Zecharia Sitchin, now in his 90th year, is an internationally acclaimed researcher and author of 14 books that retell the history and prehistory of mankind and planet Earth by combining archaeology, the Bible, and ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian texts with the latest scientific discoveries ranging from space exploration to biology. Able to read millennia-old Sumerian cuneiform tablets, his writings treat ancient sources not as myth, but as records of actual events. The result is a saga of flesh and blood, astronauts, gods and Earthlings, and a chain of events from the past that leads to a prophetic future. See http://www.innertraditions.com/sitchin/, and http://www.sitchin.com/
Sitchen’s DNA Petition link can be found here: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/06/15/4508251-looking-for-alien-dna
And It Came To Pass
And it came to pass,
When men began to multiply on the face of the Earth
and daughters were born unto them,
that the sons of God saw the daughters of men
that they were fair, and they took them wives
of all which they chose.
There were giants upon the Earth
in those days and also thereafter too,
When the sons of God
came in unto the daughters of men
and they bare children to them—
the same Mighty Men of old,
Men of Renown.
The reader, if familiar with the King James English version of the Bible, will recognize these verses in chapter 6 of Genesis as the preamble to the story of the Deluge, the Great Flood in which Noah, huddled in an ark, was saved to repopulate the Earth.
The reader, if familiar with my writings, will also recognize these verses as the reason why many decades ago, a schoolboy was prompted to ask his teacher why it is “giants” who are the subject of these verses, when the word in the original Hebrew text is Nefilim—which, stemming from the Hebrew verb NaFoL, means to fall down, to be downed, to come down—and in no way ‘giants’.
The schoolboy was I. Instead of being congratulated on my linguistic acumen, I was harshly reprimanded. “Sitchin, sit down!” the teacher hissed with repressed anger; “you don’t question the Bible!” I was deeply hurt that day, for I was not questioning the Bible—on the contrary, I was pointing out the need to understand it accurately. And that was what changed my life’s direction to pursue the Nefilim. Who were they, and who were their “Mighty Men” descendants?
The search for answers started with linguistic questions. The Hebrew text does not speak of “Men” who began to multiply, but of Ha’Adam—“The Adam,” a generic term, a human species. It does not speak of the sons of “God,” but uses the term Bnei Ha-Elohim—the sons (in the plural) of The Elohim, a plural term taken to mean “gods” but literally meaning “The Lofty Ones.” The “Daughters of The Adam” were not “fair,” but Tovoth—good, compatible . . . And unavoidably we find ourselves confronting issues of origins. How did Mankind happen to be on this planet, and whose genetic code do we carry?
In just three verses and a few words—forty-nine words in the original Hebrew of Genesis—the Bible describes the creation of Heaven and Earth, then records an actual prehistoric time of early Mankind and a series of amazing events, including a global Flood, the presence on Earth of gods and their sons, inter-species intermarriage, and demigod offspring . . .
And so, starting with one word (Nefilim), I told the tale of the Anunnaki, “Those who from Heaven to Earth came”—space travelers and interplanetary settlers who came from their troubled planet to Earth in need of gold, and ended up fashioning The Adam in their image. In doing so I brought them to life—recognizing them individually, unraveling their tangled relationships, describing their tasks, loves, ambitions, and wars—and identifying their inter-species offspring, the ‘demigods’.
I have been asked at times where my interests would have taken me were the teacher to compliment rather than reprimand me. In truth, I have asked myself a different question: What if indeed “there were giants upon the Earth, in those days and thereafter too”? The cultural, scientific, and religious implications are awesome; they lead to the next unavoidable questions: Why did the compilers of the Hebrew Bible, which is totally devoted to monotheism, include the bombshell verses in the prehistoric record—and what were their sources?
I believe that I have found the answer. Deciphering the enigma of the demigods (the famed Gilgamesh among them), I conclude in this book—my crowning oeuvre—that compelling physical evidence for past alien presence on Earth has been buried in an ancient tomb. It is a tale that has immense implications for our genetic origins—a key to unlocking the secrets of health, longevity, life, and death; it is a mystery whose unraveling will take the reader on a unique adventure and finally reveal what was held back from Adam in the Garden of Eden.
IV – Sumer: Where Civilization Began
Sumer, it is now known, was the land of a talented and dexterous people in what is now southern Iraq. Usually depicted in artful statues and statuettes in a devotional stance (Fig. 28), it was the Sumerians who were the first ones to record and describe past events and tell the tales of their gods. It was there, in the fertile plain watered by the great Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, that Mankind’s first known civilization blossomed out some 6,000 years ago—“suddenly,” “unexpectedly,” “with stunning abruptness,” according to all scholars. It was a civilization to which we owe, to this day, virtually every ‘First’ of what we deem essential to an advanced civilization: The wheel and wheeled transportation; the brick that made (and still makes) possible high-rise buildings; furnaces and the kiln that are essential to industries from baking to metallurgy; astronomy and mathematics; cities and urban societies; kingship and laws; temples and priesthoods; timekeeping, a calendar, festivals; from beer to culinary recipes, from art to music and musical instruments; and, above all, writing and record keeping—it was all first there, in Sumer.
We now know all that thanks to the achievements of archaeology and the decipherment of ancient languages during the past century and a half. The long and arduous road by which ancient Sumer moved from complete obscurity to an awed appreciation of its grandeur has a number of milestones bearing the names of scholars who had made the journey possible. Some, who toiled at the varied sites, will be mentioned by us. Others, who pieced together and classified fragmented artifacts during a century and a half of Mesopotamian archaeology, are too many to be listed.
And then there were the epigraphers—sometimes out in the field, most of the time poring over tablets in crammed museum or university quarters—whose persistence, devotion, and abilities converted pieces of clay incised with odd ‘cuneates’ into legible historical, cultural and literary treasures. Their work was crucial, for while the usual pattern of archaeological and ethnographic discovery has been to find a people’s remains and then decipher their written records (if they had them), in the case of the Sumerians recognition of their language—even its decipherment—preceded the discovery of their land, Sumer (the common English spelling, rather than Shumer). And it was not because the language, ‘Sumerian’, preceded its people; on the contrary—it was because the language and its script lingered on after Sumer was long gone—just as Latin and its script had outlived the Roman empire thousands of years later.
The philological recognition of Sumerian began, as we have illustrated, not through the discovery of the Sumerians’ own tablets, but through the varied use, in Akkadian texts, of ‘loan words’ that were not Akkadian; the naming of gods and cities by names that made no sense in Assyrian or Babylonian; and of course by actual statements (as that by Ashurbanipal) about the existence of earlier writings in ‘Shumerian’. His statement was borne out by the discovery of tablets that rendered the same text in two languages, one Akkadian and the other in the mysterious language; then the next two lines were in Akkadian and in the other language, and so on (the scholarly term for such bilingual texts is ‘interlinears’).
It was in 1850 that Edward Hincks, a student of Rawlinson’s Behistun decipherments, suggested in a scholarly essay that an Akkadian ‘syllabary’—the collection of some 350 cuneiform signs each representing a full consonant + vowel syllable—must have evolved from a prior non-Akkadian set of syllabic signs. The idea (which was not readily accepted) was finally borne out when some of the clay tablets in the Akkadian-language libraries turned out to be bilingual ‘syllabarial’ dictionaries—lists that on one side of the tablet gave a cuneiform sign in the unknown language, and a matching list on the other side in Akkadian (with the signs’ pronunciation and meaning added, Fig. 29). All at once, archaeology obtained a dictionary of an unknown language! In addition to tablets inscribed as a kind of dictionaries, the so-called Syllabaries, various other bi-lingual tablets served as invaluable tools in deciphering the Sumerian writing and language.
In 1869 Jules Oppert, addressing the French Society of Numismatics and Archaeology, pointed out that the royal title “King of Sumer and Akkad” found on some tablets provided the name of the people who had preceded the Akkadian-speaking Assyrians and Babylonians; they were, he suggested, the Sumerians. The designation has been applied ever since—although, to this day, museums and the media prefer to name their exhibits or title their articles and programs “Babylonian” or at best “Old Babylonian” rather than the unfamiliar “Sumerian.” Though virtually everything that we consider essential to a developed civilization has been inherited from the Sumerians, many people still respond with a blank “Who?” when they hear the word ‘Sumerian’ . . .
The interest in Sumer and the Sumerians constituted a chronological as well as a geographical shift: From the 1st and 2nd millennia B.C. to the 3rd and 4th millennia B.C., and from northern and central Mesopotamia to its south. That ancient settlements lay buried there was indicated not only by the numerous mounds that were scattered over the flat mudlands, mounds that resulted from layers of habitats built upon layers (called strata) of the remains of previous habitats; more intriguing were odd artifacts that local tribesmen dug up out of the mounds, showing them to the occasional European visitors. What we know now is the result of almost 150 years of archaeological toil that brought to light, to varying degrees, Sumer’s fourteen or so major ancient centers (map, Fig. 30), virtually all of which are mentioned in the ancient texts.
Systematic field archaeology of Sumer is deemed to have begun in 1877 by Ernest de Sarzec, who was then the French Vice-Consul in Basra, Iraq’s southern port city on the Persian Gulf. (Rumors at the time were that having been fascinated by the local trade in finds, his real interest was in finding objects for private sale.) He started excavating at a site locally called Tello (‘The Mound’). The finds there were so great—and they did go to the Louvre Museum in Paris, where they fill up galleries—and so inexhaustible, that French archaeological teams kept coming back year after year to this one site for more than fifty years, through 1933.
Tello turned out to be the sacred precinct, the Girsu, of a large Sumerian urban center called Lagash. Archaeological strata indicated that it had been continuously settled almost since 3800 B.C. Sculpted wall reliefs dating from a so-called Early Dynastic Period, stone sculptures bearing inscriptions in immaculate Sumerian cuneiform (Fig. 31), and a beautiful silver vase presented by a king named Entemena to his god (Fig. 32) attested the high level of Sumerian culture millennia ago. To top it all, more than 10,000 inscribed clay tablets were found in the city’s library (the importance of which will be discussed later on).
Some inscriptions and texts named a continuous line of kings of Lagash who reigned from circa 2900 B.C. to 2250 B.C.—an uninterrupted reign of almost seven centuries. Clay tablets and commemorative stone plaques recorded large construction undertakings, irrigation and canal projects (and named the kings who initiated them); there was trade with distant lands, and even conflicts with nearby cities.
Most astounding were the statues and inscriptions of a king named Gudea (circa 2400 B.C., Fig. 33) in which he described the miraculous circumstances leading to the building of a complex temple for the god Ningirsu and the god’s spouse, Bau. The task, detailed later on, involved divine instructions given in ‘Twilight Zone’ circumstances, astronomical alignments, elaborate architecture, the importation of rare building materials from distant lands, calendrial know-how, and precise rituals—all taking place some 4,300 years ago. The Lagash discoveries have been summed up by its last French excavator, Andrè Parrot, in his book Tello (1948).
A few miles northwest of the mounds of Lagash, a mound locally called Tell el-Madineh was located. The French excavators of Lagash peeked at it too; but there was not much to excavate, for the ancient city that had been there was, at some time, completely destroyed by fire. A few finds, however, helped identify that ancient city as Bad-Tibira. The ancient city’s Sumerian name, ‘Bad Tibira’, meant ‘The Metalworking Fort’; as other discoveries clarified later, Bad-Tibira was indeed considered to have been a metalworking center.
A decade after de Sarzec began excavations at Lagash, a new major archaeological player joined the effort to uncover Sumer: The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It had been known, from preceding finds in Mesopotamia, that the most important religious center in Sumer was a city called Nippur; in 1887 John Peters, a professor of Hebrew at the university, succeeded in lining up academic support at the university and financial support from individual donors to organize an “archaeological expedition” to Iraq to find Nippur.
The location of Nippur seemed easy to guess: At the geographical center of southern Mesopotamia, a can’t-be-missed huge mound rising some 65 feet above the mudplain was called Niffar by the locals; it fitted references to ancient Nippur as “Navel of the Earth.” The University of Pennsylvania’s Expedition conducted four excavation ‘campaigns’ at the site from 1888 to 1900, at first under the direction of John Peters, then under the leadership of Hermann Hilprecht, a German-born Assyriologist of international standing.
Nippur, the archaeologists ascertained, had been continuously settled from the 6th millennium B.C. to about A.D. 800. The excavations focused at first on the city’s Sacred Precinct whose location—as incredible as it may sound—was indicated on a millennia-old city map inscribed on a large clay tablet (Fig. 34, transcript and translation). There, the remains of a high-rising ziggurat (step-pyramid) in the city’s sacred precinct (reconstruction, Fig. 35) attested its dominance above the city. Called E.Kur (= ‘House which is like a mountain’), it was the main temple dedicated to Sumer’s leading god En.lil (= ‘Lord of the Command’) and his spouse Nin.lil (= ‘Lady of the Command’). The temple, inscriptions stated, included an inner chamber in which “Tablets of Destinies” were kept. According to several texts, the chamber was the heart of the Dur.An.Ki (= “Bond Heaven-Earth’)—a Command and Control Center of the god Enlil that connected Earth with the heavens.
The Expedition’s finds at Nippur, deemed by some to be “of unparalleled importance,” included the discovery of nearly 30,000 inscribed clay tablets (or fragments thereof) in a library of what had apparently been a special Scribal & Science quarter of the city, adjoining the Sacred Precinct. Hilprecht planned to publish no less than twenty volumes with the tablets’ most important texts, many with “mythological” context, others dealing with mathematics and astronomy and dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. Among the Nippur inscriptions that were transcribed, translated and published was a remnant of the original Sumerian tale of the Deluge, naming its “Noah” Ziusudra (= ‘[His] Lifedays Prolonged’)—the equivalent of the Akkadian Utnapishtim.
In this Sumerian inscription (known to scholars by its reference number CBS 10673), it is the god Enki who reveals to his faithful follower Ziusudra a “secret of the gods”—that, at the instigation of an angry Enlil, the gods decided to “destroy the seed of Mankind by the Deluge” that was about to happen; and Enki (‘Cronos’ in the Berossus Fragments) instructs Ziusudra (the ‘Xisithros’ of Berossus) to build the salvaging boat.
But all the Expedition’s plans were cut short by a spate of accusations by Peters that Hilprecht was providing misleading ‘provenances’ (discovery locations) for announced finds, and that Hilprecht had made a deal with the Turkish Sultan in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) to send most of the finds there—rather than to the university in Philadelphia—in exchange for the Sultan letting Hilprecht keep some finds as ‘gifts’ for his private collection. The controversy, which divided Philadelphia’s highest echelons and made headlines in the New York Times, raged from 1907 to 1910. A commission of inquiry formed by the University in the end found the accusations of professional misconduct against Hilprecht to be “unsubstantiated”; but in fact many of the Nippur tablets did end up in Constantinople/Istanbul. Hilprecht’s private collection ended up in Jena, Hilprecht’s university town in Germany.
The University of Pennsylvania, through its Archaeological Museum, returned to Nippur only after World War II, in a joint expedition with Chicago University’s Oriental Institute. The Peters-Hilprecht controversy is still regarded by historians as a major disruption of Near Eastern archaeology. But due to the ever-intervening Law of Unintended Consequences, in the end it led to one of the greatest advances in Sumerology, for it provided the first job to a young epigrapher named Samuel N. Kramer who then became an outstanding ‘Sumerologist’.
The excavations at Lagash and Nippur, requiring continuous archaeological efforts year after year after year, revealed the existence of major urban centers in Sumer that rivaled in size the Babylonian and Assyrian sites in the north, even though the ones in Sumer were older by more than a thousand years. The existence of walled sacred precincts, each with a skyscraping ziggurat, indicated a high level of ancient building technology that preceded and served as a model for the Babylonians and Assyrians. The ziggurats—literally ‘That which rises high’—rose in several steps (usually seven) to heights that could reach 90 meters. They were built of two kinds of mud bricks—sun-dried for high-rise cores, and kiln-burned for extra strength for stairways, exteriors, and overhangs; the size, shape, and curvature of the bricks varied to fit their function; and they were held together with bitumen as mortar. (Modern laboratory tests show that kiln-burnt mud bricks are fivefold stronger than sun-dried ones.)
The discovered ziggurats literally confirmed the biblical statement in Genesis 11:1–4 regarding the construction methods of the settlers in Shine’ar after the Deluge:
And the whole Earth was of one language
and one kind of words.
And it came to pass,
as they journeyed from the east,
that they found a plain in the land of Shine’ar
and they settled there.
And they said unto each other:
Come, let us make bricks,
and burn them thoroughly.
And the brick served them for stone,
and bitumen served them for mortar.
And they said:
Come, let us build us a city,
and a tower whose head shall reach heaven.
In lands like Canaan, where stones were used for building and lime is still used as mortar (for they lack bitumen), the reference to bricks and brick-making technology (“burn them thoroughly”) and to bitumen (which seeps out of the ground in southern Mesopotamia)—represent a remarkably detailed and amazing knowledge of past events in a stone-less land like Sumer. Uncovering ancient Sumer, the archaeologists’ spades were corroborating the Bible.
Beside the various technological accomplishments of those settlers in the plain between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers—they also included the wheel and wagon, the kiln, metallurgy, medicines, textiles, multicolored apparel, musical instruments—there were countless other ‘firsts’ of what are still deemed essential aspects of an advanced civilization. They included a mathematical system called sexagesimal (‘Base 60’) that initiated the circle of 360°, timekeeping that divided day/night into 12 ‘double-hours’, a luni-solar calendar of 12 months properly intercalated with a 13th leap month, geometry, measurement units of distance, weight and capacity, an advanced astronomy with planetary, star, constellation, and zodiacal knowledge, law codes and courts of law, irrigation systems, transportation networks and customs stations, dance and music (and musical notes), even taxes—as well as a social organization based on kingship and a religion centered at temples with prescribed festivals and a specialized priesthood. Additionally, the existence of scribal schools and temple and royal libraries indicated astounding levels of intellectual and literary achievements.
The Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer, in his trailblazing book History Begins At Sumer (1956), described twenty-seven of those Firsts, including the First Legal Precedent, the First Moral Ideals, the First Historian, the First Love Song, the First ‘Job’, and so on—all culled from Sumerian inscribed clay tablets. Actual archaeological finds of artifacts, and pictorial depictions, enhance and affirm that extensive textual record.
The realization in Europe and America of all of that served to increase the pace of uncovering Sumer; and the more archaeologists dug, the more they found themselves facing earlier and earlier times.
A site, called Bismaya, was excavated by an expedition of the University of Chicago. It was an ancient Sumerian city called Adab. Remains of temples and palaces were found there, with objects bearing votive inscriptions; some identified a king of Adab named Lugal-Dalu, who reigned there circa 2400 B.C.
At mounds grouped around the locally named Tell Uhaimir, French archaeologists uncovered the ancient Sumerian city of Kish, with remains of two ziggurats; they were built of unusual convex bricks; a tablet inscribed in early Sumerian script identified the temple as dedicated to the god Ninurta, Enlil’s warrior son. The earliest ruins, dated to the Very Early Dynastic period, included a palace of “monumental size”; the building was columned—a rarity in Sumer. The finds in Kish included remains of wheeled wagons and metal objects. Inscriptions identified two kings by their names—Mes-alim and Lugal-Mu; it was later determined that they reigned at the start of the 3rd millennium B.C.
Excavations at Kish were resumed after World War I by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Among their finds were some of the earliest examples of cylinder seal impressions. (In 2004 the Field Museum launched a project to unify, digitally on computers, the more than 100,000 Kish artifacts that have been dispersed between Chicago, London, and Baghdad.)
In the 1880s a site called Abu Habbah drew the attention of L. W. King of the British Museum when “interesting tablets”—dug up at the site by local plunderers—were offered for sale. A colleague, Theophilus Pinches, correctly identified the city as ancient Sippar—the very city of the god Shamash, mentioned by Berossus in the story of the Flood!
The site was briefly excavated by Layard’s assistant Hormuzd Rassam; one of the best known finds there has been a large stone tablet depicting none other than the god Shamash, sitting on his canopied throne (Fig. 36). The accompanying inscriptions identified the king being presented to the god as King Nabu-apla-iddin, who in the 9th century B.C. refurbished the Shamash temple in Sippar.
The city’s twin mounds were more thoroughly excavated in the 1890s by a joint expedition of the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft and the Ottoman Antiquities Service. They not only discovered undisturbed hoards of textual tablets—shared between Berlin and Constantinople—but also some of the tablets’ oldest and oddest libraries: The tablets were kept in ‘pigeonhole’ compartments cut into the mud-brick walls, rather than (as in later periods) on shelves. The library’s texts included tablets whose colophons explicitly stated that those were copies of texts from earlier tablets coming from Nippur, from a city called Agade, and from Babylon—or found in Sippar itself; among them were tablets belonging to the Sumerian Atra-Hasis text!
Did that indicate that Sippar had been an early repository of “writings,” as the statements by Berossus have suggested? No certain answers can be given, except to quote Berossus again: First, ‘Cronos’ ordered Xisithros “to dig a hole and to bury all the writings about the Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, in Sippar, the city of the Sun god [Shamash].” Then, the Flood’s survivors “came back to Babylon, they dug up the writings from Sippar, founded many cities, set up shrines, and once again established Babylon.” Was the unique storage in cutout compartments a reminder of the “digging of holes” to preserve the most ancient tablets? We can only wonder.
At Sippar, the tale of the Deluge began to assume physical reality; but it was only the beginning.
In the decade preceding World War I, German archaeologists, under the auspices of the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft, began excavating at a site locally named Fara. It was an important Sumerian city called Shuruppak, which had been settled well before 3000 B.C. Among its interesting features were buildings that were, without doubt, public facilities, some serving as schools with built-in mud-brick benches. There were plenty of inscribed tablets whose contents threw light on daily life, the administration of laws, and the private ownership of houses and fields—tablets that mirrored urban life five thousand years ago. Inscribed tablets asserted that this Sumerian city had a pre-Diluvial predecessor—a place that played a key role in the events of the Deluge.
The discoveries there stood out by their unusual hoard of cylinder seals or their impressions—a unique Sumerian invention that, as the cuneiform script, was in time adopted throughout the ancient lands. These were cylinders (mostly an inch or two in length) that were cut from a stone (often semiprecious), into which the artisan engraved a drawing, with or without accompanying writing (Fig. 37). The trick was to engrave it all in reverse, as a negative, so that when it was rolled on wet clay the image was impressed as a positive—an early ‘rotary press’ invention. These cylindrical works of art are called ‘seals’ because that was their purpose: The seal’s owner impressed it on a lump of wet clay that sealed a container of oil or wine, or on a clay envelope to seal a clay letter inside. Some seal impressions had already been found in Lagash, bearing the name of their owner; but the ones in Fara/Shuruppak exceeded 1,300 in number, and in some cases were from the earliest times.
But no less an amazing aspect of uncovering Shuruppak was its very finding—for, according to Tablet XI of the Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Shuruppak was the hometown of Utnapishtim, the ‘Noah’ of the Deluge! It was there that the god Enki revealed to Utnapishtim the secret of the coming Deluge and instructed him to build the salvage boat:
Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu:
Tear down the house, build a ship!
Give up possessions, seek thou life!
Forswear belongings, keep soul alive!
Aboard ship take thou the seed of all living things.
That ship thou shalt build—
Its dimensions shall be to measure.
(Enki, it will be recalled, was reported to have been the revealer of the gods’ secret decision also in the Sumerian text mentioned earlier.)
The discoveries of and at Shuruppak, together with those at Sippar, transformed the Deluge tale from legend and ‘myth’ to a physical reality. In Divine Encounters I have concluded, based on ancient data and modern scientific discoveries, that the Deluge was a colossal tidal wave caused by the slippage of the eastern Antarctic ice sheet off that continent.
World War I (1914–1918) interrupted those and other archaeological explorations in the Near East, which was part of the Ottoman empire until its dismemberment after the war. Mesopotamia was left in the hands of local excavators—both official, and (mostly) private site-robbers. Some of the finds did reach the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Constantinople/Istanbul, revealing that during the war years excavations in Iraq had taken place at Abu Habbah, ancient Sippar; but there was so much to uncover there, that varied excavations have continued into the 1970s—almost a full century after excavations there began.
A continuous and most determined series of excavations, lasting from the end of World War I until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 (and resumed in 1954) took place at a southern Sumerian site locally called Warka—the very Uruk of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Erech of the Bible!
Adopting an excavating technique that cut a vertical shaft through all the strata, the German archaeologists of the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft were able to see at a glance the site’s settlement and cultural history—from the latest settlement at the top to a beginning in the 4th millennium B.C. at the bottom. At all times since at least 3800 B.C., it appeared, every power from Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian to Persian, Greek, and Seleucid wanted to leave a footprint at Uruk. Uruk, it was apparent, was a special place.
At Uruk the German archaeologists found several ‘firsts’—the first items of colored pottery baked in a kiln, the first use of a potter’s wheel, the first objects of metal alloys, the first cylinder seals, and the first inscriptions in the pictorial predecessor of cuneiform. Another first was a pavement made of limestone blocks, part of an unusual use of stones rather than mud bricks for construction—unusual because the stones had to be brought from mountains situated more than fifty miles to the east. The archaeologists described some of the city’s stone buildings as of “monumental proportions.”
A massive wall surrounded the city—the archaeologists found its remains over a length of more than 10 kilometers (more than six miles). It embraced the city’s two sections—a residential one, and a sacred precinct where they discovered the earliest ‘ziggurat’—a platform, raised in stages serving as a base for a temple. By the time of its excavation it was more like an artificial mound of no less than seven strata of rebuilding. On top, upon an artificially made platform, there stood a temple. Called E.Anna (= ‘House/Abode of Anu’) it is also known to archaeologists as the White Temple because—another unusual feature, a first—it was painted white (Fig. 38, a reconstruction). Next to the E.Anna were remains of two other temples. One, painted red, was dedicated to the goddess In.anna, ‘Anu’s Beloved’ (better known by her later Akkadian name Ishtar). The other standing was a temple dedicated to the goddess Ninharsag.
Without doubt, the archaeologists’ spade brought to light the city of Gilgamesh, who had reigned there circa 2750 B.C. (or even earlier by another chronology). The archaeologists’ finds echoed literally the very words of the Epic of Gilgamesh—
About all his toil he [Gilgamesh]
engraved on a stone column:
Of ramparted Uruk, of the wall he built,
Of hallowed E.Anna, the pure sanctuary.
Behold its outer wall, which is like a copper band,
Peer at its inner wall, which none can equal!
Gaze upon the stone platform, which is of old;
Go up and walk around on the walls of Uruk,
Approach the E.Anna and the dwelling of Ishtar!
Among the “small finds” in the 3200–2900 B.C. stratum were sculpted objects that were designated ‘The Most Prized’ in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad—a life-size marble sculpture of a woman’s head (Fig. 39)—nicknamed “The Lady from Uruk”—that had once been fitted with a golden headdress and eyes made of precious stones, and a large (more than 3 ft. high) sculpted alabaster vase that depicted a procession of adorants bearing gifts to a goddess. All at once, Sumer’s art of more than 5,000 years ago matched the beauty of Greek sculpture of 2,500 years later!
At the southernmost part of Sumer, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers come together in marshlands bordering the Persian Gulf, a site locally called Abu Shahrain had attracted the attention of the British Museum as early as 1854. One of its experts, J. E. Taylor, reported after preliminary diggings that the effort was “unproductive of any very important results.” He did bring back with him some of the “unimportant” finds—some mud bricks with writing on them. Fifty years later, two French Assyriologists determined from those bricks that the site was ancient Eridu; its name meant ‘House in the Faraway Built’, and it was Sumer’s first city.
It took two world wars and the time in-between for the first methodical and continuous archaeological excavations to take place at the site, under the auspices of the Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities. As the archaeologists dug away occupation stratum after occupation stratum from the latest on top to the earliest at the bottom, they uncovered no less than seventeen levels above the first one; they could count time backward as they kept excavating: 2500 B.C., 2800 B.C., 3000 B.C., 3500 B.C. When the spades reached the foundations of Eridu’s first temple, the date was circa 4000 B.C. Below that, the archaeologists struck virgin mud-soil.
The city’s original temple, which had been rebuilt time and time again, was constructed of fired mud bricks and rose upon an artificial level platform. Its central hall was rectangular in shape, flanked on its two longer sides by a series of smaller rooms—a model of other temples in millennia to come. At one end there was a pedestal, perhaps for a statue. At the other end a podium created an elevated area; the astounded excavators discovered there, at levels VI and VII, large quantities of fish bones mixed with ashes—leading to the suggestion that fish were offered there to the god.
The excavators should not have been puzzled: The temple was dedicated to the Sumerian god E.A, whose name meant “He Whose Home Is Waters.” It was he, as his autobiography and many other texts make clear, who had waded ashore from the Persian Gulf at the head of fifty Anunnaki spacemen who had come to Earth from their planet. Customarily depicted with outpouring streams of water (Fig. 40), it was he who was the legendary Oannes. In time—as explained in the preamble of the Atra-Hasis epic—Ea was granted the epithet En.ki—‘Lord [of] Earth’. And it was he who had alerted Utnapishtim/Ziusudra of the coming Deluge, instructing him to build the waterproof boat and be saved.
Though wholly unintended, the unearthing of Eridu opened the way to archaeological confirmation of one of Sumer’s most basic ‘myths’—the coming of the Anunnaki to Earth and the establishment by them of Cities of the Gods in pre-Diluvial times.
It was in 1914 that one of the early ‘Sumerologists’, Arno Poebel, made known the astounding contents of a tablet kept in a fragments-box catalogued ‘CBS 10673’ in the collection of the Philadelphia University Museum. Less than half preserved (Fig. 41), this remainder of the original Sumerian Deluge record provides on the obverse side the bottom part of the first three columns of text; and turned over, it retains on the reverse the upper part of columns iv–vi.
The extant lines in the latter section relate how Ziusudra had been forewarned (by the god Enki) about the Deluge and the boat he was instructed to build, how the Deluge had raged for seven days and seven nights, and how the gods led by Enlil granted Ziusudra “life, like a god”—thus his name, “He of Prolonged Lifedays.”
The obverse columns I–III, however, considerably expand the tale. The text describes the circumstances of the Deluge and the events that preceded it. Indeed, the text harks back to the time when the Anunnaki had come to Earth and settled in the Edin—a tale that has led some to call this text The Eridu Genesis. It was in those early days, when the Anunnaki brought ‘Kingship’ down from Heaven, the text asserts (in column ii) that five Cities of the Gods were founded:
After the [ . . . ] of Kingship
was brought down from heaven,
After the lofty crown and throne of kingship
were lowered from heaven,
[ . . . ] perfected the [ . . . ],
[ . . . ] founded [ . . . ] cities in [ . . . ],
Gave them their names,
allocated their pure places:
The first of these cities, Eridu,
to the leader, Nudimmud, was given.
The second, Bad-Tibira, he gave to Nugig.
The third, Larak, to Pabilsag was given.
The fourth, Sippar, he gave to the hero Utu,
The fifth, Shuruppak, to Sud was given.
The disclosure that some time after they had arrived on Earth—but long before the Deluge—the Anunnaki established five settlements is a major revelation; that the cities’ names, and names of their god-rulers, are stated, is quite astounding; but what is even more amazing about this list of Cities of the Gods is that four of their sites have been found and excavated by modern archaeologists! With the exception of Larak, whose remains have not been identified though its approximate location has been ascertained, Eridu, Bad-Tibira, Sippar, and Shuruppak have been found. Thus, as Sumer, its cities, and its civilization have been brought back to light, not only the Deluge but events and places from before the Deluge emerged as historical reality.
Since the Mesopotamian texts assert that the Deluge devastated the Earth and all upon it, one may well ask how those cities were still extant after the Deluge. For the answer—provided by the same Mesopotamian texts—we have to pull away the curtains of time and obscurity and reveal the full story of the Anunnaki, “Those Who From Heaven to Earth Came.”
As before, it will be the ancient texts themselves that will tell the story.
The Land of ‘Eden’
The name Shumer by which southern Mesopotamia was known in ancient times stems from Akkadian inscriptions about the kingdom of ‘Shumer and Akkad’—a geopolitical entity formed after the installation of the Semitic-speaking Sargon I (Sharru-kin = ‘The Righteous King’) as ruler of Greater Sumer, circa 2370 B.C. (When the kingdom of David split up after his death to the kingdoms of Judea and Israel, the northern region was affectionately called Shomron—‘Little Shumer’.)
Stemming from the Akkadian (and Hebrew) verb meaning ‘to watch/to guard’, the name Shumer identified the realm as “Land of the Watchers” or “Land of the Guardians”—the gods who watch over and safeguard Mankind. The term matched the ancient Egyptian word for ‘gods’—Neteru—which stemmed from the verb NTR and meant “to guard, to watch over.” According to Egyptian lore, the Neteru came to Egypt from Ur-Ta, the ‘Ancient Place’; their hieroglyphic symbol was a miners’ ax:
Before Sumer & Akkad, when there were only Cities of the Gods in the land, it was called E.din—‘Home/Abode of the Righteous Ones”—the biblical Eden; the term stemmed from the determinative Din.gir that preceded gods’ names in Sumerian. Meaning the ‘Just/Righteous Ones’, its pictographic depiction displayed their two-stage rocketships: