(adapted from an Yahoo Practicalmicrotonality Group message 257 (Wed May 23, 2001 8:32 am).
Many of you who saw my posts to the tuning list last year may remember my deep interest in the Sumerians. This all started because one day I was reading the beginning of _Genesis_ (in the Bible), and began wondering exactly who the _nefilim_ were [Genesis 6:1-4].
That word has been usually translated as "giants", but also as "the sons of God" and other very intriguing terms. According to _Genesis_, the _nefilim_ had been having sex with human females and thus producing half-breed offspring, which diluted the racial purity of the _nefilim_ race living on Earth.
Obviously, if the translation of the Bible is a very hip one, it will present this story pretty much as I have above, rather than wash over it and smear away the oddities, as in most standard translations of the Bible. The above version is my understanding of what the original Hebrew text really says.
So anyway, I was partying one night and thinking about this, and it really struck me hard that this seemed to be a description of an alien civilization settling on Earth.
(Those of you who are familiar with Erich von Daniken's books will quickly recongize this line of reasoning, but I was totally unfamiliar with his work at the time and came up with this independently. Zechariah Sitchin, whom I also discovered after formulating my own ideas, has done much more scholarly work in this area and IMO a lot of what he says makes sense, except for his silly theories about astronomy.)
I opened up my Bible and began reading the second version of the creation story [Genesis 2:4-4:26], with the detailed description of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.
Sure enough, it seemed to me that YHWH (the Hebrew name of God, never appearing with any vowel marks because it's somewhat taboo, usually translated "Yahweh", "Jehovah", or stupidly IMO "the LORD") was a mastermind from another planet who came to Earth to set up another civilization, and he created Adam to be his little slave-human. His mistake was creating Eve to keep Adam company.
YHWH had forbidden either of the humans to ever eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and of course as we all know they did that, "became aware of their nakedness", and were banished from the Garden of Eden.
Well, it's quite obvious to me that "eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" is some kind of metaphor for sex, because Eve then became pregnant with Cain, who, no matter how much he tried to please YHWH, was just never accepted by him [YHWH] because he [Cain] was totally human.
YHWH had sex with Eve, and bore Abel. There is a subtlety here in the Hebrew which is entirely missed in most translations, and so this point never comes across in most English versions. But it's crucially important, because Abel was thus half-human and half-God (= half-YHWH, whatever YHWH was).
So Cain killed Abel, and that was serious business, because Abel was YHWH's own son. So Cain and his family were banished to the wildnerness/desert and forced to work the earth to be able to survive. He eventually produced offspring and populated his own realms, creating a purely human race.
The story about the _nefilim_ comes right after this, and right after that YHWH decides to destroy the earth in a flood, saving only Noah and his family.
Now what does this have to do with the Sumerians? Well, it turns out that there are a *LOT* of parallels between _Genesis_ and many of the Sumerian myths and legends.
This got me very interested in the Sumerians and I did a lot of research on them all of last summer. Considering that they lived 5,000 years ago, they really had an amazing civilization. In truth, our own modern civilization is no different from theirs except for the modernized technology. Just about all of our ideas, beliefs, and social structures are the same as the ones they had. This was a real surprise to me.
What's most amazing of all is that there is no written record of anything prior to the Sumerians, and the archaeological record doesn't provide very much evidence of civilization before them either, and then all of a sudden there appears this group of people who not only can write, but who write about incredibly advanced (for the time) architecture, engineering infrastructure (canals, dams, walls, etc.), religion, law, art, music, and on and on and on. Almost everything that's basic to our lives today was written about by the Sumerians. (They're also responsible for inventing the wheel.)
And here's the weirdest thing of all: No researcher has yet been able to determine conclusively who they really were or where they came from. Their language appears to be totally unrelated to every other language on earth, and their own writings state that they migrated to Mesopotamia from somewhere else, but we haven't figured out where that is.
The Sumerian civilization was wiped out by the Babylonians, who took over everything and made it their own, simply translating all the knowledge into their own Semitic language (Akkadian, an ancient relative of Hebrew).
What became of the actual Sumerians? It appears that they were involved in the world's first great diaspora, wandering off in every direction and blending quite smoothly into their host population, the only evidence of them being the advancement of a very clever idea now and then.
I firmly believe that the Biblical story of Abraham [beginning at Genesis 11:31] describes just such an instance, and that the Jews are the "chosen people" because they are direct blood descendants of the Sumerians.
The Babylonians were able to perpetuate Sumerian knowledge for centuries, right down to the time of the ancient Greeks. The Babylonian empire was eventually finally crushed by the Persians and subsumed into the Persian Empire, and this was pretty much the end of the direct knowledge of anything concerning Sumer or the Sumerians. And this was about 2000 years after the destruction of Sumer itself!
Meanwhile, the Babylonians had passed on much of the Sumerian learning to the Greeks, thru whom it eventually became part of our modern culture.
But the Sumerians themselves were quite forgotten by history, until the 1850s, when clay tablets with inscriptions were discovered by Europeans, and they began work on deciphering and translating the contents. Quite a bit was learned about the Babylonians before it was ever realized that there was *another* linguistic and cultural layer to the substratum of knowledge recorded in these tablets.
So modern knowledge of the Sumerians has only ocurred over the last 150 or so years.
The Sumerian language is by now quite well understood, and yet no linguist has been able to find any affiliation with it to any other known language on Earth. And no archaeologist would be willing to confidently state where the origins of their civilization may be found.
So who were they?
Well, if you ask me, YHWH was one of them, perhaps the earliest one with any power. And I think it's quite possible that the Sumerians were the result of a genetic experiment blending an alien race (or probably more accurately, species) with a species of Earthly hominids.
Anyway, I've written enough about this here, and I could go on and on about it. There's so much more... for example, the word "Sumerians" means "the ones who watch", which takes note of how observant they were of astronomical phenomena. That information alone could provide a lifetime of research.
One of these days I'll have webpages about all this... in fact, I'll proably turn this post into the first major one. Here's one I did make quickly, which started life as a letter to the illustrious founder of this list: http://www.ixpres.com/interval/monzo/sumerian/jackyletter.htm
I've thought of dozens of musical / operatic / etc. projects that could deal with these subjects. A lot of my interest in the Sumerians has to do with my fascination about the sophistication of their math and music-theory.
In fact, I believe that it's quite possible that the Sumerians knew about 12-tET, c. 4000 BC - quite a long time before any of the "standard" references to this discovery. See the footnote to this tuning list post: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tuning/message/11107
And here's some more stuff I wrote about Babylonian and Hurrian music: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tuning/message/11624
I've thought that it would be really awesome to explore some of this research in actual compositions. I don't know what kind of time I'll ever be able to devote to creation of any of these projects, but I'm throwing the idea out here if anyone would like to collaborate in some way. One project that I really think might fly is a PBS-TV series on the Sumerians, each episode exploring a different facet of their amazing culture.
Pretty cool, eh?
"All roads lead to n^0"
or try some definitions.
feedback about this webpage: