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Ancient Egypt origins, Sumerian Uruk expansion and Egyptian civilization connection: mythical gemstone Lapis Lazuli


By Mehmet Kurtkaya, Published on February 17, 2019

egypt lazuli beads
String of lapis lazuli beads, Predynastic, Naqada II, Egypt, New York Metropolitan Museum
3300 B.C.


Tutankhamun's mask
, Tutankhamun's mask Wikimedia

Replica of the golden mask of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian Museum The mask has lapis lazuli around the eyes and eyebrows. This is in line with Sumerian deity statues with lapis lazuli eyes. For Sumerians, eyes were connected to human soul. In some Sumerian myths it is mentioned that the hero raised his eyes to the heavens above.
1323 BC


The two finds are dated 2000 years apart, but lapis lazuli's significance is not diminshed.

The origins of Ancient Egypt is rarely a topic of discussion. Even the origins of the Etruscan and the Sumerian civilizations are not discussed, or should I say, very rarely discussed. Even when the main stream view that all civilizations developed locally has been proven wrong many times over in the past. Archaeogenetics data of the last 20 years, especially of the last few years has provided a big challenge to the status quo.

More than 100 years ago, Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, one of the pioneers in the field, had noticed the abrupt change in Naqada burial customs and burial goods, suggesting the conquest of Egypt by more advanced people was behind the founding of ancient Dynastic Egypt. Whether this was conquest or migration or both is up for debate but the evidence of a quicky developing civilization is obvious and certainly not restricted to the findings from Petrie's time, the 1ate 19th to early 20th century.

Moreover, the suggestion that ancient Egyptian civilization was founded by a migrating people from Mesopotamia, hence Sumerians, was widely accepted until mid-20th century.

etruscan sumerian
Also see: Egyptian Pyramids derive from Sumerian Ziggurats!

I had proven that the Sumerian Turks were, together with the local people, the major driving force in the foundation of Dynastic Egypt starting with the Old Kingdom, with my book on Sumerian Origins , as well as the origins of Egypt, based on three major points:

- Migrations from Siberia and Central Asia

- The trail of Sumerian ziggurats and Egyptian pyramids

- The trail of Lapis Lazuli from Eastern Afghanistan/South Central Asia to Mesopotamia and then to Egypt

- The religious reasons behind both the building of the Pyramids and the use of Lapis Lazuli in Sumerian mythology

I had also shown that ancient Egypt was a result of the Uruk Expansion like Minoan Greece. See Sumerian Migrations, Sumerian Original Homeland Central Asia, Ancestral Homeland Siberia, Ugur (Hurrian), and Implications for the Indo-European Homeland for details)

Sumerian Migrations
Sumerian Migrations on Eurasian Map click on the map for the article and full size image

There are obvious mythological similarities between Sumer and Egypt, first and foremost the existence of a mythology and its pillars, the Sky heavens, the Underworld, Afterlife, Sun and Sky gods, and religious stories. Yet, there were also important differences among their religious beliefs, customs, sociopolitical organization among others. Sumer was a more advanced civilization overall, when comparing the fields of writing, mathematics, state governance among others.

In my books, I have shown that migration was key in founding and spread of ancient civilizations. This fact continues to be proven by archaeogenetics data in 2019. The mainstream idea that all civilizations flourished locally with cultural contacts but without migrations, has been already proven completely false.

For example, farming, the driving force of neolithic civilizations together with animal husbandry, has first been practiced in Anatolia/Turkey and spread to all corners of Eurasia and Africa. Same can be said of animal domestication including cattle domestication in Southeast Turkey. The spread of neolithic revolution involved migrations of the people for the most part and not solely dissemination of ideas as proposed by main stream academics.

One of the best articles on the origins of ancient Egypt is Japanese archaeologist Michinori Ohshiro's A study of lapis lazuli in the formative period of Egyptian Culture: An approach in terms of culture contact written first in Japanese in 1996 while still a PhD student.

Unfortunately, I have found out this article only a few days ago, as until now I was not concentrating my efforts on the origins of Egypt, since I had already shown its founders to be Sumerians. Ohshiro's article, however, suggests not only exploring the origins of Ancient Egypt by tracing Lapis Lazuli but also the powerful idea to use the change in the supply of lapis lazuli to explain the differences of these two cultures.

Although the author is cautious about diffusionism, he lists major similarities between the two cultures mentioning the findings of great scholars such as Flanders Petrie, Walter Bryan Emery, Joan Crowfoot Payne, J.A. Wilson, and Helene Kantor (The Early Relations of Egypt with Asia, 1942), and Ichirō Katō.

He also makes a good list of connecting cultural and technological elements including animal reliefs, Gebel el-Arak knife-handle, the painted wall and cylinder seals at Hierakonpolis, solar calendar, Mesopotamian mythical animals and mythological concepts. Each one of these are by themselves major points indicating the strength of the Sumerian Uruk - ancient Egypt connection.

Above all, he remarks the importance of lapis lazuli trade as a marker of this influence and finishes with: "... it is very strange to say that nobody has used lapis lazuli as the main material in describing ancient Egyptian history, because a large quantity of lapis lazuli are excavated in Egypt as much as Mesopotamia."

Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian Hyeroglyphs

Unlike the evolutionary development of writing from pictograms to logograms and cuneiform in Sumer, Egyptian hyeroglyphs appear rather fully developped. J. A. Wilson had suggested that while the two writing systems are different, Egyptians seem to have borrowed the idea.

This parallels the quick development of an advanced civilization from Neolithic Egypt in a short period of time including mythology, architecture and dynastic sociopolitical organization.

In addition to the above, "niched facades" (Egypt origins)characteristic of Mesopotamian culture, Mesopotamian boat depictions in petroglyphs (David Rohl, Legend-The Genesis of Civilisation), (Michael Rice, Egypt's Making), mythological connections, might be added.

I should also add L. A. Waddell (Egyptian Civilization Its Sumerian Origin and Real Chronology) to the list of scholars who were aware of the foundational link between ancient Dynastic Egypt (3000 BC) and Sumerian civilization founded about 1000 years earlier in around 4000 BC.

The importance of the transportation of Lapis Lazuli

lazurite from afghanistan
Lazurite brute from Afghanistan, Wikimedia

Clearly associated with the sky, its night blue color with white calcite evoke starry nights.


I prefer to use the term transportation rather than trade because the migrating people carried the semi-precious gemstone with themselves for their own religious use. It's hard to imagine Sumerians were trading lapis lazuli with people who may not have valued the stone.

The importance of the transportation of Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan to Egypt was first remarked in 1944, by Helene Kantor who was still a student at the time. She had published "The Final Phase of Predynastic Culture, Gerzean or Semainean" in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.

Gerzean also known as Naqada II dates to about 3500–3200 BC, hence lapis lazuli in Egyptian tombs dates to mid 4th millenium BC the era of Uruk expansion.
Sumerian Ur mosaic
Sumerian Standart of Ur 2500 BC, background lapis lazuli mosaic, Wikimedia Alma E. Guinness

Ur lyre

Gold and Lapis Lazuli representing Sun and Sky gods

Form grave goods, we know that gold and lapis lazuli were always associated with chiefs, kings, and royalty.

lugaldal

This is not Picasso! Sumerian bull-humans are cult symbols from 4500 years ago. The above is a detail from a Sumerian lyre found in Ur. lugaldal

From Lyre displayed in University of Pennsylvania Museum

Bull head represents Sun God Ut(u) or Sky God An depending on period and context. Hence, the bull head is made of sun colored gold and sky colored lapis lazuli, the most important gemstone in Sumerian mythology

sumerianlyre

Full detail, from Sumerian lyre:

sumerianlyre
Even the name is indicative of this fact: Medieval Latin lapis (“stone”) +‎ lazulī (“heavens, skies”).

Lapis Lazuli was used as powder for coloring priest and king garments.

In the extract of Lapis Lazuli in Early Egypt, 1968, Joan Crowfoot Payne notes the similarity between the use of lapis lazuli in Iraq and that in Egypt during the Predynastic period and the early dynasties and how this gemstone was found in a wide area from Gerzeh to Bahan along the Nile.

And equally important, she notes that it is often found in association with gold, but not silver. This important note is echoed in the abstract of Lapis Lazuli and Long-distance Trade between Mesopotamia and Egypt in the Fourth Millennium B.C., 2001, by Japanese archaeologist Izumi H. TAKAMIYA when he remarks that in the largest cemeteries in southern Egypt, i.e. Naqada and Amrah, as well as Gerzeh in the north, lapis lazuli objects were often buried with gold. He also notes the start of lazuli trade monopoly in the hands of a few chiefs in "the capitals of the Kingdom" during the latest stages of early state formation.

In his thesis titled New Thoughts on the Trade of Lapis Lazuli in the Ancient Near East c. 3000 – 2000 B.C 2010, Kelsey M. Ajango mentions Georgina Herrmann's 1968 paper Lapis Lazuli: The Early Phases of Its Trade where she mentions the other source of lapis lazuli for Old World southern tip of Lake Baikal as a potential source for one Early Dynastic II lapis lazuli cylinder seal.

We know that the source of Lapis Lazuli for the overwhelming majority if not all of the archaeological finds were from eastern Afghanistan Sar-i Sang mines, since the 7th millennium BC. Lapis Lazuli from Sar-E-San, Badakhshan, Afghanistan by Jean Wyart, Pierre Bariand, and Jean Filippi Translated by Carol Stockton

I had already suggested that the people who have migrated to Sarazm, Tajikistan from Siberia may have used lapis lazuli there before settling in this central Asian location not very far from Afganistan lapis lazuli deposits.

In The Relative Chronology of the Naqada Culture: a view from Buto, Ma’adi Harageh and Gerzeh Luc Watrin also provides details on Egypt - Sumerian Uruk connections and mentions Petrie's work.

Other important work which also has info on the connection between the origins of Ancient Egypt and Sumerian Uruk expansion:

The Earliest Bronze Age in Southwest Asia (3100-2700 BC) by Henry Wright

Egypt and Syro-Mesopotamia in the 4th Millennium: Implications of the New Chronology(1) by Alexander Joffe

The Route of Lapis Lazuli: Lapis Lazuli Trade From Afghanistan to Egypt During Mid-late Bronze Age by He Huang.

The Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Language Was Created by Sumerian Turks by Metin GUnduz.

Ancient Theocracies, Slave Societies

Archaeologists casually remark that the findings of gold, lapis lazuli, and similar precious stones and metals are luxury objects. However, these items were first and foremost religious items symbolizing gods and the kings who represented gods. Luxury is a down-stream value in the flow of history, it is a result, a symbol of theocratic slave societies. When lapis lazuli and gold are mentioned as sumptuary goods by archaeologists this crucial fact must be stated.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau who was the most important intellectual influencer of the French Revolution, with his two revolutionary works "Le Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes" (A Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of The Inequality of Mankind) and "Du contrat social" (Social Contract) wrote also on the origin of languages. While he was not as succesful in his writings on languages, his interest was definitely connected to his political views and writings.

The human language has definitely socio-political and religious beginnings and Sun Language Theory's core idea is that sun and sky worship has been at the center of its formation and dispersal. Ataturk was certainly influenced by Rousseau's political views. His interest in languages and the role of the Turkish language in the history of human langauge, though not influenced by Rousseau, was well-placed. In fact by his time, the 1920s and 1930s, linguists like Italian Alfredo Trombetti (monogenesis), Danish linguist Holgar Pedersen (common source of many Eurasian-Afroasiatic languages) had long made revolutionary proposals.

Girl with a pearl earring
Gir with a Pearl Earring, Jan Vermeer

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Discover groundbreaking revelations on the roots of modern civilization in one short book. How did we arrive to where we are? How ancient civilizations a world apart, Sumer and Maya were connected. An overview that covers a wide range of topics from human migrations 50000 years ago to Gobeklitepe, the first temple in history, the first matriarchal society with written records, Elam, and to the Sun Cult of the Hattis. Their origins and influence on other ancient civilizations including their neighbors, distant relatives: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Hurrian, Scythian, Oguz, Kassite, Gutian, Hyksos and more. (Many of my articles on this website included)

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