Biblical Paleoarcheology

Meet the Sumerians

What do you know about the Sumerians? Anything?

Article #5
Eridu was Babel, the oldest city known to archeology and the Bible. It was located in Sumer or Biblical Shinar, which is the plain of southern Mesopotamia in present day Iraq, at the mouth of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, just north of the Persian Gulf. The people who lived in Sumer are called Sumerians. Some say that the Sumerians built the first civilization because writing began there and many technological advancements, such as irrigation, weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry suddenly sprang up on an industrial scale. We need to be careful, however, not to give too much honor to the Sumerians. Their success came at a price.

Eridu on the Plain of Shinar

Sumer

The above image from Google Earth shows a satellite rendering of the dark irrigated ground between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. It only measures about 100 miles across and 250 mile in length. The Zagros Mountains of Iran are to the right side of the image. Genesis 11:2 says that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and dwelt there. Who are “they”?  Where did they come from? And why did they decide to live on this plain?

 

Little is known about the early Sumerians. Their own word for their country, ki-en-gi(-r), means the country of the noble lords. They called themselves the black-headed people, whatever that means. Maybe they had jet black hair. Their language was not Semitic or Indo-European because it did not have inflection. DNA has suggested a relationship to the Indus Valley to the East. Others have suggested that they came from Samarra to the North or Arabia or North Africa to the West. So archeologists really have no idea of their place of origin or why they moved there.

 

The Bible can be of help in this situation. It explains who they were and the path they used to get there. Eridu and Uruk are associated with Nimrod, who was the son of Cush and the grandson of Ham. Either Nimrod or Cush would have come from the East, that is, through the seven passes of the Zagros Mountains, and founded Eridu and Uruk. Three other sons of the wayward Ham founded Canaan, Egypt, and Libya, which was North Africa. Thus, the first generation born after the Flood laid the foundations for the Babylonian and Egyptian empires that would later dominate the Middle East.

 

Taken together, the Bible and Archeology teach us who the Sumerians were and why they founded the first city-based civilization. We cannot understand Babylon the Great of the Book of Revelation or the problem of empires in general if we misinterpret the original city. I want to step through this slowly. Next week, let’s see if they really came from the East, as it says in Genesis 11:2. Did the Bible make a mistake, or does archeology support the statement that the Sumerians came from the East?

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