Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Armenian origin of Sumer, the myths in the Bible and the Abrahamic traditions

Posted by Fredsvenn on April 28, 2017

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Urartu, also known as Kingdom of Van, was an Iron Age kingdom centred on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. It corresponds to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat. The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau, and the Caucasus Mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands.

Urartian, the language used in the cuneiform inscriptions of Urartu, was an ergative-agglutinative language, which belongs to neither the Semitic nor the Indo-European families but to the Hurro-Urartian family.

It is argued on linguistic evidence that proto-Armenian came in contact with Urartian at an early date (3rd-2nd millennium BC), before the formation of the Urartian kingdom. The kingdom rose to power in the mid-ninth century BC, but went in gradual decline and was eventually conquered by the Medes in the early sixth century BC.

The heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms. The present-day Armenians are an amalgam of the Indo-European groups with the Hurrians and Urartians.

In the early sixth century BC, Urartu was replaced by the Armenian Orontid Dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.

The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BCE and 5100 BCE. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

Previously, the Syrian plains were not considered as the homeland of Halaf culture, and the Halafians were seen either as hill people who descended from the nearby mountains of southeastern Anatolia, or herdsmen from northern Iraq.

However, those views changed with the recent archaeology conducted since 1986 by Peter Akkermans, which have produced new insights and perspectives about the rise of Halaf culture.

A formerly unknown transitional culture between the pre-Halaf Neolithic’s era and Halaf’s era was uncovered in the Balikh valley, at Tell Sabi Abyad (the Mound of the White Boy).

Currently, eleven occupational layers have been unearthed in Sabi Abyad. Levels from 11 to 7 are considered pre-Halaf; from 6 to 4, transitional; and from 3 to 1, early Halaf. No hiatus in occupation is observed except between levels 11 and 10.

The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions.

The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period which comprised the late Halaf (c. 5400-5000 BC), and then by the Ubaid period, a prehistoric period of both Northern and Southern Mesopotamia.

The Sumerians spoke a language isolate, but a number of linguists have claimed to be able to detect a substrate language of unknown classification beneath Sumerian because names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants.

However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia.

Some archaeologists have speculated that the original speakers of ancient Sumerian may have been farmers, who moved down from the north of Mesopotamia after perfecting irrigation agriculture there.

The Ubaid period pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries.

According to this theory, farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.

Others have suggested a continuity of Sumerians, from the indigenous hunter-fisherfolk traditions, associated with the bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral. Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians may have been the people living in the Persian Gulf region before it flooded at the end of the last Ice Age.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long Akkadian poem on the theme of human beings’ futile quest for immortality. A number of earlier Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh, the quasi-historical hero of the epic, seem to have been used as sources, but the Akkadian work was composed about 2000 BC. It exists in several different rescissions, none of them complete.

Mesopotamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages (apkallu), who were sent by Enki, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind. Apkallu (“sage”), comes from Sumerian AB.GAL (“great water”), a reference to Adapa the first sage’s association with water.

The sages are described in Mesopotamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monasteries.

The first of these, Adapa, also known as Uan, the name given as Oannes by Berossus, introduced the practice of the correct rites of religious observance as priest of the E’Apsu temple at Eridu.

Adapa as a fisherman was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite. He was a mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story is first attested in the Kassite period (14th century BC), in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna, and from Assur, of the late second millennium BC.

In the Sumerian legend of “Adapa and the food of life”, which seems to explain the origin of death, Adapa, who has earned wisdom but not eternal life, is a son of and temple priest for Ea (Enki) in Eridu, and performs rituals with bread and water.

While Adapa is fishing in a calm sea, suddenly the South Wind rises up and overturns his boat, throwing him into the water. This reference to the ‘South Wind’ may refer to Ninlil (DNIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), wife of Enlil, who was identified as goddess of the South Wind. As “Lady Wind” Ninlil may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.

Uttu in Sumerian mythology is the goddess of weaving and clothing. Uttu in Sumerian means “the woven” and she was illustrated as a spider in a web. She is both the child of Enki and Ninkur, and she bears eight new child/trees from Enki. When Enki then ate Uttu’s children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and disappears.

Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body. Abu for the Jaw, Nintul for the Hip, Ninsutu for the tooth, Ninkasi for the mouth, Dazimua for the side, Enshagag for the Limbs. The last one, Ninti (“Lady Rib”), is also a pun on “Lady Life”, a title of Ninhursag herself.

The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.

Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eye, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah, who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.

The name may be transliterated in different versions – Khepat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version. In the Hurrian language Ḫepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess.

In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.

Adapa is enraged, and proceeds to break the ‘wings’ of the South Wind, so for seven days she can not blow the freshness of the sea on the warm earth. Adapa is summoned before the court of Anu (in Akkadian; Sumerian: An, from An “sky, heaven”), the earliest attested Sky Father deity, in the heavens.

In Sumerian religion An was also “King of the Gods”, “Lord of the Constellations, Spirits and Demons”, and “Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven”, where Anu himself wandered the highest Heavenly Regions. Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth.

In the astral theology of Babylonia and Assyria, Anu, Enlil, and Ea became the three zones of the ecliptic, the northern, middle and southern zone respectively. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere, and is the basis for the ecliptic coordinate system.

Enki, father of Adapa, advises him not to eat or drink anything placed before him, because he fears that this will be the food and water of death.

Anu, however, is impressed with Adapa and instead offers him the food and water of (eternal) life. However, Adapa follows the advice of Ea, and politely refuses to take any food or drink. This food and water of life offered by Anu would have made Adapa and his descendants immortal.

In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.

The Akkadians inherited An as the god of heavens from the Sumerian as Anu-, and in Akkadian cuneiform, the DINGIR character may refer either to Anum or to the Akkadian word for god, ilu-, and consequently had two phonetic values an and il. Hittite cuneiform as adapted from the Old Assyrian kept the an value but abandoned il.

El, cognate to Akkadian: ilu, is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity”, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major Ancient Near East deities.

Elohim is a grammatically plural noun for “gods” or “deity” in Biblical Hebrew. In Modern Hebrew, it is often referred to in the singular despite the -im ending that denotes plural masculine nouns in Hebrew.

The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʔ‑L, meaning “god” (possibly with a wider meaning of “strong”), which was extended to a regular triliteral by the addition of a h (as in Hebrew ʾelōah, ʾelōhim).

Specific deities known as El or Il include the supreme god of the Canaanite religion and the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Semites in the pre-Sargonic period.

Ilāh is an Arabic term meaning “deity” or “god”. The feminine is ilāhah (meaning “goddess”). It appears in the name of the monotheistic god of Islam as al-Lāh, translated, that is, “the god”.

Nuzi was a Hurrian administrative center not far from the Hurrian capital at Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The Hurrians are equivalent to the Horites in the Old Testament, also called Hivites and Jebusites.

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe who inhabited Jerusalem prior to its conquest by Joshua (11:3 and 12:10) or King David (2 Samuel 5:6-10). The Books of Kings state that Jerusalem was known as Jebus prior to this event. According to some biblical chronologies, the city was conquered by King David in 1003 BCE, or according to other sources 869 BCE.

The Nuzi tablets testify to the historical nature of our Old Testament. The Nuzi tablets have significant parallels with patriarchal customs. Abraham was from Haran, which was an important city in the Hurrian empire.

The story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man represents a tradition among the Abrahamic peoples, with a presentation more or less symbolical of certain moral and religious truths.

Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman and the ancestors of all humans. The story of Adam and Eve is central to the belief that God created human beings in a Garden of Eden, although they fell away from that state into the present world full of death, evil, pain and suffering.

It provides the basis for the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. It also provides much of the scriptural basis for the doctrines of the fall of man and original sin that are important beliefs in Christianity, but which are not generally held in Judaism or Islam.

Christian theology holds that Adam and Eve lost physical immortality for themselves and all their descendants in the Fall of Man, although this initial “imperishability of the bodily frame of man” was “a preternatural condition”.

The fall of man, or the fall, is a term used in Christianity to describe the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience.

Although not named in the Bible, the doctrine of the fall comes from a biblical interpretation of Genesis chapter 3. At first, Adam and Eve lived with God in the Garden of Eden, but the serpent tempted them into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden. After doing so, they became ashamed of their nakedness and God expelled them from the Garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and becoming immortal.

For many Christian denominations, the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God.

The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations, based in part on the passage Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father.

One gets the notion from Genesis’s narrator that by “eating a fruit” one can “obtain knowledge.” This concept appears in Sumerian myths. Kramer has noted that Enki, the god of Wisdom, desires “to know” about several plants in his wife’s garden. Enki’s youngest son, Ningizzida, was Lord of the Tree of Truth, in Mesopotamia and had obtained the secret knowledge of creation.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is one of two trees in the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3, along with the tree of life. A cylinder seal, known as the temptation seal, from post-Akkadian periods in Mesopotamia (c. 23rd-22nd century BCE), has been linked to the Adam and Eve story.

Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876) describes the seal as having two facing figures (male and female) seated on each side of a tree, holding out their hands to the fruit, while between their backs is a serpent, giving evidence that the fall of man account was known in early times of Babylonia.

 

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