Like the Apasht, the Ancient Aazud have generally been neglected by contemporary archaeologists. It is worth noting that neither of these cultures is cited in Henri-Paul Eydoux's eminent work Facts and Enigmas in Archaeology.

Archaeological data suggests the Aazud had non-Semitic origins, possibly predating the Neolithic period. The Aazud flourished along the upper Euphrates River from 3500-2000 B.C.E.. and, unlike other cultures from the region, the Aazud retained a primitive democratic form of government characteristic of early Ubaidian settlements.

Being without a royal or priestly hierarchy, the Aazud had no form of military service or system of slavery. Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, who named the Aazud after an Akkadian word meaning "those who are free," has translated cuneiform tablets from the library of Ashurbanipal which describe the Aazud as "an enterprising people, who are accomplished in the arts, poetry, dance, music, horticulture, cooking and massage." As Everitt Ormsby Hokes readily admitted, Aazudian culture has many attributes which resemble a utopian fantasy.

The first systematic excavation of an Aazudian site was conducted by the Aazudological Society of America in 1899. Another affiliated organization, Aazudiis Liberi has an extensive collection of Aazudian artifacts. The Hokes Archives published important scholarly works for both of these organizations.

The best known of these sites, the Immudab Temple, was only an echo of its former glory when it was discovered in 1903 by Professor Madeline Ellis. Located near the city of Abu Kamal along the Iraqi-Syrian border, the structure had been dismantled by the Turkish government in the 17th century for use in a bridge across the Euphrates River. Almost sixty sections from the temple facade were recovered by the Aazudological Society of America when the bridge was excavated in 1908. This slide shows a styrofoam facsimile of the temple exterior which is based on many of these recovered sections.

The Immudab Temple was of modest scale, with an interior courtyard where seasonal feasts, weddings, offerings of sacrifice and funerals took place. The temple also included several rooms which housed community records and other documents, a collection o f clay fertility votives and various liturgical implements. Adjacent to the temple were four different patios, which may have been used for trading produce and other goods, as well as public recitations of poetry.

The temple courtyard has yielded numerous handsome examples of Aazudian fresco painting, the majority of which depict horticultural scenes. They portray a rich pantheon of gods and goddesses involved in the daily activities of the people.

Among the important Aazudian religious deities was Ulamu, the god of wine. The most important goddess in the Aazudian pantheon may have been Ninmulam, who often prescribed the curative properties of garlic. Ashmuz, the god of planting, represents the male symbol of fertility. Kahlumar, the date palm goddess was revered by Aazudian children. Male and female deities Ehklam and Tulam, were represented as the ideal married couple. In this slide they can be seen dining together.

Hokes was particularly fond of Aazudian ceramics, and several notableexamples are included in the collection he amassed. Among these are vessels intended for daily use, including wine craters, milk jugs, and kazoos. Some of these specimens sport Aazudian hieroglyphs. One of the most unusual items in the collection is a vessel with an inverted spout, which is thought to be either a medita tion device or a sobriety detection implement.

The major obstacle to understanding the Aazud is deciphering their hieroglyphs. The earliest published account of Aazudian writing was made by Alberto de la Marmora III in 1898. Titled Eight Fragments ofObscure Ancient Writing, Marmora wrote that he was completely puzzled by the hieroglyphs.
Today most experts agree their system of writing is pictographic, although many essential points are still disputed. As a result, some translations may diverge so much that one would never guess they rendered the same text. Captain Robert Spring has deduced that the hieroglyphs are guardian symbols intended to keep evil spirits away. Others contend they are a system of musical or choreographic notation. Professor Charlotte Delaire, one of the founding members of the Aazudological Society of America, has asserted the hieroglyphs on the Immudab Temple were used by Aazudian poets as a sacred lexicon. Delaire has speculated that the poets used the hieroglyphs in a hypnotic or dream state to induce their oral recitations. Using a similar technique, she completed many of the missing portions of Aazudian tablets and has translated the hieroglyphs into several poems which have a remarkable similarity to Sumerian literature.

Of the poems translated by Delaire, the Hymn of a Young Woman stirred the most controversy when it was published in 1909. While it was generally ignored by most linguists, by 1921 it had been cited by Andres Bretton as a paradigm for surrealism. It reads:

Hug me, sweet brother for I am weeping.
I feel alive, yet I am buried
in my tears, as, I am not free.
I wish to make a nest, like the Imma bird,
and wait at night for
my Ashmuz to sow me.
I wish to make a circle dance, in celestial patterns,
like Eklam and Tulam, our sacred parents.
I wish to open the door, to your offerings of gifts,
sprouting like the apple tree.
I wish to move like the great river,
which waters our lettuce,
embracing my twin moons,
as I hold your sweet, sweet fruit,
in my private chamber.
Afterwards, I will sleep,
reenacting my fetal home,
as I surround your two soft eggs,
in the sound of the earth.

Other members of the Aazudological Society of America with whom Hokes was intimately acquainted, include Professor Julius Wilbert, shown here, who catalogued many of the different gods and goddesses in the Aazudian pantheon and has demonstrated that some of these deities were assimilated by both Sumerian and Assyrian culture. Professor Madeline Ellis not only discovered the Immudab Temple site, but has mapped many of the ancient trade routes between the Aazudian settlements and other Mesopotamian cities. Hokes' closest colleague Professor Edward Taylor, who was an accomplished artist and archaeologist, led the society's excavations at both Immudab and Ebulam. Additionally, Professor Anita James has uncovered evidence to suggest that the Aazud may be the infamous lost tribe of Africa.

We can only speculate about the demise of Aazudian culture. It is difficult to understand how the Aazudians maintained their political independence without a military presence in the region. Regardless, the Aazudians appear to have benefited from their advanced knowledge of horticulture and may have had strong economic relations with the Sumerians to the south and various settlements in Palestine. By 1500 B.C.E.., Aazudian culture appears to have come to an end, possibly due to Hittite invasions from the north.

For more information regarding the Aazud, readers are encouraged to consult the Cheekwood Monograph Series, Vol. 12, published by the Cheekwood Museum of Fine Arts in Nashville, Tennessee.