Statue of Gilgamesh holding a lion.
Nobody knows more than each of you registered followers of this blog that I fixated years ago upon the Ubaid material horizon in Southern Mesopotamia (6500 to 3800 BC). I believe what happened during that period led to the emergence of Western Civilization over the past 6,000 years. And although we investigated every available facet of their culture, which is limited to the material horizon, I never felt I knew how they lived i.e. what motivated them after they mastered irrigated farming and produced enough food to support specialized craftsmen. I was never satisfied that I understood their longevity as a culture, and had virtually no insight into their spiritual milieu, which I consider the core of any culture.
Of course, writing a novel about them and their neighbors drove me to fill this gap in my understanding—and I’ve just this year uncovered that crucial missing link. The answer comes from multiple sources and disciplines where I’d not usually look i.e. not from scientific archaeology. First, let’s put aside their religious practices, for religion is best described as mankind’s efforts to make themselves acceptable: first to themselves, and second to various forms of higher powers. What I want to know is where did they think their world came from—and thus where did they think they themselves came from. Pursuit of those subjects takes people out of themselves and into an unseen realm.
To most of you, I’m certain you have made some decision about this issue for your own sanity. At one extreme, your decision might be a nihilistic materialism where you are nothing more than a piece of flotsam living day to day, striving to satisfy your appetite of the moment. At the other extreme, you might think there is a creator without whom there would be nothing, and who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Or you might have decided not to decide, but in fact thinking it’s somewhere between the extremes. What you believe is very important—for only the right answer will do if there is, indeed, a creator who has specific expectations about how you spend your life.
There were no atheists six thousand years ago. Whatever they believed, evidence tells us they put their money (wampum) where their mouth is. No atheist aboriginals have yet been discovered. You need look no further than the 32,000 year old cave paintings in Chauvet Cave in France and those 15,500 years old in Altamira Cave in Spain: these majestic paintings of horses, aurochs, lions, tigers and bears were not motivated by hunger or fear but by something higher. You cannot look at pre-pottery Neolithic Gobekli Tepe, founded 12,000 years ago and abandoned 10,000 years ago, having required untold tens of thousands of man-days work, and say the builders just had nothing better to do.
I won’t challenge your beliefs, nor will I promote my own (other than in the About Us section of this website). We are not arguing from our beliefs. Rather, we are investigating what evidence there is concerning spirituality among the Ubaid. We have precious little to go on, except for a few material remnants that were discovered among the Ubaid material culture: ophidian ceramic figurines with elongated heads, infant head shaping, and an evolving pantheon and creation myth that grew out of Ubaid roots, apparently at the Eridu temple. And, oh, yes, the undeniable links between Sumerian flood, creation, and heroic myths and the Hebrew “Old Testament” Bible books and Muslim writings.
As near as I can tell after reviewing everything Ubaid that’s available, I conclude the Sumerian gods: An, Enki, Enlil and Inanna emerged in early forms during the Ubaid period. But, what is the story behind these gods? An was involved with Tiamat in the creation myth, and then Tiamat met an early end. What is especially interesting is that the Sumerian pantheon passed through the Akkadian and subsequent Mesopotamian pantheons and on to the Greeks and Romans, with not much more than name changes. Interesting? Any ask why? Could these “gods” have more substance than just myth in-order-to last 5,000 years? We must ask that question, or we’re sticking our heads in the sand.
Here is the sequence of my thinking as it focused for better than a year on just this pantheon, and fellow travelers:
- Before becoming a Christian at 35 years, I already knew but was surprised to find St. Paul elucidate clearly that the real battle for everyone in this world is not against each other, but against invisible antagonists who work full-time to precipitate evil.
- I wondered why no Bible teachers I knew were addressing Genesis 6:1-5 and its enormous implications, I found that the term “sons of God” was translated “sons of Seth,” which is particularly strange since I hadn’t a clue why.
- Focusing on the crucial term “sons of God,” I found that “sons of Seth” was established long after Christ, and the Hebrew version (original) was interpreted by the Jews as “sons of Elohim” in the post-Exilic period hundreds of years before Christ.
- There was a Jewish writer in the Post-Exilic period named Enoch who wrote at length about Genesis 6:1-4 and these “sons of Elohim” whom he called “Watchers.” I bought and read the Kindle version of this latest (2012) translation of the book “1 Enoch.”
- Subsequently, I found a 45-minute, fine free audio reading of an earlier translation of 1 Enoch which was indistinguishable from the latest that I’d just read. I suggest you listen and learn the story within the hour. Don’t be turned off by the guys who present the audio.
- If you listened on step 5, you’ll be prepared to better understand this and the following steps. After learning just about everything from 1 Enoch, here’s the Wikipedia article on the Watchers.
- In the Genesis account, the term “Nephilim” is introduced, and that link’s the Wikipedia Description. These hybrids (angel+human woman) commonly came as giants, as described by Enoch. Gilgamesh was a giant son of a god by a woman, and so a Nephilim.
- Switching back to comparable gods of the Sumerians, the postdiluvian literary-chronicled Annunaki seem to correlate to the antediluvian first generation children of An aka the Watchers, with names like Enki, Enlil, Inanna et al.
- Seeming to emerge as pre- and post-diluvial gods emerging from the Abzu with strange fish-like appearances and a role of teachers to men, these seven Apkallu would seem to follow the mythical sequence of Enki emerging at Eridu from the Abzu beneath the temple.
- Enki in seals and elsewhere is associated with snakes, and we have the ophidian figurines as-well-as the head shaping (a worldwide phenomena) which conforms the child’s head into a likeness of the ophidian figurines. For more on ophidian figurines, see here.
According to Genesis 6:1-5 and 1 Enoch, and elsewhere there is a clear story about an unseen world of “influencers” that was experienced by mankind in antediluvian times to mankind’s detriment, and the latest archaeological dating of the devastating flood (referred to in the Sumerian Kings List) through Mesopotamia to have been around 3,000 BC.
From the above resources and two books I read in the past month by a researcher who focused on the issue of the Watchers, starting with Genesis 6:1-4 and 1 Enoch, I found what I needed for my novel. The researchers is Dr. Michael S. Heiser, and the two books I read are listed in the preceding linked page: The Unseen Realm, and Reversing Hermon. I bought them in the Kindle versions, and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to research these issues. I read these two books before I bought and read 1 Enoch.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke