Sumer after the great flood. The most famous is Oannes, the fish-god on the right, who came from the sea each day to teach wisdom, writing, the arts and sciences. (The link above has more images of the Apkallu with their purses, or as the archeologists call them, “buckets.”)

The story of gods or demigods who brought civilizing skills to more primitive people (thus jump-starting more advanced civilizations) is a common one. We see it across the globe, most often associated with a flood or deluge that almost wiped out life on the planet. So I did a search. Most of the civilizing gods we know, Thoth who became Hermes, Osiris, Rama from India, Virachoca, and Kulkulkan both from South America, do not carry purses.  But I found two others who did.

This is Quetzalcoatl from the Codex Rois:


And this is the early Mayan god, Itzamna:



So what’s with those pesky purses anyway?

I believe the key (pun intended) to understanding the meaning of the purses comes from the  Book of Thoth which we know today as the Tarot.  Now used primarily as a fortune telling devise, it’s original purpose was to encode ancient teachings in pictures and symbols.  This is the “Fool” (Key 0) from the Rider-Waite deck:


According to esoteric tradition, what The Fool carries in his purse is memory, in this case cosmic or universal memory as he steps from Kether, the Beginning (or Crown), to Chokmah, which represents Wisdom, on his journey down the Qabalistic Tree of Life. If you are not familiar with the Qabalah, don’t spend a lot of time working that out–the point is the Fool is just beginning a long journey and he is taking the memory of his past with him. Much like the sages of old who brought civilizing skills to the hunter-gatherer peoples in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Americas, and other parts of the world.

So one way to see the purse is as the container for the wisdom and knowledge of the lost civilization. Trunks of manuscripts come to mind, and lost halls of records under pyramids, but also technology like the Ark of the Covenant, or even Arks that are boats carrying people away from lands sunken by the great deluge. They all contain the memory in one form or another.

And let us not forget the beings themselves for they, too, are containers of that knowledge. The seven sages of Mesopotamia, the seven sages on the Edfu texts, all the civilizing “gods” fit this description.

And in the case of Pillar 43, it is a container of knowledge. As is all of Göbekli Tepe. Designed, perhaps, by one of the original Apkulla, Göbekli Tepe preserves the ancient wisdom for a time when we have “eyes to see.”

And finally, as I was pounding away on the treadmill this morning, I had one other thought: The memory is also contained in what Jung termed the Collective Unconscious, and that, too, is a sort of purse or container of wisdom. One we have access to today.

So my search for these ancient purses continues–are there perhaps other clues out there?  Please comment if you know of any.


Photo credits: Pillar 43,  Man in Serpent, ApkalluQuetzalcoatlItzamna