Connect with us

Ancient

Eridu: The Sumerian Garden Of Eden & The Oldest City In The World?

Published

on

Eridu: The Sumerian Garden of Eden and the Oldest City in the World?
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Wu Mingren, Ancient Origins

Today, Eridu is often considered to be one of the oldest permanent settlements in Mesopotamia, and perhaps even in the world. The ancient Sumerians also believed that Eridu was the first city in the world and they documented that belief in the Sumerian King List and the Eridu Genesis . At least 18 layers of settlement are found at the site, so could the ancient Sumerian belief be possible?

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest structures date to the 6th millennium BC. The city reached its zenith during the 4th millennium BC and continued to be inhabited until around the 7th century BC. By then, however, the city had lost its importance. 

Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
A Tell of 18 Levels

Eridu (known today as Tell Abu Shahrain) is located about 20 km (12.5 miles) to the southwest of the famous city of Ur. As its modern name indicates, the archaeological site is a tell, which is a huge mound formed over the millennia as a result of new settlements being built over the ruins of the previous ones. The tell rises to a height to 7 meters (23 feet), and is formed by 18 levels of occupation, according to the archaeological excavations. The bulk of this has been dated to the Ubaid and Uruk periods, which lasted from the 6th to 4th millennia BC.

The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

The ancient Sumerians themselves made mention of Eridu’s antiquity. In the Sumerian King List , for example, it is written that “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug.” In addition, in the creation myth known as the Eridu Genesis , it is said to have been one of the five cities that existed before the Deluge, the others being Bad-Tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Suruppak. 

The God of Eridu Temple

The patron god of Eridu was Enki (known also in Akkadian as Ea), the god of water. According to Sumerian mythology, the settlement was founded by Enki, and it was from this city that civilization was spread to other parts of the land. Although Enki was initially a local god, he rose in importance as the city grew in influence, resulting in him being incorporated into the pantheon of other cities as well. In Eridu, Enki’s temple is known as E-Abzu (Abzu may be translated as ‘Deep Ocean’, and refers to the underground spring from which all life is believed to have begun).

Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Archaeological excavations of the E-Abzu have revealed that the temple began as a small room containing what has been referred to by scholars as a ‘cult niche’ and an ‘offering table’. Over the millennia, however, the inhabitants built new temples over the ruins of the old ones, each bigger than the last. The E-Abzu eventually became a large ziggurat, an apt reflection of Enki’s status as a major deity. It has been proposed that the E-Abzu may have been the largest of the ancient Mesopotamian ziggurats.

Economic Activities

Although the E-Abzu is the focal point of the site’s archaeology, there are either elements of interest. More recent excavations, for instance, have revealed that during the Ubaid period, the city was a pottery production center. This is evident in the pottery works, which had large scatterings of pottery fragments and kiln waste. Additionally, remains of fishing nets, weights, and even models of reed boats have been found at the site, suggesting that fishing was a major economic activity carried out by the inhabitants.

There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

Eridu was the dominant city in southern Mesopotamia during the Ubaid period, but it was eventually superseded by Uruk. Nevertheless, it continued to be revered as the first city, and it retained its religious significance thanks to the E-Abzu.

It has been suggested that ecological changes, i.e. the recession of the gulf coast and the increasingly unreliable water table, were responsible for the decline of Eridu around the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The city continued to be inhabited up until around the 7th century BC, although by then it had become a mere shadow of its former glory.

In 2016, Eridu was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the ‘Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities’.

This article (Eridu: The Sumerian Garden Of Eden And The Oldest City In The World?) was originally published at Ancient Origins and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

Share This Story
Continue Reading

Ancient

Ghost DNA Shows Human Ancestors Interbred With Mysterious Unknown Hominins

Published

on

Ghost DNA Shows Human Ancestors Interbred With Mysterious Unknown Hominins
Photo Credit: Mint Press News

Paul SeaburnMysterious Universe

DNA ancestry tests were a popular Christmas gift in 2018 but not so much during the 2019 holidays, according to the latest reports. While the general public (at least in the U.S.) have moved on to the next shiny object (concerned about the privacy and lack of real usefulness of the tests), a group of West Africans who participated in a worldwide genome project searching for evidence of ancient ancestors in modern humans learned that they possess a “ghost DNA” of a mysterious, ancient hominin … one who apparently had a lot of interbreeding relations with the ancestors of modern humans. Could this explain everything? Anything? Will it help sales of DNA tests?

“While introgression from Neanderthals and Denisovans has been documented in modern humans outside Africa, the contribution of archaic hominins to the genetic variation of present-day Africans remains poorly understood. We provide complementary lines of evidence for archaic introgression into four West African populations. Our analyses of site frequency spectra indicate that these populations derive 2 to 19% of their genetic ancestry from an archaic population that diverged before the split of Neanderthals and modern humans.”

In a study published in the journal Science Advances, Sriram Sankararaman, an assistant professor at UCLA in the Computer Science and Human Genetics departments, explains how he and his team examined the genomes of 405 West Africans currently living in Nigeria, Gambia, and Sierra Leone using DNA in collected between 2008 and 2015 as part of the 1,000 Genomes project to find genetic variants with frequencies of at least 1% in the populations studied. While they knew that modern West Africans do not have any Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry, they were shocked to find a single mysterious ancient hominin whose DNA made up as much as 19% of the genes of those tested.

“We don’t have a clear identity for this archaic group. That’s why we use the term ‘ghost.’ It doesn’t seem to be particularly closely related to the groups from which we have genome sequences from.”

Sankararaman told NPR this interbreeding occurred about 50,000 years ago, after humans and Neanderthals split and the latter left for Europe. The ghost group then split off from humans and did some interbreeding before they disappeared, either becoming extinct or being completely assimilated into the human group. Some of the West Africans tested showed minute percentages of Neanderthal DNA, but the researchers believe this came from later Neanderthals who moved back to Africa or modern humans who have interbred with Neanderthals in Europe and then returned to Africa. That’s a LOT of interbreeding. Does it mean anything?

“Are they just randomly floating in our genomes? Do they have any kind of adaptive benefits? Do they have deleterious consequences? Those are all questions which would be fantastic to start thinking about.”

According to his interview in Inverse, Sankararaman isn’t sure. In fact, he’s uncertain if this was one ghost group or many, nor does he know what happened to them. Unlike the Neanderthals and Denisovans, fossil evidence of these species has not been found – even in fossil-rich Africa where so many remnants of ancient human ancestors have been discovered.

A skull would help
A skull would help

What’s known for certain from this ghost DNA Is that this mysterious group played a big part in the early history of at least four groups of modern West Africans. That’s the kind of information that made DNA testing interesting to begin with.

Would you want to find out your ancestors were a mysterious group that liked to play the ancient field?

About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.   

Share This Story
Continue Reading

Ancient

Newly Discovered Older Cousin Of T. Rex Is So Badass It’s Been Named After Death Itself

Published

on

Newly Discovered Older Cousin Of T. Rex Is So Badass It’s Been Named After Death Itself
Photo Credit: Live Science

Scientists said Monday they had discovered a new species of dinosaur closely related to Tyrannosaurus Rex that strode the plain of North America some 80 million years ago.

Thanatotheristes Degrootorum – Greek for “Reaper of Death” – is thought to be the oldest member of the T. Rex family yet discovered in northern North America, and would have grown to around eight metres (26 feet) in length.

We chose a name that embodies what this Tyrannosaur was as the only known large apex predator of its time in Canada, the reaper of death,” Darla Zelenitsky, assistant professor of Dinosaur Palaeobiology at Canada’s University of Calgary.

The nickname has come to be Thanatos,” she told AFP.

Whereas T. Rex – the most famous of all dinosaur species, immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 epic Jurassic Park – stalked its prey around 66 million years ago, Thanatos dates back at least 79 million years, the team said.

The specimen was discovered by Jared Voris, a PhD student at Calgary, and is the first new Tyrannosaur species found for 50 years in Canada.

There are very few species of Tyrannosaurids, relatively speaking,” said Zelenitsky, co-author of the study that appeared in the journal Cretaceous Research.

“Because of the nature of the food chain these large apex predators were rare compared to herbivorous or plant-eating dinosaurs.”

Artist's impression of Thanatos's head. (Julius Csotonyi/The University of Calgary/Royal Tyrrell Museum/AFP)
Artist’s impression of Thanatos’s head. (Julius Csotonyi/The University of Calgary/Royal Tyrrell Museum/AFP)

The study found that Thanatos had a long, deep snout, similar to more primitive Tyrannosaurs that lived in the southern United States.

The researchers suggested that the difference in Tyrannosaur skull shapes between regions could have been down to differences in diet, and dependant on the prey available at the time.

Share This Story
Continue Reading

Ancient

The Legendary Tower Of Babel: What Does It Mean?

Published

on

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ḏḥwty, Ancient Origins

One of the many fantastic stories in the Book of Genesis is the Tower of Babel, a tall construction made in Babylonia after the Deluge. The gist of the story is: All human beings used to speak the same language. As they came to settle in Mesopotamia, they decided to build a city with a tower to reach the heavens. Through this endeavour, mankind intended to create a name for himself. God, however, had other plans. Mankind’s language was confused, and they were scattered over the earth. As a result, the city and the tower were never completed. Regardless of whether you believe this story actually took place, there are several interesting ways of looking at it.

A Literal Approach to the Tower of Babel Story

One way of approaching the story is the literal approach. If one accepts that the Tower of Babel was a historical fact, then it would be expected that some sort of remains or ruins of the tower would exist. This, however, has not been identified by archaeology. The closest candidate for the Tower of Babel may perhaps be the Etemenanki of Babylon. This was a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk, the patron god of Babylon. It has been claimed that this structure was the inspiration for the Tower of Babel. Given that ziggurats were found in Mesopotamia, the setting of the story, and that they were monumental structures, it is not too difficult to see how they may have been used in the story of the Tower of Babel.

Did the Tower of Babel Exist?

In 2017, Andrew George, a professor of Babylonia at the University of London, reported that he believes he has found solid evidence for the Tower of Babel in an ancient baked tablet from the city of Babylon. The baked clay tablet shows what the ziggurat looked like, with its seven steps. It shows the king with his conical hat and staff. And below is text that describes the commissioning of the tower’s construction.

Dr. George said:

“This is a very strong piece of evidence that the tower of Babel story was inspired by this real building. At the top … there is a relief depicting a step tower and … a figure of a human being carrying a staff with a conical hat on. Below that relief is a text which has been chiseled into the monument, and the label is easily read. It reads: Etemenanki, Ziggurat Babel. And that means ‘the Ziggurat or Temple Tower of the City of Babylon.’ The building and its builder on the same relief.”

The people enlisted to construct the tower, are translated by Dr. George as, “From the Upper Sea [Mediterranean] to the Lower Sea [Persian Gulf] the Far-Flung Lands and Teeming Peoples of the Habitations.”

Experts had already thought King Nebuchadnezzar II actually did build a ziggurat in Babylonia after he established the city as his capital. The tablet provides more evidence. Archaeologists also think the tower of Babel was 300 feet (91 meters) along the sides and 300 feet (91 meters) tall. Only a fraction of the building remains, scattered and broken.

What Does the Tower of Babel Symbolize?

Regardless of the question of the tower’s existence, another way to examine the Tower of Babel story is through the symbolic approach. The context of the story, i.e. the story of the Tower of Babel being recorded in the Book of Genesis, would make it reasonable to expect a religious message behind it. It has been suggested that the Tower of Babel is a symbol for humanity’s vanity. For instance, the use of brick and mortar represent pride in man-made materials. Thus, the use of these materials over stone and tar, which are natural and more durable materials, may be read as mankind’s misplaced confidence in his own abilities.

Thus, the Tower of Babel may be seen as a monument to mankind’s ability and achievement. Man is promptly reminded of his frailty when God decides to confuse their languages and scatter them. While some regard this story as a warning against the sin of pride, others would prefer to question the kind of God that is being portrayed in the story. Regardless, the story seems to convey a notion of doom and gloom for humanity.

Gustave Dore's depiction of the Tower of Babel according to the biblical interpretation. ( Public Domain )
Gustave Dore’s depiction of the Tower of Babel according to the biblical interpretation. ( Public Domain )
Can the Tower of Babel Explain Worldwide Diversity?

Another way of viewing this story, however, may shine a more positive light on the Tower of Babel. Instead of being a lesson against pride, this may be a tool to explain the diversity of peoples in the world. After all, the chapter preceding the story of the Tower of Babel deals with the various nations that descended from the sons of Noah. This etiological approach, in which myths are used to explain human conditions, is visible in many other cultures. For instance, in the mythology of the Blackfoot Indians; Old Man, the creator, gave different colored water to people to drink. As a result, different peoples began to speak different languages. Without the knowledge that we possess today, these myths would have served to throw light on the great mysteries of life. Besides, they make pretty good camp-fire stories.

Although language was confused, and mankind scattered across the world, I can’t help but think that we’ve come full circle, almost at least. Take this article as an example. It will probably be read by people from different parts of the world. In that sense, we are connected, rather than scattered. Also, through translations, we are able to overcome language barriers. Moreover, at times we may even communicate through empathy, without the need for speech.

Yet, there’s one part of the story we have not achieved. The people in the story of the Tower of Babel were working together to build a monument. Sadly, human beings aren’t quite doing that today. Wars, the exploitation of the poor, and human trafficking are just some examples of the ways in which we are destroying our fellow man/woman, instead of cooperating with him/her.

Perhaps it’s time we finish building the Tower of Babel.

This article (The Legendary Tower of Babel: What Does It Mean?) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

Share This Story
Continue Reading

Ancient

Ancient Pompeii’s Drains Back In Use After 2300 Years

Published

on

Ancient Pompeii’s Drains Back In Use After 2300 Years
Photo Credit: Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Ashley CowieAncient Origins

A 2,300-year-old drainage system carved into bedrock beneath Pompeii will be used again to divert increasing rainwater into the sea.

Mount Vesuvius on the west coast of Italy is the only active volcano in continental Europe and its eruption in the year AD 79 buried the city of Pompeii under thousands of tons of hot ashes and rocks. Seconds after the eruption the southern Italian town was engulfed in a 500°C “pyroclastic heat surge,” when fast-moving currents of hot gases and volcanic matter (tephra) killed every one of the approximately 30,000 inhabitants, instantly.

This 170-acre archaeological site is mostly preserved within ash, which also entombed human bodies, and now that they have decayed away, natural human molds are found by excavators who make plaster casts bringing back to life the sheer terror that spread crosses the faces of the people who suffered in the volcanic catastrophe.

Tunnel within ancient Pompeii’s drains system. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Tunnel within ancient Pompeii’s drains system. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Pompeii’s Drains are Engineering at its Very Best

The decommissioned 1,500ft (457m) network of ancient tunnels and drainage channels is accessed through two manholes leading beneath the Civil Forum, near the Centaur statue and it leads downhill underneath Via Marina to the Imperial Villa.

The Civic Forum of Pompeii was a great rectangular plaza measuring 125ft (38m) wide by 466ft (142m) in length. While it was originally built in the 3rd century BC by the Samnites, evidence gathered from inside the tunnels showed final enhancements were executed by Roman architects in the years preceding the devastating 79AD eruption of Vesuvius.

Aerial map showing ancient Pompeii’s drains network with the sites (mentioned above) marked out. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Aerial map showing ancient Pompeii’s drains network with the sites (mentioned above) marked out. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )

Since 2018 the drainage network has been carefully assessed by several teams of scientists to assess if it was still capable of diverting rainwater into the nearby sea, and the restoration project has now been approved.

Archaeologist Massimo Osanna, Director General of Archaeological Park of Pompeii, told  The Times  that the entrances to the drains had been blocked but with increasing flooding from rainwater they plan to start using them again, despite them being built almost 2,300 years ago. The engineering project is being conducted by the  Archaeological Park of Pompeii  with a team of speleologists (cave experts) from the Cocceius Association, and in a Daily Mail report, Osanna is quoted saying the fact that this can be done is testament to the “excellent engineering skills at the time.”

The archaeologists excavating a tunnel within Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
The archaeologists excavating a tunnel within Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
An Explosive Ancient City

According to Pompeii Sites , Osanna said in a statement that the initial exploration of the underground canals confirmed the “cognitive potential which the Pompeian subsoil preserves” and demonstrates just how much remains to be discovered and examined. Furthermore, the scientist said many gaps in their knowledge of the past regarding certain aspects or areas of the ancient city are being filled thanks to the collaboration of experts in various sectors.

As technology advances, so too does our understanding of this tragic natural event that instantaneously ended the life of the city’s population, and archaeologists are continually uncovering more artifacts and evidence from the ash-covered city. However, the scientists deep-penetrating underground scanning equipment is proving that not all of the artifacts buried at Pompeii are ancient, which is evident in an Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano , article published last July about the discovery of “10 unexploded World War II bombs.

Another shot of a tunnel inside Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Another shot of a tunnel inside Pompeii’s drains. ( Archaeological Park of Pompeii )
Fires in the Sky

Dr. Osanna said at the time that a bomb had gone off 30 years ago and he admitted that it was difficult to know “how many World War II bombs were still buried.” He openly petitioned for help from the British Air Force to determine where they might be located. And while Pompeii officials were worried to begin with, because there was no telling how many unexploded bombs were hidden beneath the city, they announced publicly that “there was no risk” for excavators or tourists.

It seems some places just have an infinity with explosions and eruptions, an in an Ancient Origins article I wrote myself last July about this incident, I concluded with a stirring article published in the Irish Times , which pointed out what was either a bizarre coincidence, or something altogether blacker. The article said 165 bombs were dropped by the allies in Pompeii on August 24th, 1943, “on October 21st,” the very same date that in AD 79 the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius.

It seems that not only the gods played with fire and brimstone at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

This article (Ancient Pompeii’s Drains Back In Use After 2300 Years) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

Share This Story
Continue Reading

Our Facebook Page

Trending Now

STAY AWARE

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

You have Successfully Subscribed!