PROBLEMS WITH KING LISTS
© Ian Lawton 2002
[This paper represents an adjunct to Genesis Unveiled (now The History of the Soul) in which I concluded that the various King Lists from around the world cannot be used as reliable evidence of our forgotten pre-catastrophe race. Nevertheless, I have conducted detailed investigations into these lists that raise some interesting and often overlooked points, while at the same time correcting some of the errors in their reporting by various other revisionist historians. I trust this additional information will prove useful to others.]
The Antediluvian Patriarchs
Let us take a moment to reacquaint ourselves with the details of the antediluvian patriarchs recorded in Genesis 5. The first column in Figure 1 shows the number of years each of them lived, while the second shows how old each was when he fathered his successor, albeit that the text describes how they all subsequently fathered numerous other sons and daughters. This latter allows us to work out an approximate elapsed time between the birth of Adam and the flood—noting that Noah's 600 years is his age at the time of the flood, rather than his full lifespan which is reported as 950 years.[i]
Figure 1: The Antediluvian Biblical Patriarchs
We can immediately see that there are a number of problems with using this information to support my main premise that advanced culture extends far back into mankind's prehistory. For one, the reigns of these patriarchs total less than two millennia, which is hardly sufficient. However, we saw in Part One of Genesis Unveiled that there are other passages in these early chapters that do suggest a far more extensive prehistory. So, we must make a mental note for now that these ten recorded patriarchs may not represent the totality of antediluvian rulers. Of course, we must also consider the date of the flood itself. If it were only a localized and relatively recent event, this too would reduce the likelihood that the authors of Genesis were attempting to record rulers that existed in the genuinely remote past. This is a debatable point, and one to which we will return in the next section.
We must also recognize perhaps the most blindingly obvious objection—that of the extended lifespans of these patriarchs, who in most cases are reported as living for around 900 years. Clearly I do not support the argument put forward by the Interventionists that these lifespans are real, and result from their having been closer to the high-longevity genetic stock of the gods from another planet that created mankind.[ii] So, if the lifespans are not real, why should we believe that these patriarchs existed at all?
One clue may lie in Lamech's supposed 777-year lifespan. This number readily appears to have symbolic value, even if one has no detailed knowledge of the esoteric importance of the number seven. In ancient texts numbers are often used as a symbol to encode esoteric knowledge based on the attributes associated with them. Another example is Enoch's 365-year lifespan, suggesting the number of days of the year and perhaps intended to personify him as the sun. This is certainly one possible explanation for these extraordinary lifespans, and it is again an issue to which we will return in the next section.
In any case, there is a more fundamental reason for not rejecting these records as a fabrication merely because of the extended lifespans. It is that, after the incident of the "confusion of tongues" at the Tower of Babel, the lifespans of the post-flood patriarchs descended from Noah's son Shem are similarly exaggerated.[iii] For example, his celebrated descendant Abraham, the first post-flood biblical figure to have several chapters devoted to him, is reported as having lived for 175 years.[iv] Yet, despite this, many scholars would accept that Abraham, whose birthplace Ur "of the Chaldees" was discovered and authenticated in the early twentieth century, was a genuine historical figure—even if some aspects of the biblical account of his life are more myth than fact.[v] More controversially, we saw in Part One of Genesis Unveiled that some commentators would argue that Enoch, who is reported as living before the flood, was another genuine historical figure who played a key role in mankind's distant past.
So, is it possible that the biblical list of pre-flood patriarchs does contain some basis in truth—even if this particular account is somewhat inaccurate and perhaps incomplete?
The Sumerian King Lists
Let us now turn to the Sumerian King Lists. Two main versions exist, the surviving tablets being known as Weld-Blundell (W-B) 62 and 144 respectively, and both are thought to have been originally compiled around the start of the second millennium BC. There is also a third version, a much later compilation by Berossus from the third century BC.
Not only do these lists contain a record of all the post-flood kings of ancient Mesopotamia through to the time of their compilation, but, at the beginning, we once again find a list of antediluvian rulers—and this time their total period of kingship does appear to stretch way back into antiquity.
The Lists Translated
The most recent and detailed translation that I have consulted is of W-B. 144, which was prepared by Samuel Kramer in The Sumerians. Unlike some others it is uncluttered by any attempts to place absolute dates on the more recent reigns, and is a straightforward rendering of the original text. The pre-flood section reads as follows:[vi]
After kingship had descended from heaven, Eridu became (the seat) of kingship. In Eridu Alulim reigned 28,800 years as king; Alalgar reigned 36,000 years—two kings reigned 64,800 years. Eridu was abandoned, (and) its kingship was carried off to Badtibira.
In Badtibira, Enmenluanna reigned 43,200 years; Enmengalanna reigned 28,800 years; Dumuzi, the shepherd, reigned 36,000 years—three kings reigned 108,000 years. Badtibira was abandoned, (and) its kingship was carried off to Larak.
In Larak, Ensipazianna reigned 28,800 years—one king reigned 28,800 years. Larak was abandoned, (and) its kingship was carried off to Sippar.
In Sippar, Enmeduranna reigned 21,000 years as king—one king reigned 21,000 years. Sippar was abandoned, (and) its kingship was carried off to Shuruppak.
In Shuruppak, Ubartutu reigned 18,600 years as king—one king reigned 18,600 years.
(Total) five cities, eight kings reigned 241,200 years.
The Flood then swept over (the land).
When compared to Genesis, this list contains only eight rulers instead of ten, but with reported reign lengths that are far more exaggerated, and a total elapsed time of 241,000 years before the flood. Moreover, if we refer to Figure 2 in which the details from W-B. 62 and Berossus are also summarized, although they record ten kings once more, they almost double the total elapsed time to 456,000 and 432,000 years respectively.[vii]
Figure 2: The Antediluvian Sumerian Kings
What are we to make of this? The more exaggerated reign lengths and time spans recorded seem at first sight to suggest that there is even less reason to trust these older lists as reliable evidence of an extensive antediluvian civilization. However, there are compensating factors that are rarely mentioned.
Let us concentrate on W-B.144, and take a look at the initial post-flood section of the list, which commences with twenty-three kings who ruled from Kish:
After the Flood had swept over (the land) and kingship had descended from heaven (a second time), Kish became (the seat) of kingship. In Kish, Gaur reigned 1,200 years as king; Gulla-Nidaba-annapad reigned 960 years; Pala-kinatim reigned 900 years; Nangishlishma reigned .... years; Bahina reigned .... years; Buanum reigned 840 years; Kalibum reigned 960 years; Galumum reigned 840 years; Zukakip reigned 900 years; Atab reigned 600 years; Mashda, the son of Atab, reigned 840 years; Arurim, the son of Mashda, reigned 720 years; Etana, the shepherd, he who ascended to heaven, who made firm all the lands, reigned 1,560 years as king; Balih, the son of Etana, reigned 400 years; Enmenunna reigned 660 years; Melam-Kish the son of Enmenunna, reigned 900 years; Barsalnunna, the son of Enmenunna, reigned 1,200 years; Meszamug, the son of Barsalnunna, reigned 140 years; Tizkar, the son of Meszamug, reigned 305 years; Ilku reigned 900 years; Iltasadum reigned 1,200 years; Enmebaraggesi, he who smote the weapons of the land Elam, reigned 900 years as king; Agga, the son of Enmebaraggesi, reigned 625 years. (Total) twenty-three kings reigned 24,510 years, 3 months, 3 1/2 days. Kish was defeated (in battle), (and) its kingship was carried off to Eanna.
We can see from this that, just as with the biblical version, the extraordinary reign lengths carry on after the flood, although they are considerably reduced. Nevertheless, again just as with the biblical version, most scholars accept that the flood event broadly represents the cut-off point between myth and reality, that there was a first dynasty with its capital at Kish c. 2750 BC, and that some at least of these initial post-flood kings may have been real.[viii] In particular we know that Etana, the thirteenth king of Kish I in the list, is especially commemorated in an Akkadian literary text of the same name, and that the unique description of him as "the shepherd, he who ascended to heaven" corroborates the story in that text, in which he is taken on a flight to heaven on the back of an eagle.[ix] Even more convincing is the fact that the last two kings, Enmebaraggesi and Agga, are firmly included in modern chronologies,[x] while the latter's battle for control of the region are recorded in a Sumerian literary text entitled Gilgamesh and Agga.[xi]
Let us now proceed to the next section of this list, dealing with the transfer of power to "Erech" or Uruk:
In Eanna [Erech], Meskiaggasher, the son of (the sun-god) Utu reigned (both) as en (and) king 324 years—Meskiaggasher entered the sea (and) ascended the mountains; Enmerkar, the son of Meskiaggasher, the king of Erech who had built Erech, reigned 420 years as king; Lugalbanda, the shepherd, reigned 1,200 years; Dumuzi, the fisherman, whose city was Kua, reigned 100 years; Gilgamesh, whose father was a nomad(?), reigned 126 years; Urnungal, the son of Gilgamesh, reigned 30 years; Udulkalamma, the son of Urnungal reigned 15 years; Labasher reigned 9 years; Ennundaranna reigned 8 years; Meshede reigned 36 years; Melamanna reigned 6 years; Lugalkidul reigned 36 years. (Total) twelve kings reigned 2,310 years. Erech was defeated (in battle), (and) its kingship was carried off to Ur...
Once again, we find extraordinary reign lengths in a dynasty, Uruk I, that is accepted as having co-existed with that of Kish I c. 2750 BC. Moreover, once again we find that a number of its rulers are well attested in other Sumerian literary texts such as Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta and Lugalbanda and the Thunderbird.[xii] Meanwhile, the most famous of them all, Gilgamesh, is not only the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, but is also, along with his six successors in this section of the list, firmly included in modern chronologies.[xiii]
On top of this, we find a much later section of this list reporting that Ur-Zababa, the second king of Kish IV now dated to c. 2340 BC, ruled for 400 years; and it is not until after this that the remainder of the list settles into reign lengths that we would accept as reasonable. With such a mixture of fact and apparent fiction, is it appropriate to dismiss the pre-flood element of all these lists as a complete fabrication in every respect, or might they contain grains of fact; and, if they do, do they really take us back into remote antiquity?
The Orthodox View
Let us take a moment to establish what the orthodox scholars have had to say about the lists. Woolley's is the earliest translation I have come across, once again of W-B. 144, published in his own The Sumerians in 1929.[xiv] It is presented in list format rather than using the original prose so that he can attempt to insert absolute dates, beginning with c. 3100 BC for the First Dynasty of Ur—which in the list comes immediately after the last section quoted above. He argues that the flood was only a localized event—a view that has been echoed in more recent times as we will see shortly—and that the details of the dynasties on either side of the flood are too unreliable to be used for establishing a chronology. However, by contrast, he is quite prepared to put his faith in the later elements.
Kramer primarily focuses on the fact that the dynasties in the lists are not consecutive, as earlier scholars such as Woolley had assumed, but overlap.[xv] For example, he notes that in the epic Gilgamesh and Agga it is the former who brought the First Dynasty of Kish to an end, even though in the lists he is described as only the fifth king of the First Dynasty of Uruk. As to the more controversial aspects of the lists, Kramer, like Woolley, asserts that it is a "mixture of fact and fancy" and that the original authors were "deluded".
Georges Roux, a French doctor turned Mesopotamian scholar, has developed one of the most recent and widely respected Mesopotamian chronologies in Ancient Iraq, first published in 1964—indeed this is the source for the dates quoted previously. Picking up on the overlap problem and working backwards, he places the First Dynasty of Ur at c. 2560 BC, over five hundred years later than Woolley. He does record most of the names in the lists, albeit sometimes summarized as "x kings" especially for early dynasties, but, understandably enough, he only includes reign lengths from the lists where they fall within a normal lifespan. Where they exceed it, he either omits the information or puts in a lower, more realistic figure. As for the original lifespans themselves, he suggests that they "…have no hidden significance; they simply express a widespread belief in a golden age when men lived much longer than usual and were endowed with truly supernatural qualities."[xvi]
This latter observation regarding the lifespans is perfectly valid, as we saw in Part One of Genesis Unveiled. However, we can still see that the orthodox scholars dismiss the pre-flood section of the lists in their entirety with few qualms. There is a general subtext that assumes that herein the compilers were merely extending their humanized treatment of the gods in the literary texts into their records of prehistory. So let us examine the validity of this objection.
Gods or Men?
There is no doubt that the ancient Mesopotamians, along with all ancient cultures of the world, tended to blur the boundaries between their gods and their human ancestors, especially those they considered to be the most remote. In its most obvious form this interweaving is expressed by a living king being identified with a particular god—for example throughout most of the dynastic period in Egypt the ruling pharaoh was regarded as the living embodiment of Horus, and the same was true in early Mesopotamia even though political and religious instability meant that the name and characteristics of the dominant god changed according to the time and place. Do we question the very real existence of these rulers who identified themselves with a god? Most assuredly not. So, what are we to make of their more ancient forebears?
Of course, in Part One of Genesis Unveiled I suggested that any relatively advanced men that educated their fellows—whether they were the first advanced entities to incarnate on earth, similar entities incarnating to assist the rebuilding process after a catastrophe, or mere mortals that retained more skill sets after such an event—would tend to be accorded god-like status in the traditions that were passed down. Moreover, even in the modern Christian faith, albeit that it is blasphemous to its monotheism to call Jesus anything other than the "Son of God", is he not a prime example of such deification? Do most people question his existence? No. So, should we automatically assume that all supposedly prehistoric rulers that were at least partly deified are purely mythical? No again.
Reducing the Reign Lengths
A number of suggestions have been made as to how the extraordinary reign lengths in these lists might be explained and reduced. For example, it has been suggested that their compilers mistranslated from the original sources, and that "solar years" in fact represent "lunar months". However, not only is there little support for this claim, but in any case it still does not produce reasonable reign lengths, at least not for the antediluvian portion of the lists. A far more convincing case along these lines appeared in 1999 in Robert M. Best's Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, in which he argues that there are two different types of error in the biblical and Sumerian lists.
As far as the figures in Genesis are concerned, he suggests that they should be reduced by approximately a factor of ten because of an error in the translation of the numbers that he describes as follows:[xvii]
...When the [original] compiler of the Genesis 5 numbers calculated the years/seasons data in years and tenths of years, he used one of several number systems then in common use. He used one or more archaic number signs for tens, a different sign for units and a different sign for tenths... Hundreds of years later... when a different scribe translated these numbers into cuneiform in the classical Sumerian sexagesimal number system, he erroneously assumed that the archaic numbers were written in the Sumerian proto-sexagesimal number system designed for counting discrete objects such as animals, when actually the numbers were originally written in a number system designed for counting volumes of grain. This error converted tens of years to hundreds, years to tens of years, tenths of years to years, and also inflated the ages at death.
Best then continues that a similar error, although this time requiring the figures to be divided by 3600, was made in early transcriptions of the Sumerian King Lists:
...the still larger numbers found in the Sumerian King Lists... have tens of thousands of years for each king before the flood. These cuneiform tablets give the numbers in shar, the cuneiform sign for 3600. For example Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah, ruled for 10 shar years, usually translated as 36,000 years.
But the sign for year was misunderstood by a scribe who translated the original pre-flood King List into sexagesimal cuneiform numerals. The scribe was apparently not aware that on his received tablet the old U4 diamond-shaped sign that resembled shar was not shar and did not mean 3600. The U4 signs were the old way of writing years. The Sumerian Noah reigned for 10 years, not 10 shar years.
Best's analysis is highly detailed, scholarly and persuasive. I have incorporated his adjustments to the reign lengths into Figure 3, and we can see that they look far more reasonable. We can also see that they clearly do not support the idea of antediluvian ancestors stretching back into remotest antiquity.
Figure 3: Adjusted Reigns for Patriarchs and Kings [xviii]
However, there is one major problem with Best's apparent solution, and that is the way in which the non-adjusted reign lengths and lifespans of the post-flood rulers in both sets of lists fluctuate between the normal and the exceptional for generations. For example we have already seen that Ur-Zababa, a king of the relatively late Fourth Dynasty of Kish, has an unadjusted reign length of 400 years, while his immediate predecessors have reigns of 25, 7, 24, 20, 6, 12 and 30 years, and his immediate successors reigns of 30, 7, 11, 11 and 7 years. Clearly, we cannot leave the 400 as it is, and yet if we divide all these numbers by 3600 we obtain miniscule numbers that are equally ridiculous.
Best's response is that "the surviving Sumerian King List is a composite from dozens of sources and some older sources were mistranslated."[xix] This is a possible explanation. However, we should then ask ourselves about the nature of the scribes who compiled these lists—which were regarded as of the utmost importance to the learned people of their day. One of the prime functions of the Sumerian schools of learning, or "edubbas", was to train scribes to accurately copy significant ancient texts in order to form library collections that would preserve and respect their heritage, and as such the scribes' work demanded accuracy and scholarship. This is attested by the fact that they often inserted blanks, their own commentary, or "I do not understand" in places where their own source tablets were incomplete.
That is not to say that the fragments that are left to us might not sometimes contain mistakes that had been perpetuated down the ages, as witnessed by the variances in the major versions of the Sumerian lists. However, is it reasonable to suggest that such fundamental errors would have been made, not only in terms of general mistranslation of numbers but, more to the point, in terms of massive inconsistencies in the middle parts of the lists? This at least would surely not have gone unnoticed by generations of scholars who, let us not forget, had far more source material available to them than we do now.
When discussing the biblical patriarchs, we referred briefly to the idea that sacred numerology might lie behind the numbers recorded. Joseph Campbell collates material suggesting that the totals in the lists can all be related back to the durations of the Hindu world cycles. If we refer back to Table 3 in Genesis Unveiled we find that the length of the current world age, the kali yuga, is 432,000 human years, which is the total given by Berossus for the antediluvian kings. Moreover, its length is 1200 in divine years, and both the other totals in the Mesopotamian lists, 241,200 and 456,000 years, are integer multiples of this.
Campbell also suggests that Berossus' total can be related back to precessional numbers, as can that in Genesis. We have already seen that a full precessional cycle of 360 degrees takes 25,920 years, which means that one degree takes 72 years. The totals in Berossus and Genesis of 432,000 and 1656 years therefore represent 6000 and 23 precessional degrees respectively.[xx]
Perhaps even more interesting is the original analysis of these two totals by Oppert, who pointed out that under the Jewish calendrical system the biblical 1656 years represents 86,400 seven-day weeks, allowing for leap year adjustments, while if Berossus' 432,000 in fact represented days it would be the equivalent of 86,400 Babylonian 5-day weeks—suggesting that the two sets of numbers do indeed have a common origin.[xxi] This analysis may help us to better understand the numbers in these lists. However, in my view it does not necessarily imply that the early sections are entirely fictitious. Above all, we will also discover shortly that it cannot be applied universally to other lists.
A Localized Flood?
Of course, if we cannot be sure about the overall time spans recorded in these lists, the date of the flood itself becomes an important marker in our understanding of their possible impact. Best, once again, has some interesting observations to make.[xxii] He suggests that the original Mesopotamian flood story is merely a record of a river flood that occurred in the environs of Shurrupak c. 2900 BC, for which he maintains there is archaeological evidence. His main line of reasoning is that the earliest version of the flood story, that contained in Atrahasis, talks about a "river" and not the sea, and that this latter exaggeration was only introduced into the slightly later Epic of Gilgamesh, this then acting as the basis for the story in Genesis. Again Best's arguments are detailed and at first sight appear persuasive. However, once again, they have their shortcomings.
It is quite true that the word river is used in Atrahasis, as Best suggests. However, the word sea is also used in the previous lines, and moreover it is quite clear from repeated references throughout the text that the flood is supposed to destroy the whole of mankind.[xxiii] Moreover, the arguably earlier Sumerian Eridu Genesis also emphasizes the destruction of all mankind—and this time there is no trace of the words river or sea in the fragments, the general phraseology being "the flood swept over the country."[xxiv]
Nevertheless, in arguing that the biblical flood story was derived from these earlier texts and similarly misrepresented, Best comes up with another important point. The only description in Genesis of the extent to which the waters rose is "fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered."[xxv] He argues that this represents a rise of only about seven meters above the normal level, not above the top of the mountains, and also that this latter word is mistranslated and should read "hills". This appears once again to be persuasive stuff. However, we should not overlook the fact that once again in the biblical tradition God is bent on destroying man "from the face of the earth", which would require rather more than just a local event.[xxvi]
Meanwhile, Best's only answer to the existence of a multitude of global traditions is that "wherever there are rivers there are floods, and local storytellers tell stories about these local floods."[xxvii] In my view, it is inappropriate to dismiss this abundance of evidence so lightly. Moreover, we saw in Part Two of Genesis Unveiled that there is abundant evidence that catastrophic flooding did occur in many parts of the world at the end of the last Ice Age, perhaps c. 11,500 BC.
The Egyptian King Lists
The plot thickens when we find that similar records of kings stretching back into the supposedly mythical past were preserved in Egypt; and that, although overall they take us back only tens rather than hundreds of thousands of years, we still appear to be dealing with remote rather than recent prehistory. These records have been preserved for us in a number of sources, undoubtedly the most important and oldest of which is the infamous Turin Papyrus.
The story goes that this papyrus, thought to date to c. 1200 BC, was intact when it was sent to the Turin Museum, but that the packaging was appallingly inadequate and on arrival it was found to have fragmented into over three hundred pieces. Whatever the background, it is certain that numerous scholars had to spend hundreds of hours poring over the fragments and attempting to piece them back together, and even then the papyrus was found to be incomplete, while some fragments defied identification. Nevertheless, it still provides a fundamental record of the rulers of Egypt from the earliest prehistory through to the late dynasties. The finest combined reproduction and translation of the papyrus was published by the Egyptologist Eduard Meyer in 1904, and it is the first two columns thereof that are of greatest interest for our present purposes.[xxviii] These are summarized on the left hand side of Figure 4, and although, needless to say, they are some of the least complete, even those fragments that have survived contain more than enough to wet our appetites.
Figure 4: The Predynastic Egyptian Kings
The first column of the papyrus records a list of rulers referred to as "gods" by modern commentators, even though they are clearly described as kings. This amendment is easy enough to understand as it comprises ten of the major gods of the ancient Egyptians. However, as Meyer points out, there are some important differences between this list and those in the Ennead that we listed in Part One of Genesis Unveiled. For a start, as we saw, the latter only comprises nine gods. Moreover, all of the spouses in the Ennead are missing from the list, while Ra, Horus, Thoth and Ma'at are all included. As for the final unfamiliar name on the list, Har, Meyer suggests that this is either another ruler named Horus, or possibly represents Hathor—the goddess of love. It is also clear that all the rulers on the list originally had reign lengths appended, just as in the Sumerian King Lists, even though only three of these now remain in the fragments. This does not necessarily look or feel like just another listing of the ancient Egyptians' most revered gods.
The second column of the papyrus is even less complete, but it clearly attempts to list nine groups of rulers. These are commonly referred to as "demigods", and from the figures remaining each group reigned for anything from a decade for the realistic sounding "kings of Memphis"—albeit that eleven years appears somewhat short for nineteen kings—to over 13,000 years for the celebrated Shemsu Hor or "followers of Horus". From this point on the list continues with King Menes, recognized by all as a genuine historical figure, and the founder of the First Dynasty who united Upper and Lower Egypt c. 2900 BC. His rule is effectively the equivalent of the flood event in the Mesopotamian traditions—an event that is not recorded in the Egyptian King Lists, even though it is found in other Egyptian traditions—in that for most scholars it approximates to the cut-off point between myth and reality.
We are highly fortunate in that, of the few numbers that have survived in the second column, the total reign lengths of the Shemsu Hor, 13,420 years, and that of "all those who preceded them", 23,200 years, are both provided—allowing us to calculate a total time span of over 36,000 years for all the rulers before Menes. Meyer also makes it quite clear that both of these totals are inscribed as "13,420 + x" and "23,200 + x", and are therefore larger than is normally reported, although we cannot tell by how much.[xxxi]
Evidence that the Turin Papyrus was not a one-off record of ancient Egyptian history is provided by Manetho, a Heliopolitan priest of the third century BC, whose Aegyptiaca ties in well with it and indicates that he had similar sources. As with Berossus, although Manetho's original work has not survived it is preserved in that of later historians, most notably Eusebius and Syncellus, and the details provided by each of these are summarized in the second and third columns of Figure 4. According to Eusebius, who was writing in the mid-fourth century, Manetho recorded a number of "gods" followed by a number of "demigods" and kings whose reigns totaled 13,900 and 11,025 years respectively, giving a grand total of 24,925 years before Menes.[xxxii] This is more than 11,000 years less than that in the Turin Papyrus, but many of the details are similar and it is in the same broad range. Meanwhile Syncellus' version, compiled at the beginning of the ninth century, is less consistent in the detail, and with a grand total of 14,630 years is some 10,000 years shorter again.[xxxiii] Nevertheless, it still puts across the same basic message: that the ancient Egyptians recognized a long line of rulers stretching back many thousands of years.
The only other source of these lists of any note is the Palermo Stone, an inscribed basalt slab dating to c. 2400 BC.[xxxiv] Once again it is damaged and incomplete, especially at the beginning, but the earliest section that survives contains a list of 120 rulers of Lower Egypt that once again precede Menes. Furthermore a number of authorities, Meyer included, agree that the missing fragments would, like the other sources, have contained a detailed list of rulers stretching right back into antiquity.
As always, there are two questions that we must ask ourselves about the predynastic rulers in the Egyptian King Lists. First of all, is there any evidence that they were genuine historical figures? Meyer, an orthodox Egyptologist who as we have seen probably studied the lists as much as anyone, clearly thought that the 120 pre-Menes kings listed on the Palermo Stone were just that:
The conserved names of the kings of Lower Egypt are, by their writing and form, almost as archaic as those of the Thinites of Abydos [Meyer is referring to the "Kings of Thinis" that precede the Shemsu Hor; refer to Figure 4]; furthermore their reading and pronunciation are very doubtful. However they do not have the appearance of having been invented; and I rather think that underneath all this we have a real source of historical value, although I would not wish to further discuss either the list of sovereigns, or the time period in which they are placed, any more than the number of years that the [Turin] Papyrus has assigned to them and their successors [the Shemsu Hor]...
Meyer indicates that there is much confusion as to where these 120 kings would be positioned in the other lists, but he opts for placing them before the Shemsu Hor. As such they would already have mythical demigod status in most modern commentators' eyes. So they would be even more surprised to find what Meyer had to say about the earliest dynasty found on the Turin Papyrus, that of the supposed gods:[xxxv]
The kings were not counted herein according to a system [Meyer is comparing the list in the papyrus to the organization of the Ennead], except in as much as they follow one after the other in the history of the gods; perhaps only those who truly reigned over Egypt were taken into account.
Meyer has a lasting reputation as a fine scholar of Egyptology. Should we take his views on this particular subject less seriously, just because they appear somewhat unorthodox? I think not.
Meanwhile, how did the ancient Egyptians themselves consider their gods and demigods? It is revealing that the highly respected Egyptologist Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, recorded this about their attitude towards the great Osiris:[xxxvi]
...[he] was very different from the gods into whose heaven he entered, for he was at one time an inhabitant of the earth.
So, we come to the second question: even if a large proportion of these rulers were real people, if not all of them, how far back into "prehistory" do their reigns go? Answering this question poses more difficulties. First of all, just as with the Sumerian King Lists, the detailed numbers appear hopelessly inconsistent, with mixtures of both unrealistically large and small numbers encountered both in the reign lengths of the early individual gods and the sub-totals for the subsequent proto-dynasties of the demigods. So can the grand-totals, for example the most revealing one of in excess of 36,000 years for all the reigns before Menes in the Turin Papyrus, be at all relied upon to indicate that we are traveling back into remote antiquity, rather than just a few thousand years?
I am not aware of any attempt to apply sacred numerology to these numbers, at least in terms of that used by Campbell on the Mesopotamian and biblical lists—a fact which, in itself, may cast doubt on this latter analysis from a more general perspective, as I previously noted. Furthermore, in the Turin Papyrus we encounter not just ten kings preceding Menes, but also a number of proto-dynasties each containing multiple, and in some cases unknown, numbers of kings. Meanwhile, the Palermo Stone records at least 120 kings before Menes. These are far larger numbers than the ten or so rulers in the Mesopotamian and biblical lists, and they seem far more likely to be suggestive of an extensive prehistory.
Eastern Records of Prehistory
The Mesopotamian and Egyptian King Lists have received reasonably widespread attention, at least from specialists. However, the same cannot be said of the prehistory traditions of the two other preeminent ancient civilizations of accepted history, those of India and China.
Georg Feuerstein et al make several references to king lists in ancient India in their In Search of the Cradle of Civilization. First, they report that the first century Roman historian Pliny recorded in his Natural History that "from the time of Father Liber to Alexander the Great 153 kings of India are counted in a period of 6451 years and three months."[xxxvii] Second, turning to original Indian sources, they suggest that the Hindu Puranas "list over one hundred and twenty kings in one Vedic dynasty alone."[xxxviii] We find that the entirety of part four of the Vishnu Purana is devoted to genealogies of Indian kings stretching way back into history. However, very few reign lengths are recorded, and even those are clearly fabulous: for example, "Aryunu... reigned for eighty-five thousand years". Meanwhile, other aspects of the text continually reinforce its fabulous nature: for example, "Sasavindu had one hundred thousand wives and one million sons."[xxxix] Nor are any overall time spans provided to rescue the situation.
Despite their multiplicity, I am not aware of any other surviving Indian text that contains any kind of king list, so it would appear that Pliny may well have had access to some original Indian source that is no longer preserved. Overall, therefore, the Indian evidence is interesting but sparse.[xl]
By contrast, in ancient Chinese literature there are once again clear references to a long line of predynastic rulers stretching back into remote antiquity. Unfortunately, because the specialists who write about these traditions are so totally convinced that these in particular are mere fabrications, they tend to receive little detailed attention in terms of commentary, and it may even be that some of the more obscure source texts that deal therewith have never been translated into English. This situation is complicated by the "burning of the books" in the third century BC, and the resulting difficulty of piecing back together the original traditions of the earliest Shang and Chou dynasties, which we discussed in Part One of Genesis Unveiled. Nevertheless, the eminent Sinologist Bernhard Karlgren has attempted just such a restoration, and if we refer to Figure 5 we can see how it is summarized by the ever-reliable Campbell.[xli]
Figure 5: Prehistoric Rulers in China
Up until about fifty years ago Fu Hsi and Shen Nung were accepted by scholars as genuine figures who ruled in the early part of the third millennium BC.[xlii] However, the more demanding requirements of modern scholarship have tended to demote them to mythical status in the absence of archaeological evidence for their existence in this epoch. There is less consensus amongst the experts when we are dealing with ancient China, and the cut-off point from myth to history now tends to be regarded by some as the reign of Huang Ti, by some as the later reign of the Great Yu, and by some even as late as the start of the Shang Dynasty in the middle of the second millennium BC. Definitive archaeological evidence of this dynasty was unearthed in the early part of the twentieth century by the Swedish archaeologist J.G. Andersson.
We can see that there are two flood events in this tradition, one falling at the end of the "Period of the Earliest Men" of which we have no details, and the other at the end of the "Period of the Great Ten". However, this latter is clearly portrayed as a localized event that is not divinely inspired. We can also see that the Period of the Great Ten echoes the Mesopotamian and Egyptian traditions of ten antediluvian rulers, except in this case they are preceded by a number of forerunners. However, we have little detail of these earlier rulers, and, as it stands, this information is relatively sparse when compared with that from the other cultures we have examined.
Nevertheless, when commentating on the "Period of Highest Virtue" Karlgren asserts that "in Chou-time China there must have existed any number of myths concerning primeval heroes."[xliii] This suggests that there was almost certainly a whole body of earlier tradition that is now lost to us forever.
Furthermore, I have been able to locate two far more revealing references to the prehistory traditions of China in certain older works. First, in his Chinese volume of The Mythology of all Races, John Calvin Ferguson records the following further details:[xliv]
The Chronology of the Han Dynasty (Han Li Chih), carries the early chronology of China back to a period of more than two million years, divided into ten great epochs. The first of these was inaugurated by P'an Ku, the first created being and also the first creator. This epoch was called that of "The Nine Sovereigns" (Chiu Ti) and was followed by the epoch of "The Five Dragons" (Wu Lung) who were severally called eldest, second, third, fourth and youngest. They were also given the names of the five notes of the musical scale, and the names of the planets. The third epoch consisted of fifty-nine generations, the fourth of three generations, the fifth of six generations and the sixth of four generations, but no names have been assigned to any ruler in these four epochs. The seventh epoch had twenty-two sovereigns... The eighth epoch had thirteen sovereigns... The ninth epoch is a bridge between the purely fanciful and the real... The tenth and last of these initiatory epochs is represented as beginning with Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor, and it variously ended either with the Great Yu, founder of the Hsia dynasty, or with Wu, the founder of the Chow dynasty.
We can see that this version is consistent with the modern mainstream one in that its last epoch contains the emperors Huang Ti and the Great Yu. We can also see that Ferguson follows the conventions of the day by suggesting that the penultimate epoch is the "bridge between the purely fanciful and the real." This is an especially fine example of the dogma of the prevailing orthodoxy in full flow, and we have already established the extent to which his modern day counterparts have rewritten that dogma, many of them now dismissing the entirety of his tenth epoch as purely fanciful. In fact there is far more speculation and uncertainty inherent in the prevailing orthodoxy about all of these ancient civilizations than many scholars would have us believe. This results from the variations in the extent to which they insist on detailed archaeological confirmation of textual material, and in their interpretations thereof. That is why we should never be afraid to question the orthodoxy, provided we do so in a responsible manner.
Despite considerable effort, I have been unable to trace the source of Ferguson's material. Although he does not reveal it himself, we should, however, have no reason to doubt his integrity as an expert Orientalist. In any case, even this summary clearly demonstrates that the original source "list" cannot have been just another mythological categorization of deities. In common with the other king lists it contains some details of individual rulers, and, where these are missing, at least the number of kings in each generation, or, failing that, at least the number of generations in each epoch. It must also have contained some details of at least the overall time spans. Moreover, its final epoch flows into a period that scholars more or less accept as marking the genuine commencement of Chinese history. For all these reasons I believe it is fair to categorize this record, whatever its source, as a "Chinese King List".
Of course, the most striking aspect of this list is that it attempts to trace a history that does not commence tens or even hundreds of thousands of years ago as its counterparts do, but fully two million years ago. As we have already seen, I am of the view that to take this literally would be a step too far. However, the general tone of this record can leave us in little doubt that it does purport to take us back into remote antiquity.
The other reference to Chinese records containing a prehistoric chronology that I have been able to trace is a commentary by James Legge in The Sacred Books of China:[xlv]
[This] would seem to lead us to the purely fabulous ages, when twelve (or thirteen) Heavenly Hwangs, eleven Earthly, and nine Human ruled over the young world, for a period of 576,000 years.
Again, Legge omits to mention his source for this information, and it is certainly not contained in the text on which he is commenting. Moreover, the details are sparse and somewhat at odds with those provided by Ferguson. Nevertheless, we can see that they undoubtedly support the general principle of Chinese records dating back into extreme antiquity.
By contrast I have come across suggestions, admittedly from a somewhat unorthodox source, that similar records were preserved in Japan.[xlvi] On investigation I found that both the Kojiki and the Nihongi do commence with descriptions of the first gods and extensive details of their successive progeny. However, in only one instance could I find any attempt at detailed chronology, and this is in the form of a reign length:[xlvii]
Piko-po-po-de-mi-no-mikoto dwelt in the palace of Taka-ti-po for five hundred and eighty years.
This is interesting, because it may mean that the source records available to the original compilers did contain more extensive chronological details that they decided, for whatever reason, to omit. However, I do not regard the relatively scant details that survive as providing any significant degree of evidence for the current discussion. In the meantime, there is one other relevant source that we should briefly consider.
Ten Founding Fathers
In their Ancient History of the East, published in 1870, François Lenormant and E. Chevallier make an interesting attempt to cross-reference the ten antediluvian patriarchs of Genesis to other cultures:[xlviii]
The legends of the Iranian race commence with the reign of ten Peisdadien kings, "men of the ancient law," who lived on "pure Homa (water of life), and who preserved their sanctity." In India we meet with the nine Brahmadikas, who, with Brahama, their founder, make ten, and who are called the Ten Pitris or Fathers. The Chinese count ten emperors, partakers of the divine nature, before the dawn of historical times. And finally... the Germans and Scandinavians believed in the ten ancestors of Odin, and the Arabs in the ten mythical kings of the Adites, the primordial people of their peninsula. Such an agreement cannot be accidental, and must lead us back to a common origin for all these traditions.
We can of course add to this list those that we have already considered: the ten Egyptian god-kings in the earliest section of the Turin Papyrus, and the ten antediluvian rulers in one version of the Sumerian King List, while the Chinese Period of the Great Ten is already included. It is certainly true that the number ten does recur with some consistency.
However, while there may be some interesting parallels, I do not regard the traditions in some other cultures of ten prehistoric "founders"—with no further supporting details such as reign lengths, or a continuation of the record into accepted history—as particularly persuasive evidence in support of genuine civilizations stretching back into antiquity. Indeed, there is always the potential that in these cases the information has merely been borrowed and filtered from the more established sources we have reviewed in detail. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to suggest that they provide additional evidence.
So, where does all this leave us?
We have seen that the antediluvian patriarch traditions of Genesis are potentially supported and expanded by the Sumerian, Egyptian and Chinese King Lists. We have established that, with every one of these records, orthodox scholars accept that they contain genuine historical data after a certain point determined by currently accepted archaeological evidence, and that this data forms the fundamental basis for the chronologies of these ancient civilizations that they have developed. We have also seen that, at least in some cases, the scribes and priests that originally prepared these records took them extremely seriously, and that they would make every effort to get them right.
On the other hand, we have seen that the records themselves contain a great many inconsistencies, not least in the overall time spans they purport to cover and the unrealistic reign lengths attributed to many rulers. We have also seen that interesting attempts have been made to reinterpret the units used to make the numbers more realistic, or, by contrast, to explain them in terms of sacred numerology. These reinterpretations may have some validity, but they cannot be universally applied, and, consequently, they cannot be said to provide all the answers.
Above all, however, we saw in Part One of Genesis Unveiled that there was indeed a strong political and religious motive for the rulers who ultimately controlled the compilation of these lists to fabricate at least the antediluvian portions in their attempts to establish the antiquity and divine connections of their civilization. This, more than anything, persuades me that it would be unwise to attempt to use them as reliable proof of our forgotten race.
[For more details of the works mentioned in the notes refer to the bibliography in Genesis Unveiled.]
[i] Genesis 7:6 and 9:29.
[ii] These ideas were explored by Alan Alford in Gods of the New Millennium, Chapter 13, pp. 291–3; he was to a large extent following the lead of Zecharia Sitchin.
[iii] Genesis 11:10–32.
[iv] Genesis 25:7.
[v] For example, see Kramer, The Sumerians, Chapter 8, p. 292. But see also Campbell, Occidental Mythology, Chapter 3, pp. 113–25 on the difficulties of gaining a true historical perspective on the post-flood patriarchs.
[vi] Kramer, The Sumerians, Appendix E, pp. 328–31. With only a few revisions it is based primarily on Thorkild Jacobsen’s The Sumerian King List, published in 1939.
[vii] After Campbell, Oriental Mythology, Chapter 3, p. 119.
[viii] For example, see the chronology developed by Roux in Ancient Iraq, appendix (s.v. Chronological Tables).
[ix] Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 189–202. Of course this story could be interpreted as describing another advanced entity who, like Enoch, Noah and possibly Adapa, had escaped from the karmic earthly round.
[x] Roux, Ancient Iraq, appendix (s.v. Chronological Tables).
[xi] Jacobsen, The Harps that Once..., pp. 345–55.
[xii] Ibid., pp. 275–319 and 320–344. We should also note that, although there are a number of texts dealing with Dumuzi (ibid., pp. 1–84), this is the original and semi-deified "shepherd" included in the pre-flood list and not the later "fisherman" as here.
[xiii] Roux, Ancient Iraq, appendix (s.v. Chronological Tables).
[xiv] Woolley, The Sumerians, pp. 21–6.
[xv] Kramer, The Sumerians, Chapter 2, p. 36.
[xvi] Roux, Ancient Iraq, appendix (s.v. Chronological Tables) and Chapter 7, p. 109.
[xvii] See www.flood-myth.com/ages.htm. This is a summary of the material in Best, Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, Chapter 7.
[xviii] After Best's material at www.flood-myth.com/adam.htm; see also ibid., Chapter 7.
[xix] Best, personal communication, January 17, 2001.
[xx] Campbell, Oriental Mythology, Chapter 3, pp. 116 and 120.
[xxi] Ibid., Chapter 3, p. 129. The original source is Oppert's paper The Dates of Genesis.
[xxii] See www.flood-myth.com, especially s.v. The Flood. This material is expounded more fully in Best, Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, Chapter 2.
[xxiii] Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 29–35; see in particular p. 33.
[xxiv] Jacobsen, The Harps that Once..., pp. 145–50.
[xxv] Genesis 7:20.
[xxvi] Genesis 6:7.
[xxvii] See www.flood-myth.com, s.v. Frequently Asked Questions.
[xxviii] Meyer, Chronologie Egyptienne, Section 4, pp. 159–68. The original German version was translated into French by Alexandre Moret in 1912, and any excerpts quoted here are my own translations from the latter.
[xxix] Ibid., Section 4, p. 160, Footnote 1.
[xxx] Ibid., Section 4, p. 160, Footnote 3.
[xxxi] Ibid., Section 4, p. 164, translation of column 2, lines 9 and 10, and also p. 165.
[xxxii] Waddell, Manetho's Aegyptiaca, pp. 3–9. Note that Eusebius, as a Christian, was attempting to reconcile the Jewish or biblical and the Egyptian chronologies. As such he interprets Manetho's years as "lunar years" or months. However, Waddell's footnote to this asserts: "There is no evidence that the Egyptian year was ever equal to a month: there were short years (each of 360 days) and long years."
[xxxiii] Ibid., pp. 15–6. Syncellus, with similar intentions to Eusebius, has already converted Manetho's supposedly lunar years to solar years by dividing the original figures by 365. My figures have converted them back.
[xxxiv] Meyer, Chronologie Egyptienne, Section 5, pp. 291–2.
[xxxv] Ibid., Section 6, p. 161.
[xxxvi] Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Volume 1, Chapter 3, p. 79.
[xxxvii] Natural History 6.21.59–60; see Rackham et al, Pliny: Natural History, Volume 2, p. 383. Cited in Feuerstein et al, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, Chapter 12, p. 246.
[xxxviii] Ibid., Chapter 9, p. 160.
[xxxix] Dutt, Vishnu Purana, pp. 276 and 277.
[xl] As an interesting aside we might note that, in the nineteen-thirties, Laurence Waddell attempted to show that the king lists of Egypt, Mesopotamia and India from about 3400 BC on listed the same rulers; in particular, for example, he identifies the Egyptian Menes with the Akkadian Manis—the son of "Sargon the Great"—and the Indian Manasyu. See Makers of Civilization in Race and History, pp. 482–5 and Egyptian Civilization, Chapter 1.
[xli] Campbell, Oriental Mythology, Chapter 7, pp. 381–92.
[xlii] For example, see Edward Werner, A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology, p. 419.
[xliii] Karlgren, "Legends and Cults in Ancient China", Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 18 (1946), p. 221.
[xliv] Ferguson, "Chinese Mythology", Chapter 2, pp. 25–7 in Gray, The Mythology of All Races, Volume 8.
[xlv] Legge, Sacred Books of China, p. 353, Footnote 1 in Müller, The Sacred Books of the East, Volume 39. Legge is commenting on Kwang Tse 14.
[xlvi] The source is W. Raymond Drake's Gods and Spacemen in the Ancient East that I mentioned in Part Two of Genesis Unveiled.
[xlvii] Kojiki 1.45; see Philippi, Kojiki, p. 158.
[xlviii] Lenormant and Chevallier, Ancient History of the East, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 2, pp. 12–13. Unfortunately in all other respects this work is riddled with the Christian and highly racist dogma of supposed western superiority that was so prevalent at the time.