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MORE LIGHT ON SUMERIA

MORE LIGHT ON SUMERIA



SLOWLY but inevitably are being found the evidences which force reluctant belief in the scribes of antiquity. In 1923-24, the joint expedition of the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, headed by C. Leonard Woolley, was excavating at al 'Ubaid, a mound of ruins some four miles from the site of Ur, ancient city of the Sumerians, which lies 100 miles north of the Persian Gulf of Mesapotamia. In his book, Ur of the Chaldees, Mr. Woolley describes the finding of a small tablet of limestone bearing the names of the kings of the First Dynasty of Ur. Speaking of Sumerian king-lists known prior to this discovery he writes:

The later dynasties were known to be historical, because independent monuments of their kings had been found, but the earlier dynasties had been rejected by modern students as mythical, partly because nothing was known about them, mainly because the scribes who composed the lists attributed to the earlier rulers a longevity which outdoes Methuselah.


Through this tablet it was found that in the former list the reigns of a father and his son had been lumped together and listed under one name, giving an unnaturally long period. This difficulty overcome, there was "a contemporary written document which proved the existence of the founder of the First Dynasty of Ur and established the authenticity of the ancient king lists." While the First Dynasty of Ur, this dynasty was third on the list drawn up by the Sumerian scribes, and only the first after "the flood." In the words of these annalists, "then came the Flood and after the Flood kingship again descended from heaven."


Digging at Ur in a pit between thirty and forty feet deep, the excavators had removed several layers of rubbish when suddenly a stratum of clean clay eight feet thick was found. Below it were relics of a crude, pre-Sumerian civilization mixed with bits of Sumerian-made ware, pottery and implements of the higher culture above the clay. This Mr. Woolley judges as the blending of two civilizations, that of the Sumerians with the earlier one of the first inhabitants of Mesapotamia. Above the clay, which he says was water-deposited and of such dimensions as could only have been caused by a minor flood, were found pure Sumerian remains, indicating that the higher had effaced the lower culture.

H. P. Blavatsky tells us that the Chaldean culture was brought by Eastern Adepts who tarried on their journey westward to civilize a barbarian people. Berosus, who compiled a history of the Chaldeans for Alexander the Great, wrote that nothing new was invented after the advent of Oannes, the half-man, half-fish, who "taught the people all the things that make up civilization." Oannes rose out of the sea in the Persian Gulf. Sayce suggests that he symbolized the coming of a people who brought their culture with them. At Ur were found teakwood and mention of Dacca muslin on some tablets, both of which were special products of India (S.D. II, p. 226). Perhaps Mr. Woolley has come upon evidence of the assimilation of the culture of ancient India by the pre-Sumerian barbarians of the shores of the Persian Gulf, a culture which finally spread over the whole of Mesapotamia.

The founder of the Third Dynasty of the Sumerian Empire was Ur-Nammu, a great builder who surrounded Ur, his capitol, with a wall 26 feet high and 77 feet thick at the base. He erected a Ziggurat, a pyramid-like structure found throughout Mesapotamia, consisting of a series of terraces in set back stages. Most famous of all is the Ziggurat of Babylon, which became in Hebrew tradition the Tower of Babel. Describing the one built by Ur-Nammu, Mr. Woolley writes:

The tower measures a little more than 200 feet in length by 150 feet in width, and its original height was about 70 feet; the whole thing being one solid mass of brick work.... When we first started the work of drawing out the plan and elevations of the Ziggurat we were puzzled to find that the different measurements never seemed to agree; then it was discovered that in the whole building there is not a single straight line, and that what we had assumed to be such were in fact carefully calculated curves. The walls not only slope inwards, but the line from top to bottom has a distinct outward bend, so that sighting along it one can see only as far as the centre; the architect has aimed at an optical illusion which the Greek builders of the Parthenon at Athens were destined to achieve many centuries afterwards, the curves being so slight as not to be apparent, yet enough to give the eye an appearance of strength where a straight line might by contrast with the mass behind it have seemed incurved and weak.


Perhaps Ur-Nammua was a descendant of those "mighty builders," the Indus Valley peoples who erected the great city of Mohenjo-Daro (S.D. II, 417; Isis I, 569-70). A number of similarities between the cultures of Sumer and the Indus Valley were disclosed through the work of Sir John Marshall, director of the archaeological research at Mohenjo-Daro, the remains of which were first unearthed in 1923 (Asia, March 1932). Still another clue is found in a New York Times dispatch of Sept. 17, 1932, revealing that hieroglyphic script discovered at Mohenjo-Daro "corresponds exactly to inscriptions on tablets found on Easter Island off the Chilean coast."



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