Was the city of Babel a real place? Why is it so difficult to find it? The answer may be that we’ve been looking in the wrong place. Pottery provides the best evidence for the existence of Babel, and the key to this mystery has been in plain sight for decades. Some archeologists have recognized the Ubaid Period as Babel for some time, but the case needs to be made clearly and shared so that it becomes common knowledge. Let’s make the case.
What would we expect Babel to look like? (Genesis 11:1-9)
- We would expect to find a significant building effort undertaken with a high degree of cooperation and few signs of conflict.
- We would expect it to be located in Shinar, which is Sumer or southern Mesopotamia, by people coming from the East.
- We would expect the world population to be in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, since it took place 101 to 131 years after the Flood, during the days of Peleg.
- We might expect to find signs of spiritual rebellion, such as idolatry and polytheism, since God was not pleased with Babel.
- We would expect to find people migrating in at the beginning and migrating out at the end, plus evidence that construction stopped.
- We would expect that the culture of Babel would have a visible influence on the world around it.
What should we not expect?
- We should not expect to find the name Babel written over the city gates. The name Babel (confusion) was given after the division of languages and dispersal of people.
- We should not expect that people lived only in Babel. That would have meant that for over a century everyone disobeyed God’s command to fill the earth. Scripture does not say that everyone lived in Babel.
Babylon is probably not Babel
- The earliest record of Babylon is during the Akkadian Empire, around the time of Abraham. The earliest archeological remains come centuries after Abraham. Babylon was only a small town, even in its early years, and not a city.
- No pottery style or any other cultural invention came from early Babylon.
- The is no evidence that early Babylon influenced any other settlement.
Eridu is probably Babel
- Eridu, in Iraq, provides abundance archeological evidence that it was the earliest city that can be found anywhere in the world.
- Eridu is recognized in the Sumerian King List as the first city after the Flood and the first kingdom.
- The earliest god, Enki, and the beginnings of polytheism are linked to Eridu.
- There was a temple at Eridu, rebuilt and enlarged multiple times.
- People migrated into Eridu from smaller settlements.
- Irrigated farmland made Eridu a prosperous city.
- Eridu developed its own Ubaid culture that is recognized by Ubaid pottery.
- The historic king Gilgamesh is recognized by many as Nimrod. He was later king at Uruk, 40 miles away, but may have begun at Eridu.
- The Ubaid culture influenced all of southern Mesopotamia and beyond.
- Construction suddenly stopped and the city was abandoned.
- People migrated out of Babel in all directions.
- A dozen cities in Mesopotamia imitated Eridu by using irrigation to become prosperous, building temples, and establishing royal dynasties.
The image above is of a bowl found in grave 136 of the Ubaid Cemetery at Eridu. The image is in the public domain from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It demonstrates the typical dark lines (faded here) on a light background of the Ubaid pottery style. Compare it to pottery from the previous posts and you can see that the quality is diminishing with time rather than evolving. Why would industrialized pottery replace skilled craftsmanship unless basic values changed within the society?
Much has been discovered and written about Ubaid pottery, although from a secular viewpoint. Articles are easily available to you on the Internet. We know that Ubaid pottery can be found for hundreds of miles all around Eridu. Some sites in the north have been described as colonies established by parties sent out from Eridu. We know that Ubaid pottery replaced Hassuna, Samarra, and Half pottery in many places, because it is found in strata above these others, e.g., Tell Brak. While there was some overlap in regional potteries, Ubaid pottery was the first to have a far-reaching, almost world-wide dominance.
Pottery reveals the culture behind it. Ubaid pottery reveals Babel. A new culture began at Babel. It tried to take over the world but was stopped short by God. Farmers and shepherds were replaced by communal irrigation projects and sweat shops. Individualism was replaced by government control. Patriarchs were replaced by kings and dynasties. One God was replaced by many demigods. One language was replaced by many. Is it any wonder that the Bible only uses nine verses to dismiss it as a monumental failure of mankind?
Look at the Ubaid bowl from 4200 years ago. Imagine a young boy or girl being tasked to paint this bowl because their parents are working in the fields and factories of Eridu. They are indoctrinated with visions of unlimited success as they revel in festivals, the likes of which they have never known before. The tradeoff is to abandon the God of their fathers for fantasies about super-human men and women with astonishing powers. All too soon, their utopian dreams will be replaced by the horrors of war, oppression, and abuse. Look and grieve with me for all the lives that have been led astray by the promises of this world, only to realize too late this it is all vanity.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12
Interesting read on this snowy night!