Scholarly Online Bibliographies for the Study of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

One word for this site: wow.

The above link leads to a gateway site for online bibliographies related to the study of the ancient Near East. It’s an amazing resource.

You’re welcome!

Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses: Database and Bibliography Project

For all those interested in ancient Mesopotamian religion, I recommend the Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses Project website. It’s being produced by one of my alma maters, the University of Pennsylvania.

The project describes itself as a “website [that] offers information about the fifty most important gods and goddesses and provides starting points for further research.”

Here’s the link to the Anunna/Anunnaki page. Nicely done with bibliography links. (Sorry, Sitchin didn’t make the cut – this is real primary text research, not fantasy land).

Baghdad Battery, the Saqqara Plane, and Other Not-So-Mysterious Artifacts

I just discovered the Archaeological Fantasies blog, a site that warmed my PaleoBabbling heart. The author has a short series entitled, “The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts” in which many of you will be interested. Two caught my eye right away:

1. The so-called Saqqara plane

I’ve posted about this and other mis-identified objects elsewhere on my homepage, but it’s worth a re-do here, especially since the blog’s author also posted this picture of the Egyptian Opet procession, which features the “plane” (it’s a bird, not a plane) on the masts of sailing ships:

Here’s a close-up of one of the masts:

2. The Baghdad battery

Clever, but not evidence of alien technology.

Cuneiform Astronomy: The Planets in Mesopotamian Cuneiform Sources

I get asked all the time, “How do you know Sitchin is wrong about aliens in Sumerian tablets?” Short answer: Because I get my information from the actual ancient scribes. Here’s one example among many that could be offered.  It’ s a free PDF paper (28 pp) on the planets in Mesopotamian sources (i.e., the actual cuneiform astronomical texts — also known as the stuff Zecharia Sitchin hides from his readers).  I thought those of you interested in divine into the actual source material for this sort of thing might like it. If you are committed to the ancient Anunnaki astronaut nonsense already, you might want to avoid that link. Actual sources have a way of demolishing this belief system.

A few things to notice as you read:

1. Take this information back to Zecharia Sitchin’s works and check and see if the way he explains the gods and astronomical bodies align with the source texts (Hint: it doesn’t — but don’t rely on my word).  Then ask yourself why Sitchin didn’t get this right. I’ll leave it to you to speculate on why.

2. Look at page 9 – the list of planets and their deity names. Notice anything? Count them. According to Sumerian sources, the Sumerians did *not* know twelve planets, contra Sitchin. And the chart shows no knowledge of a planet beyond Saturn (they are all visible to the trained naked eye). This is devastating proof that from their own tablets that the Sumerians had no advanced astronomical knowledge from aliens.

The Pan-Babylonian Approach to the Hebrew Bible by Ancient Astronaut Theorists: Still Dead After All These Years

I’ve blogged before about “Pan-Babylonianism” — the idea that the content of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is basically plagiarized from Babylonian (more widely, Sumero-Mesopotamian) material. No serious biblical studies scholar or Assyriologist believes this today, but this approach became a majority paradigm in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the wake of two events: (1) the decipherment of cuneiform and (2) Friedrich Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bible” lectures delivered in 1902 to the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft attended by Kaisar Wilhelm II and his staff. In other words, anyone (like Zecharia Sitchin) who supposed or still supposes this approach is novel or cutting edge or “research the mainstream cannot cope with” is behind the curve by 100 years.

The death pf Pan-Babylonianism actually came shortly after it’s rise to prominence due to the famous German scholar Hermann Gunkel’s classic rebuttal-essay, Babylonien und Israel (1903). Gunkel was *not* an evangelical or fundamentalist. He is well know to many people in that crowd as a “liberal” scholar. Regardless of labels, his famous work initiated the lethal injection to Pan-Babylonianism.

Gunkel’s important work is now available in a new English translation. Readers can read a review here, as well as get information for ordering this new work. Bear in mind this is a scholarly work; it is not light reading.The review alludes to an earlier translations of Gunkel’s work by published in 1904 by John Joseph McVey. That earlier translation is available online for free here.

Ancient Planes, Rockets, and Helicopters?

I feel a little embarrassed. I can’t believe I forgot to blog this, though I probably intended to redo the page and make it look nice. Oh well.

The last time I was on Coast to Coast, I threw this page together (in about an hour – I know, it shows) since I knew people would ask about “the alien technology” of ancient flight.  The page sketches some of the “evidence” for planes/gliders in ancient Egypt, helicopters at Abydos, and rockets at Byblos. Pure PaleoBabble. As brilliant as some ancient engineers were, there is no evidence that their technology moved in this direction.

My apologies for letting this go months without posting it

Recent Essay on Nibiru

Most of what you’ll read on the internet about Nibiru comes from Zecharia Sitchin’s noggin and those of his cyber-acolytes. In other words, most of it’s nonsense. Here is an exception. I’ll have to admit some of it is over my head (I’m not an astronomer), but this strikes me as an earnest attempt to make sense of the Mesopotamian material on Nibiru (read: the real stuff, not what Sitchin invents in his books). It may be helpful for readers to have these other links handy:


Enuma Anu Enlil

Guide to Ancient Astronaut PaleoBabble

I’ll be on Coast to Coast AM this evening. This time I decided to do something that will help listeners follow the discussion more easily.  I’ve created a sort of quick guide to my basic responses to a range of ancient astronaut paleobabble. It’s a one-stop reference point for all sorts of links, posts, and files on my sites and blogs.  Check it out.

You may also find this page of interest (it’s linked to on the above guide). A few paleobabble topics here I haven’t blogged on yet.

Is the Book of Genesis Plagiarized from Sumerian and Akkadian (Mesopotamian) Sources?

This is a common claim by Zecharia Sitchin and those who adore him, like his webmaster Erik Parker, and Jason Martell. As I have blogged here before (here and here), this idea was common fare toward the end of the 19th century, due primarily to two historical forces: (1) the novelty of the decipherment of cuneiform material, certain items of which sounded like Genesis stories; and (2) anti-Semitism being rife within higher-critical biblical scholarship. Today, in the 21st century (and one could say since the mid 20th century), scholars of Akkadian and Sumerian do NOT hold this view.  They just know better since they have a much more accurate grasp of Akkadian and Sumerian, as well as Semitic linguistics.

This morning the University of Chicago graciously posted a new e-book on the ABZU website entitled, “From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West.” It’s free, and so here’s a link to it. I recommend (unless you are a fundamentalist Sitchinite) reading the article “The Genesis of Genesis” by Victor Hurowitz.  I have inserted a hyperlink to the page in the Table of Contents. Hurowitz is a professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel (so he lacks that awful Christian bias). He is a recognized expert in the interface of the Hebrew Bible and Assyriology, and serves on the steering committee of the Melammu Project, which focuses on the study of the intellectual heritage of Assyria and Babylonia in the modern East and West.

Guess what? He doesn’t agree with Sitchin and his followers that Genesis came from Sumerian and Akkadian works. What a shock. I’ve highlighted a few choice phrases in the PDF at the link so you can’t miss them. What’s even better is that the article also includes quotations from Assyriologist Wilfred Lambert that say the same thing. Who is Lambert? He’s one of the scholars Sitchin likes to quote in his books to create the impression that he (Sitchin) is doing serious research when he isn’t.

But please read it for yourself. Yes, there is a relationship between works like Enuma Elish and the book of Genesis — because they both come from the ancient Near East, not because of literary dependence. As the article points out, the real parallels to Genesis from non-biblical material do not come from Mesopotamia; they come from Ugarit. This is something that anyone who has looked at my divine council site already knows, since I point it out all the time.

There’s no antidote against PaleoBabble like fact-based scholarship. But like any medicine, you have to take it before it can help you.

The Bias of 19th Century German Biblical and Assyriological Scholarship

Turns out even real scholars can be guilty of paleobabble when motivated by biases. They simply filter the data through a preconceived grid.

I’ve blogged before about how F. Delitzsch was influenced by racial theories of his day toward anti-Semitism, which in turn erased his objectivity about the Mesopotamian influence on the Old Testament (see, “Is Zecharia Sitchin Anti-Semitic?”). I don’t think Sitchin or others who blindly follow him are anti-Semitic. But they keep foisting exaggerated and misguided 19th century academic conclusions about Sumerian-Akkadian influence on the Old Testament on their readers. The fact is that today, in the real 21st (and 20th) century worlds of biblical studies and Assyriology, conclusions about such influence are far more tame and guarded. The issue is just more complex than 19th century scholars either knew or cared to admit. Many were propelled by racism.  Here’s another article on Delitzsch and this subject. It’s introduction and conclusion read in part (my highlights):

“Our concern in this essay is not with the role of Delitzsch’s work in the history of the disciplines of Assyriology and biblical studies per se. Instead we aim to take this centennial as an opportunity to refresh the guild’s memory concerning his presuppositions and the tragic turn observable in the lectures themselves.

At the centennial of the “Babel und Bibel” lectures, our intent has been to consider Delitzsch and his method in the context of his time and place in order to gain a heuristic depth perception after the passage of a full century. Delitzsch was a brilliant Assyriologist, one of the most distinguished scholars of the time. But beyond his philological accomplishments, he also left behind a legacy of uncritical political nationalism and questionable assumptions. In this light, Delitzsch stands as a singular reminder of the importance of the way in which we relate our research to our context.”