11747Re: Dilmun is Umm Daleimin/Qurnah?
- Dec 13, 2009Hall's notion that the shore of the Persian Gulf in antiquity was near Eridu and Ur in antiquity has been challenged of late (1970s-1990s)by some scholars who argue that the ancient texts have been misunderstood (seas are lagoons) and ancient sites have been found revealing that this area, Qurnah-Basrah (called the Sea Land in ancient texts), was _never_ under the Persian Gulf's waters. Cf. the below excerpts:
Professor Potts on the term 'sea' being applied by the ancients to marshlands or swamps with their lagoons as well as the open sea of the Persian Gulf and thus it is an error to think Ur and Eridu which are described as near a 'sea,' are implying the Persian Gulf, instead 'the sea' is actually an area of lagoons and marshes (I understand that the "sea" Dilmun is located in is the Sealand or marshland east of Sumer and the mouth of the Euphrates at either Ur or Eridu):"The same caveats noted by Waetzoldt must also be applied to the accounts of Sennacherib's campaign against Elam in 696 B.C., according to which 'ships of my warriors reached the swamps at the mouth of the river where the Euphrates carries its waters into the fearful sea'...In all these cases, however, whether Ur and Eridu in the third millennium, or the expedition of Sennacherib against Elam, references to 'the sea' must be treated cautiously. Not only has Waetzoldt shown that, in early sources, the same terms are used for marsh/swamp and open water, but more recently S.W. Cole has demonstrated clearly that a large marsh around the site of Borsippa, southwest of Babylon and far from even the northernmost line of the Gulf, projected by de Morgan or Larsen, was routinely called the 'sea' (Akkadian tamirtu) in texts dating to the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods (Cole 1994:81-109). Clearly, therefore, references to 'the sea' are ambiguous and must be examined more closely in conjunction with other types of evidence before they are taken to refer to the open waters of the Gulf itself. Indeed, this point is brought home forcibly by the very designation of southernmost Mesopotamia from the early second millennium B.C. onwards."(p. 36. "The Progradation of the Tigris-Euphrates Delta." pp. 30-41. D. T. Potts. Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 1997)
Professor Potts (1997) has challenged the above notion that a "vast sea" extended from near Ur and Eridu to the Persian Gulf. He understands that ancient sites with traces of _irrigated fields_ found near the Hawr al Hammar Lagoon existed in the 2d millennium B.C. and that they would have been "underwater" had a vast sea existed. He argues that these sites were strung-out in a line paralleling the Euphrates river south of the lagoon (today the Euphrates is north of the Lagoon). If he is right, then this may explain the "mystery" of Dilmun being sited near a "river" in a marshland environment. In one myth Enki is portrayed as espying maidens standing on the bank of a river in the midst of the marshlands. When he attempts sex, one maid cries out "no man take me in the marshes." Over time a succession of maidens appear at the river's bank and are accosted by Enki, who is said to glide down a river through the marshes to the river's bank which is described as being at Dilmun! The Euphrates presence in the marshlands east of Ur and Eridu, if rightly argued by Potts, would seem to align "Dilmun's river" in a marsh environment with any of the 2d millennium B.C. sites south of the present-day Hawr al-Hammar Lagoon. One of these sites is Tel al-Lahm, which is shown as being connected to the Euphrates via the Id-Nun canal which begins at Ur (cf. map figure 1.12. p. 28. D.T. Potts. Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 1997). Potts (map figure 1.17, p. 37) shows the boundary of lands inundated by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and this line passes to the south of Tell al-Lahm, so this site lies within the so-called mat tamti "Sealand," the marshes and lagoons east of Ur and Eridu. The presence of irrigated fields at some of the sites south of the Hawr al-Hammar Lagoon reveals that apparently there existed sizable patches of land near these sites, they were not simply tiny islands in the midst of the marshes. In fact Potts has argued that the Hawr al-Hammar may be a recent phenomenon, coming into existence about 1870 (cf. pp. 36-41).
Potts (1997) on Georges Roux's discoveries (1960) near the Hor al-Hammar Lagoon:
"In cuneiform sources southernmost Mesopotamia was known as mat tamti(m) (Sumerian KUR A.AB.BA), the 'Sealand'...While B. Meissner could claim in 1920 that the lack of mounds in this region made it certain that it had been under water (Meissner 1920:4), G. Roux's survey of the Hor al-Hammar (fig. 1.17) showed that this was purely the result of insufficient exploration (Roux 1960:30), for there is in fact a string of mounds 'extending in an almost straight line from Tell Lahm to a point 23 miles north of Basrah' which, Roux suggests 'provides a strong argument against the classical theory according to which the whole of this region was under sea-water from prehistoric times to the dawn of the Christian era' (Roux 1960:30). The existence of sites such as Tells Kirbasi, al-Lahm, Aqram and Abu Salabikh in the area of the modern Hor al-Hammar underscores the fact that, from at least the early second millennium B.C. onwards, this was a populated area which, while it may have been marshy, was certainly not submerged beneath the Gulf. Rising no more than 2 meters above the water line, Tell Kirbasi is today periodically surrounded by water, yet it is difficult to imagine that a site like this was located on an island in the Kassite period, for there is little reason to suppose that if this were the case, Tell Kirbasi or indeed the Sealand generally would have been cited as a source of cattle and cereals. Thus, de Morgan's suggested shoreline in the time of Sennacherib would place under water sites such as Tell al-Lahm which we now know were occupied during the Neo-Assyrian period! The discovery of a cylinder of Nabonidus (555-539 B.C.) at Tell al-Lahm...moreover, confirms that 150 years after Sennacherib's time, the region was most definitely not submerged, and indeed Sanlaville's sea-level curve shows that sea-levels throughout the second millennium B.C. were only marginally higher (less than 1 meter) than they are today, while from the Neo-Assyrian through the latter part of the Parthian era, they were, contrary to de Morgan's belief, significantly lower than modern levels.
That is not to say, however, that the entire area of southernmost Mesopotamia was dry land, or that references to 'the sea' in Sennacherib's account or in texts relating to Ur and Eridu do not refer to some inland body or bodies of water which actually existed...more recently Adams has suggested, 'We may have to deal in in the past, as to a lesser extent we still do today, not with a well-defined shoreline but with a progression of swamps and more and more open, more brackish or saline lagoons' (Adams 1981:16). Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that the Hor al-Hammar itself existed when the sites found by Roux were inhabitated. As Roux himself remarked, the existence of relict canals near Tell Abu Salabikh and a well at Tell Aqram suggest that this region was once cultivated, as indeed the Kassite cuneiform sources cited above confirm, and drier than it is today." (pp.37-38. Potts)
"Finally, had the Gulf actually reached the area of Ur, Eridu or Tello, one must ask whether these sites could have then existed. W. Nutzel has noted that the tidal pattern in the northern Gulf affects the waters of the Shatt al-Arab in that salt-waters enters it at least as far as Abdul Khasib, circa 10 kilometers east of Basra. The interchange of salt and sweet water would have made irrigation from such water impossible, for none of the staple cereals grown in antiquity would have been able to tolerate water with such a high salt content. Therefore, settlements must always have been situated outside the zone affected by such an interchange. The very existence of sites like Ur, or for that matter, the mounds discussed above in the Hor al-Hammar district, Nutzel argues, precludes the possibility that salt-water was present in close proximity to them (Nutzel 1980:98-9)." (p. 39. D. T. Potts. Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 1997)
--- In ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org, David Hall <dqhall59@...> wrote:
> Qurnah was likely underwater in the Early Bronze Age. The ancient coastline was closer to Ur. This is why there are no Sumerian mounds in the vicinity of Qurneh. Years of the rivers dumping clay and silt sediments at their mouths and forming new land in the delta pushed the land further out into the gulf... [snip]
> David Q. Hall
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