The Birth of Civilizations and the Gods, part 1


Part One:

Before “history”, which begins with our invention of writing to keep records of resources, commerce and trade transactions around 5500 years ago, we are dependent on archaeologists and the artifacts they uncover to “see” what was happening prior to the advent of writing. This paper will attempt to summarize what is known and understood now regarding the rise of the first ancient civilizations of man, as developing from 13,000 years ago to about 3000 years ago (though I will touch on 2700 or so years ago when the Old Testament was written by scribes from Judah in the south and Israel to the north). The focus will be on the eastern Mediterranean, at the Nile River, to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to the east, where they empty into the head of the Persian Gulf.

Around 12,000 years ago this area was warming and greatly enhanced plant and animal food resources, so that bands of hunter gatherers didnt have to roam for food. They could settle in permanent shelter. An event 13,000 years ago, when an object 3 miles wide (likely a comet) exploded above southern Canada, unleashed immense amounts of freshwater from affected glaciers and caused sea level rise, floods, and, by impacting the Atlantic Ocean current, a 1000 year period of a cooling extending the end of the Ice Age of 2.6 million years. (Throughout those years, there were warming periods, of many thousands of years, known as “interglacial” periods. Homo sapiens (along with Homo erectus, neanderthalis, and denisovans) were affected, with movements and growing adaptations impacted. Memory of that event may be represented in our Great Flood myths told in the Epic of Gilgamesh and a 1000 years later in Genesis 6 of the Old Testament.

This paper will also attempt to address what so called ancient alien theorists have conveyed to very wide audiences via popular books published for the past several decades and, today, a History Channel series called Ancient Aliens. The subject of this paper largely covers ideas shared in this episode:

“Ancient Aliens

S 6 E 3

The Anunnaki Connection

Oct 14, 2013 | 44m 11s | TV-PG

The Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia achieved over one hundred “firsts” for human civilization. Advances in writing, agriculture, science, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, transportation, building, military, schools and city planning, all originated in Sumer. The Sumerians credit these achievements to The Anunnaki–giant, winged gods, who are only found in ancient cuneiform texts. Could these gods be more than legend? Is it possible that civilization made sudden, huge advances in development 5,000 years ago as a result of the Anunnaki’s presence on Earth? Could the human race have been jump-started or even genetically created by extraterrestrial beings in the remote past? Might the Sumerian texts describing the Anunnaki be proof of this controversial theory? And if so, could we someday reunite with these celestial visitors?”

For some insight into how these Ancient Alien shows were created, a show associate producer (Annelise Baer) wrote in a 2014 blog article:

“Even though the final product may not look like it, we actually do quite a lot of research for each episode so that names, dates and historical information is correct. Of course, the fun really starts when we have to jump off the deep end and make all of the nice historically accurate people, places and things fit the ‘Ancient Aliens’ mold. Imagine the most ridiculous combination of historical terms/figures and actions and there’s a very high probability we’ve had that as a story point on the show. We know our job is really and truly ridiculous but it always surprises me just how excited people get when they find out I work on this series. It makes me feel a bit better about the absurdity we put on TV. Just a bit.”[1]

It will be the actually known and understood history that I summarize here. Encouraging people to read and study the translated source texts of the Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations may help mitigate the false picture spread by the process of show production described above. As is evident from social media postings, a very large number of people currently believe that the Sumerian pantheon of gods were extraterrestrials known as the Anunnaki and that these beings genetically created us to be a slave labor force in gold mines. They then supposedly left but are expected to return. But supposedly before leaving they had guided us to create the first established civilizations 5 to 6 thousand years ago.

Ancient alien or astronaut “theories” are a product of a seperate or different field of study apart from what is known as “ufology”, where the focus is on a study of ufo events going back to the eve (the 1890s) of us attaining flight capacities. UFO historian Jerome Clark notes a critical difference in views between the dominant observation of ufologists and those asserting extraterrestrials actively guiding us to all our advances:

“Most ufologists thought UFOs had been around a long time but only as distant observers of human affairs.” [2]

Since World War 2 there have of course been signs of a closer observing of us, very understandable in light of us developing nuclear weapons, missles, and space travel.

Also, the clues discerned from close encounters of the 3rd and 4th kind are suggestive of ongoing alien projects involving use of our planetary resources (which reportedly includes human dna).

BUT: from those same types of cases, individuals have revealed that “they” do not interfere in, guide, or cause our advances as a species. Messaging in these very individualistic and covert interactions definitely suggest these beings are concerned over us misapplying technology and causing dangerous environmental degradation.

Amusingly, one of the resources I am studying for this paper is a book that has adopted this literary device:

“Imagine a team of alien scientists who have been orbiting our planet searching for intelligent life and studying Earth’s lifeforms in a longitudinal research project lasting several million years…” [3]

The ancient alien notions that extraterrestrials, misidentified as gods, were the primary artisans guiding human cultural development rely on the gaps in knowledge about the past and also on a superficial regard for what is known about what only seem on the surface to be almost instantenous leaps in our development (language, speech, writing, cities etc).

In effect, those conveying the idea that aliens created us and our civilization are taking advantage of one of the cognitive features that allowed us to develop relatively rapidly over the past 200,000 plus years: our capacity to imagine things not concretely evident to our senses. The imaginative leap that aliens took us by the hand to our achievements, only superficially seeming to be mysterious overnight affairs, is not necessary to account for our development.

The basis for this imaginative leap seem to be ancient tales of visionary encounters with the gods. Moses encountering Yahweh and Zoroaster encountering Ahura Mazda are two of the best-known of the type of encountering that have been incorporated into the ancient alien argument of guiding ETs.

The Sumerians are said, today via the musings of ancient alien theorists, to have had a specific relationship with an extraterrestrial civilization from an undiscovered planet in our own solar system. Different individuals from this civilization were said to rule over the world’s early city-states beginning to rise along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Archaeologists, on the other hand, have uncovered a different picture of that early scene. The Sumerian civilization was essentially rediscovered in the 1870s when a French diplomat was posted to Ottoman Empire turf that later became today’s Iraq, and began overseeing an archaeological dig along the southern end of the old course of the Euphrates River near the head of the Persian Gulf.

Thousands of clay tablets with Sumerian cuneiform, various statutes, and remnants of buildings were uncovered, including the signs of a series of rebuilding of the city’s “Eninnu, The White Thinderbird” temple. Eninnu means “House Fifty”, a reference to the 50 powers of Enlil, who is a senior member of the pantheon of Sumerian gods. Enlil’s son Ningirsu was the patron god of this uncovered ancient city, named Girsu. The White Thunderbird refers to the temple being an embodiment of Ningirsu, who existed in the form of a statute there.

The actual nature of the gods seems to have been revealed in the longest literary text of earliest literature, uncovered when the French diplomat and his team discovered 2 clay cylinders with cuneiform:

“Each cylinder measures just under 2 feet tall and nine inches across, and together they are inscribed with a nearly 1400-line poem, the longest-known Sumerian literary work. It describes the dreams in which Ningirsu visited Gudea [my note: ruler of the city Girsu], as well as the lengths to which the ruler went to build and consecrate the temple…..One of the statues found by de Sarzec [the French diplomat] depicts Gudea as an architect with a building plan resting on his knees and is inscribed with an abridged version of Eninnu’s construction…To prepare for the temple’s construction, the cylinders and inscriptions recount, Gudea purified the city, banishing the ritually unclean or unpleasant-looking and forbidding debt collection and burial of bodies. From locales such as Elam and Susa in Iran, Magan in Oman, the Amanus Mountains in Turkey, and Meluhha, likely in the Indus Valley, he procured an impressive array of valuable materials: cedar, ebony, and fir wood; bitumen, gypsum, carnelian, diorite, and alabaster; and copper, silver, and gold.” [4]

You can read the translation of the cuneiform on the 2 cylinders here:

Gudea ruled Girsu from 2150 to 2125 BCE and his two dreams where the patron god of Girsu, Ningirsu, instructed him on the building of the temple seems to be typical of the means of interacting with the gods , like is done in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the ruler of another ancient great city (Uruk) experienced his city’s patron god in the setting of his dreams.

The creator of the idea that the Sumerian gods were extraterrestrials, Zecharia Sitchin, acknowledges in his book Divine Encounters that these dream encounters would merely be indicators of man’s imagination at play and not an accounting of flesh and blood entities. But, he apparently sees, in the passage on the cylinders where Gudea’s second dream is described, something that suggests such a concrete basis for these beings:

Sitchin first references Twilight Zone tv show episodes where imaginary things manifest as material realities, then cites the passage on the cylinder describing the second dream to assert that “the text suggests all these objects somehow materialized during the dream, but regarding one of them there is absolutely no doubt that it was made to cross from the deeam dimension of physical reality; for when Gudea awoke, he found the lapus lazuli stone tablet on his lap, with the plan of the temple etched upon it….” [5]

In reading the cylinder text which I have linked above, I tried to find in the section cited by Sitchin (read 68 thru 172) this miracle being reported, but didnt. The earliest excavations there ended in 1933 but resumed a few years ago and the temple that Gudea built was found at a site apart from where the temple had been sequentially rebuilt. It appears that since Gudea was not a direct descendent of the previous ruler of Girsu, but instead his son-in-law, building a new temple at a different site from the early one was necessary to validate his authority.

Here is the specific section Sitchin cites, the part where Gudea is describing his dream to his dream-interpreter:

 110-114 Then there was a woman — whoever she was. She …… she leaves. She held a stylus of refined silver in her hand, and placed it on a tablet with propitious stars, and was consulting it.”

115-123. “There was, furthermore, a warrior. His arm was bent, holding a lapis lazuli tablet in his hand, and he was setting down the plan of the house. The holy basket stood in front of me, the holy brick mould was ready and the fated brick was placed in the mould for me. In a fine ildagtree standing before me tigidlu birds were spending the day twittering. My master’s right-side donkey stallion was pawing the ground for me.”

Archaeologists have uncovered a STATUE of Gudea with the architectural plans shown on his lap. When the temple that Gudea had built (with he being a very hands on worker in addition to supervising it all) was uncovered finally a few years ago, they found the podium where they had placed the statue of the city’s patron god, Ningirsu.

Here is a report on the uncoverings from the work of British Museum archaeologist Sebastien Rey at that site (work beginning in 2015):

“…Rey’s team has discovered a vast range of artifacts. Among these are a white cylinder seal–a mark of individual identity that could be used to roll out a sort of signature on a tablet—that belonged to the god Ningirsu himself. ‘Since the god is the owner of the state, he would have had a cylinder seal just like a king or a merchant,’ says Rey. The seal, carved from a shell brought from the Persian Gulf, depicts Nigirsu in his human form, wearing a horned tiara and standing in his temple, which is surrounded by bearded guards. They also found a ceramic head of a roaring lion as well as a carved shell amulet that may depict Pazuzu, a ‘good’ demon who protected pregnant women and newborn children from the depredations of bad demons…..The excavations have uncovered evidence that Girsu was connected to the far-reaching trade networks that would have been necessary to provide the materials included on the Gudea cylinders. From Afghanistan, there is lapis lazuli, a blue mineral used for cylinder seals, beads, pendants, amulets, and eyes in votive statues made of alabaster. From the Indus Valley, there are precious stones such as carnelian, which was used in decorative panels and inlays, and from Iran, hard stones such as green steatite for statues and mace beads. The previously discovered statues of Gudea are made of diorite, a hard black to dark green stone from Oman. Of particular interest are fragments of unusual vessels carved from fine honey-colored limestone from eastern Iran that was polished until almost translucent, resembling alabaster. The vessels were inscribed with Gudea’s name and had traces of deliberate abrasion around their rims. This suggests they were once encircled by metal bands that were also likely inscribed. In addition, a weight used by Indus Valley merchants was found in a surface survey near the temple [my note: thus excavators suggest there was a small Indus Valley merchant colony was present]. [6]

And a description of finds related to the worship of Ningirsu:

“Rey estimates that the entire Eninnu complex covers more than 40,000 square feet. By a stroke of luck, the first walls the team uncovered were very close to the temple’s most sacred section—the cella, or inner sanctum. There, the researchers excavated the podium on which the Sumerian high priests would have placed a statue of Ningirsu. In front of the podium, they found an offering table with traces of burning, most likely from incense. A statue of Gudea, almost certainly the one with the building plan and description of the Eninnu’s construction, would have faced the podium as well. There were also a large number of clay bowls and cups that the priests would have used to carry offerings of food and beer to Ningirsu. ‘There would have been a daily ritual of waking the god, clothing him, feeding him, and basicly looking after him theoughout the day’, says Ashley Poole, a supervisor of the excavation. ‘Then they put him to bed at night and close up the temple’.

The cella’s layout ensured that visitors did not directly face the statue of Ningirsu when entering. ‘The statue is considered to be imbued with energy, what the Sumerian texts call radiance’, says Rey. ‘It was so intensly powerful that it would burn your eyes, like looking in the sun too long’. The temple was not seen as an inert structure, but as an entity that performed the functions of a god—it WAS the White Thunderbird. This explains, for Rey, why its walls were so thick, far thicker than would have been necessary for structural reasons. ‘It’s like a nuclear reactor’, he says, ‘which has extremely thick walls to contain the extremely powerful energy inside.’

Entry into the temple was limited to those in the religious hierarchy. Several times each year, however, during festivals held in honor of Ningirsu, the energy of the Eninnu spilled beyond its confines and swept up the general populace. These festivals are believed to have lasted three to four days, and to have consisted of a procession in which the god’s statue was paraded in a sacred chariot from the Eninnu, out of the city, into the countryside, and then back to the holy precinct, where a religious feast was held.” [7]

There will be more on this ancient Sumerian scene later. Tracing human developments from the time of our transitioning from a roaming hunter-gatherer culture to a settled agricultural/animal husbandry culture would seem helpful in examining the ancient alien ideas of extraterrestrials serving as catalysts and teachers during our moments of key advances. Also, since these theorists also propose that aliens created our species through genetic manipulations, a general review of the current knowledge regarding the road to the emergence of homo sapiens might also be helpful in evaluating these claims of ET handiwork.

Part one of “the birth of civilizations and the gods” will conclude with a general survey of the road to the emergence of our species and in part 2 there will be a look at our story from about 13,000 years ago to 3,000 years ago.

In 1968, two geneticists did a comparative study of species alive today and clarified the timelines when species diverged from a shared level of development. We shared a common ancestor with chimps and gorillas until about 8 million years ago, when gorillas split off into a seperate line. Humans and chimps diverged about 6 or 7 million years ago, when “there existed a creature from which modern humans and chimpanzees are descended. We do not yet have fossil remains of this creature, but modern genetics tell us it was really there”. [8]

The story of the appearance of homo sapiens 200,000 to 300,000 years ago is very complicated, involving many species in two basic genus that developed after our developmental line diverged from chimps.

The beings (which include us) who diverged from chimps several million years ago are referenced as “hominims”. The main feature that represented a break in the previous developmental path was that hominims were bipedal. Hominims consist of two genus, each consisting of many species.

The earliest hominims were in the genus “australopethicines” and their brains would range (over a span of millions of years with various species) from 300-450 cubic centimeters. Around 2 million years ago a new genus of beings manifested, “homo”. The first species in this genus that we know of was homo habilis with 500-700 cubic centimeter size and next homo erectus at about 900 cubic centimeters. Homo erectus so far is the longest surviving species in our genus and still existed until 50,000 or so years when the more advanced and basicly equal-in-capacity Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans also were around.

The average brain size of our species is 1350 cubic centimeters. Another measuring standard is also used: “More significant than absolute size, though not easy to calculate, is the extent to which brain size deviates from the expected brain size for a given body weight within a particular group of organisms. This is the encephalization quotient (EQ). Chimps have an EQ of about 2, and modern humans have an extraordinarily high EQ of about 5.8. The EQs of australopithecines range from 2.4 to 3.1…” [9]

The key to the rapid advancing developments of our species is the capacity to speak with a language, enabling vocal learning. In a January 2018 paper in the Journal of Language Evolution (Oxford Academic), there was an examination of “a new source of evidence that draws on data from archaic human genomes to support the hypothesis that vocal learning in Homopreceded the emergence of anatomically modern humans. We build our claim on the evolutionary history of the SLIT-ROBO GTPase 2 gene (SRGAP2). The SLIT-ROBO molecular pathway has been shown to have an important role in the context of vocal learning. Though the relevance of the SRGAP2 gene duplication in the emergence of some aspect of language has not gone completely unnoticed, recent results now allow us to articulate a mechanistic hypothesis of its role in the context of axon guidance. Specifically, SRGAP2C, a duplication of SRGAP2 crucially also found in Neanderthals and Denisovans, but not in extant mammals, inhibits the ancestral SRGAP2A, which in turn modulates the axon guidance function of the SLIT-ROBO molecular pathway. This, we claim, could have contributed to the establishment of the critical cortico-laryngeal connection of the vocal learning circuit. Our conclusions support the idea that complex vocal learning could already have been part of the arsenal of some of our extinct ancestors.” [10]

SRGAP2 itself remains unchanged for the last 6 million years of our evolutionary history, but “it has given rise to three human-specific duplications, two of which underwent subsequent mutations…”. Using fossil records and applying genetic analysis, it was found that the first duplication took plave 2.8 to 3.9 million years ago, the second 2 to 2.8 million years ago and the third 400 thousand to 1.3 million years ago. “Consistant with the timing of their appearances, all three human paralogs, SRGAP2b, SRGAP2c, and SRGAP2d, have been found also in the genomes of Neanderthals and Denisovans [alomg with us Sapiens].” [11]

To set the stage for the story of our advances to be outlined in part two, here are some useful observations from historian David Christian on what the development of the “vocal learning” capacity enabled:

“…What makes us radically different is our collective control of information about our surroundings. We don’t just gather information, like other species. We seem to cultivate and domesticate it, as farmers cultivate crops. We generate and share more information and use it to tap larger and larger flows of energy and resources…”

And, part one concludes with his point here, crucial for understanding the dynamics laid out in the story in part 2 of “the birth of civilizations and the gods”:

“Above all, human languages let us share information about abstract entities or about things or possibilities that are not immediately present and may not even exist outside of our imagination.” [12]


[1] https://www.dayofarchaeology.comdispatches-from-the-fringe/#more-16194
The above link may not work. The quote above was gotten from Jason Colavito’s blog article discussing her article.

[2] Jerome Clark article “Ancient Astronauts in the UFO Literature” in Volume One, The UFO Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, 2017, pg 111

[3] David Christian, Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, 2018, pg 169

[4] from the magazine Archaeology (a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America), January/February 2020, Daniel Weiss, pg 41

[5] Zecharia Sitchin, Divine Encounters: A Guide to Visions, Angels, and Other Emissaries, 1995, pg 188

[6] Archaeology (magazine), Jan/Feb 2020, Daniel Weiss, pgs 42-43

[7] Archaeology, pgs 43-44

[8] David Christian, Origin Story, pg 161

[9] David Christian, Origin Story, pg 165

[10] Pedro Tiago Martins, Maties Mari, Cedric Boecky in Journal of Language Evolution, January 2018, pgs 67-68

[11] Journal of Language Evolution, January 2018, phs 67-68

[12] David Christian, Origin Story, pg 171, pg 173