Saturday, 30 October 2021

How grain came to Sumer

Sumerian cylinder seal, Uruk, c. 3500-3100BC , currently in Louvre 


Description: cattle herd in a grain field...Now unless Sumerians grew giant grains, this is most likely a symbol, of something, but what?

Well, as I already explained in my post "Bulls and grain bowls", this is a calendar marker for the grain harvest which in Mesopotamia starts in Apr/May, Taurus

Taurus, which is an ancient animal calendar marker which marks the beginning of the calving season of the wild Eurasian cattle, which used to start in Apr/May...


And has nothing to do with stars...I talked about this in my post "Dairy farming seal"...

Keeping that in mind, let's have a look at another interesting cylinder seal from Uruk, dated to 3200BC, also in Louvre. Description: king-priest and his acolyte feeding the sacred herd...


You can see that the king is feeding the calves...So again we are in Taurus, the calving season...But what is the king feeding the calves with? It's hard to see on this impression.

Here is another depiction of the same scene. And here it is pretty clear that the king-priest's acolyte is holding the same giant grain...Which is then what the king is feeding the calves with...



So again, unless Sumerians grew giant grains, this is also a symbol, of the same thing: We harvest grain at the same time the wild Eurasian cattle calve...

And maybe Sumerians had some kind of thanksgiving ritual, where they fed the first calves with first grain? Don't know...

But I have already talked about all this before...So today I would like to talk about something else: How old are some of the Sumerian legends? For instance this one: "How grain came to Sumer"...

In this legend, we can read that: 

"Men used to eat grass with their mouths like sheep. In those times, they did not know grain, barley or flax"

When was this time "before grain" in Mesopotamia?

"An brought these down from the interior of heaven"

What does this mean "the interior of heaven"? 

Look at this: 

Sumerian: kur: n., mountain; highland; (foreign) land; the netherworld...

Sumerian Ekur (𒂍𒆳 É.KUR), is a term meaning "mountain house". The term was applied specifically to the mountain(s), where the gods were born...

And before the later speculative view was developed, according to which the gods, or most of them, have their seats in heaven, it was on the E.KUR mountain(s) where gods dwelt...

So maybe An didn't bring the grain from "the interior of heaven" but from the mountains...

E.KUR (The mountain house) was thus the place of the Assembly of the gods in the "Garden of the gods". Which is why E.KUR was also the name for Ziggurats, which were supposed to be models, imitations of the real, one and only E.KUR...

"Enlil...looked southwards and saw the wide sea; he looked northwards and saw the mountain of aromatic cedars. Enlil piled up the barley, gave it to the mountain..."

"Then Ninazu said: "Let us go to the mountain, to the mountain where barley and flax grow; ...... the rolling river, where the water wells up from the earth. Let us fetch the barley down from its mountain, let us introduce the barley into Sumer..."

Very very interesting...Because that is exactly what happened...around 9000BC...

Today I came across this article: "The distribution, natural habitats and availability of wild cereals in relation to their domestication in the Near East: multiple events, multiple centres" which compares the late Pleistocene/early Holocene archaeobotanical assemblages found in the Near East with present-day distributions of wild cereals...




The early agricultural sites are found in the same areas where the wild grains grow in abundance even today. In the mountains and highlands surrounding (and mainly to the north of) Mesopotamia...Look at the relief of the early cereal domestication sites...


Remember my article about the Garden of eden? You know the garden of the God(s)...Which was located "on the holy mountain"...Where, it turns out, grains grew wild in huge amounts...

Is this the place where during "Golden age humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor"? You know, Eden...The place from which 4 rivers emerge...The mountains north of Sumer...


Apart from wild cereals, these uplands are full of edible trees: sweet oaks, hazels, fir, junipers...The true garden of eden: God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds”

I wrote series of articles about human relationship with oaks and human consumption of acorns. It seems that all the earliest permanently settled sites were located in edible acorn rich areas. The jump page to the acorn related articles is called  🙂 "Acorns"

Oak uplands can easily support large villages of up to 1000 people and these people could harvest in 3 weeks enough acorns to last them 2 to 3 years...

Acorns could be stored in above ground aerated bins, in underground pits or they can be buried at the edge of streams where they can get leached while they keep fresh...

The people of these oak cultures could, with very little effort, provide their daily bread doing what god told them to do: eat the fruit of the trees and plants that bear seeds...

With plenty of free time people could enjoy life and develop their culture and technology. With plentiful supply of food there was no need to kill and eat all the animals that were caught...

So people could catch and keep the animals, breed them and eventually domesticate them. It was these animals that were probably first fed the wild grasses which later became our grains...

Interesting, right?

Garden of the gods? So how old is the Sumerian legend about "How grain came to Sumer"? Old, very old...

Guess what, there could be one even older legend. Found in Europe...But possibly not originating in Europe...

Before people gathered and processed grain, they gathered and processed acorns...

Sooooo???

Have you ever heard about the legend how Pelasgos taught people how to eat acorns? 

Apparently: "...Pelasgos was he who checked the habit of eating green leaves, grasses, and roots always inedible and sometimes poisonous. But he introduced as food the nuts of trees, not those of all trees but only the acorns of the edible oak..." 

I talked about this in my posts "Pelasgos" and "Acorns in ancient texts"...

So how old is this myth? And where did it originate? Lots of things to ponder...

That's it for tonight...

2 comments:

  1. Are you speculating that "acorn" and "EKUR" are etymologically linked? How about einkorn (early wheat)?

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