Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sumerian Origins

You shall be brought down, and shall speak out of the ground, and your speech shall be low out of the dust; and your voice shall be as of one who has a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and your speech shall whisper out of the dust. Isa. 29:4.

Archeology, and particularly the study of man's more ancient past as revealed in the excavations of long buried cities and villages, is by its very nature usually most articulate about his material culture; for archeological finds consist primarily of bricks and walls, tools and weapons, pots and vases, jewels and ornaments, statues and figurines ... His social life, his economic and administrative organization, and particularly his world view as revealed in his religious beliefs, ethical ideals, and spiritual yearnings-all these usually have to be inferred and surmised from the artifacts, architecture, and burial customs and then only in the form of vague and loose generalizations. The situation is quite different, however, in the case of Sumer, for here the excavators have unearthed tens of thousands of inscribed clay tablets … and these add … a dimension in depth to our understanding of its ancient culture (2147).  Samuel Kramer

In studying the Jaredite civilization it would be nice to have more information about their background since the abbreviated version of their history in the Book of Ether is so limited. Fortunately we do have additional background information. In the last 100-200 years archaeologists have uncovered thousands of cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia which contain much of the history of the Sumerian people.  These have been unearthed from the ruins of places like Babylon, Nineveh, and Ur. For many years these writings were unreadable, but then a Mesopotamian Rosetta Stone was discovered which made it possible for scholars to eventually decipher the cuneiform writings.  Thousands of these have now been translated and provide us with a window into the life of these ancient people.  However, the majority of the tablets have not been translated and still await the light of day.  Their translation would be a boon to the understanding of this ancient civilization.  
I believe that it is safe to assume that the Jaredites were part of this early Sumerian civilization.  This culture flourished in the lower valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (in what is now modern Iraq) from about 3000 BC to 1900 BC.  The Sumerians were the subjects of King Nimrod and his successors, were the neighbors and countrymen of Jared, and were those infamous builders of the Tower of Babel.  They were empire builders.  They developed (or inherited) an early system of writing.  Their philosophy dominated much of middle eastern thought for centuries.  Their science and discoveries were the forerunners of much of what we have today.   
Most of their writings, which have been discovered to date, are later than the Jaredite period, however, they still give us an insight into the culture, beliefs, and practices of the contemporaries of Jared.  
One of the foremost scholars to study and understand the Sumerian culture was Samuel Kramer (1897-1990).  He was instrumental in translating a number of the Sumerian tablets, and has written a number of outstanding books on the culture.  In this section I will quote extensively from his book The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character.  The numbers in parenthesis following the quotes are the reference location of the specific quotes in the Kindle edition of his book.  Some of the quotes will be duplicated where subject areas overlap.  
Where appropriate, I will try and compare and correlate Sumerian cultural practices and customs with those of the New World Jaredites.  

13.  Tools
15.  The Arts

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