Some Excellent Videos Worth Seeing.
First, I must share with you the splendid BBC dramatized documentary series “Egypt” that I found on Netflix. It chronicles three men who were consumed by the archaeology of dynastic Egypt—who became increasingly obsessed with knowing the dynastic Egyptians as people—like my obsession with people of the Fertile Crescent, South Asia, and Eurasia 5,203 years ago. In six episodes, “Egypt” covers pioneer archaeologist and Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni, early scientific archaeologist Howard Carter who found and opened the tomb of Tutankhamun, and philologist and linguist Jean-Francois Champollion who first translated Egyptian Hieroglyphics using the Rosetta Stone. There is also a YouTube version of “Egypt” but the video is not as good.
I also recommend a second Netflix video: the 116 minute PBS NOVA documentary re-titled “Breaking the Maya Code,” which is also available on DVD at the PBS NOVA store, titled “Cracking the Maya Code,” but “not available for streaming” as I presume they’ve sold those rights to Netflix. We’ve learned the importance of deciphering an unknown script in order to understand the people who recorded their civilization in that language. But, there is no Champollion (see “Egypt” above) pursuing translation of the Indus Valley Harappan script, and thus we cannot know the history of that civilization like we now know that of Egypt. This video will reveal the complexity of breaking the code of a “lost” language, and you will recognize the need for a genius or two in that team. Then we can only hope some genius decodes the Harappan script. Perhaps you are that genius.
Sumerian Mythology and the Emergence of Religion from Prehistory.
The Sumerian god, An or Anu, appears to have the earliest and longest credentials as creator, father of, then king of the Sumerian gods. This superior role appears to extend back into Sumerian prehistory. Other Sumerian gods (notably Enlil) seem to have usurped An’s role as creator and leader of the gods, but not by acclamation. In fact, Enlil was ejected from the Ekur and assembly of the gods at one point.
By dynastic times, the contest for supremacy seems to have subsided as the gods individually established residences in various cities, apparently as unique or foremost city gods—to the exclusion of the dacha behavior of having temples in two or more places. You might challenge that conclusion, but that’s my take. If you have better evidence, I’ll publish your Comment.
I perceive through this fog of myth that An was the original supreme god and creator of the universe and other gods, and was betrayed by some of his ambitious creatures, and slowly withdrew from day-to-day involvement in the world he created. Remarkably, this seems like the root story of the Judeo-Christian creator-god, as his angels endowed with free will battled and separated into two camps: loyalists remaining in heaven with their creator, and rebels hijacking the affairs of men on earth to establish themselves as pashas under their sovereign sultan over an enslaved world of men.
The notable difference between the two narratives lies in the point-of-view of the beholders. Those men who took pride in their own abilities, cities, and new gods perceived An as impotently furious in the face of their joining the rebellion. In fact, the very idea of rebelling against their creator seemed good to them. However, those who recognized themselves as tricked and enslaved by the newfound cities’ social structure and tyrannical gods refused to drink the Kool-Aid. From old they had honored the creator-god as omnipotent before all he had created, by definition. Their worship was not for sale at any price.
A thousand years later, called out of Ur by his god, probably during the city’s fall, came one of the surviving creator-worshipers. His name was Abraham. His legacy was a blessing to all nations, and it was simple: Abraham believed the creator-god, and his god credited that belief to Abraham’s account as righteousness. It was a revolutionary thought in that day’s culture—the culture of Ur that murdered hundreds of innocents to accompany the body of its king into his afterlife as his eternal slaves.
From Abraham’s obedient departure out of Ur some 4,000 years ago arose the resurrected worship of the creator-god and the condemnation of the fallen Sumerian culture. Those creatures that rebelled against their creator were not dead or defeated. They continued raising up a succession of civilizations to this day, continuing to repudiate the creator and to herd the majority of mankind to do likewise. The rebels still rule the world. But, the legacy of Abraham’s belief is two billion creator-worshipers called to love the creator-god, and to love their fellows and the other four billion as he does.
There is no mystery to the worship of the creator-god: love him with all you’ve got and love all humanity as you love yourself. He allows Lucifer-Satan and his rebels to sift the world of men and, in so doing, expose and test each man’s willingness to love and obey their creator-god, drawing the proud away from their creator, while unavoidably forcing closer those who recognize their own rebellion and want to switch sides. The solution to the unbridgeable gulf between these repentant rebels and their creator is different between Christian and Jew, but both seek reconciliation, choosing to eschew the world’s “God is Dead” lifestyle.
Another parallel between the Sumerian world and Judaic and Christian shared beliefs emerges in the Sumerian Kings List where between the ending of the first paragraph listing kings with fabulously long lifetimes (“In 5 cities 8 kings; they ruled for 241200 years.” Average: 30,150 years), we find the words, “Then the flood swept over.” In the beginning of the second paragraph, we find the words, “After the flood had swept over….” which are followed with a paragraph of kings having biblically long lifetimes, (“23 kings; they ruled for 24510 years.” Average: 1066 years) a tad longer than Methuselah’s 969 years, which were cut short by the biblical Flood, which differs substantively from the recent movie Noah that is now available on Netflix.
Then there is the question of ziggurats, and why they were built. Built as an escape from flood waters in the two-river floodplain of Mesopotamia seems one obvious purpose. Putting a temple atop a ziggurat to bribe the city god to not send mega-floods seems reasonable for folks 6,000 years ago—and many today. And there’s the ziggurats’ similarity to the Tower of Babel described in the Bible, which shares the same architectural structure, built in the same area.
It’s fascinating to find these parallels already extant as man emerges from prehistory. I’m not saying that the myths and legends about An are consistent with the Judaic and Christian religions, just remarkably similar in some core aspects. Nor am I saying that there is a consistency among all Judaic or among all Christian sects today, given that some deny their god’s role as creator, and others snicker at the biblical Flood–and this despite titanic flooding across the Northern Hemisphere well into the Holocene, which we studied in Post 31.
In other earlier posts, we saw that it took 10 million cubic miles of glacier melt-water to raise 71% of the earth’s surface (sea level) the 500 feet experienced in the first 10,000 years of our present global warming—and all that water had to flow downhill to the sea.
Other than traders, few people ever went beyond their home horizon until late in the Holocene. There were many floods around the world that filled the horizon of the survivors—especially in the alluvial flatland of Mesopotamia, the Pontic-Caspian flooding of the Eurasian Steppes, the Native American experience during the filling and later break-out of Lake Agassiz, and the hemispheric perspective on this flooding. I propose one bulletproof example for a disastrous flood (with a capital “F”) to be the rising seas surprising the earliest inhabitants of Greater Mesopotamia who inhabited the bottom of what is now the Persian Gulf about 12,000 and 8,000 years ago and saw sea level rush ashore during the Melt Water Pulses MWP-1A or MWP-1B in the chart below.
No record of massive, hemispheric flooding that could have destroyed a civilization, or dozens? Really?
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