© Ian Lawton 2000
We looked at the complexities of the group names given to the Sumerian Pantheon, and the various and often conflicting hierarchical structures suggested in the texts, in a previous paper. In The Twelfth Planet Sitchin rarely refers to the Igigi and normally uses Anunnaki as a blanket term covering all the gods (although he does separate them from the 'twelve great gods' occasionally), which we have seen is something of an over-simplification. In Genesis Revisited he attempts to rectify the error by acknowledging the separate roles of the two ascribed in the Epic of Creation, but typically he ignores the complexity associated with this and states categorically that 600 Anunnaki were installed on Earth while 300 Igigi remained in orbit in heaven [i] (which numerically is a misreading of the relevant section of Tablet VI of the text anyway, which states there were 600 in total, i.e., 300 of each), let alone the fact that it ignores the contradictory statements in separate parts of this and other texts.
However there is an underlying rationale to Sitchin's assembly of the Sumerian pantheon: he suggests the existence of a 'cryptographic numbering system' by which mechanism the 'pantheon of twelve great gods' can be established. He suggests that the names of gods are substituted in certain texts by numbers (using the quasi-sexagesimal system) which identify their numerical rank.[ii] He further suggests that the pantheon had to remain at twelve, so that only when a member died could one of their offspring step into their shoes, thereby also taking over their numerical rank. Although this sounds perfectly plausible I have found no mention of such a ranking system in the work of the orthodox scholars, and of course Sitchin provides no reference as to the source of his theory. There is a passage in the Gudea Temple Inscriptions in which Ninurta (Ningirsu) is referred to as having been 'invested with fifty offices' by his father Enlil,[iii] which given the latter's supposed ranking number of 50 would appear to support the idea of the rank being passed on. However this analysis can become more complex: in the Akkadian Epic of Creation, Marduk is in a similar way given fifty titles which in this case are recorded in full [iv] - and since his supposed father Enki's rank is 40 this does not appear to match the pattern; on the other hand Sitchin sites this as clear evidence of Marduk taking over the supreme role of the 'Enlilship', despite his supposedly being Enki's son.
We also looked at my reconstruction of the Sumerian Pantheon's 'family tree' in a previous paper, and noted that it must be regarded as an approximation rather than a literal set of relationships. The only other attempt at this I have come across was made by Sitchin himself,[v] but as we will see he seems to make a great many assumptions and oversimplifications, and is often extremely inconsistent from one book to the next. Among a great many other examples, perhaps the best case study of this is his treatment of Enki's supposed sons. His original family tree lists three: Marduk, Dumuzi and Nergal; we know that the first of these is a very late addition to the pantheon who is recorded as Enki's son only in the Akkadian Epic of Creation, while I can find little evidence to suggest that the second and third are Enki's sons at all. But worse still by the time of The Wars of Gods and Men (1985) he is referring to six sons of Enki, although he proceeds to only list five: Marduk, Dumuzi, Nergal, Gibil (who this time gets a mention) and Ninagal (a little-known deity).[vi] By contrast, when we come to The Lost Realms (1990) we find him introducing another new son, Ningishzida, to whom he ascribes a great deal of significance by assimilating him with the Egyptian god of wisdom and knowledge, Thoth (the Greek Hermes).[vii] The latter is in fact not one of the celebrated deities, which would not appear to justify such a lofty assimilation, and all we can say is that he is sometimes linked with Dumuzi - but then Sitchin always treats the latter as a separate deity in his work anyway. Meanwhile he assimilates Marduk with the equally pivotal Egyptian deity Ra.
To put this into context, Sitchin suggests that An was a remote figure who visited the Earth only occasionally (with the return of Nibiru every 3600 years), to the accompaniment of great pomp and circumstance, leaving Enlil in charge on a day-to-day basis. He further suggests that originally the first-born son Enki colonised the Earth, but that his command was subsequently usurped by Enlil - the latter being superior by virtue of having been sired by An's half-sister, and thus of purer genetic stock. According to Sitchin this lead to great animosity between the two brothers, spawning an inter-clan rivalry which continued through successive generations and shaped many of the events of the Earth's formative years. However, we can now see that if his detailed reconstructions are heavily dependent on knowing to which 'clan' any particular deity belonged, and that his 'allocations' are littered with assumptions and inconsistencies, then the entire edifice of his highly detailed reconstructions comes tumbling down.
[i] Sitchin, Genesis Revisited (Avon, 1990), Chapter 4, p. 87.
[ii] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet (Bear & Co, 1991), Chapter 4, p. 119. He suggests the male ranks were as follows: 60 - An, 50 - Enlil, 40 - Enki, 30 - Nanna, 20 - Utu, 10 - Ishkur; and the female ranks were: 55 - Antu, 45 - Ninlil, 35 - Ninki, 25 - Ningal, 15 - Inanna, 5 - Ninhursag.
[iii] Jacobsen, The Harps that Once… (Yale University Press, 1987), p. 400.
[iv] In Tablets VI and VII; see Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 273.
[v] Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet, Chapter 4, p. 121.
[vi] Sitchin, The Wars of Gods and Men, (Avon, 1985), Chapter 6, pp. 126-7.
[vii] Sitchin, The Lost Realms (Avon, 1990), Chapter 9, p. 183.