Gen 2:10And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
Gen 2:11The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
Gen 2:12And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.
Gen 2:13And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
Gen 2:14And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
Please relax, get yourselves comfortable and be prepared for a few shocks. I'm going to need your support, your sympathy, as I struggle through this question tonight. It's brand new research, it's work in progress, it's a very fluid idea that I'm developing at the moment and it's by no means complete and it may never get completed if it all goes wrong in the end.
I feel as if I'd be walking on eggshells to give this presentation to this audience in particular, because we are going to talk about Genesis 1-11. This presents big problems, bigger than that of the Sumerians and perhaps of any other problem in history. The other day, when we looked at the later books of the Genesis - through to Kings so to speak - we started in my own discipline, Egyptology. We looked at anomalies, archeological anomalies, which then led to the development of a theory. That theory then had implications for the Old Testament and other fields of study which I didn't mention, such as Greek history. And then we moved from there to study, or make a comparison, to see if we could find a synthesis of what we can learn from archeology on the one side and on the other from the narrative in these Old Testament books of the Bible. Now, we are going to start from a different angle this time, we are going to start with a theory - a very dangerous thing to do. Yet, I think it's legitimate to start from there.
In a way and to a certain level of satisfaction, I've demonstrated the probability that parts of the Old Testament are historical. Assuming that, the question - admittedly a big question - is: does that mean we can, e.g., go back to early Genesis with the same methodology, comparative methodology between archeology and the Old Testament narrative (let's not call it history, let's call it the traditional narrative)? So that's a big question that emerged when I completed book one. Foolishly, I suggested to my publisher that this question be pursued further and before I realised it he caught me in my own trap, saying "yes, please". So now I got what I deserve and find myself obliged to write this horrible book on this vast and hardly fathomable subject (audience laughs).
Now why the "followers of Horus", why the Genesis of civilisation and the followers of Horus. I'm going to try and lead you on an epic saga, starting from the beginning in the beginning and going through to the table of nations. And I'm going to try and show you a link between ancient Egypt, it's foundation of the Pharaonic civilisation from out of Genesis. But then, for the implications of that, we have to look at the Egyptian religion, primeval religion, to see whether we find anything of Genesis reflected in that religion.
As I warned you, it's a very complicated subject. Moreover, it is out of my field. And here I am such a fool to step out of my field and try this. It involves learning some Sumerian and Acadian. And it involves understanding the development of language, primitive language especially and primitive script. The reason for this is that I'm also going to try and show you extra-biblical material from Mesopotamia. In this way, some of the personalities of the Genesis seem to be confirmed as they come to light in other literature. And as I said last time: then there is the name game, and the name game is one of those very dangerous games that we play, i.e. making words fit to our expectations. After that you may draw your own conclusions. To be sure, these and further arguments may or may not - yet - make a dent. Therefore, only time will tell whether the debate thus opened will contribute to getting us out of the present multi-facetted gridlock and where all this will lead us eventually. Whether or not the arguments thus brought forward will hold the road depends essentially on their quality and consistency; supported by a few slides, I will venture today to offer a few comparisons as food for thought. Beyond that, each of you is also called upon to discover for himself or herself what challenges and opportunities all this may entail - for both you and others.
(slide 1) My first slide relates to a theme from the Genesis, namely to the appearance of man and woman on Earth. Now this isn't a book cover by any means but it does explain something about what we are going to do. This time we are going to start at the beginning. In the last lecture we were working from the known towards the unknown, fixing our chronology absolutely to the present. Now we are going to do exactly what I said we shouldn't do, namely we are going to go and get an arbitrary date and we are going to work forward in time and not backward. But it doesn't matter in this case because we are dealing with relative chronology here and not absolute chronology. It's the time between civilisations, the relationship in time based on archeological evidence; it isn't the imperative of the fixed date, for a fixed date is not relevent to this discussion. And it is the prickle of the first volume. The followers of Horus will become evident with Part Two of the talk when I'll take you out of Mesopotamia towards the Nile valley.
(slide 2) This picture - and indeed this story - relates to the Sumerian people. You probably wouldn't recognise that sort of face from the other images we have about the ancient world. Yet, this is a Sumerian, and I'm going to try and explain to you why Sumerians do not appear in the Bible as a nation.
(slide 3) This picture is about a people that you're more familiar with. However, we're not going to deal with the native, the indigenous population of Egypt but with the Pharaonic population, the elite of Egypt.
(slide 4) This is about our two ancestors. Look at that very carefully!
What do you see? You see a tree. On the left over here, you see a woman on a throne. On
the right, you see a man with horns on his hat (which indicates deity in Sumerian
mythology). And you see a snake behind the woman. It's interesting also to notice that
there are seven branches on this tree and that it has fruits dangling from it. Mind you,
this isn't a made-up image; it isn't somebody's fictional idea of Adam and Eve. This is a
Sumerian cylinder seal impression. It's a genuine artifact from the ancient Near East.
It's extra-biblical. And if you want to see it with your own eyes, you'll find it in the
(slide 5) And this is our canvas for the first part of the talk. It is in this area we're going to try and paint a history of Genesis and the history of the development of civilisation. In particular we are going to concentrate on the two famous rivers, Tigris and Euphrates and the sources of those two rivers in this mountainous region which the classical writers called Armenia. In our time, Armenia moved slightly northward. This is also the region we call today Azerbaijan. And this, of course, is also the region called Western Iran or Iranian Azerbaijan - it has all those names. I'm going to take you into this region here to have a closer look at it. I think that there are some interesting things we will find.
(slide 6) It's a remarkable landscape. It's a landscape of high mountains, deep valleys, barren hills and lush valleys as well. You have to remember that in the ancient world this would have been covered mostly with forests. By now it has mostly been denuded by pasturalism and agriculture. In that respect, over the years it grew to look a bit like Israel today. There were once cedar forests and these are the forests that you read about in the epic literature of the Sumerians, e.g. in the Gilgamesh epics. These are the cedar forests of the mountains. And these mountains play a crucial role in the mythology and religion of Sumer.
(slide 7) Today, the people of these mountains are called the Kurds. When we get to the linguistic part of this exercise you'll recognise in the word Kurd or Kurdu the word Cauldu. Now these Cauldu appear to be the Chaldeans of the Bible. You can get interchangeability between "L" and "R" and the Sumerian "U" and the Semitic "A", so that you get this interchange of Cauldu with Kurd.
(slide 8) As you know, today this is a bit of a no-go area. But with better insights into their own real roots, I'd like to think these people and their mostly estranged brethren living downstream have a chance to rediscover their common origins and bonds so that things may quiet down there, too someday in the not too distant future.
Now these people who came down from those mountains had their own, their Sumerian gods who dwelt in and lived atop mountains. The Sumarian gods did not live in the valley of Suma. They were brought down from the mountains. And that is why the Sumerians built zigurats, i.e. towers to recreate the mountain abode of the gods in the lowlands. That is the fonction of the zigurats.
(slide 9) This is a crucial passage we are going to study first of all. It's going to lead us to the physical location of the place called Eden. A secular historian would call this fiction, an Alice in Wonderland, not a real place. However, it isn't forbidden to look at the facts with a critical mind. Thus the question: and if it were a real place? Look at the matter-of-fact-way it is described in the Biblel! There is no mythology here; it is a straightforward description of the place where it is located. The way it is located is via the sources of four clearly defined rivers, the rivers of Eden which are said to have their headwaters in Eden.
Now I'm sure you're all familiar with this particular biblical passage. Two of the rivers are well known to us; I'll draw those out on the board in a minute and I'll fit in the other two rivers. And once we'll have all four, will we not be entitled to recognize the location of Eden?
Notice also the characteristics of two of those four rivers, the unknown ones - at the moment unknown anyway - the Gihon and the Pishon. Those two run through particular countries and the writer is telling us a bit more about those two rivers because he doesn't expect us to know them as well as the two main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Paraf is Euphrates in the Bible. Hiddekel, that is the Deglat of Sumer which is the Tigris in Greek. So we have Tigris and Euphrates to begin with. Our biblical writer helps us a bit further when he says that the Tigris flows to the east of Assyria [Asshur] which is still there today in the city of Assur in Northern Iraq. The Paraf, i.e. the Euphrates with its Western and its Eastern headwaters, is so well known he doesn't even have to describe where that is.
Now I'm going to be a little bit of a scribe. I'm going to draw you a map of Eden. Now try to envision this in the perspective of an ancient mind. They try to describe, they don't draw maps. So let's draw a map for them the way they think. Let's place at the centre of the universe the Land of Eden. We will represent that by a circle. Now there are said to be four rivers which have their sources in Eden. So let's do this thing we heard of today about the four corners of the world, and let's draw four corners around Eden. So the centre is there which is divided into four corners and neatly boxed in for now. Let's now imagine that we are describing one river in each corner. The source of each river in each of these corners.
Let's draw the known rivers in first, Paraf - i.e. Euphrates - we can trace that to its source. It's source is up here in this corner, South of Arate, North of Lake Van, and it swings round in a great arc into the Mesopotamia Valley and works its way down to the Gulf. The second river we also know: it's the Tigris. So let's go upstream on this one and let's start where it joins the Euphrates. It flows through Mesopotamia and has three sources in this region over here, i.e. the Lesser Zap, the Greater Zap and one other. We now have two of our four rivers in place. This then is no longer a fictional map, for we've got two rivers on it. They are real places, so we can now put some features onto this map. One of the most important features to put onto it is the Caspian Sea. Another one is the Black Sea over here.
So, two more rivers. According to the Old Testament, the Pishon winds its way around the land of Havilah which is said to be rich in gold and other material, while the Gihon is flowing into the Land of Cush. Now that Land of Cush is what's misled those in search of Eden for the last 200 years. Because it is not the African Cush, what we call today Sudan. And the reason for that will become apparent in Part Two.
The first of these two - still unidentified - rivers is seen to flow into the Caspian Sea over here and out round in this direction. It also has streams that flow into this quarter. The modern name of this river is Aras (in Greek: Araxis). But if you check on this sort of things, the thing you do is to go back to local topper names from different periods and you try to find out what the names where as well in ancient times. And if you go back to the Islamic invasion of this region, the Islamic historians called this river something quite different. They called it the Gaihun. And in fact in older commentaries on the Bible, like last century ones, you'll see it called the Gaihun Aras or the Gaihon Araxis which, of course, is the biblical Gihon (notwithstanding the fact that near Jerusalem there is also a river called Gihon which, incidently, may also have had another name in ancient time). So we've got three rivers out of four.
The fourth river is also very important; it empties into the southern end of the Caspian Sea and flows through this quarter, winding its way through the land. The modern name of this is the Uwzon or Uizon. Now that doesn't sound like Pishon until you realise that there is a linguistic problem which is that the letter "U" can become the letter "P". I'll give you an example, there is a site down here in the Zagros Mountains which is called Pishdeli today. When they made archeological excavations there, they found tablets naming the place as Uishdeli, i.e. transfer from "U" to "P" and "P" to "U". So there is extra-biblical archeological support for substituting the Uizon's "U" with a "P", with the result that you come reasonably close to the biblical Pishon.
So we have all four rivers located and they point to these central section. Now where is that? Let's put two lakes on that now. Let's put Lake Van and lets put in Lake Urmia. And let's put that great mountain range which separates Eden from Suma, i.e. the Zagros Mountains moving down in a great chain, a great barrier. It separates paradise from the mundane.
Now I want to go slightly in on this and draw you a little bit closer to that circle (you'll see this for real later when you'll follow me on my next trip there and I'm going to take you through to the garden of Eden - enjoy the trip!). Lake Urmia is in the centre of Eden. It's a large lake, it's got a volcanic island like that and it's a dead lake. It's a dead lake for with its high salt content it supports no life in it. We'll come back to that later when we will look at the Gilgamesh epics.
What reportedly was East of Eden? The garden. And what lies to the East of Urmia? Again the garden! There is a mountain range going this way, which is very schematic, there is a huge volcano here called Mount Sahand, a natural cone, and another range of mountains going in this direction. And acrosss this way there is a mountain range like that. And right in the middle of this is a lush valley. A river flows through this valley and empties into this lifeless Lake Urmia. At its mouth there is a large swamp and salty estuary. And then beyond that estuary here is a very beautiful section of the river valley which today is full of orchards, every kind of trees. The waters of this river flow from the mountains and one source in particular flows down from the volcano Mount Sahand.
And where is this in modern terminology? Well, this is the valley of Tabriz. And Tabriz is located at the heart of this lush valley. Tabriz is at the end of the silk road from China, so it is very important in different parts of history. It's a bit of a dump now, sadly, but never mind - Eden will not always remain Eden. Now this river has a Persian name. The Persian name of the river is Medan. And you might have heard that word before, Medan-el-sha, which in Persian means the Royal Garden of the King, or the public square as it's become today. The river is named the Garden, and where does that tradition come from?
Over here there is a high mountain, this is not a volcano but it is a very high peak. And there is a pass which leads from Tabriz over the mountain range to the North here into the valley of the Gihon. That mountain today is called Cushedag, the Mountain of Cush. The Gihon flows to the Land of Cush. Descend the valley, the road rises up, out of the valley and goes through a pass and as it drops down the other side it goes to the town of Ardabil where all the earth quakes are. I went out there and I discovered that all over this region there are villages called Nod. In fact they are called Nod-i (belonging to Nod), like pakistani (belonging to Pakistan), inglesi (belonging to England): "i" of a belonging. The villages are all called of Nod.
This is the Land of Nod of the Bible where Cain is exiled from the garden. So even today, the topper names of this region still reflect the biblical story. It's being there for thousands of years and in the recent millennia people seem to have forgotten. At any rate, according to the written record, nobody seems to have noticed the striking correlations. And those who may have added one and one may have preferred to keep their insights for themselves. But it's also another illustration of the forest you don't see for reason of all the trees in front of you.
Be that as it may, I'm going to take you on a reverse journey now. I'm going to take you not out of Eden into the land of Shinar, but I'm going to take you back to Eden from Shinar. That's the way to go, right? And I'm going to take you in the footsteps of one particular individual whom you may not be familiar with. It's the king of Uruk with the name of Nmeaka who was building a rook in the very earliest periods of history. He's one of Suma's first great builders. He decided that he's going to take his goddess Enana from the mountain kingdom of Arata, bring her down physically and build a new temple for her in Suma. This then became the first zigurat temple, the Tower of Babel, dedicated to Enana. In doing so he had to negotiate with a brother king who was the Lord of Arata. And to do that he sent an emissary back and forth, across the mountains with messages such as: "I want to take the god, please supply me with precious metals, stones etc. for the new temple".
The Lord of Arata will say "please get lost, I'm not sending you anything". Back came the emissary, Nmeaka will implore his brother again and his emissary will be back and forth like this. We're going to follow in the footsteps of that man, going to Arata. And what does Arata sound like to you? Arata, the Assyrian Uratu, it's the same place, and Arata is closely associated with the early stories of Genesis. Ararat is actually part of Eden I should say.
(slide 10) Here is the physical representation of that drawing I did. Here are the two main rivers, Paraf (Euphrates), Hiddekel (Tigris). Their sources are in this region here, whereas the Gihon (Araxis or Aras) and the Uizon (Pishon) are both flowing to the East into this region here which is the Garden of Eden with the Garden River flowing through it.
(slide 11) Now this journey of ours begins in a very famous city closely associated with Daniel. It's the city of Suza, and I set off from there a couple of months ago with my wife and a couple of guides. We left from the tomb of Daniel, we went to see Daniel's tomb and then we set off northwards along the main highway, along the plain and then into an opening in the mountains and along the Sayed Mora Valley over the first range and you go into a series of dips, crossing the range usually through narrow gorges. Now the extra-biblical text tells us that there were seven gates into Eden. And an ancient gate is in fact a mountain pass, that is what it means, so we in fact had to travel through seven passes to get to Eden. There were also seven passes into Arata. The Assyrian army also crossed through seven passes to go to Uratu. These places seem to be all the same place. We are then going to head into the Kermensha Valley which is another interesting sight.
(slide 12) This is a typical biblical gate, if you like. It's a mountain pass through the horizontal ridges that you have to cut across to get North.
(slide 13) The ancient road which Nmeaka's emissaries travelled on is still there today. It is amazing how archeology can still provide us with the evidence on the ground even on the surface like this. The ancient raod leading to the mountains streches on. It actually goes through another pass on to the next mountain range North to the land of Arata.
(slide 14) Here we're now on the main road which follows the regional path, coming into the Kermensha Valley. For historians and linguists this is a very famous location with the Baihiston inscriptions of Rias I. This is where Rolinson, the British archeologist, suspended himself down a cliff and copied these trilingual text in old Persian, Elamite and Aacadian until he was able to decipher Acadian for the very first time and opened up this huge archive of material for us. And that led to the deciphering of Sumerian from there.
Baihiston, in Greek is called Bakistanos, which means mountain of the god. And in fact it has a tremendous religious significance to many different nations. Also, Alexander passed this way once. But this mountain has some very important archeological significance, too because it is in this valley that the first neolithic settlements produced pottery. And who says pottery is not only talking of water but also of wine and wine- making on which recent research has brought us new insights as to its close-by origins. Moreover, pottery is the key to tracing those people out of the mountains into the plain - you simply follow that broken pottery.
(slide 15) This is the valley, you can see the impression one would get if you were a neolithic person living in an environment like that: you know where the gods live, no problems.
(slide 16) As you travel further North traversing that massive, when things become more rugged and the air gets thinner, you still see ancient rest houses along the route. This route has been used for thousands of years leading up North and you cross the bright mountains referred to in Sumerian literature.
(slide 17) On the way, you might arrive at a Zoroastrian site, like this. This is Takhte Suleiman, the throne of Salomon. This seems to be just tradition. At least I know of no evidence to link this with King Salomon - but then again, I haven't really looked for any either! But this gives you an idea of something I could show you later because I didn't get to climb to the top of the real mountain I wanted to show you. But in fact what they say is a volcanic chimney is welled up with water from deep beneath the earth and channels flow out as the source for two of the great rivers in this region, one of them being the Pishon of the Bible, which flows through the land of Havilah. This is in fact the land of Havilah we're in now, rich in gold. And indeed, there is excellent ancient evidence for gold deposits in this region.
Now this idea of an underground source welling up out of a volcanic chimney is the concept which we have to get to grips with if we are going to understand our Part Two. This concept has a name, abzu, which is a Sumerian word from which we get the word abyss which the Oxford dictionary defines as a "hole so deep as to appear bottomless; hell or the lower world". The abyiss is actually water coming from deep inside the earth. In contrast to the salt water of the sea, this is fresh water and as such it is life-giving water. It's seen as the source of life. In Sumerian literature the god of this life is called Enki, Lord of the Earth. The Acadians gave him a different name. As you know, the Acadians are part of the Semitic family and therefore are kins of the Hebrews. The Acadians called him Iya, Ya, for short. Ya, of course, could be considered to be the hypocristic form of Yaweh. But I'm not saying it is so, it's merely a suggestion.
(slide 18) As I said, that little tiny break in the volcanic lava of the well flows down to become the streams of Havilah and then become the Pishon itself flowing into the Caspian Sea.
(slide 19) Eventually, the road leads into a plain to the south of Lake Urmia and this plain here is the land of Arata, the destination of Nmeaka's emissary. The river Arata flows through this region. Now I want you to realise that Mount Ararat has nothing whatsoever to do with Ararat or Uritu or Arata. It's a Christian mountain; it's an invention of later Christianity. It's not the Mountains of Ararat described in the Bible. They are the mountains which we just crossed through: Uratu, Arata known from the extra-biblical texts. It's a mis-location in a sense. Those people who go hunting for the arch in Mount Ararat are mislocating themselves. If you want to find the arch you look somewhere else. Beyond Arata the road passes by the lake, by the great volcano Sahand and into the Valley of Eden with it's swampy marshlands, it's volcanic islands and also the great mountain. And here is the pass leading over to the Land of Nod and the pass leading past the Mountain of Cush into the Land of Cush through which the Gihon flows.
(slide 20) The Urmia is a very impressive lake. It's very large, it's surounded by high mountains, it has no exits and the water disappears. How would a Sumerian or a biblical mind understand that? The rivers flow into it and they don't have any outlets!
(slide 21) Looking down on the valley is this splendid Sahand, the Mount Sahand, the volcano. It has an ancient name which is still preserved in the local texts: it's called the mountain of the Chales. The reason it is called that is because it, too has a fresh water abzu which flows down and becomes a tributary of the Garden of Eden river. It is the source of life in a sense. In one sense at least.
(slide 22) And this is Eden! There are the modern orchards of the place. Remember that this is a heavily industrialised zone now. It has lost most of its character, but you still find them using the terraces of the valley for orchards of every sort. But in prehistory, this would have been a lush valley with lots of trees of all sorts. And as you go up the slope, you still find the bigger trees, the cedars and the oaks. Down the valley are the fruit trees.
(slide 23) And then this is what it looks like today. This is Tabriz. And unfortunately it is smack right on top of the garden. So the chances of excavating that and finding something are pretty remote.
(slide 24) The river of Eden is still there. It doesn't look very nice today, but never mind. An ancient Zazenian bridge over it is still there.
(slide 25) And as we travel North over the Mountain of Cush, we end up in the Land of Cush.
(slide 26) Which is - appropriately on the day I went there - pretty barren and bleak. Outside the garden, all is not well.
(slide 27) We were there at that point. This is Nokdi or Nodi, one of the villages with its name. This is called Upper Nodi and this is called Lower Nodi even today. We went to the mapping centre of the Iranian Government for this governorate and we actually looked at these maps. And there they were: Upper Nodi and Lower Nodi.
(slide 28) We are going to go round now back into Eden, into the Garden, retracing Cain's footsteps. This is the route of exile into the Land of Nod. We're going to go back and I just want to take you towards the top of this mountain.
(slide 29) Now I don't know what to make of this. I don't know how to tie this to the story and I really don't know what to do with it at all. But if you go up this mountain, you'are confronted with something quiet extraordinary. Not only has it got this abzu at the very top of the mountain, but just beneath the summit there is something quiet extraordinary.
(slide 30) There is a village of cave-dwellers actually living above the snow line. They live without any stock - i.e. no live stock, no agriculture, etc. - so except for water, everything they need for their living, they have to carry it from the lowlands up to their mountain perk. And yet they persist to live there.
(slide 31) Actually, they live in dwellings they built into this very strange conical
rock formations. There's got to be a big something which draws them to that place. I, for
one, don't - yet - know what it is.