The Sumerians were a unique people with their own language and culture. Nobody knows their true origin or where exactly they may have obtained the seeds of knowledge that helped establish the various city-states during the fourth millennium BC. Yet the Sumerians themselves were quite explicit on this point.
They said their entire culture had been inherited from the Anannage, the gods of Anu, who had come from an ancestral homeland in the mountains. To emphasize this point they used an ideogram of a mountain to denote “the country”, i.e. Sumer, and built seven-tiered ziggurats in honour of these founder gods.
Was it possible therefore that the proposed Watcher culture of Kurdistan provided the impetus for the rise of western civilization?
Archaeologists have no problem accepting Kurdistan as the cradle of Near Eastern civilization. Shortly after the recession of the last Ice Age, c.8500 BC, there emerged in this region some of the earliest examples of agriculture, animal domestication, baked and painted pottery, metallurgy and worked obsidian tools and utensils.
Curiously enough, from c.5750 BC onwards for several hundred years the trade in raw and worked obsidian throughout Kurdistan seems to have been centered around an extinct volcano named Nemrut Dag on the south-western shores of Lake Van, the very area in which both the mythical lands of Edenand Dilmun are likely to have been located.
Kurdistan was undoubtedly the point of origin of the so-called Neolithic explosion from the ninth millennium BC onwards.
Indeed, it is because of this settled community lifestyle in Kurdistan that the earliest known form of token bartering developed. This primitive method of exchange eventually led to the establishment of the first written alphabet and ideogram system on the Mesopotamian plains sometime during the fourth millennium BC. It is therefore understandable that civilization first arose in the Fertile Crescent during this same age.
From here, of course, it quickly spread to many other regions of the Old World.
In the light of this information it appears that the evolution of the Middle East seems cut and dry, the actions of a few sophisticated protoneolithic farming communities located in the mountains and foothills of Kurdistan being responsible for the growth of civilized society. Yet what caused this so-called ‘neolithic explosion’, and why on earth did it start in this remote, and very mountainous, region?
Something was missing, for as Mehrdad R. Izady, a noted scholar of Kurdish cultural history, has observed:
The inhabitants of this land went through an unexplained stage of accelerated technological evolution, prompted by yet uncertain forces.
They rather quickly pulled ahead of their surrounding communities, the majority of which were also among the most advanced technological societies in the world, to embark on the transformation from a low-density, hunter-gatherer economy to a high-density, food producing economy.
- What might these “yet uncertain forces” have been?
- Were they the Watchers, who were said to have provided mankind with the forbidden arts and sciences of heaven?
- If so, was I overlooking important evidence already unearthed by the spades of palaeontologists and archaeologists that might support such a wild hypothesis?
Turning to the archaeological reports and transactions on excavations in Kurdistan, I searched long and hard.
What I found astounded me.
For instance, in the late 1950s Ralph and Rose Solecki, two noted anthropologists, were uncovering the different occupational levels inside a huge cave overlooking the Greater Zab river at a site known as Zawi Chemi Shanidar, when they made a discovery of incredible significance to this debate.
They unearthed a number of goat skulls placed alongside a collection of wing bones belonging to large predatory birds. All of the wings had been hacked from the bodies of the birds in question, while many had still been in articulation when found. Carbon 14 dating of the organic deposits associated with these remains indicated a date of 10,870 years (+/-300 years), that is 8870 BC.
The bird wings were subsequently identified as those of four Gyptaeus barbatus (the bearded vulture), one Gyps fulvus (the griffon vulture), seven Haliaetus albicilla (the white-tailed sea eagle) and one Otis tarda (the great bustard) – only the last of which is still indigenous to the region. There were also the bones of four small eagles of indeterminable species. All except for the great bustard were raptorial birds, while the vultures were quite obviously eaters of carrion.
The discovery of these severed bird wings had posed obvious problems for the Soleckis.
Why had only certain types of birds been selected for this purpose, and what exactly had been the role played by these enormous predatory birds in the minds of those who had placed them within the Shanidar cave?