Monday, May 29, 2006

Explaining the Sumerian King List

In the preceding post, I attempted to explain how a shifting definition of the term shana may have yielded these impossibly long "years" in the antedeluvian genealogies.

However, a problem exists in that similar long years occur by the Sumerian King List, with even longer years. Perhaps then, both lists reflect the tendency at the time to ascribe ridiculous ages and length of years.

We may solve the problem as follows. Recall that I suggested that shana meant "repetition" and in the initial list was the unit corresponding to 2 months.

In the Babylonian counting system, 2 months is even more significant. It corresponds to 60 days. The Babylonian system was a base 60 system, which is how the impossible numbers in the Sumerian King List are calculated.

But, if we treat sets of 60 days in Genesis, then perhaps they delineated each of these 60 days as a set of 60 in the Sumerian list. Then, the large numbers correspond to days, not sets of 60 days. (Though of course they will not give a specific reign to the day. This is just their way of writing years - by giving the day = set of 60, count.) We should divide by 60 to get the actual count of two-month years. And another 6 to get the number of years. That is, we should divide by 360.

The numbers will then begin to make sense. And this is good, because the numbers towards the end of the list are quite plausible, just as the numbers in Genesis become more plausible as the counting goes on, reflecting a shift to a definition of shana as a period of 12 months rather than 2 months.

The Sumerian king list (pre-flood) begins:
After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridug fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. In Bad-tibira, En-men-lu-ana ruled for 43200 years. En-men-gal-ana ruled for 28800 years. Dumuzid, the shepherd, ruled for 36000 years. 3 kings; they ruled for 108000 years. Then Bad-tibira fell (?) and the kingship was taken to Larag. In Larag, En-sipad-zid-ana ruled for 28800 years. 1 king; he ruled for 28800 years. Then Larag fell (?) and the kingship was taken to Zimbir. In Zimbir, En-men-dur-ana became king; he ruled for 21000 years. 1 king; he ruled for 21000 years. Then Zimbir fell (?) and the kingship was taken to Curuppag. In Curuppag, Ubara-Tutu became king; he ruled for 18600 years. 1 king; he ruled for 18600 years. In 5 cities 8 kings; they ruled for 241200 years. Then the flood swept over.

So we have:
Alulim: 28800 years.
28800 / 360 = 80

Alaljar ruled for 36000 years
36000 / 360 = 100

2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years
64800 / 360 = 180
so each for about 90 years

En-men-lu-ana ruled for 43200 years.
43200 / 360 = 120

Dumuzid, the shepherd, ruled for 36000 years
36000 / 360 = 100

3 kings; they ruled for 108000 years
108000 / 360 = 300
which means each king reigned for 100 years

En-sipad-zid-ana ruled for 28800 years
28800 / 360 = 80

1 king; he ruled for 28800 years
28800 / 360 = 80

Ubara-Tutu became king; he ruled for 18600 years
18600 / 360 = 51.66

1 king; he ruled for 18600 years
18600 / 360 = 51.66

In 5 cities 8 kings; they ruled for 241200 years
241200 / 360 = 670
/8 = 83.75

Obviously, I am not using the correct calculation for these last three.
The first bunch, however, seem correct. What are the odds that by reading the numbers as days rather than years, we would get such significant spans of time - that is, in the base 10 system, 100, 90, and 80 years each. And this even by groups of kings such that after division it becomes these significant numbers.

I believe this is evidence that what is being counted is days, and furthermore, that it is evidence that a similar redefinition of shana was in use in Genesis.

To continue with the Sumerian king list, we now must consider the kings after the flood. The list continues:
After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kic. In Kic, Jucur became king; he ruled for 1200 years. Kullassina-bel ruled for 960 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 900) years. Nanjiclicma ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 670 (?) years. En-tarah-ana ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 420 years ......, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days. Babum ...... ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 300 years. Puannum ruled for 840 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 240) years. Kalibum ruled for 960 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 900) years. Kalumum ruled for 840 (mss. P3+BT14, Su1 have instead: 900) years. Zuqaqip ruled for 900 (ms. Su1 has instead: 600) years. (In mss. P2+L2, P3+BT14, P5, the 10th and 11th rulers of the dynasty precede the 8th and 9th.) Atab (mss. P2+L2, P3+BT14, P5 have instead: Aba) ruled for 600 years. Macda, the son of Atab, ruled for 840 (ms. Su1 has instead: 720) years. Arwium, the son of Macda, ruled for 720 years. Etana, the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries, became king; he ruled for 1500 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 635) years. Balih, the son of Etana, ruled for 400 (mss. P2+L2, Su1 have instead: 410) years. En-me-nuna ruled for 660 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 621) years. Melem-Kic, the son of En-me-nuna, ruled for 900 years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1560 are the years of the dynasty of En-me-nuna . Barsal-nuna, the son of En-me-nuna, (mss. P5, P3+BT14 have instead: Barsal-nuna) ruled for 1200 years. Zamug, the son of Barsal-nuna, ruled for 140 years. Tizqar, the son of Zamug, ruled for 305 years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1620 + X ....... Ilku ruled for 900 years. Iltasadum ruled for 1200 years. En-men-barage-si, who made the land of Elam submit, became king; he ruled for 900 years. Aga, the son of En-men-barage-si, ruled for 625 years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1525 are the years of the dynasty of En-men-barage-si. 23 kings; they ruled for 24510 years, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days. Then Kic was defeated and the kingship was taken to E-ana.
These numbers are significantly lower. If these are meant to be magically long lifespans, why suddenly are they all magically lower together?

Well, last time 100 was significant. The first king here reigns 1200 years. Let us assume that what is being counted now are months -- that is, sets of 30 days, and so we will divide each figure by 1200. Watch what we get:

Jucur became king; he ruled for 1200 years
1200 / 12 = 100

Kullassina-bel ruled for 960 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 900) years
960 / 12 = 80
900 / 12 = 75

Nanjiclicma ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 670 (?) years
670 / 12 = 55.833
but there is a confusion about the date here

En-tarah-ana ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 420 years ......, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days.
Who rules for half a day?
The months and days cause problems for the theory here, but
420 / 12 = 35

I would guess that these numbers, together with the fractions, were calculated based on some other unit, and thus the awkwardness of the fractions all around.

But whatever the calculations for these two, the other calculations make sense
Babum ...... ruled for (ms. P2+L2 has:) 300 years.
300 / 12 = 25

Should we dividing by 6, like we did in the beginning of Genesis, as we were considering two-month periods to be a shana over there? If so, we would just double the numbers, and have gotten 70 and 50 for the preceding two figures - and so for the next.

Puannum ruled for 840 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 240) years.
840 / 12 = 70
(240 / 12 = 20) (or 40 if dividing by 6)

Kalibum ruled for 960 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 900) years.
960 / 12 = 80

Kalumum ruled for 840 (mss. P3+BT14, Su1 have instead: 900) years.
840 / 12 = 70
900 / 12 = 75

Zuqaqip
ruled for 900 (ms. Su1 has instead: 600) years.
900 / 12 = 75
600 / 12 = 50

Atab (mss. P2+L2, P3+BT14, P5 have instead: Aba) ruled for 600 years.
600 / 12 = 50

Macda, the son of Atab, ruled for 840 (ms. Su1 has instead: 720) years.
840 / 12 = 70
720 / 12 = 60

Arwium, the son of Macda, ruled for 720 years.
720 / 12 = 60

Etana
, the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries, became king; he ruled for 1500 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 635) years.
1500 / 12 = 125
but 635 / 12 = 52.91

Balih, the son of Etana, ruled for 400 (mss. P2+L2, Su1 have instead: 410) years.
400 / 12 = 33.33

En-me-nuna ruled for 660 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 621) years.
660 / 12 = 55

Melem-Kic, the son of En-me-nuna, ruled for 900 years.
900 / 12 = 75

(ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1560 are the years of the dynasty of En-me-nuna .
This is just the sum of the previous two kings, which confirms the count of 660 rather than 621 above.

Barsal-nuna, the son of En-me-nuna, (mss. P5, P3+BT14 have instead: Barsal-nuna) ruled for 1200 years.
1200 / 12 = 100

Zamug, the son of Barsal-nuna, ruled for 140 years.
This does not divide evenly into 12. = 11.66
The same for the next.
Though this might be taken as 12 * 12 = 144

Tizqar, the son of Zamug, ruled for 305 years.

(ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1620 + X .......
1620 / 12 = 135

Ilku ruled for 900 years.
900 / 12 = 75

Iltasadum ruled for 1200 years.
1200 / 12 = 100

En-men-barage-si
, who made the land of Elam submit, became king; he ruled for 900 years.
900 / 12 = 75

Aga, the son of En-men-barage-si, ruled for 625 years.
This does not divide evenly into 12 months. 625 / 12 = 52.083

(ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 1525 are the years of the dynasty of En-men-barage-si.
This is just the sum of the previous two numbers

23 kings; they ruled for 24510 years, 3 months, and 3 1/2 days.
I would guess that these numbers, together with the fractions, were calculated based on some other unit, and thus the awkwardness of the fractions all around.
But 24510 / 23 = 1065.65
1065.65 / 12 = 88.88

Then Kic was defeated and the kingship was taken to E-ana.

It continues:
In E-ana, Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the son of Utu, became lord and king; he ruled for 324 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 325) years. Mec-ki-aj-gacer entered the sea and disappeared. Enmerkar, the son of Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the king of Unug, who built Unug (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2 have instead: under whom Unug was built), became king; he ruled for 420 (ms. TL has instead: 900 + X) years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) 745 are the years of the dynasty of Mec-ki-aj-gacer. (ms TL adds instead: ......; he ruled for 5 + X years.) Lugalbanda, the shepherd, ruled for 1200 years. Dumuzid, the fisherman, whose city was Kuara, ruled for 100 (ms. TL has instead: 110) years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) He captured En-me-barage-si single-handed. Gilgamec, whose father was a phantom (?), the lord of Kulaba, ruled for 126 years. Ur-Nungal, the son of Gilgamec, ruled for 30 years. Udul-kalama, the son of Ur-Nungal (ms. Su1 has instead: Ur-lugal), ruled for 15 years. La-ba'cum ruled for 9 years. En-nun-tarah-ana ruled for 8 years. Mec-he, the smith, ruled for 36 years. Melem-ana (ms. Su2 has instead: Til-kug (?) ......) ruled for 6 (ms. Su2 has instead: 900) years. Lugal-kitun (?) ruled for 36 (ms. Su2 has instead: 420) years. 12 kings; they ruled for 2310 (ms. Su2 has instead: 3588) years. Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Urim.
Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the son of Utu, became lord and king; he ruled for 324 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 325) years

324 is the more awkward number.
Yet 324 / 12 = 27

Enmerkar, the son of Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the king of Unug, who built Unug (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2 have instead: under whom Unug was built), became king; he ruled for 420 (ms. TL has instead: 900 + X) years
420 / 12 = 35
900 / 12 = 75


(Again, perhaps we should just divide by 6 as in Genesis)

Lugalbanda, the shepherd, ruled for 1200 years.
1200 / 12 = 100

Dumuzid
, the fisherman, whose city was Kuara, ruled for 100 (ms. TL has instead: 110) years. (ms. P3+BT14 adds:) He captured En-me-barage-si single-handed.
Perhaps this is meant as a year figure?

Gilgamec
, whose father was a phantom (?), the lord of Kulaba, ruled for 126 years.
/ 12 = 10.5 years

Now the following figures are absolutely regular, so perhsps they are year figures.

Ur-Nungal, the son of Gilgamec, ruled for 30 years.

Udul-kalama
, the son of Ur-Nungal (ms. Su1 has instead: Ur-lugal), ruled for 15 years.

La-ba'cum ruled for 9 years. En-nun-tarah-ana ruled for 8 years.

Mec-he
, the smith, ruled for 36 years.

Melem-ana
(ms. Su2 has instead: Til-kug (?) ......) ruled for 6 (ms. Su2 has instead: 900) years.
900 / 12 = 75

Lugal-kitun (?) ruled for 36 (ms. Su2 has instead: 420) years.
This one is particularly interesting, for 420 / 12 = 35/ So different manuscripts might have different ways of recording the same spans.

12 kings; they ruled for 2310 (ms. Su2 has instead: 3588) years.
2310 / 12 kings / 12 months brings it to a normal span of about 16 and change, but that is not the correct starting number.
We should expect to divide the number by the 12 kings and find a normal number for each king, whereas 2310 / 12 gives us 192.5, not the best number.

However, 3588 / 12 kings = 299. They wanted an even number in each case, so they used 299. Let us now read this 299 as 300, and so 300 / 12 months = 25.

Then Unug was defeated and the kingship was taken to Urim.

Then, the years become regular years once again:
In Urim, Mec-Ane-pada became king; he ruled for 80 years. Mec-ki-aj-Nanna (ms. P2+L2 has instead: Mec-ki-aj-nuna), the son of Mec-Ane-pada, became king; he ruled for 36 (ms. P2+L2 has instead: 30) years. Elulu ruled for (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2, P3+BT14 have:) 25 years. Balulu ruled for (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2, P3+BT14 have:) 36 years. (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2 have:) 4 kings; they ruled for (mss. L1+N1, P2+L2, P3+BT14 have:) 171 years. Then Urim was defeated and the kingship was taken to Awan.

In Awan, ...... became king; he ruled for ...... years. ...... ruled for ...... years. ...... ruled for 36 years. 3 kings; they ruled for 356 years. Then Awan was defeated and the kingship was taken to Kic.
so there is no need to explain.

The same pattern continues throughout, but the king list is extremely long, and so I will leave it at this.

Thus, the Sumerian King list might also use differing calendar systems at different times, and there is no reason to assume that insane timespans are mixed with completely dull and normal timespans. And so we do not see a tendency to make up legendary dates. And the same applies to Genesis, as I discussed in the previous post.

1 comment:

Orthodox Jew from Lawrence, NY said...

If i may give a modern day example for your general thesis, in baseball discussion and statistics and even record keeping, much is discussed in terms of a baseball "season" and "the playoffs" even though the length of the baseball season has changed and the length of the playoffs have changed DRAMATICALLY. (granted there is the famous maris asterisk). Certainly you would hear a sportscaster in the same breath say that player x from the 50's had x amount of walks in the "playoffs" and player y from 2006 had y amount etcetra.

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