Where Myth Meets History

The Exhibit Watch in July/August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review presents Mesopotamian Uruk, one of the world’s first cities and a likely source of many of the Bible’s oldest traditions (read the full article as it appears in BAR below). One of the most astounding structures in Uruk’s fourth-millennium B.C.E. Eanna district is the Stone-Cone Temple, an early feat of monumental construction and public worship. Learn how it was built in a step-by-step video guide created by the Berlin-based group Artefacts.

This video was created by Artefacts, a Berlin-based conceptual design agency specialized in the visualization of archaeological and scientific content, for the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Visit http://en.artefacts-berlin.de/ to view additional 3-D reconstructions, exhibitions, illustrations and more.


Through September 8, 2013
Pergamon Museum
Berlin, Germany

The Biblical writers had a clear sense that human civilization as they knew it had first flourished in the east, in the lands of Mesopotamia, modern Iraq. The stories of Creation, the Garden of Eden and the Flood were all born of well-known Mesopotamian traditions that had been around thousands of years before the authors of Genesis weaved them together into a timeless tale of Israel’s origins.

Uruk: 5,000 Years of the Megacity, now on display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, highlights extraordinary and never-before-seen finds from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk, one of the world’s first cities and the place where many of the Bible’s oldest traditions may have originated. First settled more than 5,000 years ago, Uruk had nearly 40,000 inhabitants at its height in the early third millennium B.C.E. and was once ruled by Gilgamesh (depicted above in a neo-Assyrian statue), whose legendary feats and adventures were later mythologized in the famous epic that took his name.

The exhibit also celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the site’s excavation, which began under the German Oriental Society and continues today with the work of the German Archaeological Institute. The long-running excavations have uncovered valuable evidence of how urban life developed in the Near East and have recorded some of the world’s earliest temples, palaces and monumental public buildings. Given the poor preservation of many of the city’s mudbrick monuments, the exhibit uses dynamic three-dimensional reconstructions to display how the city and its buildings would have looked 5,000 years ago.

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18 Responses

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  1. Mark says

    The book of Genesis is history whereas the stories of Mesopotamia are a mixture of history and pagan mythology.

  2. William says

    Mark – perhaps some of the book of Genesis is literal history, I’ll give you that.
    HOWEVER, a lot of it…A LOT…is based common Middle Eastern stories and mythologies reworked into the Hebrew faith tradition. That doesn’t mean that the book is any less holy or authoritative, but that it’s not meant to be a literal history book or a scientific text.

    I feel for you if this is devastating to your faith or your belief in the Divine, but this is the truth and I hope that it indeed helps your journey of faith.

    Peace to you,

  3. Randy says

    You make statements as though they’re accepted facts. What is your basis for doing so? Statements in the Bible that reference historical events have repeatedly been shown to be true by archeological finds. Can you show any place that has been proven to be mere myth? Generally speaking, if a witness (in this case, a written witness) is demonstrated to be truthful in matters that can be independently verified, it is reasonable to assume that said witness is also truthful in areas that have not or cannot be independently verified.


  4. DONALD says

    Sure, try the several different versions of the creation given in the book.
    Of course, this discussion will go no where because people have a difficult time reconciling belief and fact.
    Good luck to anyone who tries to convince any believer in anything to change a belief ( global warming naysayers for one example).

  5. Mark says

    William, the book of Genesis has a clear historical chronology from Adam onwards.

    As far as I know, none of the Mesopotamian myths have historical chronologies even though they may include historical material. So they are not works of history, unlike the Book of Genesis.


  6. Mark says

    What several different versions of the creation are you referring to, BHD?

    And what has global warming got to do with the subject?


  7. james says

    Mark several Mesopotamian Myths contain genealogies, its a common idea to ANE text’s.

    See the Sumerian King lists for example, which records the lengths of reigns of the kings of Sumer. The initial section deals with the Kings before a great Flood -and just like like the bible- it presents us with a people who lived longer before a great flood (in the case of the Sumerian Kings thousands of years) then post flood we see lifespan is significantly reduced.
    The numbers in the genealogies (like the bible) are repetitive and symbolic and are not to be understood as strict chronology like we do with 21C genealogies.



  8. JohnD says

    If the account in Genesis is a real account of actual history then it would be odd if the same or similar accounts were not present in other cultures because all cultures would have shared the same orogins.

  9. Chris says

    The events in Genesis all happened historically because as Randy has commented the bible (in this case book of Genesis) deserves a measure of respect from critics because there is nothing it has ever claimed that has proven to be false, NONE. On the contrary a lot that has famously been viewed by critics as fables have all been proven to be retellings of actual events eg Noahs Flood for centuries was viewed as myth until those tablets were found .Some bible critics are so unprogressive , they still view everyone who defends the bible as being a believer. The two are not always the same and on the other hand some critics have to criticise everything about the Bible including its historicity because they are non believers. Geneticists today are proving ever closer the existence of an original Adam and an Original Eve , something which was famously told as a fabricated jewish myth by 18th century Darwinian followers .Please note, William and BHD be scientific in your judgements, sacarsm doesnt imply your wit.

  10. Mark says

    James, the Sumerian King list only provides a partial genealogy and it is also unclear whether the figures quoted are years as we understand them or other periods of time since if they are years, they sometimes number in the tens of thousand. The Book of Genesis provides a far clearer chronological list than the Sumerian King List.

    Are you saying that the figures quoted in the Kings List are more accurate than those in the Book of Genesis, and on what basis do you make that claim?

  11. james says

    Hello Mark

    “Are you saying that the figures quoted in the Kings List are more accurate than those in the Book of Genesis, and on what basis do you make that claim?”

    Not at all, the main point was in response to something you claimed previously:

    “As far as I know, none of the Mesopotamian myths have historical chronologies”

    The King List was just an example of one and perhaps the best known -which interestingly seems to have a similar formula for pre and post deluge ages. (we find many similar patterns and motifs in ANE genealogies)

    The only other point I made, was that like the ‘KIng List’ and other ANE genealogies , Biblical genealogies are not to be read as strict chronology like a 21C genealogy, they employ telescoping for numerical symmetry (arrangements in 10′s & 7′, or multiples being the most common).

    (Sorry about posting twice the quotations didn’t post first time)


  12. John says

    And the debate will go on and on.

  13. John says

    No wonder Christians get so much grief. It seems half of us don’t even believe basic truths in the bible.
    “This is what the Lord says—
    the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
    Concerning things to come,
    do you question me about my children,
    or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth
    and created mankind on it.
    My own hands stretched out the heavens;
    I marshaled their starry hosts. (Isaiah 45:11, 12 NIV)

  14. greg says

    Who was cains wife??

  15. donny says

    to greg it was his sister

  16. Jimmy says

    Sorry, but Uruk was first settled 7000 years ago or 5000 BCE, not 5000 years ago as the article say.

    Uruk was a flourishing city from 4000 to 3000 BCE that predated the Sumerian civilisation. And it certainly predated the SUPPOSED FLOOD (which supposedly between 2340 to 2100 BCE), according to Genesis 10.

    Also, according to Genesis 10, Egypt didn’t exist until AFTER THE FLOOD, supposed found by son of Ham. Which is nonsense, when you considered that the pyramid of Giza was a couple of centuries before that roughly estimated dates of the Flood. And that there are even older pyramids at Saqqara from the 3rd dynasty. And smaller pyramids were continually being built throughout the 5th and 6th dynasties.

  17. Jimmy says

    Genesis never identify Cain’s or Seth’s wives.

    According to the Book of Jubilees, Cain married Abel’s twin sister. One of the motive for killing Abel was to get in his sister’s pants, when she was supposed betrothed to Abel. So jealousy and envy were the signs of Cain’s murderous intent.

    I don’t think Jubilees is any more historical and reliable than the Genesis.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. is the idea that God married reasonable? - Page 4 - Christian Forums linked to this post on July 4, 2013

    […] webazine. It is current, highly informative, and if ever biased, biased in a Christian manner: Uruk: Where Myth Meets History – Biblical Archaeology Society __________________ Pastor Alpha& Omega Christian Gnostic Church(retired) To view links or […]

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