Lost Culture of
Part One (ii):
Sumerians merge into Chaldeans
Damien F. Mackey
“Why Berossos [Berossus] would draw on sources of the “Sumerians” to tell
Chaldean history remains as mysterious as the bewilderingly wanting scholarly and astronomical/astrological texts of the Chaldaeans whose erudition is famous all over Antiquity and “from whom the Greek mathematicians copy” (Flavius Josephus)”.
In this series, I am following Dr. John Osgood’s most helpful synchronization of the ‘erudite’ Chaldean people, “famous all over Antiquity”, with the ‘Ubaid culture of archaeology.
Dr. Osgood wrote tellingly, in “A Better Model for the Stone Age Part 2”:
1. Arphaxad – Al Ubaid, the Early Chaldees
Josephus13 identifies the descendants of Arphaxad as the Chaldeans and this seems to be consistent with the biblical statements concerning them, for Abraham was a descendant of Arphaxad (Genesis 10 verse 24 and 11 verses 10-31). Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees to eventually travel to the land of Canaan.
Now Ur of the Chaldees, that is, the southern Ur found in the region south of the Euphrates River, has been excavated by Woolley. Woolley found that the earliest layers in Ur were built by the Al Ubaid people. (Al Ubaid is the early pottery culture of this region.)
Now if the Al Ubaid people built Ur, then Ur would be an Al Ubaid city originally, and as it was known as Ur of the Chaldees, this allows us to equate the Chaldees with the Al Ubaid people. This fits what we know of the Chaldean people. Certainly, it was in that region of the world that the later Chaldeans were known to live. It is also clear that this area had an influence on the north by the naming of such cities as Harran associated with the same religions that were known in the region of Ur of the Chaldees.
It is certain that Joan Oates has shown the contemporaneity of northern Halaf and southern Ubaid, a fact that bears well with the Table of Nations in Genesis 10.14
The Al Ubaid culture of Southern Mesopotamia was centred around the cities of Ur and Eridu, and its earliest [manifestation] … the Hajj Muhammad pottery, appears to be the first culture on the soil of this area of southern Iraq:
‘At all sites so far investigated in the South the Ubaid rests directly on virgin soil, and there seems little doubt that the people who bore this culture were the first settlers on the alluvium of whom we have any trace.’15
From this region at a later epoch came the now famous Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, the Chaldean. ….
[End of quotes]
Professor Gunnar Heinsohn has added a further important (cultural) dimension to the Chaldean peoples by identifying them with the most ancient, and enigmatic, Sumerians:
Classical Historiography confirmed
The Chaldaean priest Berossos, around 278-290 B.C.E., writes, in Greek, a history of his homeland for the Macedonian/Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter (281 -261). The work becomes known under the title Babyloniaka of which fragments are preserved in ancient Greek writings. In his section on the Deluge, Berossos, surprisingly, calls the flood hero Xisuthros (Alexander Polyhistor) or Sisithrus (Abydenus). This is a Greek transliteration of Ziusudra. Yet, Ziusudra is the protagonist of the “Sumerian” version of the Flood. That Berossus does not leave us the Chaldean name of the flood hero has never stopped to stun Orientalists. After all, Berossos tells us nothing about the “Sumerians” who, since Jules Oppert’s coining of the term 1868, are thought to have created mankind’s first civilization in his very homeland. All ancient Greek writers who cite Berossos take him for a Chaldaean expert of Chaldean history.
Therefore, they list his records under headings like “Chaldaean History” (Alexander Polyhistor), “Of the Chaldaean Kings” (Apollodorus) or “Of the Chaldaean Kings and the Deluge” (Abydenus).
Like Berossos, ancient Greek authors never give the slightest hint of a “Sumerian” civilization though Greek transliterations of cuneiform texts, called “Sumerian” by modern scholars, are produced as late as the 2nd or even 3rd century AD (so called Graeco-Babyloniaca). Thus, ancient Greeks are able to read and write “Sumerian” for nearly half a millennium but fail to recognize the “Sumerian” people not to speak of a “Sumerian” cradle of civilization. What they know is a Chaldean civilization with some 900 larger and smaller settlements which supposedly did not leave a single grave, brick or even potsherd.
Why Berossos would draw on sources of the “Sumerians” to tell Chaldean history remains as mysterious as the bewilderingly wanting scholarly and astronomical/ astrological texts of the Chaldaeans whose erudition is famous all over Antiquity and “from whom the Greek mathematicians copy” (Flavius Josephus). This enigma is aggravated by the fact that the “Sumerians” themselves, who have left countless astronomical/astrological texts, never employ the word “Sumer” or “Sumerians”. In their own cuneiform writing they call their country Kalam (e.g., Sumerian Kinglist) and its inhabitants people of Kalam (e.g., the Nippur poem Praise of the Pickax).
Yet, not only the term Kalam fits Chaldea well—as do the Mitanni fit the Medes or the Martu the Mardoi—but also its stratigraphic location just two strata groups below Hellenism where one would look for the predecessors of the Akhaemenids in Babylonia. ….
Damien Mackey’s comment: For my own take on Medo-Persian (or Achaemenid) archaeology, see my article:
Persian History has no adequate Archaeology
Professor Heinsohn continues:
Therefore, beginning in 1987, this author has been suggesting that certain empires of the ancient near east did not really exist, and should therefore be removed from modern textbooks (in English see Heinsohn 1991. 1996 and 1998). At the same time realms and empires well-known since antiquity should be restored to the place they once held in the history and chronology of the ancient world.
Damien Mackey’s comment: Sometimes Heinsohn goes rather too far in all this I believe.
He continues, here beginning with a very true and important statement:
The logical basis for this proposal is that in order for great empires and civilizations that appear in modern textbooks to be accepted as genuine there must be evidence of their existence in the archaeological layers of the earth.
If textbook empires are without such layers, then there are two possibilities: (1.) these empires should disappear from the pages of modern textbooks. (2.) the existence of these empires must be affirmed by using archaeological layers that are currently assigned to other empires, thus causing these latter empires to disappear.
The author prefers a conservative solution, i.e. possibility 2. Otherwise we would have to throw out teachings and empires that have dominated historical writings for two and a half millennia. We would have to punish thus countless authors of antiquity—Jews, Greeks, Romans and Armenian—by calling them liars, without being able to explain why, in their own time, they had no doubt that the realms described by them were real. Despite their rather quarrelsome dispositions they were united in agreement about the imperial succession—starting, quite in tune with proven Chinese chronology, around -1000—of Assyrians, Medes (with Chaldeans and Scythians), Persians and Macedonians: “Assyrii principes omnium gentium rerum potiti sunt, deinde Medi, postea Persae, deinde Macedones” (Aemilius Sura, -2nd century). ….
…. The 2nd option produces the following results:
(C) The more than 900 cities and towns of Chaldaea, known to the Greeks as “the cradle of civilization” but seen as non-retrievable by modern Assyriologists, returns to the textbooks. To Chaldaea are given the archaeological layers that not until 1868 began to be called “Sumer” (albeit Kalam in its own language), which disappears accordingly.