“It happened, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of Elohim saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they took for themselves wives of all which they chose. And Yahweh said, ‘My Spirit will not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; yet will his days be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of Elohim came to the daughters of men. They bore children to them: the same were the mighty men of old, men of renown.” -Genesis 6:1-4
The Cradle of Civilization Jericho is the oldest known city in the world, stretching back 10,500 years into the past. At 846 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest city. The ancient settlement is located in a fertile landscape on a major Mediterranean trade route and surrounds a permanent spring near the Dead Sea. By 8000 BC, the population reached 1,500, far above any other site of the time. Around the same time protective walls were erected around the settlement. Jericho is famous today for the Bible story in which Yehoshua (Joshua) follows Yahweh’s command to march the army of the Hebrew refugees from Egypt around the city for seven days before sounding seven trumpets, causing the city’s walls to come down.
The second oldest archaeologist site is Chatal Huyuk, further north in Turkey, dated at 6700 B.C. Both sites have turned up evidence of the ritual decoration of skulls, dating back to the proto-Neolithic and Neolithic eras. Some skulls have been scraped, painted with red ocher or bitumen, while others have had shells placed over the eye sockets.
Chatal Huyuk Hunting Painting
Civilization first sprung up in the Mesopotamia’s fertile crescent, an area stretching from the Mediterranean sea, down the rich land fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, all the way to the Persian Gulf, creating a landscape of great fruitfulness of life amongst a harsh desert wasteland. On the west side of that crescent is Jerusalem (“City of Peace“). At the eastern point are the ancient cities of Ur (“City”) and Eridu (“Good City”) in Iraq.
Neolithic Tower, Jericho, 8000 BC2
Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia
The expansion of farming settlements across the Tigris and Euphrates is reflected by a series of four cultures, which are separated by their pottery styles. The first community that can be attested to is the Hussuna culture (6500-6000 BC), who lived on the Iraqi/Syria/Turkey border, where later day Assyria would be make it‘s capital. They bred sheep, goats, pigs and cattle as well as farmed. They also grew barley and smelt copper and lead. They were the first to create painted pottery and the first to use the stamped seal, which became a popular symbol of ownership in Mesopotamia.
They were later replaced by the Halafian culture (6000-5400), which spread out much further than the Hussuna and were ruled by chiefs who amassed large amounts of wealth and probably controlled all matters of trade. Contemporary with the Halafians is the Samarran culture (6000-5500), which overlaps the Hussuna on their southern border. Unlike the Halafians, the Samarrans developed large scale irrigation techniques that allowed them to farm on the more barren southern land. The Ubaid culture (5900-4300), stretched out down the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates to the Persian Gulf, also branching out west to Ugarit and the Mediterranean Sea. Large amounts of Ubaid pottery have also been found further south along the Persian Gulf including Bahrain island, indicating that there were trade links between Mesopotamia and Arabia. Their advanced irrigation techniques allowed them to harvest an almost rainless land. Clay tokens mark the first evidence of a monetary system. Around 5000 B.C. the first towns and temples were built. Not too long after the invention of the plow, the sail and the wheel (first used in pottery), the Ubaid period came to a close after about 1,500 years, succeeded by the culture of the Uruk period. 3
The first cities emerged in this land around 4300 BC, the largest of which was Uruk (Erech; Iraq). It’s ancient city wall, measuring 9.5 miles, is attributed to the warrior-king Gilgamesh. Most cities of this early time held between 2,000 and 8,000 people but Uruk itself held over 10,000. At first, the temples built carried the same building traditions as that of the Ubaid culture, but they later grew in size and magnificence and were painted with mosaic patterns of red, white or black.
The Uruk period (4300-3100) is characterized by a great migration from the north, situated around the city of Nippur, to the south, around Uruk. This took place from the Early-Middle Uruk Period, when an ancient river fed by the joining of the Tigris and Euphrates flowed right next to Nippur, to the Jemdet Nasr Period, some 1,000 years later when the river’s course may have changed. 3
Although no one knows for sure where the Sumerians came from, they may have been Caucasians (migrants from the Caucasus mountains between the Black and Caspian sea) like their eastern neighbors from Elam (Iran).4 There’s no way to tell if the Sumerians were descendants of the Ubaid culture or if they simply conquered it, but they were firmly established in southern Babylonia in Iraq by at least 3500 BC.5 They are the first people known to use the 60 second minute, the 60 minute hour, the 360 degree circle and the 24 hour day (which they divided into four sets of 6 hours). This 60-base system was tied in with the fact that 60 was the sacred number of An, the head of their pantheon who resided in the heavens. Likewise, 50 was given to the air god Enlil and 40 to the god of the waters, Enki.
Sumerian clothes are portrayed in their seals as furry, probably being sheep or goat skin. Sumerian men wore kilts and grew their hair long. Most were clean shaven while others had curly mustaches and beards. Women’s dresses kept one shoulder bare and cloaks were worn in the winter. Priests and doctors kept their heads and faces shaved. Soldiers did not seem to wear any set uniform, except perhaps a pointy cap.5 Some Sumerian rulers wore loose ankle-length shawl over their left shoulder. There is some evidence that prior to 3000 B.C., the average Sumerian worked in the fields naked. 6
Wealthy families were able to send their male children to schools, where they studied economics, administration, and creative writing, often graduating to become scribes for the temple or palace. School texts indicate that tablet copying was a large part of the curriculum and that caning and scholastic bribery were practiced to a good extant. 5
A man was only allowed to marry only one wife but could take concubines and women could own property and sign business contracts. Although some marriage contracts forbid the taking of a concubine, little stigma was attached to married men going to temple prostitutes. Divorce (which involved a hem cutting ceremony before a witness) was allowed in some cases, such as the inability to conceive a child, but there are few documents of actual cases. Adoption was largely practiced, mostly for the desire of continuing the family name. Children were required to show great respect towards their parents at the threat of being disinherited or sold. To a lesser degree, respect was also demanded of an older brother or sister. 6
Slavery was practiced but slaves were still protected by law somewhat. Slaves could still conduct trade, take loans, and could even buy their way out of the circumstance. The majority of slaves were prisoners of war, but also consisted of criminals, debtors, children of slaves, and of those sold by their parents. A slave usually cost about 20 shekels, less than ass. Anyone could end up becoming a slave, so it was not truly a caste system and marriages between slaves and free people were quite common.6 Females were sold as concubines but sometimes provisions in the sale contract could provision her marriage to another slave.6
Standard from Ur
The name ‘Sumer’ is derived from the Babylonian name for the southern part of Babylonia. The Sumerians actually called their country Kengi (“Civilized land”) and called themselves Saggiga (“The black-headed ones” or perhaps “bald-headed ones”). The Sumerian language started off as pictograms etched into wet clay tablets and was probably the inspiration for Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Sumerians are generally believed to have invented writing as some of the earliest known texts come from them in Uruk around 3400 BC. By then it was already a complex system with over 700 signs. This pictography is believed to have been adapted into other languages, including the language of the Elamites and of the Indus Valley civilization, a culture that thrived in Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan and Northern India around 2500-1750 BC. Symbols drawn on Indus Valley pottery recently excavated from Harappa predate even the earliest Sumerian writing (3500 B.C.), but are not as complex.7 By 2000 BC, The Sumerians were using goods traded, however indirectly, from the Indus Valley. After the decline of the Indus Valley, the culture fell into obscurity until traces of it were rediscovered in the 1920s.
Around 2900 BC, Sumerian pictography was simplified into a language known as cuneiform, named for it’s left wedge-shaped strokes. The cuneiform were written sideways, losing the pictographic quality it once had. This is generally believed to be the first evidence of true language, although some archaeologists believe that inscriptions found in the tomb of the Scorpion King, Egypt’s first monarch, and dated to 3400-3300 B.C., qualifies as symbolic representation and therefore beat the Sumerians to the punch.8 Three different forms of Sumerian cuneiform developed before the language became widespread. Some of this language that they called ‘Emegir’ survives to this day: The Sumerian words mayakku (“confuse”/“intoxicate”) and kohl (“eyeliner”) are related to the Hebrew kakhal (“paint“) and the Arabian al-Kahl (“the eyeliner“), which is today termed ‘alcohol’. Similarly, the Sumerian word kanubi (“cane of two [sexes]”) is the root of the modern word ‘Cannabis’.
Sumerian charioteer, 2800 B.C.
Each of the Sumerian city-states was headed by a temple devoted to one of the gods of their pantheon, which owned about two-thirds of the land. Each god acted as a kind of mascot for the city, and actions done by armies of each city were often metaphorically described as the actions of the city’s personal god. The head of the pantheon resided in Uruk, which was often the capital of Sumer, although it was in fierce competition for kingship with most of the other cities, especially Ur and the Akkadian city of Kish. Although Nippur was never a capital itself, no king was considered legitimate without it being sanctioned by that city. Located in the very middle of Sumer and Akkad, 80% of all Sumerian literature found has been excavated from Nippur.
The Separation of Heaven and Earth The Sumerians believed that in the beginning there was only the primeval sea, which they called Nammu (“Mankind‘s Mother”). Nammu gave birth to An (“Heaven”) and Ki (“Earth”). It was the union of An and Ki, “heaven” and “earth”, which produced the Anunnaki, or Anunna, meaning “Heaven came to Earth“ or “Those who descended from Heaven to Earth.” The physical union of Heaven and Earth is described in the Sumerian text The Birth of Wood and Reed:
“The Great Earth made herself glorious, her body flourished with greenery. Wide Earth put on silver metal and lapis lazuli ornaments, adorned herself with diorite, chalcedony, carnelian, and diamonds. Heaven covered the pastures with irresistible sexual attraction, presented himself in majesty. The pure young woman showed herself to the pure Heaven. The vast Heaven copulated with the wide Earth, the seed of the heroes Wood and Reed he ejaculated into her womb. Sweet Earth, the good cow, received the rich seed of Heaven in her womb. The Earth, for the happy birth of the Plants of Life, presented herself.”
(Lapis luzuli is a dense blue semiprecious gemstone and diorite is a very hard green or gray volcanic rock. Chalcedony and carnelian are types of quartz.)
Another text, Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the netherworld, begins with this introduction:
In those days, in those distant days, in those nights, in those remote nights, in those years, in those distant years; in days of yore, when the necessary things had been brought into manifest existence, in days of yore, when the necessary things had been for the first time properly cared for, when bread had been tasted for the first time in the shrines of the Land, when the ovens of the Land had been made to work, when the heavens had been separated from the earth, when the earth had been encircled by the heavens, when the name of mankind was fixed, when An had taken the heavens for himself, when Enlil had taken the earth for himself, when the netherworld had been given Ereshkigal as a gift; when he set sail, when he set sail, when the father set sail for the netherworld, when Enki set sail for the netherworld -- against the king a storm of small hailstones arose, against Enki a storm of large hailstones arose. The small ones were light hammers, the large ones were like stones from catapults [?]. The keel of Enki's little boat was trembling as if it were being butted by turtles, the waves at the bow of the boat rose to devour the king like wolves and the waves at the stern of the boat were attacking Enki like a lion.
What Enki did when he got there or why he went to the netherworld has not been recorded.
The expanse between heaven and earth, or lil (“air“, “wind“, “spirit“, “breath“), was the realm of the god Enlil (“Lord-Air”). An’s other son Enki (“Lord-Earth”) was actually the god of the freshwater under the earth. Unlike the air god Enlil, he was the son of Nammu, mother of all the gods, and was said to live deep within the abzu. Abzu, just like the modern word ‘abyss’ from which it is rooted, is a freshwater abode deep underneath the earth. The netherworld Ereshkigal (“Queen of the Great Below”) took charge of was called Kur, or Kurnugia (“Land of No Return”). It has been presumed from some of the damaged text that Enki defeated Kur, gaining Enki the title “Lord of Kur”.
Heaven was conceived of as being a hollow space enclosed by a solid substance (perhaps tin) in the shape of a vault, and the earth was believed to be a flat disk.5 Above the sky was the primeval ocean, where rain came from. This ancient belief of a primeval ocean above the sky is also found in the first verses of the Bible:
In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and earth. Now the earth was tohu [formless] and empty, darkness was over the surface of the tehom [deep], and the Spirit of Elohim was hovering over the waters. And Elohim said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Elohim saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Elohim called the light “day” and the darkness “night”. And there was evening, and there was morning- the first day. And Elohim said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So Elohim made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. Elohim called the expanse “Shamayim”. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.” -Genesis 1:1-8
Translated in most Bibles as “God”, Elohim is actually the plural form for Eloh, or El, even though the sentence structure uses it as if it were a singular noun. While some contend that the word is a holdover from an earlier polytheistic society, others believe that this is representative of the Trinity, or the plurality of majesty, similar to how European kings referred to themselves in the plural. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia cites the same use of plurality to denote a single god in inscriptions from Phoenicia and Tel Amarna (Akhetaten) in Egypt. Derivatives of Elohim found in the Old Testament include: El Elyon (“Lord Most High”), El Sabaoth (“Lord of Hosts”/ “Lord of Armies”), El Shaddai (“Lord Almighty”), and El Olam (“Lord Everlasting“). The Babylonian El was short for El-lil (“Lord-Air”), who they also called Enlil. To the Canaanites, El was a proper name for the head of their pantheon; they also added an epithet to the name, referring to him as “El the Bull”.
The Hebrew words tohu and tehom are believed to be rooted in the name of the Babylonian goddess Tiamat, a great multi-headed dragon symbolizing the chaos of the primeval waters above the heavens. Like her Sumerian equivalent Nammu, she is the mother of all the gods. The Hebrew word Shamayim is equivalent to the Sumerian An, being a word for both sky and the heavens. Like the Sumerians, the Hebrews viewed the world as being constituted from layers including: the netherworld, the surface world, the heavens, and a watery void encircling all of it.
Map of the World, showing the ocean surrounding all land
with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers running through the middle.
Enki in his underwater temple
The texts say that in these ancient times the gods acted like men and did all the work and labor. A text called The Debate between Winter and Summer describes how after stealing away with the earth, Enlil copulated with the hills and produced the two seasons, Emesh (“Summer”) and Enten (“Winter”). Like all gods, their births were quick and painless:
An lifted his head in pride and brought forth a good day. He laid plans for ...... and spread the population wide. Enlil set his foot upon the earth like a great bull. Enlil, the king of all lands, set his mind to increasing the good day of abundance, to making the ...... night resplendent in celebration, to making flax grow, to making barley proliferate, to guaranteeing the spring floods at the quay, to making ...... Lengthen [?] their days in abundance, to making Summer close the floodgates of heaven, and to making Winter guarantee plentiful water at the quay.
He copulated with the great hills, he gave the mountain its share. He filled its womb with Summer and Winter, the plenitude and life of the Land. As Enlil copulated with the earth, there was a roar like a bull's. The hill spent the day at that place and at night she opened her loins. She bore Summer and Winter as smoothly as fine oil. He fed them pure plants on the terraces of the hills like great bulls. He nourished them in the pastures of the hills.
Enlil set about determining the destinies of Summer and Winter. For Summer: founding towns and villages,bringing in harvests of plenitude for the Great Mountain of Enlil, sending laborers out to the large arable tracts, and working the fields with oxen; for Winter: plenitude, the spring floods, the abundance and life of the Land, placing grain in the fields and fruitful acres, and gathering in everything -- Enlil determined these as the destinies of Summer and Winter.
By hand Winter guided the spring floods, the abundance and life of the Land, down from the edge of the hills. He set his foot upon the Tigris and Euphrates like a big bull and released them into the fields and fruitful acres of Enlil. He shaped lagoons in the water of the sea. He let fish and birds together come into existence by the sea. He surrounded all the reed-beds with mature reeds, reed shoots and ...... reeds.
The fact that Winter created fish and birds in the same instance matches with the fifth day of creation as reported in the beginning of Genesis:
“And Elohim said: ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’” -Genesis 1:20
Like in the Hebrew story of Kayin and Havel (Cain and Abel), the two seasonal metaphors Summer and Winter go to bring offerings for a sacrifice, except it is at E-Namtila, one of Enlil’s mountain temples. Like Cain, Summer builds the world’s first town. When the two of them go to sacrifice, Emesh brings cattle, sheep, rams, deer, stags, fattened pigs, porcupine, turtle, birds, eggs, crops, flour and malt while Enten brings figs, dried fruit, cool water, honey, beer, birds, fattened duck, carp, pomegranates, grapes, cucumbers and turnips. The two get into a quarrel about which sacrifice is better. At first Winter is too tired from working to argue but then, overcome with anger, he ‘reared himself’ and told Summer that he should not praise himself since all of Summer’s harvest had come through Winter’s toil. Summer countered that all of the straw that Winter hauled got thrown into the hearth because of the cold that Winter brought. This argument takes up the majority of the text. When Enlil makes his presence, the argument is settled:
Like a great bull Winter raised his head to speak: "Father Enlil, you gave me control of irrigation; you brought plentiful water. I made one meadow adjacent to another and I heaped high the granaries. The grain became thick in the furrows. Ezina came forth in splendor like a beautiful maiden. Summer, a bragging field-administrator who does not know the extent of the field, ...... my thighs grown tired from toil. ...... tribute has been produced for the king's palace. Winter admires the heart of your ...... in words."
Summer pondered everything in his head and calmed down. Summer spoke respectfully to Enlil: "Enlil, your verdict is highly valued, your holy word is an exalted word. The verdict you pronounce is one which cannot be altered -- who can change it? There was quarrelling of brother with brother but now there is harmony. For as long as you are occupying the palace, the people will express awe. When it is your season, far be it from me to humiliate you -- in fact I shall praise you."
Enlil answered Summer and Winter: "Winter is controller of the life-giving waters of all the lands -- the farmer of the gods produces everything. Summer, my son, how can you compare yourself to your brother Winter?" The import of the exalted word Enlil speaks is artfully wrought, the verdict he pronounces is one which cannot be altered -- who can change it?
Summer bowed to Winter and offered him a prayer. In his house he prepared emmer-beer and wine. At its side they spend the day at a succulent banquet. Summer presents Winter with gold, silver and lapis lazuli. They pour out brotherhood and friendship like best oil. By bringing sweet words to the quarrel (?) they have achieved harmony with each other.
In the dispute between Summer and Winter, Winter, the faithful farmer of Enlil, was superior to Summer -- praise be to the Great Mountain, father Enlil!
Even though Summer’s sacrifices are better, Winter’s sacrifice is found more pleasing because he worked harder for it. Perhaps Enten (“Winter”) was predestined to be the winner since the word ‘En’ (“Lord”) is in his name. The moral of the Sumerian version doesn’t translate over though: Abel’s sacrifice is looked on with favor because he brings in the fat portions from the firstborn of the stock. Instead, the resolution of The Debate between Winter and Summer becomes the source of conflict between Kayin and Havel.
Enki and the World Order further describes how the sea god Enki was commissioned by Enlil to establish the days of the month and to make the people and animals of the lands fertile. He purified the land of Dilmun and gave animals to the wandering nomads of Martu. The Old Testament makes 86 references to these nomads, calling them Amorites and sometimes equating them with Canaanites or the ancestors of the Canaanites.
The sea god Enki then filled the Tigris and Euphrates rivers:
After he had turned his gaze from there, after father Enki had lifted his eyes across the Euphrates, he stood up full of lust like a rampant bull, lifted his penis, ejaculated and filled the Tigris with flowing water. He was like a wild cow mooing for its young in the wild grass, its scorpion-infested cow-pen. The Tigris ...... at his side like a rampant bull. By lifting his penis, he brought a bridal gift. The Tigris rejoiced in its heart like a great wild bull, when it was born ....... It brought water, flowing water indeed: its wine will be sweet. It brought barley, mottled barley indeed: the people will eat it. It filled the E-Kur, the house of Enlil, with all sorts of things. Enlil was delighted with Enki, and Nibru was glad. The lord put on the diadem as a sign of lordship, he put on the good crown as a sign of kingship, touching the ground on his left side. Plenty came forth out of the earth for him.
After that, Enki then built a shrine for the sea and ordained the rains to the storm god Ishkur, who rode great storm clouds and threw lightning bolts as a weapon. Enki further organizes the ploughs of the farmlands and the wildlife of the earth:
He built the sheepfolds, carried out their cleaning, made the cow-pens, bestowed on them the best fat and cream, and brought luxury to the gods' dining places. He made the plain, created for grasses and herbs, achieve prosperity. Enki placed in charge of all this the king, the good provider of E-Anna, the friend of An, the beloved son-in-law of the youth Suen, the holy spouse of Inanna the mistress, the lady of the great powers who allows sexual intercourse in the open squares of Kulaba -- Dumuzi-Mother-Dragon-of-Heaven, the friend of An.
After Enki had assigned duties to Enlil’s sister Aruru (another name for Ninmah) and some of the minor gods, the love goddess Inanna came weeping and complaining that she hadn’t been given a job. Enki told her that he has already given her her voice, clothed her in the garments of women’s power, and the shepherd’s crook-staff. But he adds to that, giving her the ability to sense ill omens regarding battle. For that, Enki gave Inanna a spindle and colored thread, perhaps to weave the fates. Enki tells Inanna that she sows human heads like seed and never grew weary of her admirers. At this point, the text starts becoming unclear until it ends with a praise for Enki.
The E-Anna spoken of was the Inanna’s temple in Uruk and Kulaba was one of Uruk‘s districts. By Babylonian times Inanna texts have been found referring to her as the goddess of the morning star, i.e. Venus, but her association with that planet must have come much earlier. The majority of Sumerian text lists Inanna’s twin brother as the sun god Utu, which must be rooted to that astronomical effect: the ability to see Venus in the morning. Oddly enough, Inanna and the sun god Utu were children of the moon god, Nanna. Also known as Suen, he was the son of Enlil and Ninlil. As the goddess of love and fertility, Inanna was responsible for the fruitfulness of the land. To do this she enacted a Sacred Marriage Rite with Enki’s son Dumuzi. This was an event that usually marked the new year where the king took the role of Dumuzi and performed a fertility rite with a human representation of Inanna in order to ensure the land’s fruitfulness. The holiday seems to have started off as a local rite of Uruk around the third millennium BC and then grew to become incorporated throughout Babylonia. The “Mother Dragon of Heaven” epithet added to his name may be a reference to his grandmother, Enki’s mother: Nammu, goddess of the primeval sea. Dumuzi was sometimes referred to as “Beloved of Enlil”.