The Evolution of the Zombie

The flesh-eating reanimated dead exist in ancient writings, in folklore, in news accounts, and in movies. What is it about these creatures that captures our imagination?

Representations of the flesh-hungry undead have been common throughout world mythology. While this includes the deformed and cannibalistic, though still living, ghoul and the blood draining vampire, the zombie in its more common, modern form has appeared in tales dating all the way back to 1000 BC. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest known works of literature, which was recorded on twelve clay tablets, written in Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq. Like most epics it records a struggle between a hero, Gilgamesh, and the Gods, as he undertakes quests which displease his spiritual overlords. It is in the sixth tablet that the zombie is alluded to when the Goddess Ishtar threatens to raise the dead who will outnumber and devour the living. The dead do not actually rise in the epic; however it is the first overt mention in recorded literature of the zombie we know today.

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