Going South Again?

More bad news came from Florida this afternoon.  My mother is not likely to last more than two or three days; in fact, a visiting Hospice nurse thinks she may not make it through the night.  Therefore Leive and I are preparing for another trip southward already.  The earliest we can leave Kentucky is Thursday morning, so it looks like we won’t see her alive again.  It also appears that like last time, Leive will be staying for several days after I have to return, to keep my father company.  If you don’t see any new messages for the rest of this week and next, it means I am off performing my final duty as a son.

In the meantime, here are the scans I promised of the pictures from last month, which show Leive in the Philippines with Elizabeth, Joshua and Japhet Bendoy, the kids we are planning to adopt (see A Mission From God).  To save time, only thumbnails are shown here; click on each thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Going Down From the Mountains

Last month, while Leive was in the Philippines, I completely rewrote a section in Chapter 11 of The Genesis Chronicles I haven’t uploaded it yet, because I am planning to rewrite most of Chapter 12 as well, and these rewrites won’t make much sense until all of them are finished.

Here’s a preview of the new section, which covers what Noah’s descendants were doing between the Flood and the Tower of Babel incident.  Sorry to keep you waiting; I got sidetracked with all the stuff happening in my family, and the recent trip to Florida.  Hope you enjoy it anyway; better late than never!

Going Down From the Mountains

Noah and his wife chose to stay near the landing-site of the Ark for the rest of their days. Because of their presence Armenia became a place civilized men feared; a mysterious land of cloud-covered mountains, where people lived unnaturally long lives. We regarded that region in a similar way in the 1970s, when the Soviet Union reported that Georgia and Azerbaijan were home to more than 2,000 centenarians.

Among the three families started by Noah’s sons, the family of Japheth traveled the least at this stage. They stayed in the Caucasus region, as noted earlier, so for most of the third millennium B.C. the Japhethite domain was Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, eastern Turkey, and northwest Iran. We pointed out that God had promised to “greatly enlarge Japheth,” but the expansion fulfilling that prophecy, the “Great Indo-European Migration,” doesn’t get underway until about 2100 B.C., long after this narrative ends, so we won’t be covering it here. You can read about the migration in Chapter 1 of my European history.

While the first Japhethites seemed to like living in the highlands, the Semites and Hamites moved out to find new homes for themselves. In the section on the origin of grain, I suggested that Lebanon and northern Syria were among the first places settled after the Flood; those settlers were most likely Semites, because we find speakers of Semitic languages in the area when writing becomes available. The other likely proto-Semitic lands were central and northern Iraq, and the southern half of Iran; their earliest inhabitants who could write were Semites, too. Central and northern Iraq were the respective home bases for the Akkadians and Assyrians, two of the great empire-builders of the ancient Middle East. Southern Iran was the original home of the Elamites, not only at Susa but also at two major sites discovered recently, Jiroft and Burnt City.

Philologists classify the Semitic languages into two sub-groups, “West Semitic” and “East Semitic.” The West Semitic group is well-represented today; Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew come from there. Akkadian and Assyrian were the most widely used East Semitic languages. Along that line, I’m going to propose the following scenario for how the children of Shem went forth. Before Babel, they split into at least two groups, with Lud and Aram leading the West Semites into Syria-Lebanon. Elam, Asshur and Arphaxad were the East Semitic patriarchs, and at first they followed the Hamites east through the Zagros mountain passes. However, none of them stayed with the Hamites for the whole journey; Asshur and Arphaxad made a right turn with their families early on, and ended up in Iraq, while Elam settled down in southern Iran.

The trickiest part of this scenario is the origin of Hebrew and Arabic; we noted above that those are West Semitic languages, but the ancestry of the Hebrews and the Arabs is traced back to Arphaxad, an East Semite. For that I would propose a descendant of Arphaxad named Eber as the solution. A surprising number of Jewish traditions have sprung up around Eber, in view of how little the Bible says about him. One asserts that Levi and Issachar, two sons of Jacob, married granddaughters of Eber; another claims that he refused to take part in the building of the Tower of Babel, so his language, unlike everybody elses’, was not confused. Eber’s name is interpreted as meaning “across,” “beyond,” “opposite side,” or “passage,” and is the root word for Hebrew, so the ultimate meaning of “Hebrew” is “those who cross over.” Did Eber lead an important early migration across the Euphrates? When the library of Ebla was found in the 1970s, several of its clay tablets mentioned a king named Ebrium, which immediately reminded the translators of Eber. The Ebla tablets also mentioned a second city named Ur, besides the one in southern Iraq, and while the second Ur hasn’t been found yet, the tablets suggest a location somewhere in northern Syria. Since then several Bible scholars have suggested this was the real “Ur of the Chaldees” that Terah and Abraham came from, when they moved to Haran, because Deuteronomy 26:5 calls Jacob a “wandering Aramaean,” not a wandering Akkadian or Sumerian. Did Eber leave the other East Semites, taking his family, livestock and possessions to the second Ur, in the land of the Western Semites, beginning the journey that Terah and Abraham finished, several generations later?

The most important migration in the immediate post-Flood years was that of the Hamites. Unlike the Semites, they appear to have stayed in one group. The first two verses of Genesis 11 describes this movement by saying, “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.”

We know from other references (e.g., Genesis 10:10) that Shinar was the land that would soon be known as Sumer–today’s southern Iraq. However, Iraq is south of Mt. Ararat, while the verse said they “journeyed from the east” to get there. This only makes sense if the Hamites first traveled east into Iran, and then doubled back to reach Iraq. Therefore I am suggesting they followed a path parallel to the Zagros Mts. at first, going through several mountain passes (the “seven gates” of Mesopotamian literature); then when they got to the plains of Elam, the last of the Semites following them stopped, while the Hamites turned west and went on into Iraq. Presumably they took this roundabout path, instead of going directly from the highlands to Iraq, because they had to keep to the hill country for a while, until the plains became dry enough to grow crops.

The Postdiluvian Middle East

The first places settled after the Flood by Shem (dark green), Ham (yellow), and Japheth (dark red). Don’t be fooled by the size of the ovals; Ham’s area is the smallest on this map, but it was also the most densely populated. The orange arrow shows the proposed path taken by the Hamites, from Mt. Ararat to the plain of Shinar. Bahrein is indicated because that was explored and settled at a very early date by the Hamites as well.

What attracted the Hamites to Iraq is not stated in the Biblical account, but it could be that they wanted to be as close as possible to where Noah lived before the Deluge.  The Sumerian King List claims that the first kings after the Flood had this specifically in mind, and actively sought out knowledge from their ancestral home:

“The everlasting ground plan,
that which for all time
the construction has determined.
It is the one which bears
the drawings from the Olden Times
and the writing of the Upper Heaven.”

In Chapter 9 we looked at the Sumerian King List, and how it asserted that the Sumerian cities existed before the Flood. Of course the geologic disruptions caused by the Flood must have destroyed all landmarks of the antediluvian era, so it is unlikely that Nimrod and his kin found all of the original cities when they built new ones.

Despite the lack of bearings, apparently they did succeed in finding something that they sought: artifacts that the Flood had not destroyed. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668-631 B.C.) boasted that his library of clay tablets at Nineveh contained texts written before the Flood. The first chapter of The Epic of Gilgamesh has that heroic king boasting that his city (Uruk) possessed an antediluvian slate of wisdom:

“Find the copper tablet box,
slip loose the ring-bolt made of bronze,
Open the mouth to its secrets,
Draw out the tablet of lapis lazuli
and read it aloud.”

We also noted earlier that according to the Sumerian King List, the first kings after the Flood ruled from Kish and Uruk. They are listed separately, leading a casual reader to think the dynasty of Kish came first, followed by the dynasty of Uruk. However, the list says this about Dumuzi, the fourth king of Uruk: “He captured En-me-barage-si single-handed,” referring to one of the last kings on the Kish list. There is also a separate clay tablet (not part of the King List) that describes a very short conflict between the next two kings, Gilgamesh of Uruk and Agga of Kish. Therefore we must admit that the dynasties were contemporary with one another, for at least part of the time they existed. In addition, the dynasty of Kish has almost twice as many kings (23 vs. 12), and the only king of Kish who gets much attention in Sumerian literature, Etana, is in the middle of the list, not at either end. Because of that, a few scholars have proposed there were really two dynasties ruling side-by-side at Kish, one founded by Etana and one founded by Ga-Ur (the obscure figure at the beginning of the list), sort of like the two kings of Sparta or the two consuls of the Roman Republic.

With Uruk, we have just a bit more literary evidence. The first king of the Uruk dynasty is Meskiagkasher, who is described as the son of Utu, the Sumerian sun god and lawgiver; the King List also says he went into the sea and traveled to a land with mountains. We will talk about that sea journey in the next chapter. In his work Legend, archaeologist David Rohl argued that Meskiagkasher and the Cush of Genesis 10 are probably different names for the same person, with Cush being a hypocoristicon or “nickname.” If this is correct, then Utu must be another name for Ham, here blown up into a mythological figure. Because Cush/Meskiagkasher is the one listed as the founder of Uruk, I have a feeling that either Ham died before his family reached southern Iraq, or he bequeathed leadership to his eldest son at some point on the journey. Nothing yet has been found to link the kings of Kish with Biblical characters; they may have started off as governors appointed by Cush and Nimrod, or they could again be individuals from Genesis under completely different names (the family of Arphaxad, perhaps).

Now let us look at the physical evidence left behind by Iraq’s first post-Flood settlers. When you dig up artifacts left by people who did not read or write, trash heaps are often the best source of information, so archaeology has sometimes been called the science of rubbish. Besides stones and bones, pottery is the most durable item found in ancient garbage. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Flinders Petrie worked out a system of relative dating, where an approximate age can be put on an archaeological site by the style of pottery found there; if the same style is found at two different sites, it is a safe guess that those sites were inhabited around the same time. That is why pots, even when broken, are so important to archaeologists. Because transportation and communication in ancient times was far more difficult than it is today, a change in the shape or decoration of pots is usually interpreted to mean an invasion or migration took place, rather than simply a change in fashion. Archaeologists are out of luck if they excavate a site where people preferred to carry things in baskets or leather bags, but in places where pots are common enough, an entire culture may be named after them, like the Beaker Folk of prehistoric Britain. Still, even with a good pottery record, what we know about prehistoric man is a few facts connected by a lot of guesswork, so take what I write in the rest of this work with a bit of caution; the story written here is not “carved in stone” and could change with the next archaeological excavation.

So what does the pottery record tell us about postdiluvian man? Well, with most of the prehistoric sites where he lived, such as Jarmo, Tel Hassuna and Samarra in northern Iraq, and Halaf in northeast Syria, each place has its own pottery style. This suggests that each community was on its own; if there was commerce between them, it was not on a scale that spared any group from the need to be self-sufficient. I will propose that these sites were the homes of Noah’s children and grandchildren, who lived in groups that at one point may have been as small as a single family.

It was a different story, however, in southern Iraq. The Iraqi plain was very fertile, and contained plenty of fish and game, but it was not a desirable place to live because of unequal water distribution. Where water was present, there were marshes, and where water was not present, desert existed. To do well in such a place, the settlers would have to use irrigation as well as agriculture. They knew how to do both, and massive engineering projects dug ditches to divert the water, drain the marshes, and turn the deserts into farmland. These irrigation canals were so important that they were regularly maintained for thousands of years afterwards.

Whereas several pottery styles/cultures existed in the northern settlements, southern Iraq had one style of pottery from the start, and we have found it in the oldest levels of communities like Ur, Eridu and Uruk. It was characterized by black markings on green-tinged ceramics, and is called Ubaidian, after Tel al-Ubaid, a site near Ur that is rich in such pottery. The Ubaidian culture is also characterized by images with faces that resembled lizards rather than people. Clay models of sailboats tell us that they knew how to make watercraft, and their merchants traveled all over the area settled by Noah’s descendants at this stage; Ubaidian-style pots have been found in northern Iraq, Syria, and on the east coast of Arabia, as far south as Bahrein and Qatar. All this suggests that the first inhabitants of southern Iraq traveled a lot, and were from one family, ethnic group or political unit.

At some point in the fourth millennium B.C., a new culture replaced the Ubaidian one. We call it the Uruk culture, because one of southern Iraq’s communities, Uruk, had grown to cover 250 acres, and was home for an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people. Uruk had become the first postdiluvian city; the largest any other towns could get at this stage was 100 acres. Here, because the land was so fertile and because so many farmers were now producing more food than they needed, it was possible for other professions to develop, and people could specialize in working at one skill. This is most evident in Uruk-style pottery; although it is finely shaped, hinting that the potter’s wheel had already been invented, these pots were undecorated, utilitarian pieces, mass produced without much concern for the appearance.

It is the author’s belief, due to a recent discovery at Hamoukar (more about that in the next chapter), that the artifacts of the Uruk culture were made at the time of the Tower of Babel story, or immediately afterwards. Uruk may not have been the capital of Nimrod’s empire, but it served as its commercial and cultural center, sort of a prehistoric New York City. It would remain important long after Nimrod and the Tower disappeared, at least until the second millennium B.C.

Leive’s Day of Recovery

Leive had a good night’s sleep, but still rested for most of the day, to get over yesterday’s jet lag and all the work she did down in Florida.  However, she’s now talking about going back in late July or August, to check on my mother and finish the housecleaning she started.

Speaking of my mother, she had a good rest, too.  Leive called in the morning, and found out they gave her oxy-contin instead of morphine, when they discovered she’s allergic to morphine.  That did the trick, but she’s not out of the lurch yet, so pray that she regains enough strength to walk again.  It seems that we get bad news one day, good news the next.

In the meantime, I gave Lindy the go-ahead to come up with Adam this weekend.  They plan to leave Georgia on Thursday, and go back Sunday morning, so they will be with us Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.  Now I wonder which bedroom they’ll choose to stay in?  We have two perfectly good rooms upstairs (meant for the kids we plan to adopt), but they might find the basement more comfortable, because it never gets hot there.

While at my parents’ house, I picked a handful of calamondins (Philippine limes), and brought them back to Kentucky.  They’re common enough in central Florida, but you can’t get them around here; even Meijer doesn’t stock them in their produce section.  Today Leive used them with the tilipia she cooked for lunch.  Calamondins go good in any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice.

This morning I discovered two robin nests under the patio behind out house.  The bird feeder is nearby, and one of the nests had three baby robins in it (the head of one is visible here).  No wonder I’ve seen an adult robin around the bird feeder lately.  Remember, they eat worms, not birdseed.

I had an adventure when I went outside to refill the feeder, and because the basement door was open, one of the baby robins flew in!  I hurried to close the door on the stairs to keep the bird from escaping into the rest of the house, and tried to shepherd it back outside.  When that didn’t work I eventually cornered it in the bookcases with the red, green and gold broom (what I call the “reggae broom,” LOL), and caught it in a box made from a plastic sewing machine cover and two large books.  That allowed me to take the bird outside without touching it.  Later on in the day I noticed the nest was deserted.  Evidently the babies were old enough to move out, and did so, figuring it wasn’t a safe place anymore.

Here is a picture I got of the robin when it was in my office area.  If you saw my previous house pictures, my computer desk is off the left edge of this picture, and on the right is the carousel containing my tapes, CDs and DVDs.  If the bird wanted to hide from me, it couldn’t have picked a worse spot!

I spent the afternoon grocery shopping to stock up the refrigerator for Leive, but afterwards she wrote another shopping list, so I sure hope I can finish that job tomorrow.  Now let’s see what the week will bring.

A Turn for the Worse

The news coming from Florida was generally favorable for the first five days after I returned.  Then yesterday I got two phone calls from Leive that told me my mother is suffering from chest pains, and they’re giving her nitro glycerin for that.  It didn’t work, so tonight they’re going to give her morphine.  There’s a consensus among my folks that time is running out for my mother, so I didn’t sleep well last night, thinking and praying for her.  Last night she even stopped breathing once, but one of the caregivers revived her right away.  Evidently at this stage, she’d rather be reunited with her parents than wait to see the kids we’re going to adopt from the Philippines.  We may be going back to Florida sooner than I’d like.

Leive’s return home was delayed two hours, by bad traffic and bad weather at the Orlando airport.  When I got to the Lexington airport, the airport’s computer screens said that her flight was on schedule, but then Leive called to let me know she was still on the runway in Orlando.  So I went home, and came back to the airport two hours later.  This time she was there, and dead tired because of the wait.  She was also hungry, because in Orlando International Airport they charged her $10 for a tuna sandwich, a bag of chips and some water.  I hope the sandwich was a footlong, otherwise she was ripped off.  Knowing how expensive airport refreshments are, the last time I was in OIA, I felt I was doing good when I got a decent cup of coffee for less than $2.  And foodwise, I did better in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport two years ago, when I paid $9 for a plate of Chinese fast food.  Thus, we stopped at Chipotle to get her a burrito on the way home.

As expected, Leive has been sleeping since then, and boy, what a transformation her arrival had on Brin-Brin!  The parrot who is normally furious when he’s alone in the house with me calmed down immediately when he saw his “pet human” arrive.  I guess he’s content now that Leive is back, because he only made a sound when a bottle of shampoo fell down upstairs, and when I picked up his (Leive’s) laptop.

Welcome home again, Leive!

Solstice Catch-up

The last two messages I posted caught me up to the first Monday after I returned from my trip to Florida.  Now, on the first day of summer, here is a summary of what has been happening here since then.

As you might expect, much of the town talked about the NBA finals between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers.  Since the final game was a blowout for Boston (131-92), the outcome couldn’t have been in doubt for long.  With the Red Sox winning last fall and the Patriots going to the Superbowl last winter, it has been a good year for Boston, sports-wise.  The locals are particularly proud that Rajon Rondo, who scored 21 points for the Celtics, is a former University of Kentucky player.  Now for the next four months, NBA will mean “No Basketball Anymore.”

The weather is still cool compared to Florida.  This afternoon, for example, it was 75 degrees when I got home, compared with 95 in Orlando.  Don’t you love it?  I trust Leive will appreciate it, too, when she gets back here tomorrow.  On Wednesday I mowed the front yeard, and on Thursday I mowed the back yard; I didn’t even work up a sweat while doing the front yard!

Speaking of Leive, I’m also looking forward to her return because maybe she can get this parrot to behave sensibly.  Brin-Brin has been furious when I walked past the cage, trying to bite at every opportunity.  With Leive gone for all but four days during the last five weeks, I wonder if Brin-Brin even remembers her?  He’s probably bored and pining, but when I’m the only human in the house, I can only give him so much attention, since I’m off at work for 8-9 hours every weekday.  Today when I cleaned his cage, he grabbed the newspaper section I was going to put on the cage bottom, and proceeded to shred it.  If I had my camera that would have made a cute picture, with a caption like “Brin-Brin helps me arrange the newspaper for his cage.”

Longtime readers will remember that last year, I talked about fireflies becoming visible right after sundown on evenings in early June, and how Kentucky fireflies are yellow, not blue like the Florida ones.  I think I missed most of the firefly season this year, due to being out of town.  Still, I manged to see one last night, and three or four this evening.

On Wednesday, the corrected pages for my history textbook, which I sent to the publisher last month, came back for my review.  If I make no more changes, we’ll still be on schedule for publication of the book later this year.

At work the computer network is still down much of the time; why can’t this problem be fixed?  Yesterday we had a fire drill, but everyone in the building just walked outside to the parking lot across the street.  Aren’t we supposed to scream hysterically and run when the building is on fire?  (LOL)

Almost Back to Normalcy

( Composed 6/16/2008 )

Monday, June 16, 2008

The office looked the same when I returned to work.  Part of the network is still down (arrgh!), though my old phone line is working again.  The biggest surprise is that my boss will be leaving on July 3; he is transferring to the company office in Tulsa, OK.  So far a replacement hasn’t been named yet.

Brin-Brin came home at 8:45 PM this evening.  He’s missing another feather or two off his left shoulder, presumably from molting, but otherwise looked and acted the same.  He recognized the house right away, and I’m listening to see if he learned anything from Jim Latimer’s parrot, Eli.  Jim also promised to come over occasionally after Leive gets home, in an effort to make Brin-Brin friendlier.

Speaking of Leive, she decided she wants to come home on Saturday, so I just booked a ticket for her.  In the meantime, keep up the good work in Florida!

This afternoon, I heard an awful lot of cicadas on the way home.  I don’t remember them in 2006 and 2007, and according to the news, this is the time of the seventeen-year swarm; the cicadas buzzing around now were hatched in 1991.  Cicadas aren’t a big deal in Florida because they’re out every summer; I guess there are several generations of them living in the Deep South at any given time.  The Kentucky cicadas are smaller than the Florida ones, and have black bodies with orange wings; Florida cicadas are grey or green.  Now I suspect that the large bugs I encountered while driving south on June 5 were really cicadas, rather than locusts, because some people (incorrectly) call them seventeen-year locusts.  Anyway, here is a news story about the swarm.

Cicada Invasion