There Were Giants Upon The Earth (cont.)
By Zecharia Sitchen
The excavations at Lagash and Nippur, requiring continuous archaeological efforts year after year after year, revealed the existence of major urban centers in Sumer that rivaled in size the Babylonian and Assyrian sites in the north, even though the ones in Sumer were older by more than a thousand years. The existence of walled sacred precincts, each with a skyscraping ziggurat, indicated a high level of ancient building technology that preceded and served as a model for the Babylonians and Assyrians. The ziggurats—literally ‘That which rises high’—rose in several steps (usually seven) to heights that could reach 90 meters. They were built of two kinds of mud bricks—sun-dried for high-rise cores, and kiln-burned for extra strength for stairways, exteriors, and overhangs; the size, shape, and curvature of the bricks varied to fit their function; and they were held together with bitumen as mortar. (Modern laboratory tests show that kiln-burnt mud bricks are fivefold stronger than sun-dried ones.)
The discovered ziggurats literally confirmed the biblical statement in Genesis 11:1–4 regarding the construction methods of the settlers in Shine’ar after the Deluge:
And the whole Earth was of one language
and one kind of words.
And it came to pass,
as they journeyed from the east,
that they found a plain in the land of Shine’ar
and they settled there.
And they said unto each other:
Come, let us make bricks,
and burn them thoroughly.
And the brick served them for stone,
and bitumen served them for mortar.
And they said:
Come, let us build us a city,
and a tower whose head shall reach heaven.
In lands like Canaan, where stones were used for building and lime is still used as mortar (for they lack bitumen), the reference to bricks and brick-making technology (“burn them thoroughly”) and to bitumen (which seeps out of the ground in southern Mesopotamia)—represent a remarkably detailed and amazing knowledge of past events in a stone-less land like Sumer. Uncovering ancient Sumer, the archaeologists’ spades were corroborating the Bible.
Beside the various technological accomplishments of those settlers in the plain between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers—they also included the wheel and wagon, the kiln, metallurgy, medicines, textiles, multicolored apparel, musical instruments—there were countless other ‘firsts’ of what are still deemed essential aspects of an advanced civilization. They included a mathematical system called sexagesimal (‘Base 60’) that initiated the circle of 360°, timekeeping that divided day/night into 12 ‘double-hours’, a luni-solar calendar of 12 months properly intercalated with a 13th leap month, geometry, measurement units of distance, weight and capacity, an advanced astronomy with planetary, star, constellation, and zodiacal knowledge, law codes and courts of law, irrigation systems, transportation networks and customs stations, dance and music (and musical notes), even taxes—as well as a social organization based on kingship and a religion centered at temples with prescribed festivals and a specialized priesthood. Additionally, the existence of scribal schools and temple and royal libraries indicated astounding levels of intellectual and literary achievements.
The Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer, in his trailblazing book History Begins At Sumer (1956), described twenty-seven of those Firsts, including the First Legal Precedent, the First Moral Ideals, the First Historian, the First Love Song, the First ‘Job’, and so on—all culled from Sumerian inscribed clay tablets. Actual archaeological finds of artifacts, and pictorial depictions, enhance and affirm that extensive textual record.
The realization in Europe and America of all of that served to increase the pace of uncovering Sumer; and the more archaeologists dug, the more they found themselves facing earlier and earlier times.
A site, called Bismaya, was excavated by an expedition of the University of Chicago. It was an ancient Sumerian city called Adab. Remains of temples and palaces were found there, with objects bearing votive inscriptions; some identified a king of Adab named Lugal-Dalu, who reigned there circa 2400 B.C.
At mounds grouped around the locally named Tell Uhaimir, French archaeologists uncovered the ancient Sumerian city of Kish, with remains of two ziggurats; they were built of unusual convex bricks; a tablet inscribed in early Sumerian script identified the temple as dedicated to the god Ninurta, Enlil’s warrior son. The earliest ruins, dated to the Very Early Dynastic period, included a palace of “monumental size”; the building was columned—a rarity in Sumer. The finds in Kish included remains of wheeled wagons and metal objects. Inscriptions identified two kings by their names—Mes-alim and Lugal-Mu; it was later determined that they reigned at the start of the 3rd millennium B.C.
Excavations at Kish were resumed after World War I by Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Among their finds were some of the earliest examples of cylinder seal impressions. (In 2004 the Field Museum launched a project to unify, digitally on computers, the more than 100,000 Kish artifacts that have been dispersed between Chicago, London, and Baghdad.)