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KRONOS Vol XI, No. 10
THE CASE FOR CATASTROPHE IN HISTORICAL TIMES
In recent years the Theory of Uniformity has been subject to some considerable criticism, and its great rival of old - Catastrophism - has commanded attention once more. Indeed, Catastrophism is currently in vogue. Whilst there is not yet general agreement among scientists as to the role of global catastrophes in shaping the geological history of Earth, such ideas are being debated and would appear to be gaining acceptance.
By way of contrast, the reaction of most scientists and archaeologists to the idea that global catastrophes may have shaped Earth's more recent past - in particular, during historical times - has been one of outright rejection. A few daring souls have, indeed, proposed theories of global events having moulded early history - but these form a tiny minority opinion, and one that as yet commands little respect among the scientific community as a whole.
Why should this be? The obvious, and statistically probable, answer is that the minority are quite wrong and that there seems to be no evidence for global catastrophes in the historical record. Such a view prevailed in the matter of catastrophes in the geological record until only quite recently, which should give heart to those who find evidence in support of catastrophe in historical times. It was necessary to present new evidence and to reinterpret old evidence to gain a fair hearing for geological catastrophism: here it will be shown that some hitherto neglected evidence will suffice to reopen the case for historical catastrophe.
A NEW APPROACH
There are two kinds of evidence which could create a case for historical catastrophe: archaeological and literary. To judge from the writings of the majority of the world's top men in the field of archaeology, there is no case. It can be objected, however, that this verdict is negative only by presumption, since most archaeologists have not been aware of the possibility of catastrophes on a global scale when conducting their excavations and in compiling their reports. This objection is significant because there was a notable dissenter among the elite of archaeology in the person of the late Claude Schaeffer, who was best known as the excavator of Ugarit. Schaeffer believed that catastrophic events had laid waste large areas of the ancient Near East, and that the destructions had been contemporaneous. His Stratigraphie Comparee et Chronologie de l'Asie Occidentale(1) should, because of these conclusions, have been regarded as an epochal work. Instead, it was largely ignored. No notable archaeologist took up the challenge to do a detailed reexamination of his conclusions. It has only been more recently that catastrophist publications have shown a renewed interest in his work and have begun to update it.(2)
The second kind of evidence which could be expected to support a case for historical catastrophe is from literary sources. One might expect perhaps an eye-witness account of an extremely unusual event, or even a tale told by its survivors, or by their descendants. Again, it is a minority who interpret myths and ancient texts in terms of global catastrophes. Notable among their number was Immanuel Velikovsky, who (like Donnelly and Bellamy before him) believed that the ancient records told the stories of terrifying global catastrophic events. His critics have never been convinced by his arguments, claiming that his interpretations were inferior to their own, which usually involved no global catastrophe. A recurring difficulty in reconciling these opposing views has been the unwillingness of his critics to accept many of the sources (and sometimes the Old Testament, also) as being anything other than fanciful, fabricated or grossly embroidered stories.
What is proposed here is a new approach to the literary scene. It requires an ancient composition which cannot be written off as fanciful, corrupted or unhistorical, and yet which tells its own and unequivocal story, startling even after its translators have rounded off its rough edges to suit their prejudices. The composition should appear to tell the story of a catastrophe, or a series of such events. Its author should be a known historical figure, leaving no doubts as to authenticity, and providing a latest date of composition of its text. This latest date of composition can be checked against the archaeological data for a "catastrophe" horizon; and should one readily become apparent, we can say that the conclusions drawn from the archaeological and literary sources are mutually supportive.
The writer believes that, to date at least, no composition has been analyzed in the modern catastrophist literature that fulfills these severe criteria (especially that of an historical author) and yet relates a catastrophe event. Such compositions do exist, however, and one will be presented at length here - a hitherto neglected text.
AN HISTORICAL AUTHOR
Enheduanna has been dubbed "the first woman in history", but most people will not even have heard of her. Who was she? She was the high priestess of the moon god Nanna (= Sin/Suen) in the southern Mesopotamian city of Ur. It is known that she was a daughter of Sargon, the founder of the dynasty of Akkad, and that she was alive in the reign of Naram-Sin. She can therefore be dated to about 2300 BC in the conventional chronology.(3)
Enheduanna's fame derives from her many and remarkable writings, and not merely from her illustrious parentage, nor from her position as high priestess. Several compositions of hers have survived and have been studied, and, especially in view of their antiquity, have been recognized as documents of the greatest interest. Perhaps the most remarkable of them all is one known as the "Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna" (thus a translation by the notable Sumerologist, Samuel Noah Kramer),(4) which is otherwise known as the "Exaltation of Inanna" (e.g., the translation and detailed discussion by Hallo and van Dijk),(5) or by its opening phrase: "Nin-me-sar-ra". This composition, our hitherto neglected text, tells us much about a goddess called Inanna.
NIN-ME-SAR-RA: THE TEXT
The composition begins by describing the goddess Inanna as "nin-me-sar-ra", or "lady of all the 'me's'", and proceeds in lines 1-8 to exalt Inanna in her attainment of the "me's". The term "me" will not concern us here: it is translated by Hallo and van Dijk as "divine attributes" and by Kramer as "divine norms, duties and powers". Thus Hallo and van Dijk give the opening lines:
etc., where An is the heaven god, the chief deity of the Sumerian pantheon. They note that "hierodule" might not be an exact translation of the term in Sumerian: "queen-consort" might be more appropriate, and would be totally consistent with Inanna's role as "queen of heaven".(6)
From line 9 on, there is a sudden change of mood. Enheduanna is describing the attributes of Inanna and she begins to portray the goddess in uncompromising terms as a deity of destruction, and of the storm. Hallo and van Dijk give:
Enlil, mentioned in line 18, is the air god and a leading deity in the pantheon. Inanna's properties in relation to the storm and destruction in general are returned to time and time again in this composition: e.g., lines 26ff. as given by Hallo and van Dijk:
But Inanna is more than a deity of storms, thunder and the likes, and more than an abstract goddess of destruction - she instills terror into the minds of men. She is awesome and she is feared. Men are submissive toward her:
Note that these lines have been excerpted from between two passages dealing with the destructive aspects of the deity: the fear and awesomeness are therefore a logical corollary of these destructive aspects. Again, the theme of her awesomeness and the fear she induces in the minds of men is to reappear later in the composition, notably in lines 46-50, and again in response to the marvels Inanna performs.
But Inanna is more than all this. She is implacable. Nobody and nothing can stand before her, neither man nor god. Thus Hallo and van Dijk give:
Having spelled out Inanna's omnipotence, the theme returns to her destructiveness, as if what had gone before did not describe enough. For all its violence, Inanna's destruction takes a rather unusual form:
And the response is submission, unquestioning (seemingly), and irrational:
And there is more, for just as (line 26) Inanna is a goddess of battle and of war, she is a goddess of love and procreation. For the city which has not paid its homage to Inanna, she withdraws her services:
In a frenzied resumption of praises for Inanna, the goddess is even described as being supreme over the heaven god, An, the chief deity of the pantheon:
At this point, the content of the composition becomes "obscure", according to Kramer. In the following section, the translations of Kramer and Hallo and van Dijk differ greatly, with Hallo and van Dijk adducing political overtones and upheavals. The choice between the two will not affect us here, save that this writer prefers Kramer's translation.(12) Out of this difficult section we may note, without any controversy attached, Enheduanna's reproach for her god - Nanna. Thus Hallo and van Dijk give:
This should be contrasted to what Enheduanna writes only a few lines later, of Inanna, where she pleads for the goddess's help:
And again, only a short while later:
In between times, Inanna is described as "the senior queen of the heavenly foundations and the zenith" (line 112) - as befits a goddess whose name can be translated as "queen of heaven".(15) And in lines 113-6 we have the repetition of how the Anunna, the great gods of heaven, make their obesiance to Inanna. This leads to another blaze of praises for the goddess:
The mood of the composition again changes in line 143, and the change is to a serene calm. It would seem that Enheduanna's "prayers" were answered,(17) and that Inanna was at peace:
And . . .
As a general point, what is most noteworthy about "Nin-me-sar-ra" is the way in which praises are showered upon the goddess Inanna, whose attributes and actions are the main subject of the composition. As stated above, Enheduanna served the god Nanna as high priestess: one might have thought, then, that she would reserve her principal praises for Nanna himself. Not only is this not the case, but in parts of the composition Nanna is openly criticized for his hostility towards Enheduanna and for his impotence to help her. This stands in stark contrast to Inanna's power and awesomeness, a singular observation which has been noted by Hallo and van Dijk,(19) but which was not explained by them. No authority has suggested that here might be the first religious revolution in history, and this writer would not be so bold as to be the first to propose such a thing, but the question must be asked: what caused the sway in Enheduanna's religious affinity?
A second, and related, general point can be made here. The descriptions by Enheduanna of the goddess Inanna are vivid and startling, and we do not know of any earlier examples of texts like this one from which the metaphors and descriptions used might have been derived. The brilliance and very vivid nature of the prose, coupled with the absence of any known forerunners, points to a degree of poetic genius that is outstanding for its time. But it is not enough to acclaim the genius (for that is as far as orthodox scholars have been prepared to go): one should seek the stimulus behind the genius. And it is to this matter, also, that we should direct our attention.
Before discussing the various translations of our composition further, it is important to point out a major element in its structure. A feature of "Nin-me-sar-ra", one found in common with many Mesopotamian and Biblical prose passages, is the strong parallelism between one half of a line and the other. It was, indeed, this feature which prompted Hallo and van Dijk to comment on the ease with which they had elucidated the structure of the whole composition. We may see this parallelism at work in line 9, for instance, e.g., as given by Hallo and van Dijk:
It can readily be appreciated that deposition of "venom" is quite in harmony with the activities of a "dragon". Thus also Kramer's translation:
Compare these two with the strikingly different version given by Kinnier Wilson:
Without wishing to make too much of this one line, one out of many, it is perhaps the first indication we get of something slightly unusual. The things being described are not the run-of-the-mill, everyday occurrences that poets tend to enthuse about. Of how many gods or goddesses, which we are used to thinking of in terms of idols, abstractions, etc., could the writer of ancient times be able to say that it was "like a dragon", or even "in the form of the great Serpent"? Of the major deities of the Sumerian pantheon, An, Enlil, Sin, Enki, Nergal, etc. are not described thus: "dragon" or "serpent" fits only a minority of gods. Equally, it is strange to read of a deity depositing "venom" or "poison" on the land, but here we read of one that fills the land or deposits over it a "venom" or "poison" in the manner of (or even in the form of) a dragon or serpent. There are some parallel themes in the literature, and Kinnier Wilson cites one such for the god Ninurta:
And he cites another for the goddess Inanna:
But these citations are rare in the literature, and the exception. It is quite notable that Kinnier Wilson sees both of his examples in rather an unusual context, that of a great natural disaster with release of oil and gas from underground faults. Of his interpretations, "(oil)-poison" and "(oil)-snakes", it has to be admitted that there is great merit in them, and they are worthy of attention: however, they should be regarded with caution, too. Kinnier Wilson's interpretations here are near-unique in the academic world, and are indeed quite controversial and have been much criticized. But they do illustrate what can and might be done in the way of original translations.
When we turn our attention to the following line, the parallelism is far from apparent. Thus Hallo and van Dijk give:
Kramer's translation is perhaps more revealing and interesting:
where Ishkur is the god of Thunder. Kramer's translation is very useful, for the idea of "vegetation ceases" is perfectly in harmony with the idea given in the previous line that venom or poison was deposited over the land. Can it be that the goddess, in depositing her venom/poison on the land, is causing the vegetation to die (it could not "stand up to" her), and that this is taking place amid roaring and thundering? That it is this aspect of Inanna, and not merely her role as a storm deity in general, is seen on consideration of line 13. Hallo and van Dijk give it as:
Similarly, Kramer gives:
Also Kinnier Wilson agrees:
And he relates the blazing fire of Inanna to the "(oil)-poison" given out by her - a very interesting and consistent conclusion. We may safely say this because, in lines 9-10, Enheduanna links the failure of vegetation to the roaring of her goddess and the venom which was deposited, but in lines 43-4 she links the failure of vegetation with fire. Thus Hallo and van Dijk give:
Similarly, Kramer gives:
One might be forgiven, perhaps, if on the basis of these few lines Inanna were to be thought of in terms of a purely mythical or fabulous entity, a firebreathing (= raining) monster, who roared; or as a form of venomous serpent who issued a poison and fire. At a stretch, it could be put down to a vivid imagination, or, maybe, as Kinnier Wilson argues, it could be the interpretation of some unusual terrestrial occurrence. So it is that the next line in the composition is the most crucial of all. Hallo and van Dijk give:
Kramer's translation is very similar:
The parallelism between the halves of the line is again to be stressed: what Enheduanna therefore tells us is that, because the waters were bloody, there was nothing for the people to drink - it was undrinkable. The wording and reasoning involved are paralleled in a most uncanny way by two other compositions, the first from Egypt (and dated to the First, or possibly the Second, Intermediate Period)(24) and the second from the Book of Exodus.
Why really, the River is blood. If one drinks of it, one rejects (it) as human and thirsts for water.(25)
. . . and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river.(26)
There is also another parallel in the Sumerian literature, from the myth of Shukalletuda, as Hallo and van Dijk themselves note. In the Shukalletuda story, Inanna sends destructive winds and storms, and fills the wells, palm-groves and vineyards with blood.(27) These two parallel accounts from such an early period in Sumerian history are difficult to explain in terms of anything known to modern man: however, Hallo and van Dijk explain them by citing the example of a massacre in Indonesia in 1964 in which so many bodies were dumped in a river that it appeared bloody.(28) This is a quite inadequate explanation, for the following reasons:
a) The text of "Nin-me-sar-ra" tells of the willing surrender and disbanding of armies and regiments, but, unlike so many texts of the Akkad period, it tells nothing of human violence against humans. Rather, the agency of violence is the dragon-like, fire-raining Inanna. The idea that she was being given the credit for some feat of arms is not consonant with the seemingly random and universal nature of her activity. Hallo and van Dijk, in reading human violence against humans, with massacres and dumping of corpses into the rivers, seem to be making a series of unwarranted assumptions in the absence of any direct pointers.
b) It does not account for the Shukalletuda story, which comes from about the same period in history. Blood in wells, palm-groves and vineyards - these are all very unlikely sites for dumping of corpses. Clearly, something else must account for the widespread distribution of "blood" in this instance.
c) In stating that the people had "nothing to drink", Enheduanna clearly implies that the waters of the river were undrinkable. Given the choice between bloody water or no water, people will partake of bloody water, as it is not of itself undrinkable. Perhaps we can take a lead from what it says in the Exodus account, namely that the waters were rendered bloody, as a consequence of which the fish died, and as a result perhaps of this decay the water was too unwholesome to drink. What Enheduanna wrote is perfectly consistent with pollution on a massive scale: the pollutant would have to have appeared "bloody". It is also consistent with the "venom" or poison given out by Inanna, which caused the vegetation to "cease".
d) There are, in fact, many traditions from around the world which tell of a phenomenon of "blood" all over the land.(29) There is even one from the First Intermediate Period in Egypt (and possibly contemporary with Enheduanna's "hymn") which tells of red ochre (described as being "like human blood") being spread throughout the land in relation to the destructive activities of the cow-goddess Hathor.(30) We can also dismiss here "local" explanations of rivers appearing bloody. One such, which has been used in the attempt to explain the Plague of Blood in Exodus, is the phenomenon of the Nile in flood appearing a red colour. Even when in flood and appearing red, the Nile waters are by no means undrinkable.
Just as the rivers becoming bloody is a phenomenon which has no ready modern day counterpart, so the description of fanned fire being rained down upon the land (line 13) is equally enigmatic. Kinnier Wilson believes he has a modern day explanation. He postulates an earthquake in an oil-rich zone in the mountains to the north of Sumer, and the resulting gas and oil escapes catching fire. The reader will see that this could only account for a part of what Enheduanna wrote - the celestial aspects of Inanna and the bloody rivers being two good examples of things not accounted for - and since his earthquake would have taken place circa 9500 BC,(31) he has to account for the persistence of the tradition in such a vivid form for several thousand years. Moreover, traditions of fire from heaven are (like those of blood throughout the land) to be found worldwide.(32) One reasonably early parallel tradition is, of course, the Sodom and Gomorrah story of Genesis 19.
Could the fire rained down by Inanna have come from the skies? Well, there is nothing in what Enheduanna wrote which is in conflict with such a conclusion, and there is actually much that lends it support. She describes her goddess as being winged, and as flying about; thus Hallo and van Dijk:
Kramer differs slightly, and possibly significantly:
Thorkild Jacobsen would agree, Inanna gives wings to the storm:
That the wings were truly Inanna's own is recognized by Hallo and van Dijk, who cite the parallel text of the "Curse of Agade",(34) a document which tells of events which may possibly have taken place within Enheduanna's lifetime,(35) and they note a winged Inanna in a number of later texts.(36) But, strikingly, she was depicted as a winged goddess long before the Akkad period: there is a seal from the Early Dynastic period where Inanna appears (representing the morning star) as winged.(37) The winged Inanna is in keeping with her portrayal as a dragon, and is a pointer to her being a celestial object.
An alternative translation of lines 123-4 is offered by Hallo and van Dijk, and this will shed more light on the nature of the winged Inanna - "Who is tall enough to reach heaven, wide enough to embrace earth".(38) Whilst discussing these lines, this is Kramer's version:
Hallo and van Dijk make a very interesting observation on these lines. They state: ". . . the comparison with heaven and earth implies at the same time the combination of astral and terrestrial character peculiar to the goddess in later descriptions. Here, in fact, is the historical point at which these two contradictory characterizations are first united in the one deity."(39) We have seen how Inanna was winged and might therefore belong in the skies: we have seen how she was regarded as the "queen of heaven" and how, indeed, line 3 might be referring to her as the queen-consort of the heaven god An: also we have noted how Inanna was called "senior queen of the heavenly foundations and the zenith" (line 112). Consequently, her character as a deity of the heavens (and not merely as earth-based apparition of the sky, as suggested by Kinnier Wilson) is beyond doubt. Furthermore, Hallo and van Dijk are suggesting that Inanna appears in this composition as both an astral and terrestrial deity, perhaps for the first time. This is an extraordinary conclusion, and must be warmly applauded.
Of this astral and yet terrestrial deity, what of its appearance? We have seen it described as winged, dragon-like and fire-raining. It was also a "resplendent light" (line I ), "clothed in radiance" (line 2), and possessed of a "terrible glance" (lines 128-9) or a "flashing glance" (line 130). The latter may be confirmed by referring to Kramer's translation:
This was the glance, the countenance, which none dared walk before (lines 36-37). Similar things were written about the countenance of the God of the Old Testament; something akin to this may have been the reason why Lot and his wife were not to look behind them when fire fell from heaven on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.(40) Another parallel is the myth of Medusa.(41)
Such was the spectacle and the noise that accompanied it that the response was submission, fear, and a near-unquestioning following (lines 20-5; 46-50). The very sound of Inanna made the people bow down (line 20), and the strong were enfeebled, their armies disbanding themselves (lines 46-7). Enheduanna surely did not invent any of these ideas, for they are to be found in the literature of many peoples where awesome phenomena are being described. Indeed, the very presence of these descriptions of the awesomeness and fear, the submission and irrational behaviour, argue strongly that the things described actually took place.
It is true that later texts tell of the fear, submission, and leading off into captivity of towns and whole countries in contexts that are little out of the ordinary, contexts of warfare. Such texts were often written by boastful conquerors: we find nothing boastful about Enheduanna's writing. Instead, she is humble before her goddess, for the goddess is the conqueror.(42) And this certainly is the difference between this early and those later texts. For although Inanna is a goddess of war, Enheduanna's description of her goddess mentions this aspect only in passing (line 26), and her many other actions are responsible for the fear she engendered.
In summary, what can we say about the content of "Nin-me-sarra"? Although only a part of the whole text deals with the dramatic actions and attributes of the goddess Inanna, this part is so unusual that it can only refer to a rare event, or series of such events. By event, this writer includes things like a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a hurricane, or any other natural disaster of violent and enormous proportions, and an event which the average man might not expect to encounter even once in a lifetime. This event might have taken place within Enheduanna's own lifetime; or it might have occurred at some earlier date, in which case Enheduanna was merely perpetuating a tradition. This writer favours the former alternative because of the degree of personal involvement of Enheduanna: it is as if these things happened to her.
1. Poetic Genius.
This is a non-explanation of "Nin-me-sar-ra". It amounts to saying that Enheduanna displayed a degree of poetic genius that was outstanding, that the metaphors used relate to mythic and fabulous events, and seeks no causes and no stimuli. If this approach were utilised in a critique of any modern or recent playwright, poet, author or artist of high standing it would be rejected as inadequate. It founders on line 45 alone, in that it does not seek to unravel the mystery of rivers appearing bloody and becoming undrinkable. But more than that, since line 45 is very much in harmony with the rest of the text, it is a failure of appreciation of what ancient man saw, knew, and recorded: he wrote nicely, even beautifully, but I cannot really understand any of it.
Perhaps Enheduanna was describing the effects of a hurricane? After all, we read of Inanna in the guise of a "charging storm" (line 28), a "roaring storm" (line 29), thundering and roaring, and with "evil winds" (line 31). She was a storm deity - but this was only one of her many aspects. And the Sumerians were perfectly capable of describing the violent storm. Here we see Enlil, the air god, in such a role:
Terrible storms, hurricanes, etc. tear up trees, disrupt agriculture, damage buildings and we would expect to see them described in the manner of the above example. That we do not find this in "Nin-me-sar-ra" is surely indicative of the fact that, although "storm" is described, it is not of this nature. Other forms of destruction predominate .
This natural disaster often has a profound effect on man. It often comes on quite unexpectedly, leaves its toll of destruction and death, and leaves its survivors shattered and bewildered. There are often associated electrical effects, sometimes quite bright "earthquake lights", changes in the colour and turbidity of natural waters and wells, and a marked effect on wildlife. Tributsch, from his extensive experience and researches into earthquakes and earthquake phenomena, has sought to explain various historical and Biblical events (including the Exodus and the Sodom and Gomorrah destructions) in terms of earthquake alone.(44) Does this stand up to scrutiny?
There are difficulties in applying his hypothesis to "Nin-me-sar-ra". In the first instance, the agent involved is a goddess who is both astral and terrestrial. Secondly, although earthquake lights can be impressive, they do not fit the bill of "tempestuous radiance" (line 22), nor of the "terrible glance" which none dare walk in (line 36). Thirdly, although there are often associated changes in ground water turbidity and colour (and these have, on rare occasions, been described as "like blood") there are no phenomena associated with earthquakes which would account for "venom" or "poison" on the land. Lastly, there is no typical earthquake description. Again, the Sumerians were perfectly capable of recording such things:
In a later text than "Nin-me-sar-ra", we even find Inanna described as the cause of earthquakes:
The absence of mottoes like "heaven shook, earth trembled" make it unlikely, then, that earthquake was the major cause of the events described here.
4. Multiple Causes:
We have considered one multiple cause earlier, that of Kinnier Wilson. His hypothesis of an earthquake fracturing the crust in an oil-rich zone to the north of Sumer is attractive in itself, but it does not account for what Enheduanna wrote. Principally, the astral and terrestrial character of the goddess cannot be accounted for as such: nor also the "bloody" rivers, nor the persistence of the tradition over several thousand years. As we have seen above, there is an absence of clear-cut earthquake description. Finally, his interpretation of oil and gas escapes is far from mainstream, exciting though it is.
Another multiple cause which must be considered is that of a natural disaster occurring on a background of invasion, war or other human turmoil. Of the human element, this can only be an interpretation based upon the absence of other causes. It is nowhere mentioned. The political upheavals alluded to by Hallo and van Dijk are based upon uncertain and difficult translations, and even so they contain little actual violence. And violence is very much in evidence in the other parts of the composition. Any human element in the woes described by Enheduanna is therefore very much secondary to the natural disaster which is primarily being related.
Since the same is true of natural disasters like earthquake and hurricane, i.e., that if they are present they must be a secondary phenomenon, what is the nature of our catastrophe?
5. Cosmic Missile:
The key to understanding our composition is the statement by Hallo and van Dijk that Inanna is both astral and terrestrial in character. Indeed, this is something "peculiar" to the goddess in later descriptions,(47) and they suggest that here we see it for the first time. They see this astral/terrestrial character as being contradictory - but it need not be. For if Inanna represents a cosmic body which came into near-miss contact with, or collided with, Earth, then no contradiction exists. And this is this writer's favoured hypothesis. It can explain the following:
This leaves a few loose ends only. Still to be accounted for are the venom or poison deposited on the land, and the blood in the rivers. This writer is of the opinion that these phenomena are related, in that the venom caused "vegetation to cease" and the blood caused the waters to become undrinkable. They can both be explained in terms of a sky-borne pollutant, which, because the rivers turned bloody, would have to have been a deep red colour. This is not an unreasonable assumption: high concentrations of rare earth metals are found in the geological strata associated with presumed impacts of meteorites or comets. Readily explained in terms of this hypothesis also are the two general points raised at the beginning of the Discussion section. If Enheduanna witnessed the encounter between Earth and a large meteor or comet, we have a potent stimulus for her vivid recording. Although she was the high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, we should not be surprised if she changed her allegiance to the more "active" astral body, Inanna: nor should we be surprised at complaints of Nanna's indifference, or ineffectiveness.
The phenomena described in "Nin-me-sar-ra" are highly unusual. We have seen how they cannot readily be explained in terms of normal natural events, in terms of human activities alone, or as the product of the over-active human imagination. The reader has been asked to seriously consider another kind of natural phenomenon, but one that none of us has experienced, and few of us credit even our remote ancestors as having experienced. He is asked to consider the effect of Earth encountering another cosmic body (the nature of which will not be discussed here), as it is readily accepted nowadays that such encounters have occurred many times. The Tunguska event of 1908 is one example of such an encounter, albeit on a small scale, and we are probably looking at a rather more spectacular episode.
The natural phenomena described by Enheduanna may well have taken place in her lifetime, although it does not drastically upset our conclusion if they took place a generation or two earlier. The latest date at which the event(s) could have taken place would be 2300 BC in the conventional chronology. This date can be tested using the "new approach" outlined above: it correlates well with the widespread destructions described by Schaeffer in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Persia for circa 2300 BC.(48) The date also correlates well with that of 2300 BC adduced more recently by Mandelkehr for a worldwide destruction,(49) and if this archaeological evidence should prove solid we can claim to have identified an agent of destruction from the literary sources.
It is noteworthy that, even though we have analyzed only the one witness, relating to one locality only, the agent of destruction preferred is one capable of producing a global destruction. At no time in our discussion hitherto has the consideration of global impact come into play - only now. Therefore our evidence, though supportive of the archaeological evidence, is not dependent on it in any way, except that it can be allocated a chronological date by the same means. A two-pronged case for catastrophe in historical times, specifically relating to circa 2300 BC, has been presented - and the time is ripe for debate.
The attentive reader will note the re-appearance of many themes with a striking similarity to those used by Immanuel Velikovsky, and a conclusion which is supportive of his cosmic catastrophe hypotheses as published in 1950 in Worlds in Collision. This writer has had a big advantage, for the establishment of science is no longer totally committed to uniformitarianism. Now that catastrophism is becoming respectable, and the case for historical catastrophe has been presented as ripe for debating, one can foresee a time when Velikovsky will be given his due credit. Nowhere is this more apposite than in his own field, that of psychoanalysis, and special attention should be paid to a re-examination of his analyses of myth and legend. Finally, although my hypothesis lends very strong support to Velikovsky's cosmic catastrophe hypotheses, one point of difference must be stressed. "Nin-me-sar-ra" was unquestionably written a very long time before the Exodus from Egypt took place, and therefore the events it describes are of an earlier age than those described in Worlds in Collision, etc.(50)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. C. F. A. Schaeffer, Stratigraphie Comparee et Chronologie de l'Asie Occidentale (Oxford,
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: My thanks to Peter James who introduced me to The Exaltation of Inanna many years ago.