Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Nimrod and Egypt's Forgotten Origins

Osiris became one of the most revered gods in Egypt and even throughout the civilized world in the millennia before the appearance of Christianity, but his origins still remain obscure. Was he a historical figure, or was he a product of man's imagination? The ancient Egyptians would emphatically argue that he was once a flesh-and-blood man before he died and became a god. He is none other than Enmerkar, known also as Nimrod in the book of Genesis, who ruled over the first super-kingdom of history with a political base in Uruk and a spiritual base in Eridu.

by Peter Goodgame

"The origins of pharaonic civilisation have always been shrouded in mystery. What caused dynastic culture to burst forth in the Nile valley within such a relatively short period of time?...There is little evidence of kingship and its rituals very much before the beginning of the 1st Dynasty; no signs of the gradual development of metal working, art, monumental architecture and writing -- the defining criteria of early civilisation. Much of what we know about the pharaohs and their complex culture seems to come into existence in a flash of inspiration" (David Rohl, Legend -- the Genesis of Civilisation, 1998, p. 265).

One of the most controversial questions in the entire field of Egyptology is also its most basic: Where did the advanced pharaonic Egyptian civilization come from? At the very beginning of the first dynasties the Egyptian state appeared to be fully developed, intricately structured, technologically advanced and economically vibrant. How could something so complete appear so suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere? Today the answer that you will most often hear is that "it just happened that way," that Egypt was built by African Egyptians, that they did it on their own using their own knowledge and resources, and that to argue for any other answer is an insult to Egypt and to Africans everywhere!

This "politically correct" tone that is so pervasive within mainstream academia today was, however, not always so influential in the past. When the study of ancient Egypt was turning into a science near the end of the nineteenth century the scholars involved in the field had much more freedom to advocate their own unique ideas, no matter how controversial or ridiculous they might appear to be. It was in this open marketplace of ideas that some of the most important facts about ancient Egypt were uncovered and when some of the most important methods for studying and excavating ancient Egypt were developed.

Flinders Petrie

One cannot begin to describe the origin and evolution of the science of Egyptology without referring to William Matthew Flinders Petrie. Other than Jean Francois Champollion, who first deciphered the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian hieroglyphics, Petrie's influence over the field is largely unmatched.

Petrie began his excavations in Egypt in 1884, as a director of the British-based Egypt Exploration Fund and his experiences led him to be very critical of the methods of those excavators who had preceded him, who were more concerned with uncovering and plundering major sensational treasures than with learning the real history of Egypt. He wrote,

"Nothing seems to be done with any uniform or regular plan, work is begun and left unfinished; no regard is paid to future requirements of exploration, and no civilized or labor saving devices are used. It is sickening to see the rate at which everything is being destroyed and the little regard paid to preservation."

Petrie's methods went entirely against the grain of his contemporaries. They were completely scientific, very meticulous, and in the end very fruitful, and today he is regarded as a "Father of Egyptology" as well as perhaps the "Father of Archaeology". According to author James Baikie who wrote A Century of Excavation in the Land of the Pharaohs, "if the name of any one man must be associated with modern excavation as that of the chief begetter of its principles and methods, it must be the name of Professor Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie." [1]

Flinders Petrie was an inspired genius and his views on the origin of dynastic Egypt should not be rejected lightly, even though, as his detractors allege, they may have been subconsciously supported or developed in line with his own colonial biases.

The Dynastic Race

Petrie came to address the problem of the origin of dynastic Egypt as a result of his excavation of the massive ancient burial site near the village of Nakada about 20 miles north of Luxor in Upper Egypt. In the winter of 1894-95 Petrie's team methodically excavated and recorded the contents of over 2,000 graves, which turned out to date to a period in Egypt's history just prior to the emergence of the First Dynasty.

From the data gathered from the excavations Petrie realized that the Naqada gravesite contained burials of two entirely different groups of people. One group was characterized by bodies placed in simple pits, laid out in fetal positions and covered with palm branches. This group, designated Naqada I, was buried with simple everyday objects including the basic Egyptian pottery that was found in numerous other digs that dated to this time period. The other group, Naqada II, was markedly different. The bodies were buried in pits that were lined with bricks, which were then covered over with palm logs. These pits contained valuable objects such as lapis lazuli jewelry, and also pottery of new types and functions. The bodies were not buried intact, but only after being dismembered, with the skull buried apart from the torso and members. There were also signs of ritual cannibalism having taken place within the Naqada II group which was completely absent within Naqada I.

The Naqada dig provided much of the evidence that led Flinders Petrie to put forth his theory of the origin of the magnificent and long-lived civilization of Egypt. It became known as the "Dynastic Race" theory and it alleges that in the pre-dynastic era Egypt was invaded by a technologically superior group of elite foreigners (Naqada II) who came originally from Mesopotamia. This "Dynastic Race" invaded and conquered Upper Egypt and settled in their city of Nekhen, also known as Hierakonpolis, near where the important cult centers of Abydos, Thebes, Luxor and Edfu would later emerge. Petrie referred to this invading force as the "Falcon Tribe," and the name of their capital of Nekhen means "City of the Falcon." Their descendents became the Horus Kings of Egypt with the First Dynasty being established under the king named Horus-Aha, or "Horus the Fighter," after his tribe finally subdued and unified the entire land of Egypt.

W. Wendorf (Egyptian Prehistory, Some New Concepts, 1969) summed up by stating that the early pre-Dynastic cultures record the arrival of a new population in Egypt, who brought with them the cultural base from which Egyptian civilization was to develop." [23]

John A Wilson (The Culture of Ancient Egypt, 1963) agreed: "At this point there was an artistic, intellectual, and technical fructification from Babylonia, and Egypt made a great spurt toward history." [24]

Will Durant, (Our Oriental Heritage, 1954) summarized the consensus of the archaeologists about cultural leap made in Egypt under the Semitic kings, noting that Semitic influence can, in fact, be traced much further back: "The further back we trace the Egyptian language the more affinities it reveals with the Semitic tongues of the Near East. The pictographic writings of the pre-dynastic Egyptians seems to have come in from Sumeria." [25]

The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Theory

The idea that the splendor of ancient Egypt came from a culture that was originally foreign to Egypt was at first not so unpalatable for the academic world to accept. In fact, for many decades it was viewed as the most likely solution to the problem. Well respected and highly-credentialed Egyptologists adopted the theory and continued to gather additional evidence to support it. Up until about World War II it was the dominant academic viewpoint.

And then Hitler came on the scene and after his disastrous legacy any talk of a "master race" began to be viewed in a negative light. The end of World War II also signaled the end of European colonialism and with it came the rise of Third World nationalism when newly independent countries began to emphasize and celebrate their cultural identities. Suddenly the fields of archaeology and ancient history became very much influenced by politics, especially in Egypt which was led by Nasser, who successfully fought the British and the French in the 1956 Suez War.

In the early 1960s a last major academic push in support of the "Dynastic Race" theory was made by Bryan Emery the Professor of Egyptology of the University College of London. Unfortunately his choice of terms was even more politically incorrect than those used by Petrie -- Emery referred to the invaders of Egypt as a "super race." The backlash against Emery was predictable and devastating, and ambitious scholars were smart enough to realize that the academic establishment would no longer seriously consider any talk of an invading "Dynastic Race" having built Egypt's civilization. This situation remained the same for about thirty years, during which time many scholars were much rewarded for their attempts to show how Egyptian civilization sprang up all by itself and all of a sudden through internal innovations alone.

The question of the origin of Egypt's dynastic founders would have remained ignored into the twenty-first century if not for the remarkable work of David Rohl. In 1998 he published his second major study on ancient history entitled Legend -- the Genesis of Civilisation. With this best-selling volume the validity of the Dynastic Race theory was extensively documented and presented to the public, much to the consternation of the academic world.

David Rohl is a professional Egyptologist with a degree from the University College of London (UCF), the same college affiliated with Flinders Petrie and Bryan Emery. The main focus of Rohl's career has been to re-work the commonly accepted chronology which artificially extends dates from ancient history back an extra three hundred or so years. Because of this flawed chronology most academics feel safe in saying that the history of the Old Testament is a myth and that events such as the Exodus, the Israelite conquest of Canaan, and the United Monarchies of David and Solomon, never really happened.

In his first book A Test of Time: The Bible -- From Myth to History, published in 1995, David Rohl showed that archaeologists have been looking in the right place for evidence of Biblical events, but they have not been looking at the right time. David Rohl offers a number of possible explanations for why the commonly-accepted chronology of ancient history is flawed, and then he shows how Biblical history comes alive and how all of the pieces fit the puzzle if viewed from the perspective of his proposed New Chronology (NC). Needless to say, his work has been greatly appreciated by much of the general public, but roundly criticized by the academic world that is not eager to accept the fact that all of their ancient history textbooks need to be recalled and rewritten.

In his first book David Rohl focused on the history of the Israelites and how Old Testament events fit into the record of ancient history, while in his second book, Legend -- the Genesis of Civilisation, he turned to ancient Egypt and showed how its history was intimately connected with many of the events described in the book of Genesis. What follows is a short list and explanation of some of the data that supports the theory that invaders from Mesopotamia were responsible for creating the glories of dynastic Egypt.

Data: The Naqada Artifacts

The discovery of the massive burial site at Naqada by Flinders Petrie was briefly mentioned above, yet more needs to be said. What Petrie found was conclusive evidence of a group of invaders who were associated with artifacts whose origin was clearly traceable back to Mesopotamia. Among these artifacts was pottery made in styles similar to Sumerian ware. Rohl refers to the appearance of both lug-handled and tilted-spout pottery among the Naqada II burials and he quotes from respected scholar Helene Kantor,

"Among the decorated pot shapes are relatively large jars with three or four triangular lug handles on the shoulder. These lugs are reminiscent of those which were already in use on Mesopotamian pottery in the Ubaid Period and which became particularly typical and frequent on protoliterate pottery."

"More convincing are the vessels with tilted spouts...Although made in the old, indigenous polished red ware, the spouts are completely un-Egyptian; as a whole these jugs resemble Mesopotamian ones of the earlier part of the Protoliterate Period." [2]

Included among the many artifacts uniquely associated with the Naqada II burials were jewelry and ornaments made from the precious blue stone lapis lazuli. Rohl explains how modern scholars address this important fact:

"Amazing as it may sound, this stone is presumed by scholars to have come from the only known source location in the region -- the mountains of Badakshan in Afghanistan, over 3,700 kilometers from Egypt...lapis lazuli was highly prized in Sumer (Mesopotamia) and was imported all the way from Meluhha (Indus Valley) via Dilmun (Bahrain)....the pattern of distribution is the same: a product or material first appears in Sumer and Susiana before it arrives in Egypt." [3]

Another important item present in the Naqada II burials was the pear-shaped mace. Supporters of the "Dynastic Race" theory argue that the introduction of this weapon (from Mesopotamia) gave a technological edge to the Naqada II invaders, who used it effectively to overwhelm the indigenous Egyptians who were armed with flimsier and less effective weaponry. The pear-shaped mace then became an important part of the legendary symbolism and imagery associated with the invaders.

The final unique artifact that we will discuss from the Naqada II burials is the cylinder seal. This ceremonial tool was used to leave a pattern when rolled over wet clay and its origin is most certainly Mesopotamian. Rohl provides the obvious conclusion:

"It is no coincidence that the cylinder seal first appears in Egypt at the same time as the pear-shaped mace and lapis lazuli. The cylinder seal was not an invention of the Nile valley people for, as we have seen, these remarkable little objects were already being employed for the same purpose in the city of Uruk during the Late Ubaid Period. The cylinder seal was therefore another Sumerian invention." [4]

Writes Samuel Kurinsky, "Sun-dried mud bricks, a building material characteristic of Lower Mesopotamia, were first employed in Upper Egypt during this period. The use of a distinctly Mesopotamian device, the cylinder seal was introduced and traces of writing appeared. Their images bore a marked resemblance to those of the Land of the Twin Rivers. The pear-shaped stone mace-heads found in an earlier context in the Deltic Asiatic communities such as Merimde, replications of Mesopotamian models, appear in the south in the Gerzean period" (Egypt and the Semites Part 1: The Pre-Dynastic Period).

An analysis of the artifacts associated with the alleged "Dynastic Invaders" may appear to be conclusive in and of itself, yet the evidence from the Naqada II gravesites goes much deeper than that. How can we conclusively prove that these were people who came from outside Egypt? We can look at the people themselves. Rohl quotes from anthropologist Douglas Derry who studied the physical remains of the bodies buried at Naqada and found obvious differences between the Naqada I and II groups,

"The pre-dynastic people are seen to have had narrow skulls with a height measurement exceeding the breadth, a condition common also in negroes. The reverse is the case in the Dynastic Race, who not only had broader skulls but the height of these skulls, while exceeding that in the Pre-dynastic Race, is still less than the breadth."

"It is also very suggestive of the presence of a dominant race, perhaps relatively few in numbers but greatly exceeding the original inhabitants in intelligence; a race which brought into Egypt the knowledge of building in stone, of sculpture, painting, reliefs, and above all writing; hence the enormous jump from the primitive pre-dynastic Egyptian to the advanced civilization of the Old Empire." [5]

Since Derry's time the practice of using cranial measurements to determine the level of "intelligence" has been debunked, however the data that proves the physical differences between the two groups still stands. It is clear that the invaders of Egypt were Asiatic in origin and they were at least much better motivated and organized than the indigenous African inhabitants. The final result is that this group eventually conquered Egypt and emerged as the dominant social class that produced the Horus Kings and the Iry-Pat aristocracy of the Old Kingdom.

Data: Writing

One of the most mysterious achievements of early Egyptian civilization is their almost instantaneous development and perfection of a complex system of writing. Was Egypt's writing developed completely independent from outside influence and from the ingenuity of the indigenous Egyptians themselves, or was there an outside influence that paved the way? Rohl quotes from UCL Egyptologist Henri Frankfort who gave the following explanation in his book The Birth of Civilisation in the Near East,

"It has been customary to postulate prehistoric antecedents for the Egyptian script, but this hypothesis has nothing in its favour....the writing which first appeared without antecedents at the beginning of the First Dynasty was by no means primitive. It has, in fact, a complex structure. It includes three different classes of signs: ideograms, phonetic signs, and determinatives. This is precisely the same state of complexity as had been reached in Mesopotamia at an advanced stage of the Protoliterate Period. There, however, a more primitive stage is known in the earlier tablets, which used only ideograms. To deny, therefore, that Egyptian and Mesopotamian systems of writing are related amounts to maintaining that Egypt invented independently a complex and not very consistent system at the very moment of being influenced in its art and architecture by Mesopotamia where a precisely similar system had just been developed from a more primitive stage." [6]

For Frankfort the answer was obvious. Egyptian hieroglyphics first appeared with the same level of sophistication as found in Sumer because the idea behind the art was brought to Egypt from Sumer. However, as Rohl points out, after its initial appearance Egyptian writing took a different path of development because of the writing materials that were available. Egypt possessed papyrus and ink, whereas Sumer had only mud and reeds. Egypt therefore developed a much more flowing and pictorially impressive style, while Sumer continued to develop the writing known as cuneiform which used the cut tip of a reed to etch impressions into wet mud, which were then baked and preserved as brick tablets and cylinder seals.

Data: Architecture

For many Egyptologists, regardless of how they interpret the data, one of the most obvious areas of Mesopotamian influence in ancient Egypt came in the field of architecture. We have already seen how the Naqada II burial pits were lined with mudbrick, and soon after the initial use of this Mesopotamian innovation (for Sumer had no readily available stone), there appeared the first monumental architecture in Egypt, also made of Sumerian-style mudbrick.

These initial constructions were massive tombs built for the invaders' most important leaders. They appeared near the city of Tjenu (Gr. Thinis) near the cult-site of Abydos, where the body of Osiris was originally thought to have been buried. The Egyptian historian Manetho writes that Tjenu was the capital of the First Dynasty begun by Menes -- who was probably Horus-Aha. (By the time of the First Dynasty the capital had been moved down the Nile a number of miles north from the original capital of Nekhen). Along with these great tombs built for the Falcon Tribe's first leaders there were also subsidiary gravesites of scores of individuals who were most likely ritually sacrificed at the same time that the primary individual was buried. Human sacrifice as well as cannibalism both appear to be important aspects of the Falcon Tribe's religion and ritual system, although these elements are decidedly downplayed by most modern scholars.

A further architectural innovation that had obvious parallels with Mesopotamia came with the Egyptian utilization of "niched façades," which simply means the use of alternating projecting and recessed walls around the perimeter of a building. On this point Rohl is able to quote from a number of scholars who agree that it is one of the most important in proving a link between the Dynastic Race and their origin in Sumer.

Niched façades were used throughout Mesopotamia and they were the architectural method that preceded the appearance of the great stepped ziggurats that sprang up in the city-states as Sumerian culture reached its zenith. In Egypt, once again, this Mesopotamian parallel appears suddenly and fully developed. This method is used in Upper Egypt for tombs located in Abydos and in Naqada, and then it appears again later for construction done at Saqqara in Lower Egypt in the First and Second Dynasties after Egypt was unified under the Horus Kings.

Mesopotamian influence is again seen in the Third Dynasty with the creation of the great step-pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara which is recognized as Egypt's first pyramid and obviously modeled after a Sumerian ziggurat. This monument is also one of the first instances when the builders began to utilize the stone that was readily available, rather than depending on the mudbrick that they had been used to. The achievements and innovations at Saqqara then paved the way for the pyramids and temples erected during the Fourth Dynasty, typified by the Giza complex.

The Square Boat Invasion

If we accept the premise that a highly resourceful and technologically advanced group invaded and subdued Egypt prior to the first dynasties we do not have to look very far for evidence of how and where they did it. For many years this evidence has existed yet it has not been very well explained by the mainstream scholars, who deny such an invasion even took place.

The invasion of Egypt came into the Nile valley from the Red Sea through the valleys of the Eastern Desert. These valleys are known as "wadis" and there are three wadis (Hammamat, Abad and Barramiya), opposite the settlements of Naqada and Nekhen, where evidence of this invasion was left in the form of primitive graffiti.

The most common pictures etched into the rock walls of the valleys are pictures of large Mesopotamian-style square boats with high prows and sterns that are braced back, which often display horns, antlers or streamers. These boats are often filled with people, sometimes with a chieftain-figure carrying a pear-shaped mace standing tall in the center. The wadis run east-west and the prows of the ships always face west towards the Nile. Many of the depictions show the boats being pulled with ropes by members of the crew.

What happened when this group of invaders finally reached the Nile itself after dragging their boats through the desert from the Red Sea? David Rohl refers to several of the most important ancient Egyptian artifacts for an answer, including the following two.

The first is known as the Gebel el-Arak knife. This ivory artifact was found near the western end of Wadi Hammamat and is important for the images found on its intricately carved handle which specialists conclude give it a firm pre-dynastic date. On one side the carved images point unmistakably to a Sumerian source, from the "Master of Animals" scene wearing a Sumerian hairstyle and long un-Egyptian coat, to the stocky, muscled, short-snouted Mesopotamian dogs pictured underneath. On the other side we find the end result of the invaders' appearance on the Nile. David Rohl calls it "History's First Battle." There are two battle scenes, a land battle at the top and a naval battle at the bottom. In the land battle we find that a short-haired group carrying pear-shaped maces and clubs is defeating a long-haired group that fights back but appears unarmed. In the naval battle the very same type of square boats that are pictured on the rock walls of the eastern wadis are shown defeating a row of crescent-shaped boats that are typical of the Nile.

The Gebel el-Arak Knife

From its earliest beginnings Egyptian culture has held the boat to be sacred, as evidenced by the huge so-called "solar-boats" that were unearthed next to the southern face of the Great Pyramid in 1954. These boats were buried when the pyramid was built and scholars believe that they were ceremonial renditions of the mythological ship that transported Ra across the sky each day. However boats were not revered merely for their usefulness on the Nile, or for their mythological traditions, but also because the conquerors of Egypt came to Egypt from across the sea by boat. In fact, the boats unearthed at the Great Pyramid, with their high prows, flat bottoms and central cabins, look more like the boats that were pulled across the desert to the Nile than the boats traditionally used on the Nile. Perhaps the boats buried at Giza were not "ceremonial" at all.

Another major pre-dynastic artifact that explains the result of the square boat invasion is known as the Narmer Palette, found in Nekhen in 1897 and now held in the Cairo Museum. According to Samuel Kurinsky "a graphic depiction of the manner in which the Upper Egyptians gained and maintained power is supplied by the famous Egyptian 'Narmer Palette,' cited by archaeologists as one of the earliest and by far the most definitive record of events that transformed Egyptian history."

Narmer was the Upper Egyptian king who immediately preceded Horus-Aha, the conqueror of Egypt. One side of this palette shows a large picture of the king holding a pear-shaped mace in a smiting pose, while his other hand holds the hair of a cringing victim. Beneath his feet two other enemies flee in terror. On the other side the major depiction is that of two dinosaur-like beasts with heads intertwined in the typical Sumerian fashion, controlled with ropes held by two bearded men. Below this the king is depicted as a bull crushing an enemy and invading a town, while above there is what appears to be a victory procession. Narmer is the main figure and he again holds his mace. He is attended by a servant, his queen, and four figures carrying standards. Against this procession there are the figures of ten beheaded bodies, over which is portrayed the very same high-prowed square boat as found on the Gebel el-Arak knife handle and in the eastern desert graffiti.

The Narmer Palette

Kurinsky adds that "on one side of the palette, the king, Namer, is proudly wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt and is portrayed in the act of bashing in the head of a resistant northerner. The Semitic features of this and the other slaughtered enemies below are clearly evident."

"On the reverse side the scene shifts in time to the end of a campaign, and the Egyptian king is seen in procession from a fort or building. It is a Sumerian pictograph of URU, meaning "guarded place," that is, a walled fortified area. The inscriptions near the head of the attendant behind the king are likewise rendered in Sumerian, identifying him as a "runner forth," designating his function. The king, now wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, is calmly gazing upon rows of beheaded enemies (their heads are nested conveniently between their legs). The third register depicts the entwined necks of two feline serpopods, a design found in Mesopotamian seals and carvings. They are typically Elamite or western Asiatic. Other details likewise stem from a Sumerian pictographic origin" (Egypt and the Semites Part 1: The Pre-Dynastic Period).

The remarkable aspect of the Narmer Palette is that it employs Sumerian words and pictographs, a clear indication of the root from which Egyptian writing stemmed.

The Great Migration

In Genesis chapter ten there is a long list of the many different tribes of the earth that existed after mankind emerged from Noah's flood. This passage is known as the Table of Nations and the list is organized under the three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth. It is to this list that David Rohl is drawn after he brings his readers to accept the inevitable conclusion that dynastic Egypt was founded by invaders from Mesopotamia.

The Khufu Ship Discovered in 1954

According to the Table of Nations account there were four children of Ham, and three of them settled in Africa, specifically Cush, Mizraim and Put. The land of Cush is known throughout the Old Testament as the region of modern-day Sudan/Ethiopia to the south of Egypt; the land to the west of Egypt, modern-day Libya, is believed to be the land of Put; and the land of Egypt itself is named throughout the Old Testament as Mizraim. Josephus the Jewish historian supports and elaborates upon the Genesis account,

"...time has not at all hurt the name of Chush (Cush); for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Chushites. The memory also of the Mesraites is preserved in their name; for all we who inhabit this country [of Judea] call Egypt Mestre, and the Egyptians Mestreans. Phut (Put) also was the founder of Libya, and called the inhabitants Phutites, from himself: there is also a river in the country of the Moors which bears that name...but the name it has now has been by change given it from one of the sons of Mesraim, who was called Lybyos." [7]

David Rohl believes that Cush, the oldest son of Ham, appears within the Sumerian King List as the first ruler of the post-flood Dynasty of Uruk, where his departure from Sumer and journey to Africa is noted,

"Meskiagkashar, son of Utu, became high priest and king -- reigned 324 years. Meskiagkashar went down into the sea and came out at the mountains" (SKL column iii, lines 4-6). [8]

The Genesis 10 Table of Nations

If this ancient king and his brothers journeyed away from ancient Sumer by sea, then their route had to have been through the Persian Gulf and around the Arabian Peninsula, sailing the bitumen-coated reed square boats that were typical of the Persian Gulf at this ancient date.

This brings us to the fourth son of Ham, who was Canaan. According to Genesis 10:19, the Canaanites settled the lands on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. They were also known as the Phoenicians. How they got there was noted by the fifth century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, and also Strabo, the first century AD Greek geographer,

Herodotus: "The Persian learned men say the Phoenicians were the cause of the feud (between the Greeks and Persians). These (they say) came to our seas (i.e. the Eastern Mediterranean) from the Erythraean Sea, and having settled in the country which they still occupy (i.e., Phoenica/Lebanon), at once began to make long voyages." [9]

Strabo: "On sailing farther (down the Erythraean Sea), one comes to the other islands, I mean Tyre and Aradus, which have temples like those of the Phoenicians. It is asserted, at least by the inhabitants of those islands, that the islands and cities of the Phoenicians which bear the same name are their own colonies." [10]

David Rohl explains where the Erythraean Sea was and also how this understanding of the origin of the ancient Phoenicians has been passed down to the modern day over the centuries,

"Go to visit a Lebanese school and sit in on a history class. There you will hear the teacher explain to the children that the modern Lebanese are descended from the ancient Phoenicians who, in turn, originated from the islands of the Persian Gulf. The legendary origins of the Phoenicians are not an invention of the Lebanese Christian community purely to provide a separate ethnic tradition from their Muslim neighbors. The idea that the ancestors of the Phoenicians came from far-off Bahrain to found the new cities of Canaan on the Eastern Mediterranean coast was well known to the classical writers.

"Justin, Pliny, Ptolemy and Strabo all regarded the original homeland of the Phoenicians in the Gulf as an historical fact....The Tyrians (citizens of Tyre) proclaimed their original homeland as the island of Tylos in the Erythraean Sea. Now the Erythraean or 'Red' Sea was not in ancient times what we know as the Red Sea today...The original Red Sea was what we today call the Persian or Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean beyond. It was named as such after Erythraeas who, according to legend, was buried within a great mound on the island of Tylos." [11]

Rohl goes on to explain that the name Tylos is a Greek rendition of the Akkadian word Tilmun, and the legendary "Paradise Island" of Dilmun, well-known in Sumerian myth, is in fact the island of Bahrain. This was proven in 1970 through the scholarship of Geoffrey Bibby in his classic book, Looking For Dilmun, an account of his twelve-year excavation of Bahrain and his research into its origins.

Ancient Dilmun

Bahrain was the very first stepping stone from ancient Mesopotamia when the sons of Ham were dispersed after the Flood. One of the most impressive natural symbols of this region is the falcon, the swift and noble bird of prey that is prized today by the sheikhs of the Arab Gulf. Perhaps that is what explains the tribal symbol that was adopted by the invaders of Egypt.

Rohl quotes from Flinders Petrie to summarize the exploits of this powerful warlike group,

"This Falcon tribe had certainly originated in Elam (Susiana), as indicated by the hero and lions on the Araq knife handle. They went down the Persian Gulf and settled in 'the horn of Africa.' There they named the 'Land of Punt,' sacred to later Egyptians as the source of the race. The Pun people founded the island fortress of Ha-fun which commands the whole of the coast, and hence came the Punic or Phenic peoples of classical antiquity....Those who went up the Red Sea formed the dynastic invaders of Egypt entering by the Kuseir-Koptos road. Others went on to Syria and founded Tyre, Sidon and Aradus, named after their home islands in the Persian Gulf." [12]

If the Egyptians and the Phoenicians shared common ancestors and a common sea-borne path of migration out of Mesopotamia, then these facts go a long way towards explaining their similar religious beliefs revolving around the worship of a primordial Dying God.

We are one step closer to identifying this Dying God as a historical figure.

Dynasty I Pot Showing Falcon Symbol

The Mysteries of Osiris

Here is what the celebrated Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge had to say about Osiris "the single most important Egyptian deity" at the beginning of his book Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, first published in 1911 (and dedicated to Lionel Walter Rothschild):

"The religious literature of all the great periods of Egyptian history is filled with allusions to incidents connected with the life, death, and resurrection of Osiris, the god and judge of the Egyptian dead; and from first to last the authors of religious texts took it for granted that their readers were well acquainted with such incidents in all their details. In no text do we find any connected history of the god, and nowhere are stated in detail the reasons why he assumed his exalted position as the judge of souls, or why, for about four thousand years, he remained the great type and symbol of the Resurrection. No funerary inscription exists, however early, in which evidence cannot be found proving that the deceased had set his hope of immortality in Osiris, and at no time in Egypt's long history do we find that the position of Osiris was usurped by any other god.

"On the contrary, it is Osiris who is made to usurp the attributes and powers of other gods, and in tracing his history...we shall find that the importance of the cult of this god grew in proportion to the growth of the power and wealth of Egypt, and that finally its influence filled both the national and private life of her inhabitants, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sixth Cataract at Shablûkah. The fame of Osiris extended to the nations around, and it is to the hands of foreigners that we are indebted for connected, though short, narratives of his history." [13] (emphasis mine)

Osiris became one of the most revered gods in Egypt and even throughout the civilized world in the millennia before the appearance of Christianity, but his origins still remain obscure. Was he a historical figure, or was he a product of man's imagination? The ancient Egyptians would emphatically argue that he was once a flesh-and-blood man before he died and became a god.

Robert Bauval agrees with the ancient Egyptian understanding of Osiris. He believes that Osiris once walked the earth, but like Budge he is mystified by many of the unknowns that surround this figure. Bauval writes,

"There is a great paradox in Egyptology that so far has not been properly explained. Although the earliest reference to Osiris is found in the Pyramid Texts which date from c. 2300 BC, a cursory study reveals that the mythology, doctrines, liturgy and rituals which they contain could not possibly have developed overnight, but would have required a long process of intellectual and religious evolution long before that date. Although all Egyptologists seem to agree to this, none can agree, however, on how long before that date this process would have begun.

"A tentative date of around 6000 BC was suggested by Jane B. Sellers on astronomical grounds, but an even earlier date of around 10,500 BC also based on astronomical considerations is, in my opinion, more likely. Furthermore, the Egyptologists are also at a loss to explain why in the large quantities of inscriptions that predate the Pyramid Texts, not one single mention of Osiris has been found. It is as if the cult of Osiris, with its rituals, doctrines, liturgies and mythology, suddenly materialised out of nowhere and, almost overnight, was readily adopted as the principle religion of the pharaonic state." [14]

In the quote from Budge above he theorized that the origins of the Osiris cult trace back to about 4000 B.C. Bauval's quote refers to Sellers who believes that the cult goes as far back as 6000 B.C., while Bauval personally believes that the Osiris cult traces back even further to 10,500 B.C. These are all interesting conjectures yet the fact remains, as Bauval concedes, that prior to 2300 B.C. among the large quantities of inscriptions that have been found, absolutely none of them mention or refer to Osiris or to his alter-ego Sokar. With this fact in mind it is far more likely then that the historical figure of Osiris is to be found only a few hundred years, rather than a few thousand years, before his appearance, fully-evolved and fully-functional, at the heart of Egyptian religion.

The Historical Osiris

The Golden Age of the gods, the era known as Zep-Tepi, was for the Egyptians the era of the reign of Osiris. If the original "Primordial Mound" was located in Eridu, and not on an island on the Nile River in Egypt, then the historical identity of Osiris is revealed. He is none other than Enmerkar, known also as Nimrod in the book of Genesis, who ruled over the first super-kingdom of history with a political base in Uruk and a spiritual base in Eridu.

When the kingdom of Enmer/Osiris was brought to an end, and when the great king died, his inner circle was forced to flee from Mesopotamia entirely. Eridu was abandoned, along with its unfinished Tower, after what must have been a major conflict, because the Edfu inscriptions refer to the original home of the gods as the "Isle of Aggression" (Egy. iu titi) and "Isle of Combat" (Egy. iu aha). [15]

After regrouping and consolidating their forces on the "Blessed Isle" of Bahrain a significant faction of this Falcon Tribe then invaded Upper Egypt. They took the carefully-preserved body of their slain king with them and they sailed around the Arabian Peninsula, up the Red Sea, and then re-embarked on the Nile River after dragging their boats through the wadis of Egypt's eastern desert. One of the first cult centers of this invading group was located at Abydos, and it was here where the body of Enmer/Osiris was temporarily laid to rest:

"Abydos, or Abdju, lies in the eighth nome of Upper Egypt, about 300 miles south of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile and about 9.5 miles from the river. It spreads over 5 square miles and contains archaeological remains from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was significant in historical times as the main cult center of Osiris, the lord of the netherworld. At the mouth of the canyon at Abydos, which the Egyptians believed to be the entrance to the underworld, one of the tombs of the 1st dynasty kings was mistaken for the tomb of Osiris. A thousand years later, and pilgrims would leave offerings to the god for another thousand years. The area is thus now called Umm el Qa’ab, 'Mother of Pots.'" [16]

Perhaps this tomb was indeed the original tomb of Osiris and the ancient Egyptians were not "mistaken." Whether it was or not, we can be certain that the location known as Umm el Ga'ab was an important site for the invading Falcon Tribe from the very beginning. At this location archaeologists have determined that a total of ten pre-dynastic and early-dynastic royal tomb enclosures were built, of which eight have been found and excavated. Many of these burial enclosures also included subsidiary graves for attendants that were offered as human sacrifices at the time of the royal burial. Egyptologists believe that the Umm el Ga'ab enclosures are related to early inscriptions that mention "fortresses of the gods," as Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson explains,

"(The enclosures) seem to have been ceremonial gathering places for the gods known as the shemsu-her, the 'entourage of Horus,' who were associated with the king as the manifestation of the falcon god Horus -- probably regarded as the same deity worshiped at Hierakonpolis (Nekhen -- Falcon City)....The open courts of these enclosures may have contained a sacred mound similar to that found in the shrine of Hierakonpolis as well as in other later temples and shrines. The mound is of particular significance as it may have been regarded as a symbol of the original mound of creation in Egyptian mythology, from which the primordial falcon god was said to have surveyed the world from his perch or standard." [17]

The "sacred mounds" of these early holy sites relate directly back to Eridu of Mesopotamia. Further proof of the Falcon Tribe's origin comes from other artifacts buried nearby which mainstream Egyptologists have a hard time understanding:

"Near Khentyamentiu’s temple, a mile north of the Umm el Ga’ab (Qa'ab) cemetery and nested among the enclosures were fourteen (found to-date) large boat graves. The remains of the ancient ships, dating to the 1st Dynasty, were uncovered in the desert. Each averages 75 feet in length and had been encased in a structure two-feet thick with whitewashed mud-brick walls. Whether they were meant to represent solar barques, anticipating the ship built by Khufu and found within his Pyramid at Giza, is not yet known." [18]

These boats were viewed as sacred to the Falcon Tribe because they were the means by which the Shemsu-Hor invaders arrived in Egypt in the first place. Their original use was functional, and only later did they become viewed as cultic "solar barques" and become assimilated into Egyptian religion.

In the thirteenth century B.C. the Egyptian king Seti I -- the father of the great Ramesses II -- built one of Egypt's most impressive and remarkable temples. This temple, the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, has seven sanctuaries, dedicated to himself, Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus. It is built in a curious L-Pattern, at the back end of which is another remarkable monolithic structure known as the Osireion.

The Osireion was built as another "Tomb of Osiris" and when it was completed it featured numerous elaborate paintings and inscriptions on its walls detailing the many aspects of Osiris and his role in Egyptian religion. At the center of the building was a raised rectangular "island," with receptacles cut into the floor to hold a sarcophagus and canopic chests. Surrounding the "island" was a water-channel cut into the floor, into which steps from the island descended. Wilkinson explains a likely factor that dictated this temple's placement,

"The location of the Osireion in the temple of Sethos I (Seti I) at Abydos...is due to the proximity of a natural spring. This seems to have been used to provide a pool of water around the subterranean 'grave' in order to make it a model of the mythical mound of creation which the Egyptians believed rose from the primeval waters." [19]

Again, this description of a fresh water spring integrated into the plan of a temple of Osiris in Abdju is very similar to the descriptions given in Sumerian texts of fresh water flowing out of Enki's Abzu in the sacred island of the city of Eridu, the cult-capital ruled by Enmer prior to its abandonment.

Regarding the dating of the building of the Osireion, most scholars believe it was begun by Seti I and completed by his grandson. However, the mystic Egyptologist John Anthony West disagrees. In his Magical Egypt DVD series, West offers several factors that point to an earlier date for the building of the Osireion. First of all, there is the curious fact that the elevation of the Osireion is almost fifty feet lower than that of Seti I's temple. Secondly, there is the strange L-pattern to the layout of Seti's temple, and thirdly, there is the odd fact that there is a chamber dedicated to Osiris within Seti's temple.

Why dedicate a chamber within the temple, if another entire building was planned in honor of the same deity from the beginning? West believes that the original plan for Seti's temple called for it to be built as a straight rectangle, and that this was changed only after the workers uncovered the Osireion while digging to lay the foundation of Seti's temple. The discovery of the Osireion forced the architects to shift the "Southern Wing" off to the side, which created the L-pattern. The finding of the Osireion would have been taken as a divine sign and the ancient building would have been refurbished, renovated, and redecorated, and incorporated into the plan of the overall site.

Remains of the Osireion at Abydos

Of course West's theory may be wrong and the Osireion may indeed date to the thirteenth century B.C. Nonetheless, the intriguing possibility exists that it may have actually served as a temporary resting place for the body of Osiris more than fifteen hundred years earlier. We cannot know for sure where the body of Osiris rested while in Abydos, but we can be reasonably certain that it did rest there. However, once the massive necropolis at Giza was completed during the Fourth Dynasty the body was brought north and secreted in its current undiscovered location, perhaps in a hidden chamber in the very heart of the Great Pyramid.

Giza became the greatest monument to Osiris ever built, but Abydos still continued as a primary location for the Osiris cult and his related rituals and festivals. Perhaps the most important of these festivals was the Festival of Khoiak, held in the fourth month of the season of Akhet (Inundation). The high point of the ritual was a three-day reenactment of the myth of Isis and Osiris, and the death of Osiris at the hands of Set. It included a procession with an effigy of the deceased Osiris carried in a ceremonial barque from his temple out into the desert and then to his burial place either at the Umm el-Ga'ab cemetery or (later) at the Osireion itself. Much of what we know of this early "Passion Play" comes from the "Stela of Ikhernofret" which dates to the Middle Kingdom, which is here summarized [20]:

The First Day -- The Procession of Wepwawet:

Wepwawet opens the way of the procession. The enemies of Wesir (Osiris) are struck down in a mock battle. It seems an assault was staged by the "followers of Set," this was to be struck down, either by priests or by pilgrims acting as the "followers of Wesir," or perhaps both. The jackal-god Wepwawet who is walking foremost in all royal processions and conquests, goes by the name of "Opener of the Ways." In that context he opens the path for Wesir to gain access to the tomb.

The Second Day -- The Great Procession of Wesir:

The deceased Wesir, carried on a barque called "Neshmet" (night barque which Re rides in every night) is taken from his temple to his tomb. The procession moves through the surrounding cemetery grounds to the tomb (it seems they take a tour out in the desert before ending up at the Osireion). The Lamentations of Aset (Isis) and Nebt-Het are performed by women impersonating the goddesses, all throughout these three days.

The Night of Vigil:

During this night's reenactment, the enemies of Wesir are slain on the "banks of Nedyet" (the tomb) and the night ends with the trial of Set before the Divine Tribunal.

The Third Day -- Wesir is Reborn:

The god was reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma'at. The statue of Wesir on the Neshmet barque is brought back in triumph to his temple, followed by the jubilant masses. Purification and installment of the god in his House followed and before the rites were concluded, the "Raising of the Djed-pillar" took place. This last part was not open to the public.

The notable characteristic of this reenactment (aside from the familiar "Resurrection on the Third Day") is the fact that Osiris is depicted as being taken from his temple after he is already dead, and being transported by a boat to his burial place. This makes sense if the original temple of Osiris was actually in Eridu, and the journey of his death-boat signifies the removal and transportation of his body from Eridu to its ultimate destination in Egypt.

Additional evidence found within the myths of Osiris also appear to link him with Mesopotamia, with the god Enki, and with Enmer the great king who ruled just prior to the abandonment of Eridu.

According to Plutarch's account Osiris was the great king who brought civilization to Egypt and to the world. Osiris was the inventor of agriculture, and he presided over the invention of writing, which is accorded to his scribe the great god Thoth. Osiris was also the one who organized society on the basis of uniform laws, and who also taught mankind the proper way in which to worship and honor the gods.

Notice what E. A. Wallis Budge has to say about the travels of Osiris/Nimrod:

"Osiris raised an large army, and he determined to go about the world teaching mankind to plant vines and to sow wheat and barley. Having made all arangements in Egypt he committed the government of his whole kingdom to Isis, and gave her as an assistant Hermes, his trusted scribe who excelled all others in wisdom and prudence. He appointed to be the chief of the forces in Egypt his kinsman Hercules, a man of great physical strength...As he marched through Ethiopia, a company of satyrs was presented to him...

"Having taught the Ethiopians the arts of tillage and husbandry, he built several cities in their country, and appointed governors over them, and then continued his journey. On the borders of Ethiopia he raised the river banks, and took precautions to prevent the Nile from overflowing the neighbouring country and turning it into a marsh, and he built canals with flood-gates and regulators.

"He then travelled by way of the coast of Arabia into India, where he built many cities, including Nysa, in which he planted the ivy plant. He took part in several elephant hunts, and journeying westwards he brought his army through the Hellespont into Europe. In Thrace he killed Lycurgus, a barbarian king, who refused to adopt his system of government. Osiris became a benefactor of the whole world by finding out food which was suitable for mankind, and after his death he gained the reward of immortality, and was honoured as a god" (Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Vol. 1, pp. 10-11).

In Sumerian myth it is Enki who receives credit as the great civilizer of mankind. It was he who invented agriculture, and he who gave laws to mankind as well as establishing the tradition of a hereditary kingship, which was first adopted in Eridu.

According to the Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta epic it was Enmer who sought to renovate and expand the temple in Eridu as a "great abode of the gods." In addition to this project Enmer also introduced goddess-worship to the land, specifically the worship of Inanna, who is referred to as Enmer's sister, just as Isis is the sister of Osiris. David Rohl comments on the fact that the symbol for Inanna in Sumer was a six-pointed star, and this very same symbol is used repeatedly in early Egyptian references to Isis, who was also the wife and rescuer of the deceased Osiris.

In another provocative similarity, according to the Lord of Aratta epic (lines 500-514), it was Enmer who first transformed spoken words into writing: "Formerly, the writing of messages on clay was not established. Now, under that sun and on that day, it was indeed so."

Evidence linking Osiris to Enmer is also apparent in the very name of Osiris as it is reproduced in the earliest hieroglyphics. Here is what The Ancient Gods Speak -- A Guide to Egyptian Religion has to say on this important subject [21]:

"The god's name Wsir (in Coptic, Oycipe or Oycipi) was written at first with the sign for a throne, followed by the sign for an eye; later the order was inverted. Among the many meanings suggested is one cognate with Ashur, implying a Syrian origin; but also 'he who takes his seat or throne;' 'she or that which has sovereign power and is creative;' 'the place of creation;' 'seat of the eye,' with the Eye explained as the Sun; 'the seat that creates;' and 'the Mighty One,' deriving from wsr ('mighty')."

If the original meaning of the name Osiris was "The Mighty One" -- and if he is somehow associated with the Assyrian god Ashur -- then both of these items point towards Nimrod of the book of Genesis, who became "a mighty one on the earth" and a "mighty hunter before the LORD," who founded the city of Ninevah that became the capital of Assyria. David Rohl explains how it all ties together [22]:

"This Ashur ‘lived at the city of Ninevah’ and was the eponymous founder of the Assyrian nation, whilst Ninus founded Ninevah -- as did Nimrod. It appears that we are dealing here with a single historical character who established the first empire on Earth and who was deified by many nations under four main name groupings:

(1) Early Sumerian Enmer, later Mesopotamian Ninurta (originally Nimurda), biblical Nimrod, Greek Ninus;

(2) Old Babylonian Marduk, biblical Merodach, later simply known as Bel or Baal ('Lord');

(3) Late Sumerian Asar-luhi (a principal epithet of Marduk), Assyrian Ashur, Egyptian Asar (Osiris);

(4) Sumerian Dumuzi, biblical Tammuz, Phoenician Adonis, Greek Dionysus, Roman Bacchus....

"Both Marduk and Ashur had their origins in the Sumerian deity Asar (or Asar-luhi) "son of Enki and Damkina" originating from Eridu. Damkina (Sumerian Damgalnuna) seems to have been another name for Inanna.

"After Eya (Enki) had vanquished and trampled his foes, had secured his triumph over his enemies, and had rested in profound peace within his sacred chamber which he named 'Abzu'...,in that same place he founded his cultic shrine. Eya and Damkina, his wife, dwelled there in splendour. There in the chamber of fates, the abode of destinies, a god was born -- the most able and wisest of gods. In the heart of Abzu, Marduk was created. He who begat him was Eya, his father. She who bore him was Damkina, his mother [Babylonian Creation Epic].

Ancient Statue of Nimrod

"At his names may the gods tremble and quake in their dwellings. Asar-luhi is his foremost name which his father Anu gave him....Asar, bestower of the cultivated land, who establishes its boundaries, the creator of grain and herbs who causes vegetation to sprout forth. [Babylonian Creation Epic].

"The new god’s Sumerian name -- Asar -- was written with the sign for throne which was also one of the two hieroglyphs used to write the name Osiris. Of course, Osiris is the Greek vocalization for the Egyptian corn-god of the dead. The people of the Nile valley simply knew him as Asar. The Sumerian epic Dumuzi and Inanna tells us that the fertility-goddess Inanna 'married' King Dumuzi (Asar) of Uruk just as the Egyptian Isis, goddess of fertility, was the wife and queen of King Osiris (Asar)."

With the death of Enmer/Osiris, and the crumbling of his Mesopotamian empire, a new form of religious worship came to dominate the world. According to the myth, before Enki set out to create contention in the land, "the people in unison...to Enlil in one tongue gave praise." Afterwards the situation was very different and very chaotic, and monotheism was replaced by polytheism. Along with this new pagan polytheistic framework the world seemed to recognize the ascendance of a new god to the head of the pantheon, and this god had a son who was known by many different names, who was universally understood to have died and risen again, either in this world or the next.


[1]. http://touregypt.net/featurestories/flinders.htm

[2]. Legend -- the Genesis of Civilisation, David Rohl, 1998, p. 311.

[3]. Ibid., p. 314.

[4]. Ibid., p. 317.

[5]. Ibid., p. 315.

[6]. Ibid., p. 317-18.

[7]. Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, Chapter IV, 2.

[8]. Rohl, pp. 164-165, 217.

[9]. Ibid., p. 303, citing Herodotus, Book I:1.

[10]. Ibid., p. 253, citing Strabo, Book XVI, 3, 4.

[11]. Ibid., pp. 252-253.

[12]. Ibid., pp. 304-305.

[13] Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, E. A. Wallis Budge, 1973 (1911), p. 1.

[14] Secret Chamber: The Quest for the Hall of Records, Robert Bauval, 1999, pp. 95-96.

[15] Legend -- The Genesis of Civilisation, David Rohl, 1998, p. 340.

[16] Abydos in Egypt, by Marie Parsons.

[17] The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, 2000, p. 19.

[18] Abydos in Egypt, by Marie Parsons.

[19] The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, 2000, p. 36.

[20] Summary of Khoiak Festival quoted from http://www.philae.nu/akhet/APassionPlays.html

[21] The Ancient Gods Speak -- A Guide to Egyptian Religion, edited by Donald B. Redford, 2002, p. 304.

[22] The Lost Testament, David Rohl, 2002, pp. 73-74.

[23] F. Wendorf et al, "Egyptian Prehistory, Some New Concepts," Science, 1969. 1161-1171.

[24] John  A. Wilson, The Culture of Ancient Egypt, Un. of Chicago Press, 1963, 39.

[25] Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, New York 1954, 135.

Edited by John D. Keyser.


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