“Yet the Hurrians did not disappear from history. Away to the North in their Armenian homeland, they entrenched themselves and build up the kingdom of Urartu.”
Ishtar was the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex, above all associated with sexuality: her cult involved sacred prostitution; her holy city Uruk was called the “town of the sacred courtesans”; and she herself was the “courtesan of the gods”. She was particularly worshipped at the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur and Arbela (Erbil).
Ishtar was the daughter of Ninurta. Besides the lions on her gate, her symbol is an eight-pointed star. In the Babylonian pantheon, she “was the divine personification of the planet Venus”. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte.
Sacred prostitution was common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare.
In some cases, it served a practical purpose: since commoners frequently took this opportunity to have sex with their own spouses, it coordinated the births of children so that they would be born in the winter, when there was more time to take care of them. Children born in midwinter of these unions were called the “son” or “daughter of god”.
Inanna can be considered the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk. The famous Uruk Vase (found in a deposit of cult objects of the Uruk III period) depicts a row of naked men carrying various objects, bowls, vessels, and baskets of farm produce, and bringing sheep and goats, to a female figure facing the ruler.
Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. Seal impressions from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100–2900 BC) show a fixed sequence of city symbols including those of Ur, Larsa, Zabalam, Urum, Arina, and probably Kesh. It is likely that this list reflects the report of contributions to Inanna at Uruk from cities supporting her cult.
The House of Heaven (Sumerian: e-anna) temple in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice. In addition, according to Leick (1994) persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and feminine men were particularly involved in the worship and ritual practices of Inanna’s temples.
This figure was ornately dressed for a divine marriage, and attended by a servant. The female figure holds the symbol of the two twisted reeds of the doorpost, signifying Inanna behind her, while the male figure holds a box and stack of bowls, the later cuneiform sign signifying En, or high priest of the temple. Especially in the Uruk period, the symbol of a ring-headed doorpost is associated with Inanna.
Inanna was associated with the celestial planet, Venus and her symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces, and with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).
According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival.
Inanna’s name derives from Queen of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-anna). The Cuneiform sign however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin) and sky (Sumerian: an). These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.
The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.
In the Sumerian epic entitled Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia), the goddess Inanna resides in Aratta, but Enmerkar of Uruk pleases her more than does the lord of Aratta, who is not named in this epic, and she transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk.
The deity of fourth-millennium Uruk was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.
In Sumerian mythology, An (from Sumerian An = sky, heaven) was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the royal tiara. His attendant and minister of state was the god Ilabrat.
Traditionally, the word “tiara” refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of some ancient peoples in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, notably the Hittites. The Assyrians used to include a pair of bull horns as a decoration and symbol of authority and a circle of short feathers surrounding the tiara’s top. The Persian tiara was more similar to a truncated cone, without the horns and feathers but more jewels, and a conic-shaped tip at its top.
An was one of the oldest gods in the Sumerian pantheon and part of a triad including Enlil (god of the air) and Enki (god of water). He was called Anu by the later Akkadians in Babylonian culture.
By virtue of being the first figure in a triad consisting of Anu, Enlil, and Enki (also known as Ea), Anu came to be regarded as the father and at first, king of the gods. Anu is so prominently associated with the E-anna temple in the city of Uruk (biblical Erech) in southern Babylonia that there are good reasons for believing this place to have been the original seat of the Anu cult. If this is correct, then the goddess Inanna (or Ishtar) of Uruk may at one time have been his consort.
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians.
Enki was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”) and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make bear). He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus).
Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth.
In the city Eridu, the main temple to Enki was known as E-abzu (house of the cosmic waters), also known as E-en-gur-a (house of the subterranean waters), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu.
Certain tanks of holy water in Babylonian and Assyrian temple courtyards were also called abzu (apsû). Typical in religious washing, these tanks were similar to the washing pools of Islamic mosques, or the baptismal font in Christian churches.
Beginning around the second millennium BC, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40,” occasionally referred to as his “sacred number.” He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system. His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud.
Enki was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, very similar to the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. The caduceus is twisted and intertwining with a connotation of sexual congress: the common symbol used to depict the DNA helix. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag (Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”) was the mountain and mother goddess, one of the seven great deities of Sumer.
She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru probably connected with Homeric arura (arable land, land generally). Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).
According to legend her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.
Ninhursag is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’. She is typically depicted wearing a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.
In creation texts, Ninmah (another name for Ninhursag) acts as a midwife whilst the mother goddess Nammu makes different kinds of human individuals from lumps of clay at a feast given by Enki to celebrate the creation of humankind.
Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah, who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.
Hebat, also transcribed Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the gods. Hebat is the wife of the Hurrian god of sky and storm Teshub, and cognate with the Hattian Taru, and the mother of Sarruma (meaning “king of the mountains”) and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka. The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele.
Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis) was an originally Anatolian mother goddess. Little is known of her oldest Anatolian cults, other than her association with mountains, hawks and lions. She may have been Phrygia’s state deity; her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BC.
Cybele may have evolved from an Anatolian Mother Goddess of a type found at Çatalhöyük, dated to the 6th millennium BCE. This corpulent, fertile Mother Goddess appears to be giving birth on her throne, which has two feline-headed hand rests. The Hurrian goddess Hannahannah was also earlier associated with lions, as was Sumerian Inanna. In Phrygian art of the 8th century BCE, the cult attributes of the Phrygian mother-goddess include attendant lions, a bird of prey, and a small vase for her libations or other offerings.
The inscription matar kubileya at a Phrygian rock-cut shrine, dated to the first half of the 6th century BCE, is usually read as “Mother of the mountain”, a reading supported by ancient Classical sources, and consistent with Cybele as any of several similar tutelary goddesses, each known as “mother” and associated with specific Anatolian mountains or other localities: a goddess thus “born from stone”. She is ancient Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably the highest deity of the Phrygian State. Her name, and the development of religious practices associated with here, may have been influenced by cult to the deified Sumerian queen Kubaba.
In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Corn-Mother goddess Demeter. Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following. Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a transgender or eunuch mendicant priesthood. Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.
In Rome, Cybele was known as Magna Mater (“Great Mother”). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult, and claimed her conscription as a key religious component in their success against Carthage during the Punic Wars. Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. With Rome’s eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele’s cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. The meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods were topics of debate and dispute in Greek and Roman literature, and remain so in modern scholarship.
It is thought Hebat may have had a Southern Mesopotamian origin, being the deified founder of the Third Dynasty of Kish. The name can be transliterated in different versions – Khebat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version. In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. The sound /h/ in cuneiform is in the modern literature sometimes transliterated as kh. In Aramaean times she appears to have become identified with the Goddess Hawwah.
Kubaba (in the Weidner or Esagila Chronicle; Sumerian: Kug-Bau) is the only queen on the Sumerian King List, which states she reigned for 100 years – roughly in the Early Dynastic III period (ca. 2500-2330 BC) of Sumerian history, and one of very few women to have ever ruled in their own right in Iraqi history.
Shrines in honour of Kubaba spread throughout Mesopotamia. In the Hurrian area she may be identified with Kebat, or Hepat, one title of the Hurrian Mother goddess Hannahannah (from Hurrian hannah, “mother”). Abdi-Heba was the palace mayor, ruling Jerusalem at the time of the Amarna letters (1350 BC).
Kubaba became the tutelary goddess who protected the ancient Turkey city of Carchemish on the upper Euphrates, in the late Hurrian – Early Hittite period. Relief carvings, now at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi), Ankara, show her seated, wearing a cylindrical headdress like the polos and holding a circular mirror in one hand and the poppy capsule or pomegranate in the other. She plays a role in Luwian texts and a minor role in Hittite texts, mainly in Hurrian rituals.
According to Mark Munn (Munn 2004), her cult later spread and her name was adapted for the main goddess of the Hittite successor-kingdoms in Anatolia, which later developed into the Phrygian matar (mother) or matar kubileya whose image with inscriptions appear in rock-cut sculptures.
Her Lydian name was Kuvav or Kufav which Ionian Greeks transcribed Kybêbê, not Kybele; Jan Bremmer notes in this context the seventh-century Semonides of Amorgos, who calls one of her Hellene followers a kybêbos, and he observes that in the following century she has been further Hellenized by Hipponax as “Kybêbê, daughter of Zeus”. The Phrygian goddess otherwise bears little resemblance to Kubaba, who was a sovereign deity at Sardis, known to Greeks as Kybebe.
As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumer, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla) in the Canaanite ‘ilhm pantheon, he is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology, as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind. Amongst the Western Semites, it is thought that Ea was equated to the term *hyy (life), referring to Enki’s waters as life giving.
A large number of myths about Enki have been collected from many sites, like Enki and the Making of Man, Confuser of languages, and Enki and the Deluge, which all have its cognates in the Bible, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast. He figures in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water emanating from his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
Hebat was venerated all over the ancient Near East. Her name appears in many theophoric personal names. A king of Jerusalem mentioned in the Amarna letters was named Abdi-Heba, possibly meaning “Servant of Hebat”.
Enki and later Ea were apparently depicted, sometimes, like Adam, as a man covered with the skin of a fish. Adapa, the first of the antediluvian seven sages, was a Mesopotamian mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. Mesoptamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages, who were sent by Ea, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind.
The sages are described in Mesoptamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monastries. Adapa as a fisherman was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite. The word Abgallu, sage, (Ab = water, Gal = Great, Lu = Man, Sumerian) survived into Nabatean times, around the time of Christ, as apkallum, used to describe the profession of a certain kind of priest.
Adapa was a mortal man from a godly lineage, a son of Ea (Enki in Sumerian), the god of wisdom and of the ancient city of Eridu, who brought the arts of civilization to that city (from Dilmun, according to some versions). He broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu.
Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death. Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.
Parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus losing immortality.
Stephanie Galley writes “From Erra and Ishum” we know that all the sages were banished … because they angered the gods, and went back to the Apsu, where Ea lived, and … the story … ended with Adapa’s banishment” p. 182.
Oannes (Hovhannes in Armenian) was the name given by the Babylonian writer Berossus in the 3rd century BCE to a mythical being who taught mankind wisdom. Berossus describes Oannes as having the body of a fish but underneath the figure of a man. He is described as dwelling in the Persian Gulf, and rising out of the waters in the daytime and furnishing mankind instruction in writing, the arts and the various sciences.
The name “Oannes” was once conjectured to be derived from that of the ancient Babylonian god Ea, but it is now known that the name is the Greek form of the Babylonian Uanna (or Uan) a name used for Adapa in texts from the Library of Ashurbanipal.
The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.
The name Ea is allegedly Hurrian in origin while others claim that it is possibly of Semitic origin and may be a derivation from the West-Semitic root *hyy meaning “life” in this case used for “spring”, “running water.” In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the God at Eridu.
Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BC mention “the reeds of Enki”. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology.
In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.
Nammu was the Goddess sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.
Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions.
According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu. Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.
Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water'”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth) (see below).
Urkesh or Urkish (modern Tell Mozan) is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. It was founded during the fourth millennium BC possibly by the Hurrians on a site which appears to have been inhabited previously for a few centuries.
Urkesh was an ally of the Akkadian Empire through what is believed to have been a dynastic marriage tradition. Tar’am-Agade the daughter of the Akkadian king, Naram-Sin, is believed to have been married to the king of Urkesh.
During the early second millennium BC the city passed into the hands of the rulers of Mari, a city a few hundred miles to the south. The king of Urkesh became a vassal (and apparently an appointed puppet) of Mari. The people of Urkesh evidently resented this, as the royal archives at Mari provide evidence of their strong resistance; in one letter, the king of Mari tells his Urkesh counterpart that “I did not know that the sons of your city hate you on my account. But you are mine, even if the city of Urkesh is not.” In the middle of the millennium, Tell Mozan was the location of a Mitanni religious site. The city appears to have been largely abandoned circa 1350 BC.
The genealogy and identity of Urkesh’s rulers is largely unknown, but the first three known kings (only two of whom are known by name) bore the Hurrian title endan.
Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border (Al Hasakah Governorate) and Turkey. The Excavations have shown that this site houses the remains of one of the world’s oldest known cities, leading scholars to believe that cities in this part of the world emerged much earlier than previously thought.
Traditionally, the origins of urban developments in this part of the world have been sought in the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC many of the famous Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk emerged, giving this region the attributes of “Cradle of Civilization” and “Heartland of Cities.” Following the discoveries at Hamoukar, this definition may have to extended further up the Tigris River to include that part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.
This archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city could have actually emerged before the advent of a written language. Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Most importantly, archaeologists believe this apparent city was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in Mesopotamia, which would be in the southern one-third of Iraq today.
The discovery at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities – including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development – may have begun earlier than was previously believed. The fact that this discovery is such a large city is what is most exciting to archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing can quite compare to the discovery of this size and magnitude. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.
The Hurrians had a reputation in metallurgy. The Sumerians borrowed their copper terminology from the Hurrian vocabulary. Copper was traded south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from the Hurrian-dominated countries Kizzuwatna and Ishuwa situated in the Anatolian highland.
Hurrian was spoken in various parts of the Fertile Crescent in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Urartian was the language of Urartu, a powerful state centered in the area of Lake Van in Turkey, that existed between 1000 BC or earlier and 585 BC. The two extinct languages have been grouped into the Hurro-Urartian family. Diakonoff proposed the name Alarodian for the union of Hurro-Urartian and Northeast Caucasian.
In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.
Arme-Shupria (Arme-Shubria) (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Armani-Subar (Sumerian Su-bir/Subar/Šubur) from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Proto-Armenian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.
Shubria was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia.
The term “Sumerian” is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia, Sumer, by the Semitic Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg-ga. The Akkadian word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain. Biblical Shinar, Egyptian Sngr and Hittite Šanhar(a) could be western variants of Shumer.
Shinar is a biblical geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Hebrew Shene neharot (“two rivers”), Hebrew Shene arim (“two cities”), or Akkadian Sumeru (from the Sumerians’ name for Sumer, which meant perhaps “land of the civilized lords” or “native land”).
The name Shinar occurs eight times in the Hebrew Bible, in which it refers to Babylonia. This location of Shinar is evident from its description as encompassing both Babylon (Babel) (in northern Babylonia) and Erech (Uruk) (in southern Babylonia).
In the Book of Genesis 10:10, the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom is said to have been “Babel [Babylon], and Erech [Uruk], and Akkad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” Verse 11:2 states that Shinar enclosed the plain that became the site of the Tower of Babel after the Great Flood. After the Flood, the sons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, had stayed first in the highlands of Armenia, and then repaired to Shinar.
In Genesis 14:1,9, King Amraphel rules Shinar. Shinar is further mentioned in Joshua 7:21; Isaiah 11:11; Daniel 1:2; and Zechariah 5:11, as a general synonym for Babylonia.
Jubilees 9:3 allots Shinar (or, in the Ethiopic text, Sadna Sena`or) to Ashur, son of Shem. Jubilees 10:20 states that the Tower of Babel was built with bitumen from the sea of Shinar. David Rohl theorized that the Tower was actually located in Eridu, which was once located on the Persian Gulf, where there are ruins of a massive, ancient ziggurat worked from bitumen.
Sayce identified Shinar as cognate with the following names: Sangara/Sangar mentioned in the context of the Asiatic conquests of Thutmose III (15th century BCE); Sanhar/Sankhar of the Amarna letters (14th century BCE); the Greeks’s Singara; and modern Sinjar, in Upper Mesopotamia, near the Khabur River. Accordingly, he proposed that Shinar was in Upper Mesopotamia, but acknowledged that the Bible gives important evidence that it was in the south.
The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a language isolate; a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian, names of some of Sumer’s major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants. However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there [note there is no consensus among scholars on the origins of the Sumerians]. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries.
The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware. Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.
Tell Zeidan is an archaeological site of the Ubaid culture in northern Syria, from about 5500 to 4000 BC. The dig consists of three large mounds on the east bank of the Balikh River, slightly north of its confluence with the Euphrates River, and is located about 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the modern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah (or Raqqa). This site is included within the historical region known as Mesopotamia and the Tigris-Euphrates river system, often called the Cradle of Civilization.
The Jemdet Nasr period is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that is generally dated to 3100–2900 BCE. It is named after the type-site Jemdet Nasr, where the assemblage typical for this period was first recognized. Its geographical distribution is limited to south–central Iraq. The culture of the proto-historical Jemdet Nasr period is a local development out of the preceding Uruk period and continues into the Early Dynastic I period.
Kish was occupied from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100 BC), gaining prominence as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region during the early dynastic period.
At the end of the Uruk period there was an archaeologically attested river flood in Shuruppak. Polychrome pottery from a destruction level below the flood deposit has been dated to the Jemdet Nasr period that immediately preceded the Early Dynastic I period. The Sumerian king list states that Kish was the first city to have kings following the deluge
Ziusudra (also Zi-ud-sura and Zin-Suddu; Hellenized Xisuthros: “found long life” or “life of long days”) of Shuruppak is listed in the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension as the last king of Sumer prior to the deluge. He is subsequently recorded as the hero of the Sumerian flood epic. He is also mentioned in other ancient literature, including The Death of Gilgamesh and The Poem of Early Rulers, and a late version of The Instructions of Shuruppak refers to Ziusudra. Akkadian Atrahasis (“extremely wise”) and Utnapishtim (“he found life”), as well as biblical Noah (“rest”) are similar heroes of flood legends of the ancient Near East.
Although each version of the flood myth has distinctive story elements, there are numerous story elements that are common to two, three, or four versions. The earliest version of the flood myth is preserved fragmentarily in the Eridu Genesis, written in Sumerian cuneiform and dating to the 17th century BC, during the 1st Dynasty of Babylon when the language of writing and administration was still Sumerian. Strong parallels are notable with other Near Eastern flood legends, such as the biblical account of Noah.
he line following Ziusudra in WB-62 reads: Then the flood swept over. The next line reads: After the flood swept over, kingship descended from heaven; the kingship was in Kish. The city of Kish flourished in the Early Dynastic period soon after an archaeologically attested river flood in Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara, Iraq) and various other Sumerian cities. This flood has been radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BCE. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3000–2900 BCE) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum, and the Jemdet Nasr period immediately preceded the Early Dynastic I period.
The significance of Ziusudra’s name appearing on the WB-62 king list is that it links the flood mentioned in the three surviving Babylonian deluge epics of Ziusudra (Eridu Genesis), Utnapishtim (Epic of Gilgamesh), and Atrahasis (Epic of Atrahasis) to river flood sediments in Shuruppak, Uruk, Kish et al. that have been radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BC. This has led some scholars to conclude that the flood hero was king of Shuruppak at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3000–2900) which ended with the river flood of 2900 BC.
Ziusudra being a king from Shuruppak is supported by the Gilgamesh XI tablet (see below) making reference to Utnapishtim (Akkadian translation of the Sumerian name Ziusudra) with the epithet “man of Shuruppak” at line 23.
Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians. Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.
The land of Subartu is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit. It was apparently a polity in Northern Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris.
Most scholars accept Subartu as an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east, north or west of there. Its precise location has not been identified. From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Martu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.
The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.
Eannatum of Lagash was said to have smitten Subartu or Shubur, and it was listed as a province of the empire of Lugal-Anne-Mundu; in a later era Sargon of Akkad campaigned against Subar, and his grandson Naram-Sin listed Subar along with Armani (Armenians), -which has been identified with Aleppo-, among the lands under his control. Ishbi-Erra of Isin and Hammurabi also claimed victories over Subar.
There seems to be similarities between the Northeast Caucasian family and the extinct languages Hurrian and Urartian. The Proto-Northeast Caucasian language had many terms for agriculture, and Johanna Nichols has suggested that its speakers may have been involved in the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. They had words for concepts such as yoke, as well as fruit trees such as apple and pear that suggest agriculture was already well developed when the proto-language broke up.