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The Sumerian Royal Lists

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lostworlds
 · 1 week ago
The Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (seated on the throne) in a 21st century BC seal
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The Sumerian king Ur-Nammu (seated on the throne) in a 21st century BC seal
Among the most interesting documents that have come down to us from antiquity, an important place is undoubtedly occupied by the Sumerian Royal List. This precious document, of which there are multiple versions, reports the names and durations of the reigns of the rulers who succeeded one another at the helm of the various Mesopotamian city-states over the millennia. And just like in the similar Egyptian lists, here too, in addition to the historical kings, "mythological" ones appear, including those who reigned before the Flood. But what is even more surprising is the duration of the reigns of the latter, which is of the order of tens of thousands of years! After the Flood, it is reduced to a few hundred years, and then gradually approaches typically "human" values ​​as we get back into the swing of the period we define as "history".

As is easy to imagine, this document has always aroused the curiosity (as well as skepticism) of many scholars, from ancient historians to modern academic and independent researchers. They attempted to explain in various ways the mind-boggling figures present in it, now interpreting the years as days, now hypothesizing an "alien" origin for the longest-lived sovereigns, and so on.

But is the information so diligently provided by the List really reliable? Is the existence really plausible not only of characters of similar longevity, but also and above all of a civilization capable of continuing for such a long time, crossing thousands of centuries almost unscathed? As we will see, by combining ancient texts with the most recent scientific acquisitions, it is possible to find answers to these age-old questions.

Index

  • The Royal List versions

    • The WB 444
    • The WB 62
    • The UCBC 9-1819
    • Uruk's List of Kings and Sages
    • Berossus' History of Babylon

  • Considerations on the antediluvian chronology
  • Parallels with India
  • The postdiluvian kings

The Royal List versions

As specified above, there are multiple versions of the Sumerian Royal List: they differ above all in the number and duration of the reigns of the antediluvian kings, while they are quite in agreement on their names. We will therefore talk from now on of "lists", in the plural.

The most interesting for the purposes of our research are the following:

  1. WB 444 (“WB” stands for Weld Blundell, from the name of the English archaeologist who found this list and the following one): this is a clay prism found in Larsa, dating back perhaps to 1817 or 1827 BC;
  2. WB 62: it is a small clay tablet engraved on one side only, also found in Larsa and dated to around 2000 BC (it is therefore the oldest source);
  3. UCBC 9-1819: it is a clay tablet found in Tutub (now Khafaji) and dating back to a period between 1712 and 1812 BC;
  4. Uruk List of Kings and Sages (List of the Apkallu): found precisely in Uruk, it is a tablet dated to 165 BC and is therefore the most recent list;
  5. List reported in the History of Babylon: it was obtained from the fragments, scattered in the writings of other authors, of the work of the Chaldean historian Berossus, dating back to the first half of the 3rd century BC and unfortunately lost.

These versions are particularly interesting since they include (or consist exclusively of) an antediluvian section, which concerns rulers who succeeded before the Flood. This section, absent from other versions, is in all likelihood independent from the postdiluvian one, compared to which it presents greater variability, especially with regard to the durations of the reigns.

So let's examine the various lists in detail.

THE WB 444

This is the most complete of all the lists; includes both the antediluvian and postdiluvian sections. The antediluvian kings listed are eight, and the cities in which power was exercised are five; in total, the years of reign amount to 241,200. The figures are expressed in two different units of measurement, the sar and the ner, equivalent to 3600 and 600 years respectively.

Image showing the four sides of the WB 444.
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Image showing the four sides of the WB 444.
The list begins with these words: “After the kingship descended from heaven, it dwelt in Eridu.” After Eridu, four more cities are mentioned, the same ones mentioned in the Sumerian creation myth. From the way in which the author lists the various dynasties (one for each city), however, we cannot establish with certainty whether they were actually consecutive or contemporary; the first hypothesis, however, appears the most probable in light of the other lists.

This is the list of sovereigns, with the durations of their respective reigns:

  1. Alulim (28,800 years old)
  2. Alalgar (36,000 years);
  3. Enmenluanna (43,200 years old);
  4. Enmengalanna (28,800 years)
  5. Dumuzi “the shepherd” (36,000 years old);
  6. Ensipazianna (28,800 years old);
  7. Enmenduranki (21,000 years);
  8. Ubar-Tutu (18,600 years old).

The first two kings would exercise power in Eridu, the next three in Bad-Tibira, and the remainder in Larak, Sippar, and Shuruppak respectively. Then, the document informs us, the Flood “swept away everything.” Subsequently, for the second time, sovereignty "descended from heaven" and thus began the first postdiluvian dynasty, that of Kish. From there the list continues until we get to the historical kings.

THE WB 62

In this list the antediluvian rulers are not eight, but ten; even the cities are not five but six, although their names coincide with those of WB 444. The enumeration of ten kings, the last of which (Ziudsuddu/Ziusudra) corresponds to the hero of the Flood, recalls the ten antediluvian patriarchs of Genesis, the last of which is Noah. However, we are dealing with very different names and, above all, very different time scales: according to the Bible the Creation and the Flood are separated by just 1656 years, while in WB 62 the antediluvian period lasts for 456,000 years!

Here is the list of antediluvian rulers according to WB 62 (many names are actually incomplete, but easy to reconstruct):

  1. Alulim (67,200 years old);
  2. Alalgar (72,000 years);
  3. …kidunnu (72,000 years);
  4. …alimma (21,600 years);
  5. Dumuzi “the shepherd” (28,800 years old);
  6. Emmenluanna (21,600 years old);
  7. Ensibzianna (36,000 years old);
  8. Enmeduranna (72,000 years);
  9. Arad-Gin “son of Ubur-Tutu” (28,800 years old);
  10. Ziudsuddu (36,000 years old).

The list assigns the first two kings the city of Habur (Subari according to other readings), the next two Larsa, the next two Bad-Tibira, the next Larak, the next Sippar and the last two Shuruppak. Since Habur/Subari is nothing but an ancient name of Eridu, the cities mentioned in WB 62 and WB 444 are practically the same; the order in which they are listed is also identical. WB 62 differs only in the addition of Larsa (where in fact the document was found).

THE UCBC 9-1819

This tablet contains a list almost identical to that of WB 444: the antediluvian kings are seven (even if the unreadable lines certainly hide an eighth of them), while the cities are four (Larak is missing). The total duration of the reigns amounts to 186,000 years, although not all the numbers are legible.

Here is the list:

  1. Alulim (36,000 years);
  2. Alalgar (10,800 years);
  3. Ammeluanna (36,000 years);
  4. Ensipazianna (43,200 years old);
  5. Dumuzi “the shepherd” (36,000 years old);
  6. Enmeduranki (6000 years);
  7. Ubar-Tutu
  8. Ziusudra? (18,000 years)

Here too, the first two kings are associated with Eridu, the next three with Bad-Tibira, the next one with Sippar, and the last two with Shuruppak. Despite the absence of Larak, the order of the cities is therefore identical to that of the previous lists.

URUK'S LIST OF KINGS AND SAGES

This list, considerably more recent than the others, reports seven antediluvian kings and seven "wise men" (apkallu) who would have associated them in their government; it is therefore also known as the "Apkallu List". The durations of the individual reigns are not reported.

These are the names of the antediluvian kings, with those of the Wise Men in brackets:

  1. Ayalu (Uan);
  2. Alalgar (Uanduga);
  3. Ammeluanna (Emmeduga);
  4. Ammegalanna (Enmegalamma);
  5. Enmeushumgalanna (Enmebulugga);
  6. Dumuzi “the shepherd” (Anenlilda);
  7. Enmeduranki (Utuabzu).

The text states that even after the Flood there was an apkallu, Nungalpiriggal: he is associated with Enmerkar, king of Uruk, who appears here as the first post-Flood king. After Nungalpiriggal there were no more apkallu, but rather ummanu, i.e. “masters”.

BEROSSUS ' HISTORY OF BABYLON

Berossus (or Berossus) was a Chaldean priest born in Babylon and lived between approximately 350 and 270 BC. His work, Babyloniaka (History of Babylon), written in Greek, has unfortunately been lost, but some passages have fortunately come down to us in the form of quotations in the writings of other authors, such as Alexander Polystor, Eusebius of Caesarea and Abidenus.

Berossus provides a list of 10 antediluvian kings, who in total reigned for 432,000 years, or 120 saroi (the saros employed by Berossus is the equivalent of the Sumerian sar, so it also corresponds to 3600 years). Here are their names, translated from Greek, with the probable Sumerian counterparts (the various manuscripts present some variations in the names, but all rather small):

  1. Aloro (Alulim; 36,000 years old);
  2. Alaparo (Alalgar; 10,800 years old);
  3. Amelon (Enmenluanna; 46,800 years old);
  4. Ammenon (Enmenunna; 43,200 years old);
  5. Megalaro (Enmengalana; 64,800 years old);
  6. Daono (Dumuzi; 36,000 years old);
  7. Euedoresco (Enmenduranki; 64,800 years old);
  8. Amempsino (Ensipazianna; 36,000 years old);
  9. Obarte (Ubar-Tutu; 28,800 years old);
  10. Xisutro (Ziusudra; 64,800 years old).

According to Berossus, the first two rulers would have reigned in Babylon, the next five in Pautibiblon (Bad-Tibira) and the remaining three in Larak, before the Flood which occurred, according to him, 36,000 years before his time (i.e. about 38,000 years ago). The replacement of Eridu with Babylon could be explained by the historian's intention to exalt the importance of his hometown. In reality, at the time of Berossus the identification (and later replacement) of Eridu with Babylon had already been established for some time, thanks to the Babylonian priestly caste. This certainly does not make the work of the Chaldean historian less reliable, who drew rather faithfully from cuneiform sources.

Like the List of Apkallu, Berossus also mentions seven "Sages" who would have supported the kings during their rule, but adds several interesting details, the most curious of which is undoubtedly the description of these Sages as fish-men. Furthermore, unlike the List of Apkallu, Berossus associates the Wise Men with only four rulers:

  1. Aloro
  2. Ammenon
  3. Daonus
  4. Euedoresco

under whose reigns they emerged from the sea, respectively

  1. Oannes
  2. Annedoto
  3. Euedochus, Eneugamo, Eneubolo, Anemento
  4. Odakon

It would be the first of them, Oannes, to bring civilization, teaching men all the arts and sciences. The other Sages would have limited themselves to explaining in more detail what Oannes had already taught in broad terms.

Considerations on the antediluvian chronology

As we can see, the lists are quite in agreement on the names of the antediluvian kings, while they diverge quite a bit on the overall duration of their reigns, which varies from 186,000 to 456,000 years. Who to blame, then? Some might consider WB 444 and UCBC 9-1819 more reliable, as they place the origin of civilization in an antiquity, however remote, less "extreme" than the other two. However, other clues lead us to consider the even more "astronomical" figures of Berossos and WB 62 as those closest to the truth...

First, several ancient sources mention a period of over 400,000 years in reference to Mesopotamian civilizations. According to Diodorus Siculus, for example, the Chaldeans had kept track of celestial movements for 473,000 years (Historical Library, II, 31): this is a figure very close to the 468,000 years (432,000 before and 36,000 after the Flood) of the chronology of Berossus. Other authors report similar figures: 470,000 (Posidonius, cited by Cicero), 480,000 (Julius Africanus, cited by Synchlus) or 490,000 years (Crythodemus and Berossus himself, cited by Pliny; however Berossus actually provided a shorter period).

It could be objected that these testimonies are not independent, since they too are ultimately based on the same cuneiform sources. Therefore they cannot be considered "evidence" of such remote antiquity any more than the actual lists themselves. But they are not the only clue we have available: the research of Mario Buildreps (https://www.mariobuildreps.com/) also supports the hypothesis of a very remote origin of the Mesopotamian civilization. I therefore refer those who do not yet know them to the official website and to the previous articles of this blog.

In summary, many ancient buildings scattered across the planet (pyramids, temples...) appear oriented towards poles that are older (much older) than the current one. The latter would date back to the intervals between one glaciation and another, when the earth's crust was stable: during the glaciations, in fact, the crust would have deformed causing a slow and gradual movement of the North Pole. It is possible to mathematically demonstrate the existence of four poles prior to ours, the oldest of which dates back to almost 350,000 years ago. However, there is a further pole not yet mathematically confirmed (defined as "Polo VI") and dated to the period between 440,000 and 410,000 years ago. Well, in some "antediluvian cities" such as Eridu and Sippar there are buildings oriented towards this very pole! It is really difficult to consider such a correspondence solely the result of chance: the hypothesis that these buildings (or at least their original foundations) truly have the age that the myths attribute to them appears much more reasonable.

Map of Eridu showing the orientation of its buildings relative to True North.
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Map of Eridu showing the orientation of its buildings relative to True North.
In light of these discoveries, even questions about the real existence of antediluvian rulers and their extreme longevity take on secondary importance. Without a doubt someone, more than 400,000 years ago, founded the cities mentioned in the Sumerian myths, vestiges of which still exist today. Even if Alulim, Alalgar, and all other kings up to Ziusudra were fictional characters, claims about the antiquity of antediluvian cities would remain valid. What is certain is that the existence of very long-lived characters could easily explain how a civilization was able to preserve itself over such a period of time.

But even Berossus statements according to which the Wise Men would periodically return to teach men civilization again finally make sense. In fact, it is decidedly unlikely that over the course of over 400,000 years there were no catastrophes of any kind: there were probably several, especially during the cycles of deformation of the earth's crust. The apkallu may have returned at the beginning of each period of stability (including the one following the Flood) to aid the recovery of civilization each time. Even in this case, it does not matter whether they are real characters or not: we know from Mario Buildrep's research that civilization flourished above all during the interglacial periods; We can only make hypotheses about "who" drove it.

Parallels with India

Berossus, as we have seen, assigns the antediluvian period a duration of 432,000 years. But 432,000 years is also the duration of Kali Yuga according to traditional Indian chronology: this era, in turn, represents the tenth part of a Manvantara, the complete cycle of development of humanity, lasting - precisely - 4,320. 000 years. René Guénon was of the opinion that the numerous zeros appearing in Indian chronologies had the sole purpose of confusing the layman; he considered it more plausible, based on some calculations, a duration of "only" 64,800 years for each Manvantara.

What if it was just a zero that was "excess" in traditional chronology? In this way the Manvantara would have a duration of 432,000 years: its beginning would approximately coincide with the "Polo VI" period identified by Mario Buildreps and its end would now be close, in line with what traditionalist scholars maintain. The four yugas from which it is formed (Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali) would last respectively 172,800, 129,600, 86,400 and 43,200 years: the beginning of the Treta Yuga would therefore fall in full "Pole IV" (about 260,000 years ago), while that of the Dvapara Yuga at the end of "Polo II" (about 130,000 years ago).

But there are also other parallels linking the beginning of the Sumerian antediluvian period to the dawn of Indian Manvantara. Just think of the figure of the fish, represented by Oannes in Sumerian mythology and by Matsya (first avatar of Vishnu, who appears at the beginning of the Manvantara) in Indian mythology. Oannes was one of the seven antediluvian apkallu, who recall the seven rishis (“wise men”) of Indian myths. If we wanted, we could also glimpse a connection with Aztec mythology, according to which the men of the cycle preceding ours (which ended with a flood) had turned into fish: in light of this myth, it might seem "logical" that it was indeed a fish, heir of the previous cycle, to bring civilization to the men of the next cycle.

Representations of a Sumerian apkallu (left) and of Matsya, the first avatar of Vishnu (right).
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Representations of a Sumerian apkallu (left) and of Matsya, the first avatar of Vishnu (right).
Finally, even the Indian royal lists, despite their late origin, present several similarities with the Sumerian ones. The Bhavishya Purana reports a very long list of kings who reigned from the beginning of Manvantara (almost 4 million years ago, consistently with traditional chronology) up to our times. And here too, the durations of the reigns are often multi-millennial: Ikshvaku, son of Manu (the Indian hero of the Flood) and first king of Manvantara, reigns for 36,000 years, just like, according to some Sumerian sources, the first antediluvian ruler Alulim.

The postdiluvian kings

We cannot help but say a few words also about the postdiluvian rulers. Obviously, the "historical" kings also belong to this group, but we will be especially interested in the more ancient rulers, whose names appear in some lists (in particular WB 444) but whose actual existence has not yet been proven.

We see first that the early post-Flood kings also enjoyed remarkable longevity (although greatly reduced compared to before the Flood). Suffice it to say that the twenty-three kings of the first dynasty of Kish reigned for a total of 17,980 years: almost 800 each! WB 444, in reality, reports an even longer overall duration (24,510 years); however, adding the individual reigns together we obtain a total of 17,980 years. The fact that King En-Tarah-Ana is credited with a reign of 420 years, 3 months and 3 1/2 days would set aside the idea that regnal years should be understood as shorter periods.

Scholars, however, consider these figures completely unreliable: the characters believed to have actually existed are placed at most around 3000 BC, or in times even closer to us. In fact, reconstructing a precise chronology is not easy, since even contemporary dynasties are listed in succession: for example, Agga, the last ruler of the first dynasty of Kish, is contemporary with Gilgamesh, the fifth of the first dynasty of Uruk.

It is therefore rather difficult to establish the era in which historical dynasties have their roots. To know it we would have to identify with good approximation the date of the Flood, a more difficult undertaking than one might think. If we take Berossus' chronology at face value, for example, we should place the catastrophe that "wiped out everything" around 36,000 BC. Several independent researchers, such as Graham Hancock, suggest a more recent date, around 12,800 years ago. The Flood would have been caused by a meteorite impact, which would have caused a sudden melting of the ice caps. The cooling period known as the Recent Dryas would follow.

But there are also other possibilities. In this article (https://merlobianco.altervista.org/le-liste-reali-egizie/), for example, we hypothesized that another catastrophe may have occurred around 26,000 years ago. Incidentally, 26,000 years is also the age of the current North Pole according to Mario Buildreps research: once again, therefore, it may have been the stabilization of the earth's crust that guaranteed the conditions for a renewed development of the Mesopotamian civilization. While waiting for further research to shed light on the matter, this last date remains, in my opinion, the most probable.


Note: this article is an english translation of the merlo Bianco's article "Le Liste Reali Sumere". The original article is available at https://merlobianco.altervista.org/le-liste-reali-sumere/

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