• This article challenges the common tendency in modern research to treat impurity
    as a religious phenomenon divorced from mundane concerns. Employing the
    cross-cultural psychological notion of “contagion,” this investigation examines
    the usage of terms for pollution and purity in Hittite and Akkadian as they relate
    to distinct domains of human experience, specifically uncleanness, infection, and
    transgression. Special attention is given to the use of these terms in reference to
    infectious disease. This analysis demonstrates the real-world experiential basis for
    notions of impurity and also provides a new perspective to shed light on the peculiarities
    of each culture (e.g., the absence of an Akkadian term for “pollution”).
    The article concludes with a detailed excursus on the etymology of Akkadian
    musukku and its relation to Sumerian (m)uzug.