“Yesterday is History,
Tomorrow is a Mystery,
Today is a gift,
This is why we call it Present”
Noah vs Archeology
The story of Noah’s Ark is quite controversial. Three major world religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—believe in Noah and his ark. Did a worldwide flood ever occur? History does show of regional floods in the Mesapotamian area. The mystery of Noah’s Ark may finally be solved. The Turkish government has given permission for an international expedition of archaeologists, forensic scientists, geologists, and glaciologists to climb Mount Arafat this summer, sometime between July 15 and August 15. But first, lets examine the controversy. Below is a survey I found on pollingreport.com, (3rd poll down) that 60% of American adults believe in the Biblical accounts of Noah’s Ark.
ABC News PrimeTime Poll. Feb. 6-10, 2004. adults nationwide.
“I’m going to ask about a few stories in the Bible. [See below.] Do you think that’s literally true, meaning it happened that way word-for-word; or do you think it’s meant as a lesson, but not to be taken literally?”
True Not Unsure
% % %
“The story of Noah and the ark in which it rained for 40 days and nights, the entire world was flooded, and only Noah, his family and the animals on their ark survived.”
60 33 7
“The creation story in which the world was created in six days.”
61 30 8
“The story about Moses parting the Red Sea so the Jews could escape from Egypt.”
64 28 8
“On another subject, do you think all Jews today bear responsibility for the death of Jesus, or not?”
8 80 12
Dawn of Civilization
We start the discussion with the end of the Ice Age and thawing of the ice to the oceans. The waters engulfed land masses, which closed communication and trade between areas. This is the reason for different stages of growth or invention. Climate and geography of land produced different cultures. Neolithic is defined by the presence of sedentary villages and domesticated plant and animals.
- Last Glacial Age
Geologists can reliably trace a series of four Glacial and Inter-glacial periods during the Pleistocene Epoch, that stretched between 2,000,000 to 10,000 years ago. The extent of these Pleistocene glaciers, and particularly the last and fourth is much easier to establish than that of earlier ones, because the glacial landforms and related deposits are not overlaid by extensive blankets of younger sediments. At the peak of the last glacial period, roughly 50,000 years ago, the north pole snow cap spread southward covering Europe down to the Baltic shores, Britain down to the Thames, North America down to New England, and more centrally as far south as Ohio. For thousands of years during these glacier times, enormous volumes of water were withdrawn from the oceans and locked up in the enlarged ice caps of both poles of the globe. This resulted in lowering of the relative levels of seas, causing great areas of land now submerged to be exposed. Continental land masses now separated by water, were then connected by land-bridges, allowing much greater freedom of overland movement than it does today. Britain was joined to the continent along a broad front and America was joined to Asia through the Bering Straits. Northern Australia was connected to the south-east Asian mainland, through Borneo, western Indonesia and New Guinea. The application of radio-carbon analysis has recently shown beyond any doubt, that Australia was first occupied well back in the Late Glacial period.
The Land bridges of Europe and Sicily were covered with the rising water levels, and Europe was separated from Africa, and America from Asia. The Late Stone Age villages on the north of the Mediterranean were no longer connected by land directly with Africa and the Nile valley. Thus the older roads by which they had probably received cattle and grain were closed to them, and no more inventions from Egypt could reach by those routes. Nevertheless, after changing from the hunting life to the settled life beside their grain fields and on their pastures, the Stone Age men of Europe made little or no progress. They were still without writing, (nor did inhabitants of the mainland of Europe ever invent a system of writing), for making the records of business and government; they were still without metal with which to make tools and to develop industries and commerce. Without these things they could go no farther. Meanwhile these and many other possessions of civilization were being discovered or invented on the other side of the Mediterranean in Egypt and Western Asia, in the land which we now call the Near East.
The Agricultural Revolution: Somewhere around 8000 B.C. man began to select, breed, domesticate, and cultivate various species of plants and animals. Wheat and barley were harvested in the Middle East, rice and millet in the Far East, and The harnessing and systemetizing of agriculture and domestication of animals transformed man from a migratory hunter to a sedentary farmer thus giving people control over their food supply. A steady food supply led to a population explosion since children became useful (for the first time) as agricultural workers. This, in turn, gave rise to the emergence of the first cities and the earliest civilizations.
- Neolitic Agriculture
Around the world, societies tamed the plants and animals at hand, but didn’t embrace full-scale farming until thousands of years later.
- Organized Agriculture
This brings us back to the more likely explanation that modern agriculture spread around the world from one particular area and there seems little doubt that food production and town life spread from Western Asia in the area between the Himalayas and the Mediterranean not later than 8000 B.C. Even this is a ‘best guess’ based on known information as a new discovery recently discovered deep beneath the seas in the Gulf of Cambay off the coast of Gujarat in India, suggests an advanced civilisation 9000 B.C. or even earlier. This, and possibly other cities would have been destroyed by flood waters as the Ice Age ended, fitting in with the mystical suggestions of cataclysm around 10,500 B.C. and even Plato’s fabled lost island of Atlantis.
There was plenty of impetus for the growth of communities as excess produce first became the key to trade and then as a sign of wealth and largesse. This theory is supported by clear evidence that cereal production around world is descended from three crops which originated in South East Turkey and the Upper Jordan Valley. The best emmer came from the latter and both barley and einkorn from the former to become the ancestors of modern crops.
Cradle of Civilization
Mesopotamia is considered the “cradle of civilization”. I would define civilization as a community having an organized government and religion, system of writing (not pictures), division of labor, and surplus food. A system of writing came last, developing after languages evolved. Cities began to evolve around 8000BC. Sumer is the earliest known civilization. Sumers original inhabitants were Ubaidians. The Ubaidian culture was already quite advanced for that time, and had a large variety of unique farming techniques. Between 4000 and 3000 BC Sumer was infiltrated by many nomadic tribes. This constant movement of peoples caused a cross-fertilization of culture. Technology from many different regions were becoming centralized in Sumer. By 3800 BCE the Sumerians supplanted the Ubaidians and Semites. The Sumerian priesthood developed an early mathematics for commercial and religious purposes, and their number system was based around the number 60. Thus time itself is divided into units of 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and so forth. The 24-hour day also originates with Sumerian calendars, as does the 360-degree circle. About the same time cultures were evolving in the Indus Valley (map, writing), Egypt and China (Shang, inventions, Silk Road).
The religion of the ancient Sumerians has left its mark on the entire middle east. Not only are its temples and ziggurats scattered about the region, but the literature, cosmogony and rituals influenced their neighbors to such an extent that we can see echoes of Sumer in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition today. From these ancient temples, and to a greater extent, through cuneiform writings of hymns, myths, lamentations, and incantations, archaeologists and mythographers afford the modern reader a glimpse into the religious world of the Sumerians.
Each city housed a temple that was the seat of a major god in the Sumerian pantheon, as the gods controlled the powerful forces which often dictated a human’s fate. The city leaders had a duty to please the town’s patron deity, not only for the good will of that god or goddess, but also for the good will of the other deities in the council of gods. The priesthood initially held this role, and even after secular kings ascended to power, the clergy still held great authority through the interpretation of omens and dreams. Many of the secular kings claimed divine right.
“Each Sumerian city-state had its own local god, who was regarded as its ‘king’ and owner. It also had a human ruler, the steward of the divine sovereign, who led the people in serving the deity. The local god, in return, was expected to plead the cause of his subjects among his fellow deities who controlled the forces of nature such as wind and weather, water, fertility, and the heavenly bodies. Nor was the idea of divine ownership treated as a mere pious fiction; the god was quite literally believed to own not only the territory of the city-state but also the labor power of the population and its products. All these were subject to his commands, transmitted to the people by his human steward. The result was an economic system that has been dubbed ‘theocratic socialism,’ a planned society whose administrative center was the temple. It was the temple that controlled the pooling of labor and resources for communal enterprises, such as the building of dikes or irrigation ditches, and it collected and distributed a considerable part of the harvest. All this required the keeping of detailed written records. Hence… the texts of early Sumerian inscriptions deal very largely with economic and administrative rather than religious matters, although writing was a priestly privilege.”
Laws governing private as well as public and political life were written up in Mesopotamia as early as 2250 B.C. Unfortunately, most of these early documents have been preserved in very fragmentary condition, so that only a few phases of early law and procedure are now known to us. The following fragments date from the Akkadian through the Neo-Babylonian periods.
The cultural development or Sumer and Elam ran parallel. A script was in use in Elam (Kerman) simultaneous to the first pictorial writing in Ur (3000 B.C.). Temple structures in both areas had the same ziggurat form, the man-made mountain reminiscent of their highland origins. Many cultic and religious habits were the same throughout Mesopotamia; the snake cult of Elam however was distinct and foreign.
The word ‘Mesopotamia’ is in origin a Greek name (mesos ‘middle’ and ‘potamos’ – ‘river’ so ‘land between the rivers’). Mesopotamia is the oldest known civilization. It is the name used for the area watered by the Euphrates and Tigris and its tributaries, roughly comprising modern Irak and part of Syria. South of modern Bagdad, the alluvial plains of the rivers was called the land of Sumer and Akkad in the third millennium.
- Bronze Age
- Timeline of European History 2525 – 2301 B.C.
Bronze Age – period which corresponds to the flourishing of the first ancient civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Mediterranean in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. Named for the widespread use of bronze technology, primarily for weapons and ritual objects. Period is characterized by the rise of state societies, cities, and a great deal of warfare.
2,500 B.C. The Hittite (Luwian, Palaic and Nesite) people are believed to occupy the area north of the Black and Caspian Seas and begin to radiate out from this general location to Persia, India, Asia Minor and into Europe. They are believed to have originated from the Asianics an unknown peoples to the far East. Their use of the chariot gave them great mobility. The Hittites worshipped a storm God and protected the individual rights of their citizens. They were good administrators and capable statesmen and diplomats.
Caucasian men settled in Japan, their decedents are called Ainu and they are forced to the northern island of Hukkaido. Most Japanese do not realize that they are not native to these Islands.
Egyptian and Anatolia (Greek) people shared a common belief in life after death. The Greeks practiced cremation whereas this was not practiced in Egypt. The Greeks had freedom of thought and the Egyptians had a very centralized rigid society. The people of Elba, Anatplia (Greece) and other towns are occupied by a Semitic Sumero-Akkadian type people called the West Semitic. It is suggested the West Semitic may have occupied this region since 2800 B.C. or earlier.
The Mesopotamians wrote on clay tablets with long reeds while the clay was still wet. The fresh clay then hardened and a permanent record was created. The original Mesopotamian writings were crude pictures of the objects being named, but the difficulty of drawing on fresh clay eventually produced the wedges and hooks unique to cuneiform. This writing would be formed by laying the length of the reed along the wet clay and moving the end nearest the hand from one side to another to form the hooks. Cuneiform is not a language but a system of syllabic notation, a style of writing. Seals (different link) or tokens came before writing. The Akkadian cuneiform script was adapted from Sumerian cuneiform in about 2350 BC.
Notations on stone, bone and clay have been known from as far back as 18,000 B.P., according to Marija Gimbutas in “The Language of the Goddess”, but true writing did not come into being until the oldest known clay tablets were written in the City of Uruk some time before 3000 B.C. in a pictographic script. This script evolved into the extremely durable cuneiform script by 2,800 B.C., which was used on clay for close to 3,000 years. The first translation efforts were made around 1850 but no real progress was made until 1923 when the first Sumerian grammar appeared. In the intervening period, masses of clay tablets had been found and distributed to museums around the world. Many were treated as curiosities, carelessly dug up, stored without protection and often separated from the ones they were found with and even knocked in half to bring in more money. Much effort has now gone into reading them, but there still remains a massive amount to be done. In the meantime, the present political uncertainty in Iraq has seen to it that excavation was effectively stopped, but whole libraries are still thought to await the spade.
Inventing New Languages Somewhere in the Sahara the center of the first civilization on earth had developed and all people were taught the same highly developed language. Those migrants who subsequently settled in the Fertile Crescent, Anatolia, the Ukraine and the Indus valley therefore all spoke the same Sahara language: “Now the whole world spoke one language (Genesis 11:1)”. In the areas where male domination had taken hold priest/scholars were assigned to develop new languages which had no likeness to the original. The people settling in the Indus valley taught the Sahara language to the endemic population which today is spoken in the unmanipulated Dravidian family of languages. The first efforts of manipulating the foundation language were probably made in Sumeria and at first were quite unorganized, some using the original Saharan vowel-interlocking agglutination formula while others just put original words together, or combinations of both systems.
Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, explains as follows the reasons why it is now held that writing spread from Mesopotamia to Egypt. Mesopotamia provides data that illustrates the step by step evolution of data processing from 8000 B.C. to the present. Clay counters of many shapes – tokens – were used to count goods in early agricultural communities from 8000 to 3000 B.C.. When the Mesopotamian script written on clay tablets appeared, coinciding with the rise of the state, about 3200 B.C., it visibly evolved from the token system. Tokens and writing had an identical function. Both served strictly for accounting the same types of goods, namely small cattle, cereals, oil, textiles, etc. The written signs were traced in the shape of tokens, bearing the same markings. The signs were organized using the same order as the previous tokens. Apparently, about 3100 B.C., the Mesopotamian state administration required that the names of the individuals, that either received or gave the goods stipulated, be entered on the accounting tables. These personal names could not easily be written logographically without the risk of overburdening the system. In order to solve the problem, the accountants resorted to writing individuals’ names phonetically. This brought writing to a new course that, in the course of centuries or even millennia, developed into the cuneiform syllabaries (1 sign = 1 syllable) used by the Babylonians and Assyrians.
The peoples of the Tigris-Euphrates region made up legends about Gilgamesh “to explain, as it were, themselves, ” and 7 centuries after Gilgamesh ruled, Shin-eqi-unninni wrote them down. Shin-eqi-unninni was a scribe, a proto-librarian, and he didn’t use a ballpoint or word processor, since the cutting-edge communications technology back then was making impressions in soft clay tablets with, well, a cutting edge. This was cuneiform writing, which comes from the Latin word “cuneus,” which means “wedge.” A thin, wedge-shaped tool was used to make arrowhead-like impressions that was the first form of writing. The “Encyclopedia Britannica” says cuneiform writing was created around 3,000 BC, probably by the Sumerians in Uruk, but these were “lists and ledgers of commodities” that used “the rebus principle; i.e. the use of pictographic shapes to evoke in the reader’s mind an underlying sound form rather than the basic notion of the drawn object.” Gradually cuneiform became more phonetic, but it was blown out of the water by Proto-Canaanite, which the AncientScripts.com website calls “the first consonantal alphabet.”
The Canaanite people of the Sinai region drew their alphabet from the Egyptians, who conquered them in 1700 B.C. Egyptian hieroglyphs had phonetic values, but the Canaanites didn’t mimic the Egyptian system, but randomly selected their conquerors’ symbols to represent consonants in their spoken language. The Phoenician alphabet was an immediate descendent of Proto-Canaanite, with the major adaptation of redrawing the Canaanites’ flourishes into more linear symbols. The Canaanites’ first letter, for example, looked like a cow’s head seen from the side, sort of like a sausage, complete with horns. The Phoenicians made this into a sideways “V” with a straight vertical line through it. The Greeks made the “V” point up, and that became our letter “A”. The Greeks, of course, added vowels to those old consonants, and then writing really took off.
A number of the tablets from Nippur, some bearing thumbprints and even tooth-marks, offer glimpses into schooldays gone by. Scribal schools—there was no other kind— “were limited to upper-class children, and they probably had to pay,” explains Sjöberg. “We think the thumbprints were left when the teacher smoothed out the clay to erase a word a student wrote incorrectly.” No one is certain why one tablet was bitten in half, but students’ written complaints of harsh discipline are well known, and perhaps there is a connection. For those who graduated, the payoff was great in a society of which they were just about the only literate members. But the school examinations were apparently severe. “Do you know multiplication, reciprocals, coefficients, balancing of accounts, how to make all kinds of pay allotments, divide property and delimit shares of fields?” asks Sjöberg, quoting a bilingual Sumerian-Akkadi-an tablet that lists a math curriculum.
“Sumerian is a very difficult and obtuse language, ” says Tinney. “It has no relatives, living or dead. The script is not syllabic, let alone alphabetic—it’s logographic, like Chinese.”
“The language consists of a repetition of signs, 600 common ones and 2000 or so if you add the obscure ones. Handwritings differed and sign values changed over time, and a given sign might have eight or nine different meanings. There is no punctuation and no space between the words. There are strings of signs with hundreds of possibilities. To cope, you need a mind that rapidly sorts out all the possibilities and picks the right one. Reading Sumerian is an art.” The origins of the Sumerians themselves are purely hypothetical. There is a general belief, however, that they arrived in Mesopotamia from the mountains to the east about 3500 BC. And it’s clear from archeological digs that they found already settled Semitic peoples there and prospered among them.
- Introduction to Biblical Archeology
- Ancient Economies
- The Garden of Eden
- Women in Mesopotamia
- Words Referenced Elsewhere
- Islamic Alchemy in the context of Islamic Science
- Religion and the Founding of the American Republic
- The Roots of the New Age Movement
- The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race
- Metal Sources and Metallurgy In the Biblical World
- Ancient Jordan
Bible & Quran
The Qur’an (also known as the Koran) is the primary sacred text of Islam. A sura is a section or chapter of the Quran, 114 total. Suras are subdivided into verses. Judaism refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible known as the “Tanakh:” Torah, Prophets, Writings. Judaism of today is radically different from the biblical representation. The break came with the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 1st century C.E. In the aftermath, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai created an alternative system based on a spiritual, decentralized, mobile leadership, without priests or a temple, and focused on prayer instead of animal sacrifice. Christianity originated in the first century AD. The Christian Bible is a collection of books written over thousands of years. Many different authors contributed to the Bible and the process of selecting what books went into it is called the canonization of Scripture.
To really understand the Bible and what it intends to say to present generations, it is necessary to understand who wrote it and why, and the cultural context in which it was written. The overriding theme of the Bible storylines is the theme of cultural conquest. Conquest by the Hebrews over their enemy neighbors, culturally by the Jews over the Israelites (used here to mean members of the ten “lost” tribes), the Christians over the Jews, the Catholics over the Gnostics, Marcionites, and other pre-Catholic factions, and on and on. In some cases, the conquest is recorded as a historical, often military event. In others, it merely is recorded as a change in content and context, an alteration of the storyline and outlook and worldview. The effect of its origins as selected parts of whole bodies of scripture, written by at least a hundred and fifty different people in dozens of different places at different times, many centuries apart, and for different reasons, colors what its authors wrote.
Scholars have traced the roots of many of the Old Testament stories to the ancient, pagan myths of the ancient Mesopotamian cultures. In the Fertile Crescent, the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in present-day Iraq, gave birth to some of the worlds first civilizations.
In this early flowering of civilization, many religious myths abounded, seeking to explain what was then unexplainable. From this context comes the oldest complete literary work we have, the age of which we are certain, dating back at least 7,000 years. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a lengthy narrative of heroic mythology that incorporates many of the religious myths of Mesopotamia, and it is the earliest complete literary work that has survived.
Many of the stories in that epic were eventually incorporated into the book of Genesis. Borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh are stories of the creation of man in a wondrous garden, the introduction of evil into a naive world, and the story of a great flood brought on by the wickedness of man, that flooded the whole world.
Noah’s Ark & Epic of Giglamesh
The story of Noah’s Ark in the Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh are similar. Both deal with a deluge and the destruction of mankind and his wickedness. Both stories have a covenant with God. The Sumerian flood story is preserved on a six-columned tablet from Nippur (B 10637), only the lower third of which is preserved. The complete original would probably have had 260 lines. The tablet can be dated by its script to the late 17th century BC. The story inscribed on the tablet deals with the creation of humans and animals, the antediluvian cities and their rulers, and the flood. This clay tablet, is known as the Nippur Tablet.
An area of criticism applied by Muslim apologists against the Holy Bible and in support of the Quran is the issue of Noah’s flood. Following the example set by Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book, The Bible, the Qur’an & Science, Muslims assert that whereas the Holy Bible wrongly teaches a universal flood the Quran however, in agreement with both modern science and archeology, affirms that the flood during Noah’s time was a local event. The Quran clearly teaches that the flood only affected the people of Noah and did not stretch across the entire globe.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest story known to us. It is known as a folk tale, because it contains many individual stories which comprise the whole. It was originally written on Sumerian clay tablets, circa 2700 BC using a type of script called “Cuneiform” which when translated means “wedge-shaped”. The story began as five individual narrative poems, and by the old Babylonian period, many additional stories and poems were compiled. It was later reconstructed by Sin-leqe-unninni of Babylon (circa 2000BC) into the twelve tablets we have today. Scholars believe that the events surrounding the Epic occurred somewhere around 3500 BC.
The most complete surviving version is in the Akkadian language, and was found in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria (669-633 BC), at Nineveh. The library was destroyed by the Persians in 612 BC, and all the tablets were damaged. So parts of the story are missing.
Gilgamesh: Fame haunts the man who visits Hell, who lives to tell my entire tale identically. So like a sage, a trickster or saint, GILGAMESH was a hero who knew secrets and saw forbidden places The Bible is best understood by knowing the background to the myths of ancient Mesopotamia. Gilgamesh may be one of the oldest epics.
Gilgamesh is thought to be an ancient ruler, actual flesh and blood, yes? Is Enkidu also real in this sense?
I don’t see why not. According to Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux, they are just now finding evidence that Gilgamesh (like Dumuzi) are not story heroes, but actually kings that may have lived in the early Uruk Period (3750-3150B.C)I think the stories reflect the culture who is carving the tablet as much as the oral tradition they are apparently representing. Some of the tablets weren’t actually written until the later Jamdar Nasr period 3150-2900 B.C. Any mention of Ishtar, though, would tell me the story being told came from a Babylonian storyteller which would take us to another 1,000 years later. Once a Babylonian tells the tale, it makes the story almost 2,000 years after the man actually lived.
00goddess has already mentioned the En in the name makes him a priest. In the epic he starts as a best friend, as the story progresses, though, he takes on the attributes Ninshubur did to Inanna — more of a servant class.
In Sumer’s beginnings, at the time Gilgamesh and Dumuzi lived, kings were elected from ordinary people. There was no aristocracy. A man proved his worth in battle or cunning. As the settlements developed and the commonwealth surrounded the temple more and more, the En became more important until they were the very center of civilization and were extremely prosperous.
Where there are no signs of aggressive takevoer in the earlier Mesopotamian cultures such as the Ubaids, Halafs, Samarras and Hassunas (we’re talking 2,000 years of perhistory), Sargon the Great, aggressively unified northern Akkad with southern Sumer. He was no priest but instead was an empire builder. Sargon is recorded to have said that he’d know he’d conquered Sumer when he destroyed the wall of Gilgamesh. It was after this the role of En began to decline in status and the kings took a greater role once again in the administration of the government. Cities were no longer autonomous little countries (city-states), but interdependent.
Stories do not need to inform us of anything. They do inform us of things. From The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, we know something of the people who lived in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the second and third millenniums BCE. We know they celebrated a king named Gilgamesh; we know they believed in many gods; we know they were self-conscious of their own cultivation of the natural world; and we know they were literate. These things we can fix — or establish definitely. But stories also remind us of things we cannot fix — of what it means to be human. They reflect our will to understand what we cannot understand, and reconcile us to mortality.
To see for ourselves the meaning of a story, we need, first of all, to look carefully at what happens in the story; that is, we need to look at it as if the actions and people it describes actually took place or existed. We can articulate the questions raised by a character’s actions and discuss the implications of their consequences. But we need to consider, too, how a story is put together — how it uses the conventions of language, of events with beginnings and endings, of description, of character, and of storytelling itself to reawaken our sensitivity to the real world. The real world is the world without conventions, the unnameable, unrepresentable world — in its continuity of action, its shadings and blurrings of character, its indecipherable patterns of being. The stories that mean most to us bring us back to our own unintelligible and yet immeasurably meaningful lives.
There is very little information on ships or boats of the timeframe 2900 BC, when the biblical flood was to have taken place. The dimensions (informative site – index page) of Noah’s Ark is 300 x 50 x 30 cubits.
The history of modern day sea going ships can be traced back to ancient Egyptian prototypes and their squared sails. As the idea of water transportation was being developed, the Egyptians first turned to a simple watercraft known as the reed ship. This primitive vessel consisted of bundles of reeds, since timber was scarce in the Nile valley. Although there were many unique shapes to these reed ships, each variety had one significant commonality the square sail. This alternative form of power decreased the amount of man-labor on these vessels. Once this watercraft was constructed, it evolved into a number of differing ships, varying in shape and function. One of these variations was used for transportation, which was developed around 2700 BC. These cargo ships were primarily utilized in the shipping of stone.
The canals were constantly used as highways. Beginning in the historical period, the sail seems to have existed as an auxiliary; in most cases boats were driven by oars or were towed…Every large city had a regulatory agency (called the “Wharf”, after the name of the place where it conducted its operations) for maritime transactions; from this we can deduce the degree of organization of river commerce. The commercial ships, often rented, that travelled up and down the canals did not have a large capacity; in the time of Dynasty III of Ur, mention is made of loads from 900 to 2,500 liters of grain.
Salonen stressed that the first ships in the twin river country were reed-ships, and that, with them as models, the earliest wooden ships were built later… First of all he assembles references to the ma-gur, which he refers to as “the sea-going ship,… the ship with high bow and stern.” This, he says, was the type depicted in the oldest ideographs for “ship” before the cuneiform script was invented. It is also the traditional vessel incised on the earliest Sumerian cylinder seals…
Salonen… has no comment on the kind of reeds used for the original sea-going ma-gur of Mesopotamia. He translates the Babylonian word for reed-ship, elep urbati, into German as Papyrus-boot, but there is no evidence that true papyrus ever grew in Mesopotamia. For botanical reasons we cannot escape the conclusion that the sea-going Sumerian reed-ships were built from the same burdi as that which dominates the local marshes today. It was now up to us to find out whether burdi cut in August might not float just as well as papyrus.
Archeologists believe that a light-skinned, dark-haired Sumerian people migrated south from the Caspian Sea about 8500 BC, settling along the delta where the Tigris and Euphrates empty into the Arabian Gulf. Trade was absolutely vital for civilization here, because the only natural resources were water and mud. There wasn’t any stone, metal or timber. People had to figure out what they could produce that others wanted, so mutually beneficial exchange could take place. The original name of the Euphrates was Urudu, meaning “copper river” — reflecting its early role as an artery for copper trade. Sumerian traders — some of whom were women — invented sailboats, so they could travel long distances. They organized caravans to bring their trading partners manufactured goods like tools and weapons. Traders pooled their capital, shared the risks and profits of long distance commerce. It was in this vortex of trade that writing developed.
“Through their trading expeditions in search of raw materials, especially metal and perhaps other commodities,” wrote economic historian Rondo Cameron, “the Mesopotamian city states stimulated the nascent civilizations of Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean area, Anatolia, and the Indus Valley.”
Since at least 7000 BC, Jericho was a major commercial center. It was located on a natural trade route between Anatolia, which had obsidian, and Beidha — a village to the south which supplied sea shells and hematite, an iron oxide valued for its red color. Jericho’s principal resource was Dead Sea salt, used to help preserve food. Jericho tombs, filled with furniture, textiles, dishes and even food, provided the earliest evidence of material culture in Palestin.
Europe’s first great civilization arose from trade. Beginning perhaps around 7000 BC, a resourceful maritime people established themselves in Crete. British archeologist Arthur Evans directed the excavations which revealed a 1,500-room palace at Knossos, and he dubbed the Bronze Age people Minoans. The best guess is they came from Asia Minor. The Minoans became great raiders who dominated the Aegean. They brought copper from Cyprus, tin from Asia Minor. Many Egyptian objects were unearthed at Knossus, while Minoan pottery made its way to Egypt. In Eastern Crete, archeologists discovered diorite from the Nile Valley and elephant tusks from Syria. Minoan artifacts suggest an abundance of grain, olives and wine. Houses had terra cotta plumbing. Minoan frescoes depict royal personalities, athletic youths and a lot of attractive, outgoing women who mingle comfortably with men. The Minoans thrived between about 3000 BC and 1450 BC when their civilization was suddenly destroyed, perhaps by earthquakes and tidal waves following ferocious explosions at the volcanic island Thera, about 70 miles north of Crete.
Archeology and Science
In this paper, a novel theory of Noah’s flood is presented which is based upon the desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea Basin. This hypothesis assumes that Noah’s flood was a local event which occurred in the Mediterranean basin when it was a desiccated desert. The prediluvial events are postulated to have taken place in the eastern Mediterranean. This hypothesis explains the biblical references to lack of rain, dividing rivers, and water coming out of the earth based on natural causes. The geological and anthropological data are incorporated.
Finally, the last oddity of the early Genesis record is the Noachian Flood. It is one of those biblical events that makes many people uncomfortable because there has never been a widely accepted explanation for the physical cause of the events described. Scientists reject the whole notion; conservative Christians, if they think about it at all, generally accept the notion of a global flood. Others simply say that it is a legend about a Mesopotamian flood. Those who wish to hold to scriptural historicity are forced to develop a theory for the mechanism of these events. The fact that Jesus spoke of the Flood in Matthew 24 makes it far more difficult to ignore the issue. If the Son of God spoke of the Flood as a real event, then it must have been a real event; it cannot be relegated to the status of myth without doing damage to Jesus’s claim of divinity. On the other hand, those who know geology know that there is little or no evidence in the geologic record for the deluge. For one who prefers biblical historicity and is in the geological sciences, the tension between these two demands can be quite difficult.
Why is there no mention of the Flood in the records of Egyptian or Mesopotamian civilizations which existed at the time? Biblical dates (I Kings 6:1, Gal 3:17, various generation lengths given in Genesis) place the Flood 1300 years before Solomon began the first temple. We can construct reliable chronologies for near Eastern history, particularly for Egypt, from many kinds of records from the literate cultures in the near East. These records are independent of, but supported by, dating methods such as dendrochronology and carbon-14. The building of the first temple can be dated to 950 B.C. +/- some small delta, placing the Flood around 2250 B.C. Unfortunately, the Egyptians (among others) have written records dating well back before 2250 B.C. (the Great Pyramid, for example dates to the 26th century B.C., 300 years before the Biblical date for the Flood). No sign in Egyptian inscriptions of this global flood around 2250 B.C.
Circa 5650 to 5500 BCE: Warmth and rain returned once more. The New Euxine lake was still landlocked and fresh. But the Mediterranean Sea and Sea of Marmara had gradually risen to a level some 426 feet (130 meters) higher than the lake. It was held back only by a small rise of land at the Bosporus River — now the Bosporus Straight near present-day Istanbul, Turkey.
Eventually, the ocean level rose high enough to slosh over into the Euxine Lake. It would have cut a small channel down to the lake. “The rivulet became a gentle brook, flowing ever more swiftly, scouring and tugging more forcefully at the bottom and walls of its channel.” In a short time, the flow would reach 10 cubic miles of water per day — 200 times the flow of the present Niagara Falls. Its velocity would have reached 50 miles per hour (over 80 km/hour)! Its noise would have been audible 120 miles (200 km) away. The lake level would have risen about six inches a day. The shoreline would have expanded up to a mile each day in some areas. The effect on the multiple cultures who had settled on the lake shore would have been catastrophic.
Other research has suggested that a zone between the mantle and the crust also contain a great deal of water, the Japanese researchers noted. If so, there could be more than ten times the amount of water inside the planet as there is on its surface.
From the earliest efforts at permanent settlement in the Ancient Near East, people were attracted to the rivers and streams that ultimately would dictate population distribution between the mountains, deserts, and the seas. The flood plains of many of these rivers originally were inhospitable with thick, tangled jungles, wild beasts, and unpredictable flooding and disease. However, within the areas of plain and lowland that provided a more constant food supply and ease of movement, the need for a permanent water source attracted settlers to the river banks. Thus the early river civilizations of the Nile, the Tigris, and Euphrates starting about 3000 B.C., and the Indus civilization slightly later, resulted in response to the challenges and benefits these important waterways presented. Flood control, social and economic organization, and invention of writing as a means of communication developed. Trade was facilitated by means of navigable waterways. Since roads followed the lines of least resistance, the pattern of early trade routes conformed closely, especially in more rugged terrain, to channels and courses of the rivers and streams, and along the shoreline where the earliest fishing villages developed.
The gods had decided to destroy mankind. The god Enlil warned the priest-king Ziusudra (“Long of Life”) of the coming flood by speaking to a wall while Ziusudra listened at the side. He was instructed to build a great ship and carry beasts and birds upon it. Violent winds came, and a flood of rain covered the earth for seven days and nights. Then Ziusudra opened a window in the large boat, allowing sunlight to enter, and he prostrated himself before the sun-god Utu. After landing, he sacrificed a sheep and an ox and bowed before Anu and Enlil. For protecting the animals and the seed of mankind, he was granted eternal life and taken to the country of Dilmun, where the sun rises.
I do not believe Moses wrote all the books of Genesis. It is a compilation of books written by more than one author. Scribes wrote from oral history. As one civilization conquered another, another scribe would quote what an earlier scribe had written and possibly edit changes. Scribes had access to libraries of the conquered. I do not believe Noah’s three sons and their wives repopulated the whole earth. Archeological wise, there is no break in technology of that time period around 3000 BC. A flood of some sort did happen that was told thruout the centuries by oral tradition. Some mention of that flood is buried on a clay tablet in either Iraq or Iran!! We may never know the truth.
Early civilization of the Sumerian was a theocracy, where by priests and priestesses played an important role in ruling the city-states. Geography and annual flooding created an attitude of uncertainty and fatalism, which is reflected in their literature and art. The priests ruled on behalf of the gods, they were the keepers of learning. Eventually power passed to kings, in large part due to constant warfare. Some kings may have been elected from the merchant class. Priests consulted with an advisory group or assembly of elders to elect a warrior chief for short periods of crisis. This is reflected in the creation myth describing the election of Enlil to the rank of ‘champion of the gods’ for a specific purpose — waging war. The ruler Gilgamesh may have had scribes create a story about himself, storytelling at that time was done in poetry. Oral history told of a great flood that happened centuries before. The flood was a six day thunderstorm, localized flooding on the Euphrates river. The ark was a barge (platoons roped together), hauling grain, livestock and beer. Each time the bible was translated into a different language, the scribe adjusted the text to best serve his own purpose. I would say that the scribes who recorded Genesis were exiled Jews. One may have read this story in a library of a conquered nation, being a scribe of a king in power. Hence, the story of Noah’s Ark. Written at a time when mankind was in moral decay.