Tilmun - Land of the
The epic search of Gilgamesh for Immortality has undoubtedly been
the fountainhead of the many tales and legends, in subsequent
millennia, of kings and heroes who have likewise gone to find
Somewhere on Earth, Mankind's mythified memories
held, there was a place where Man could join the Gods, and be spared
the indignity of death. Nearly 5,000 years ago, Gilgamesh of Uruk
had pleaded with Utu (Shamash):
In my city, man dies; oppressed is my heart.
Man perishes; heavy is
my heart ...Man, the tallest, cannot stretch to Heaven ...O
The Land I wish to enter; be thou my ally ...In the place
where the Shems have been raised up,
Let me set up my Shem!
The Shem, we have shown, though commonly translated "Name" (that by
which one is remembered), was in fact a rocketship: Enoch vanished
upon his "Name" as he was taken heavenward.
Half a millennium after
Gilgamesh, in Egypt, King Teti made an almost identical plea:
They have no Name.
Seize thou King Teti by his
Take thou King Teti to the sky,
That he die not on Earth among
The goal of Gilgamesh was Tilmun, the land where the rocketships
To ask where he went to reach Tilmun, is to ask where
went, deeming himself a Pharaoh and a God's son. It is to ask: Where
Earth was the Duat?
Because all these destinations, we must conclude, were one and the
And the land where they hoped to find the Stairway to Heaven, we
shall conclusively show, was the peninsula of Sinai.
Accepting the possibility that the details given in
the Book of the
Dead may indeed refer to actual Egyptian geography, some scholars
have suggested that the Pharaoh's simulated journey was along the
Nile, from the shrines in Upper Egypt to those in Lower Egypt. The
ancient texts, however, clearly speak of a journey beyond the
boundaries of Egypt.
The Pharaoh's direction is eastward, not
northward; and as he crosses the Lake of Reeds and the desert beyond
it, he leaves behind not only Egypt but also Africa: much is made of
the perils - real and "political" - of coming from the domains of Horus
into the "Lands of Seth," to Asia.
the Pyramid Texts were inscribed by the Pharaohs of the Old
Kingdom, their capital in Egypt was Memphis. The religious center of
old was Heliopolis, a short distance to the northeast of Memphis.
From these centers, a course eastward in fact led to a chain of
lakes full of reeds and rushes. Beyond lay the desert, and the
mountain pass, and the Sinai peninsula - the area whose skies had
served as the final battlefield between Horus and Seth, between Zeus
The suggestion that the Pharaoh's journey to the Afterlife had
indeed taken him to the Sinai peninsula is supported by the fact
that Alexander had emulated not only the Pharaohs; there was also a
deliberate effort to emulate the Israelite Exodus from Egypt under
the leadership of Moses.
As in the biblical tale, the starting point was Egypt. Next came the
"Red Sea" - the watery barrier whose waters parted so that the
Israelites could cross upon the dry bed. In the histories of
Alexander, the watery barrier was also encountered, and it was
persistently called the Red Sea. As in the tale of Exodus, Alexander
too attempted to lead his army across the waters on foot: in one
version by building a causeway; in another "Alexander lay it bare by
Whether he succeeded or not (depending on the
version), enemy soldiers were drowned by the onrushing waters - just
as the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites had been drowned. The
journeying Israelites encountered and battled an enemy named the Amalekites: in a Christian version of the Alexander histories, the
enemy destroyed "by means of collecting the waters of the Red Sea
and pouring the waters over them" were called "Amalekites."
Once across the waters - the literal translation of the biblical term
Yam Suff is "Sea/Lake of Reeds" - there began a journey in a desert,
toward a sacred mountain. Significantly, the landmark mountain which
Alexander reached was named Mushas - the Mountain of Moses, whose
Hebrew name was Moshe. It was there that Moses encountered an angel
who spoke to him out of a fire (the burning bush); a similar
incident is described in the tales of Alexander.
The double and triple parallels multiply, as we recall the tale in
the Koran of Moses and the fish. The location of the Waters of Life
in the Koran tale about Moses was "the junction of the two streams."
It was where the
stream of Osiris divided into two tributaries that the Pharaohs
reached the entrance to the subterranean realm. In the tales of
Alexander, it was at the junction of two subterranean streams that
the crucial point was reached, where the "Stone of Adam" emitted
light, where Alexander was advised by divine beings to turn back.
And there was the tradition, also recorded in the Muslim Koran,
equating Alexander with Moses by calling him "He of the Two Horns"
recalling the biblical statement that, after Moses had visited with
the Lord upon Mount Sinai, his face radiated and emitted "horns"
(literally: rays) of light.
The arena for the biblical Exodus was the peninsula of Sinai. The
conclusion from all the similarities and footstep-following can only
be that it was toward the Sinai peninsula that Alexander, Moses and
the Pharaohs set their course as they went east from Egypt. This, we
will show, was also the destination of Gilgamesh.
To reach Tilmun on his second and decisive journey, Gilgamesh set
sail in a "Ship of Magan," a Ship of Egypt. Starting from
Mesopotamia, his only course was to sail down the Persian Gulf.
Then, rounding the Arabian peninsula, he would have entered the Red
Sea (which the Egyptians called the Sea of Ur). As the name of his
ship indicates, he would have sailed up the Red Sea toward Egypt.
But his destination was not Egypt; it was Tilmun. Was he then
intending to land on the western shores of the Red Sea - in Nubia? On
the eastern shore - in Arabia? Or straight ahead, on the peninsula of
Sinai? (See map, Fig. 2.)
Fortunately for our investigation, Gilgamesh had met with a
misfortune. His ship was sunk by a guarding God soon after he began
his voyage. He was not too far gone from Sumer, for Enkidu (whose
presence on the ship caused its sinking) pleaded that they make
their way back, on foot, to Uruk. Resolved to reach Tilmun,
Gilgamesh trekked instead overland to his chosen destination.
his goal on the shores of the Red Sea, he would have cut across the
Arabian peninsula. But instead he set his course to the northwest.
We know that for a fact, because - having crossed a desert and passed
desolate mountains - his first glimpse of civilization was a
"low-lying sea." There was a city nearby, and an inn on its
outskirts. The "ale-woman" warned him that the sea he saw and wished
to cross was the "Sea of the Waters of Death."
Just as the Cedars of Lebanon had served as a unique landmark for
determining the first destination of Gilgamesh, so does the "Sea of
the Waters of Death" serve as a unique clue to the whereabouts of
Gilgamesh on his second journey. Throughout the Near East, in all
the lands of the ancient world, there is only one such body of
It is so called to this very day: the Dead Sea. It is,
indeed, a "low-lying sea," being the lowest body of water on the
face of Earth (1,300 feet below sea level). Its waters are so
saturated with salts and minerals that it is totally devoid of all
marine and plant life.
The city that overlooked the Sea of the Waters of Death was
surrounded by a wall. Its temple was dedicated to Sin, the Moon-God.
Outside the city there was an inn. The hostess took Gilgamesh in,
extending to him hospitality, giving him information.
The uncanny similarities to a known biblical tale cannot be missed.
When the Israelites' forty years of wandering in the Wilderness had
come to an end, it was time to enter Canaan. Coming from the Sinai
peninsula, they circled the Dead Sea on its eastern side until they
reached the place where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea.
When Moses stood upon a hill overlooking
the plain, he could see - as Gilgamesh had seen - the shimmering waters of the "low-lying sea." In
the plain, on the other side of the Jordan, stood a city: Jericho.
It blocked the Israelites' advance into Canaan, and they sent two
spies to explore its defenses. A woman whose inn was at the city's
walls extended to them hospitality, gave them information and
The Hebrew name for Jericho is Yeriho. It literally means "Moon
City" - the city dedicated to the Moon God, Sin... . It was, we
suggest, the very city reached by Gilgamesh fifteen centuries before
Was Jericho already in existence circa 2900 B.C., when Gilgamesh was
engaged in his searches? Archaeologists are agreed that Jericho has
been inhabited since before 7000 B.C., and served as a flourishing
urban center since about 3500 B.C.; it was certainly there when
Refreshed and back to strength, Gilgamesh planned his continued
journey. Finding himself at the northern end of the Dead Sea, he
inquired of the ale-woman whether he could sail across its waters,
rather than circle it overland. Were he to take the overland route,
he would have taken the route which the Israelites eventually
took - but in reverse; for Gilgamesh wished to go where the Israelites
eventually came from. When the boatman Urshanabi finally ferried him
over, he stepped ashore, we believe, at the southern end of the Dead
Sea - as close to the Sinai peninsula as the boatman could have taken
From there he was to follow "a regular way" - a route in common use by
caravans - "toward the Great Sea, which is far away." Again, the
geography is recognizable from biblical terminology, for the Great
Sea was the biblical name for the Mediterranean Sea. Journeying in
the Negev, the dry southern region of Canaan, Gilgamesh was to go
westward for a certain distance, looking for "two stone markers."
There, Urshanabi told him, he was to make a turn and reach the town
named Itla; it was located some distance from the Great Sea. Beyond
Itla, in the Fourth Region of the Gods, lay the restricted area.
Was Itla a "City of the Gods" or a City of Men?
The events there, described in a fragmented Hittite version of
Gilgamesh Epic, indicate that it was a place for both.
It was a
"sanctified city," with various Gods coming and going through it or
within easy reach of
it. But men too could go there: the way to it was indicated by road
markers. Gilgamesh not only rested there, and changed into fresh
clothing: he also obtained there the sheep which he daily offered as
sacrifices to the Gods.
Such a city is known to us from the Old Testament. It was located
where the south of Canaan merges into the Sinai peninsula, a gateway
into the peninsula's Central Plain.
Its sanctity was denoted by its
name: Kadesh ("The Sanctified"); it was distinguished from a
northern namesake (situated, significantly, on the approaches to
Baalbek) by being called Kadesh-Barnea (which, stemming from the
Sumerian, could have meant "Kadesh of the Shiny Stone Pillars").
the Age of the Patriarchs, it was included in the domain of Abraham,
who "journeyed to the Negev, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur."
The city, by name and by function, is also known to us from the
Canaanite tales of Gods, men and the craving for Immortality.
we recall, asked the God El for a rightful heir, so that his son
could erect for him a commemorative stela at Kadesh. In another
Ugaritic text we are told that a son of El named Shibani ("The
Seventh"), - the biblical town of Beer-Sheba ("The Well of the
Seventh") might have been named after him - was told to "raise a
commemorating (Pillar) in the desert of Kadesh."
Indeed, both Charles Virolleaud and Bene Dussaud, who in the
periodical Syria pioneered the translation and understanding of the
Ugaritic texts, concluded that the locale of the many epic tales
"was the region between the Bed Sea and the Mediterranean," the
Sinai peninsula. The God Ba'al, who loved to fish in Lake Sumkhi,
went for his hunting to the "desert of Alosh," an area associated
(as in Fig. 104) with the date palm.
As both Virolleaud and Dussaud
have pointed out, this is a geographical clue connecting the
Ugaritic locale with the biblical record of the Exodus: the
Israelites, according to Numbers 33, journeyed from Marah (the place
of bitter waters) and Elim (the oasis of date palms) to Alosh.
More details, placing El and the younger Gods in the same arena as
that of the Exodus, are found in a text entitled by the scholars
"The Birth of the Gracious and Beautiful Gods."
Its very opening
verses locate the action in the "Desert of Suffim" - unmistakably a
desert bordering on the Yam Suff ("Sea of Beeds") of the Exodus:
I call the gracious and beautiful Gods, sons of the Prince. I will
place them in the City of Ascending and Going, in the desert of
The Canaanite texts provide us with yet another clue.
By and large
they refer to the pantheon's head as "El" - the supreme, the
loftiest - a generic title rather than a personal name. But in the
above quoted text El identifies himself as Yerah and his spouse as
Nikhal. "Yerah" is the Semitic for "Moon"
- the God better known as
Sin; and "Nikhal" is a Semitic rendition of
NIN.GAL, the Sumerian
name for the spouse of the Moon-God.
Scholars have advanced many theories regarding the origin of the
peninsula's name Sinai. For once, the obvious reason - that, as the
name stated, it "Belonged to Sin" - has been among the preferred
We can see (in Fig. 72) that the Moon's crescent was the emblem of
the deity in whose land the Winged Gateway was located. We find that
the main crossroads in the central Sinai, the well-watered place Nakhl, still bears the name of Sin's spouse.
And we can confidently conclude that the "Land Tilmun" was the
An examination of the geography, topography, geology, climate, flora
and history of the Sinai peninsula will affirm our identification,
and clarify the Sinai's role in the affairs of Gods and men.
The Mesopotamian texts described Tilmun as situated at the "mouth"
of two bodies of water. The Sinai peninsula, shaped as an inverted
triangle indeed begins where the Red Sea separates into two arms - the
Gulf of Suez on the west, and the Gulf of Elat (Gulf of Aqaba) on
Indeed, when Egyptian depictions of the Land of Seth,
where the Duat was, are turned around, they show schematically a
peninsula with the Sinai's features (Fig. 105).
The texts spoke of "mountainous Tilmun."
The Sinai peninsula is
indeed made up of a high mountainous southern part, a mountainous
central plateau, and a northern plain (surrounded by mountains),
which levels off via sandy hills to the Mediterranean coastline. The
coastal strip constituted a "land-bridge" between Asia and Africa
from time immemorial. Egyptian Pharaohs used it to invade Canaan and
Phoenicia and to challenge the Hittites.
Sargon of Akkad claimed
that he reached and "washed his weapons" in the Mediterranean; "the
sea lands" - the lands along the Mediterranean coast - "three times I
encircled; Tilmun my hand captured." Sargon II, king of Assyria in
the eighth century B.C., asserted that he had conquered the area
stretching "from Bit-Yahkin on the shore of the Salt Sea as far as
the border of Tilmun." The name "Salt Sea" has survived to this day
as a Hebrew name for the Dead Sea - another confirmation that Tilmun
lay in proximity to the Dead Sea.
Several Assyrian kings mention the Brook of Egypt as a geographic
landmark on their expeditions to Egypt. Sargon II lists the Brook
after describing the conquest of Ashdod, the Philistine city on the
Esarhaddon, who ruled somewhat later, boasted
"I trod upon Arza at the Brook of Egypt; I put Asuhili, its
king, in fetters... . Upon Qanayah, king of Tilmun, I imposed
The name "Brook of Egypt" is identical to the biblical
name for the large and extensive Sinai wadi (shallow river that runs
with water only during the rainy season) now called Wadi El-Arish.
Ashurbanipal, who followed Esarhaddon on the throne of Assyria,
claimed that he "laid his yoke of overlordship from Tyre, which is
in the Upper Sea (Mediterranean) as far as Tilmun which is in the
Lower Sea" (the Red Sea).
In all instances, the geography and topography of Tilmun fully match
the Sinai peninsula.
Except for annual variations, the peninsula's climate in historical
times is believed to have been the same as nowadays: an irregular
rainy season lasting from October through May; the rest of the year
is completely dry. The meager rainfall qualifies the whole of Sinai
to be defined as a desert (less than ten inches of rainfall per
annum). Yet the high granite peaks in
the south are snowbound in winter, and in the northern coastal strip
the water level is only a few feet below the ground.
Typical to most of the peninsula are the wadis. In the south, the
waters of the swift and short rainfalls drain off either eastward
(to the Gulf of Elat) or (mostly) westward, into the Gulf of Suez.
It is there that most of the picturesque deep canyon-like wadis with
flourishing oases are found.
But the bulk of the peninsula's
rainwater is drained northward into the Mediterranean Sea, via the
extensive Wadi El-Arish and its myriad tributaries, that look on a
map as the blood vessels of a giant heart. In this part of the
Sinai, the depths of the wadis that make up this network may change
from a few inches to a few feet; the width - from a few feet to a mile
and more after a sizeable rain.
Even in the rainy season the rainfall pattern is totally erratic.
Sudden downpours alternate with long dry spells. An assumption of
plentiful water during the season or in its immediate aftermath
could thus be very misleading. This must have happened to the
Israelites as they left Egypt in mid-April and entered the Sinai
Wilderness a few weeks later. Finding themselves without the
expected waters, it required the intervention of the Lord twice, to
show Moses where to strike the rocks for water.
The Bedouin (local nomads), as other seasoned travelers in the
Sinai, can duplicate the miracle, if the soil making up the wadis
bed is right. The secret is that in many places the rocky bed lies
above a layer of clay soil that captures the water as it quickly
seeps through the rocks. With knowledge and luck, a little digging
in a completely dry wadi bed uncovers water only a few feet below
Was this nomad art the great miracle performed by the Lord? Recent
discoveries in the Sinai throw a new light on the subject. Israeli
hydrologists (associated with the Weizmann Institute of Science)
have discovered that, like parts of the Sahara Desert and some
deserts in Nubia, there is "fossil water" - the remains of prehistoric
lakes from another geological era - deep under the central Sinai.
vast underground reservoir, with enough water (they estimated) to
suffice for a population as large as Israel's for almost one hundred
years, extends for some 6,000 square miles in a wide belt that
begins near the Suez Canal and reaches under Israel's arid Negev.
Though lying on the average some 3,000 feet below the rocky ground,
the water is sub-artesian and rises by its own pressure to about
1,000 feet below ground. Egyptian experimental drillings for oil in
the center of the northern plain (at Nakhl), have struck instead
this water reservoir.
Other drillings confirmed this incredible
fact: above ground - an arid wilderness; below, within easy reach of
modern drilling and pumping equipment - a lake of pure, sparkling
the Nefilim, with their space-age technology, have missed this
Was this, rather than a little water in a dry wadi bed,
the water that gushed forth after Moses had struck the rock, as
indicated by the Lord?
Take in thy hand the staff with which you performed the miracles in
Egypt, the Lord told Moses; you will see me standing upon a certain
rock; strike that rock with the staff, "and there shall come out of
it water, and the people shall drink" - enough water for a multitude
of people and their livestock.
So that the greatness of
known, Moses was to take with him to the site some witnesses; and
the miracle took place "before the eyes of the elders of Israel."
A Sumerian tale concerning Tilmun relates an almost identical event.
It is a tale of bad times caused by a shortage of water. Crops
withered, cattle were not fed, animals went thirsty, the people fell
Ninsikilla, spouse of Tilmun's ruler Enshag, complained to
her father Enki:
The city which thou hast given ...
Tilmun, the city thou hast given ...
Has not waters of the river ...
Unbathed is the maiden;
No sparkling water is poured in the city.
Studying the problem, Enki concluded that the only solution would be
to bring up subterranean waters. The depths must have been greater
than what could be attained by digging a usual well. So Enki
conceived a plan whereby the layers of rocks would be penetrated by
a missile fired from the skies!
Father Enki answered Ninsikilla, his daughter:
"Let divine Utu position himself in the skies.
A missile let him tightly affix to his 'breast'
and from high direct it toward the earth ...
From the source whence issues Earth's waters,
let him bring thee sweet water from the earth."
So instructed, Utu/Shamash proceeded to bring up water from the
Utu, positioning himself in the skies,
a missile tightly tied to his "breast,"
From high directed it toward the earth ...
He let go of his missile from high in the sky.
Through the crystal stones he brought up water;
From the source whence issues Earth's waters
he brought her sweet water, from the earth.
Could a missile shot from the skies pierce the earth and cause
potable water to come up?
Anticipating the incredulity of his
readers, the ancient scribe affirmed at the tale's end: "Verily, it
was so." The miracle, the text went on, did work: Tilmun became a
land "of crop raising fields and farms
which bear grain"; and Tilmun-City "became port city of the Land,
the site of quays and mooring piers."
The parallels between Tilmun and Sinai are thus doubly affirmed:
first, the existence of the subterranean water reservoir, below the
rocky surface; secondly, the presence of Utu/Shamash (the
Spaceport's commander) in the proximity.
The Sinai peninsula can also account for all the products for which
Tilmun was renowned.
Tilmun was a source of gemstones akin to the bluish lapis lazuli
which the Sumerians cherished. It is an established fact that the
Pharaohs of Egypt obtained the blue-green gemstone turquoise as well
as a blue-green mineral (malachite) from the southwestern parts of
the Sinai. The earliest turquoise mining area is now called Wadi
Magharah - the Wadi of Caves; there, tunnels were cut into the rocky
sides of the wadi's canyon and miners went in to chisel out the
Later on, mining also took place at a site now named
Serabit-el-Khadim. Egyptian inscriptions dating back to the Third
Dynasty (2700-2600 B.C.) have been found at Wadi Magharah, and it is
believed that it was then that the Egyptians began to station
garrisons and occupy the mines on a continuing basis.
Archaeological discoveries, as well as depictions by the first
Pharaohs of defeated and captured "Asiatic Nomads" (Fig. 106),
convince scholars that at first the Egyptians only raided mines
developed earlier by Semitic tribesmen.
Indeed, the Egyptian name
for turquoise, mafka-t (after which they called the Sinai the "Land
of Mafkat"), stems from the Semitic verb meaning "to mine, to
extract by cutting."
These mining areas were in the domain of the
Goddess Hathor, who was known both as "Lady of Sinai" and "Lady of Mafkat."
A great Goddess of olden times, one of
the early sky Gods of the Egyptians, she was nicknamed by them "The
Cow" and was depicted with cow's horns (see
Figs. 7 and 106). Her
name, Hat-Hor, spelled
hieroglyphically by drawing a falcon within an enclosure , has been
interpreted by scholars to mean "House of Horus" (Horus having been
depicted as a falcon). But it literally meant "Falcon House," which
affirms our conclusions regarding the location and functions of the
Land of the Missiles.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
"turquoise was obtained
from the Sinai peninsula before the fourth millennium B.C. in one of
the world's first important hard-rock mining operations."
time, the Sumerian civilization was only beginning to stir, and the
Egyptian one was almost a millennium away. Who then could have
organized the mining activities? The Egyptians said it was Thoth,
the God of sciences.
In this and in the assignment of the Sinai to Hathor, the Egyptians
emulated Sumerian traditions. According to Sumerian texts, the God
who organized the mining operations of
the Anunnaki was Enki, the
God of Knowledge; and Tilmun, the texts attested, was allotted in
pre-Diluvial times to Ninhursag, sister of Enki and Enlil. In her
youth, she was a smashing beauty and the chief nurse of the Nefilim.
But in her old age, she was nicknamed "The Cow" and, as the Goddess
of the Date Palm, was depicted with cow's horns (Fig. 107).
similarities between her and Hathor, and the analogies between their
domains, are too obvious to require elaboration.
The Sinai was also a major source of copper, and the evidence here
is that the Egyptians relied mostly on raiding expeditions to obtain
To do this, they had to penetrate deeper into the peninsula; a
Pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty (the time of Abraham) left us these
comments of his deeds:
"Reaching the boundaries of the foreign lands with his feet;
exploring the mysterious valleys, reaching the limits of the
He boasted that his men lost not a single case of the
Recent explorations in the Sinai by Israeli scientists found ample
evidence showing that "during the times of the Early Kingdom of
Egypt, in the third millennium B.C., Sinai was densely inhabited by
Semitic copper-smelting and turquoise-mining tribes, who resisted
the penetration of Pharaonic expeditions into their territory (Beno
Rothenberg, Sinai Explorations 1967-1972).
"We could establish the
existence of a fairly large industrial metallurgical enterprise...
. There are copper mines, miners' camps and copper smelting
installations, spread from the western parts of southern Sinai to as
far east as Elat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba."
Elat, known in Old Testament times as
Etzion-Gaber, was indeed a
"Pittsburgh of the Ancient World."
Some twenty years ago,
Nelson Glueck uncovered at Timna, just north of Elat, King Solomon's copper
mines. The ores were taken to Etzion-Gaber, where they were smelted
and refined in "one of the largest, if not the largest, of
metallurgical centers in existence" in ancient times (Rivers in the
The archaeological evidence once again ties in with biblical and
Mesopotamian texts. Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, boasted that "upon
Qanayah, king of Tilmun, I imposed tribute." The Qenites are
mentioned in the Old Testament as inhabitants of the southern Sinai,
and their name literally meant "smiths, metallurgists."
into which Moses married when he escaped from Egypt into the Sinai
was that of the Qenites. R. J. Forbes (The Evolution of the Smith)
pointed out that the biblical term Qain ("smith ") stemmed from the
Sumerian KIN ("fashioner").
Pharaoh Ramses III, who reigned in the century following the Exodus,
recorded his invasion of these coppersmiths' dwellings and the
plundering of the metallurgical center of Timna-Elat:
I destroyed the people of Seir, of the Tribes of the Shasu, I
plundered their tents, their people's possessions, their cattle
likewise, without number. They were pinioned and brought as captive,
as tribute of Egypt. I gave them to the Gods, as slaves into their
I sent forth my men to the Ancient Country, to the great copper
mines which are in that place. Their galleys carried them; others on
a land-journey were upon their asses.
It has not been heard before,
since the reign of the Pharaohs began.
The mines were found abounding in copper; it was loaded by
ten-thousands into the galleys. They were sent forward to Egypt and
arrived safely. It was carried and made into a heap under the palace
balcony, in many bars of copper, a hundred thousand, being of the
color of gold of three refinings.
I allowed all the people to see them, like wonders.
It was to spend the rest of his life in the mines of Tilmun that the
Gods had sentenced Enkidu; and so it was that Gilgamesh conceived
the plan to charter a "Ship of Egypt" and take his comrade
along - since the Land of Mines and the "Land of Missiles" were both
parts of the same land. Our identification matches the ancient data.
Before we continue with our reconstruction of historic and
prehistoric events, it is important to buttress our conclusion that
Tilmun was the Sumerian name for the Sinai peninsula. This is not
what scholars have held until now; and we should analyze their
contrary views, and show why they have been wrong.
A persistent school of thought, one of whose early advocates was P.
B. Cornwall (On the Location of Tilmun), identifies Tilmun
(sometimes transcribed "Dilmun") as the island of Bahrein in the
Persian Gulf. This view relies most heavily on the inscription by
Sargon II of Assyria, wherein he asserted that among the kings
paying him tribute was,
"Uperi, king of Dilmun, whose abode is
situated like a fish, thirty double-hours away, in the midst of the
sea where the sun rises."
This statement is taken to mean that Tilmun was an island; and the scholars who hold this view identify
the "Sea where the sun rises" as the Persian Gulf.
They then end up
with Bahrein as the answer.
There are several flaws in this interpretation. First, it could well
be that only the capital city of Tilmun was on an offshore island:
the texts leave no doubt that there was a land Tilmun and a
Tilmun-city. Secondly, other Assyrian inscriptions which describe
cities as being "in the midst of the sea" apply to coastal cities on
a bay or a promontory, but not on an island (as, for instance, Arvad
on the Mediterranean coast).
Then, if the "sea where the sun rises"
indicates a sea east of Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf does not
qualify, since it lies to the south, not to the east, of
Mesopotamia. Also, Bahrein lies too close to Mesopotamia to account
for thirty double-hours of sailing. It is situated some 300 miles
south of the Mesopotamian Gulf ports; in sixty hours of sailing,
even at a leisurely pace, a distance many times greater could be
Another major problem arising from a Bahrein-Tilmun identification
concerns the products for which Tilmun was renowned. Even in the
days of Gilgamesh, not all of the Land Tilmun was a restricted area.
There was a part, as we have seen, where sentenced men toiled in
dark and dusty mines, digging out the copper and gemstones for which
Tilmun was famous.
Long associated with Sumer in culture and trade, Tilmun supplied it with certain desired species of woods. And its
agricultural areas - subject of the above-mentioned tale of
Ninsikilla's plea for artesian waters - provided the ancient world
with highly prized onions and dates.
Bahrein had none of these, except for some "ordinary dates." So, to
circumvent the problem, the pro-Bahrein school has developed a
answer. Geoffrey Bibby (Looking for Dilmun) and others of like mind
suggest that Bahrein was a trans-shipment point. The products, they
agree, indeed came from some other, more distant land.
But the ships
which carried these goods did not go all the way to Sumer. They
stopped and unloaded their goods at Bahrein, where the famous
merchants of Sumer picked them up for the final haul into Sumerian
ports; so that, when the Sumerian scribes wrote down where the goods
had come from (so this theory goes), they wrote down "Dilmun,"
But why would ships that have sailed great distances fail to sail
the final short distance to the actual destination in Mesopotamia,
and instead go to the extra trouble and cost of offloading at
Bahrein? Also, this theory stands in direct contradiction to
specific statements by rulers of Sumer and Akkad that the ships of
Tilmun, among ships from other lands, anchored at their port cities.
Ur-Nanshe, a king of Lagash some two centuries after Gilgamesh was
king of neighboring Uruk, claimed that,
"the ships of Tilmun ...
brought me wood as tribute."
We recognize the name Tilmun in his
inscription (Fig. 108) by the pictograph for "missile." Sargon, the
first ruler of Akkad, boasted that "at the wharf of Akkad he made
moor ships from Meluhha, ships from Magan and ships from Tilmun."
Clearly, then, the ships brought the products of Tilmun straight to
the Mesopotamian ports proper, as logic and economics would dictate.
Like-wise, the ancient texts speak of direct exports from
Mesopotamia to Tilmun. One inscription records a shipment of wheat,
cheese and shelled barley from Lagash to Tilmun (circa 2500 B.C.);
no trans-shipment at an island is ever mentioned.
One of the leading opponents of the Bahrein theory, Samuel N. Kramer
(Dilmun, the "Land of the Living") stressed the fact that the
Mesopotamian texts described it as "a distant land," reachable not
without risk and adventure. These descriptions do not match a
close-by island, reachable after an easy sailing down the quiet
waters of the Persian Gulf.
He also attached great importance to the
fact that the various Mesopotamian texts placed Tilmun near two
bodies of water, rather than near or in a single sea. The Akkadian
texts located Tilmun ina pi narati - "at the mouth of the two flowing
waters": where two bodies of water begin.
Guided by yet another statement, which said that Tilmun was the land
"where the Sun rises," Kramer concluded, first, that Tilmun was a
land and not an island; and secondly, that it must have been located
east of Sumer,
for it is in the east that the Sun rises. Searching in the east for
a place where two bodies of water meet, he could come up only with a
southeastern point, where the Persian Gulf meets the Indian Ocean.
Baluchistan, or some-where near the Indus River, were his
Kramer's own hesitation stemmed from the well-known fact that
numerous Sumerian and Akkadian texts listing countries and peoples
do not mention Tilmun in association with such eastern lands as Elam
or Aratta. Instead, they lump together as lands situated next to
each other Meluhha (Nubia/Ethiopia), Magan (Egypt) and Tilmun.
proximity between Egypt (Magan) and Tilmun is spelled out at the end
of the "Enki and Ninhursag" text, where the appointment of Nintulla
as "Lord of Magan" and of Enshag as "Lord of Tilmun" obtains the
blessing of the two Gods.
It is also evident from a remarkable text,
written as an autobiography of Enki, which describes his activities
after the Deluge, assisting Mankind to establish its civilizations;
again, Tilmun is listed next to Magan and Meluhha:
The lands of Magan and Tilmun
looked up at me.
I, Enki, moored the Tilmun-boat at the coast,
Loaded the Magan-boat sky high.
The joyous boat of Meluhha
transports gold and silver.
In view of this proximity of Tilmun to Egypt, what about the
statements that Tilmun was "where the sun rises" - meaning (scholars
say) east of Sumer, and not west of it (as the Sinai is)?
The simple answer is that the texts do not make that statement at
all. They do not say "where the Sun rises"; they state "where
Shamash ascends" - and that makes all the difference. Tilmun was not
at all in the east; but it certainly was the place where Utu/Shamash
(the God whose celestial symbol was the Sun, and not the Sun itself)
ascended skyward in his rocketships.
The words of the Gilgamesh epic
are quite clear:
At the Mountain of Mashu he arrived,
Where by day the Shems he watched
as they depart and come in ...
Rocket-men guard its gate ...
they watch over Shamash
as he ascends and descends.
That, indeed was the place whereto Ziusudra had been taken:
In the Land of the Crossing in mountainous Tilmun
- the place where
Shamash ascends - they caused him to dwell.
And so it was that Gilgamesh - denied permission to mount a Shem, and
seeking therefore only to converse with his ancestor Ziusudra - set
his steps to Mount Mashu in Tilmun - the Mount of Moshe (Moses) in the
Modern botanists have been amazed by the variety of the peninsula's
flora, finding more than a thousand species of plants, many unique
to the Sinai, varying from tall trees to tiny shrubs. Where there is
water - as in oases, or below the surface in the coastal sand dunes,
or in the beds of the wadis - these trees and shrubs grow with
impressive persistence, having adapted themselves to the particular
climate and hydrography of the Sinai.
The Sinai's northeastern parts could well have been the source of
the craved-for onions. Our name for the variety with the long green
stem, scallion, bears evidence to the port from which this delicacy
was shipped to Europe: Ascalon on the Mediterranean coast, just
north of the Brook of Egypt.
One of the trees that adapted itself to the Sinai's unique
circumstances is the acacia, which accommodates its high
transpiration rate by growing only in the wadi beds, where it
exploits the subsurface moisture down to many feet. As a result, the
tree can live for almost ten years without rain.
It is a tree whose
timber is a prized wood; according to the Old Testament, the Holy
Ark and other components of the Tabernacle were made of this wood.
It could have well served as the prized wood which the kings of
Sumer imported for their temples.
An ever-present sight in the Sinai are the tamarisks - bush-like trees
that trace the wadi courses year round, for their roots reach down
to the subsurface moisture and they can grow even where the water is
saline and brackish. After especially rainy winters, the tamarisk
groves fill up with a sweet, granular white substance which is the
excretion of small insects that live on the tamarisks. The Bedouin
call it by its biblical name, manna, to this very day.
The tree with which Tilmun was mostly associated in antiquity,
however, was the date palm. It is still the Sinai's most important
tree economically. Needing minimal cultivation, it provides the
Bedouin with fruit (dates); its pulp and kernels are fed to camels
and goats; the trunk is used for building and as fuel; the branches
for roofing; the fibers for rope and weaving.
We know from Mesopotamian records that these dates were also
exported from Tilmun in antiquity.
The dates were so large and tasty
that recipes for the meals of the Gods of Uruk (the city of
Gilgamesh) specified that "every day of the year, for the four daily
meals, 108 measures of ordinary dates, and dates of the Land Tilmun,
as also figs and raisins ... shall be offered to the deities." The
nearest and most ancient town on the land route from Sinai to
Mesopotamia was Jericho. Its biblical epithet was "Jericho, the city
The date palm, we find, has been adopted as a symbol in Near Eastern
religions, i.e., in ancient concepts of Man and his Gods. The
biblical Psalmist promised that "the Righteous like a date palm
The Prophet Ezekiel, in his vision of the rebuilt
temple of Jerusalem, saw it decorated with alternating,
date palms ... so that a date palm was between a Cherub and a
Cherub, and two (date palms) flank each Cherub."
Residing at the
time among the exiles whom the Babylonians had forcefully brought
over from Judea, Ezekiel was well acquainted with the Mesopotamian
depictions of the Cherubim and date palm theme (Fig. 109).
Alongside the Winged Disk (the emblem of the Twelfth Planet), the
symbol most widely depicted by all the ancient nations was the Tree
Writing in Der Alte Orient, Felix von Luschau has shown
back in 1912 that the Greek Ionian column capitals (Fig. 110a) as
well as Egyptian ones (Fig. 110b) were in fact stylizations of the
Tree of Life in the shape of a date palm (Fig. 110c), and confirmed
earlier suggestions that the Fruit of Life of legend and epic tales
was some special species of the date fruit.
We find the theme of the
date palm as the symbol of Life carried on even in Muslim Egypt, as
in the decorations of Cairo's grand mosque (Fig. 110d).
Many major studies, such as De Boom des Levens en
Historie by Henrik Bergema and The King and the Tree of Life in
Ancient Near Eastern Religion by Geo. Widengren, show that the
concept of such a tree, growing in an Abode of the Gods, has spread
from the Near East all over Earth and has become a tenet of all
The source of all these depictions and beliefs were the Sumerian
records of the Land of the Living,
Where old woman says not "I am an old woman,
"Where old man
says not "I am an old man."
The Sumerians, masters of word-plays, called the Land of the
Missiles TIL.MUN; yet the term could also mean "Land Of Living," for
TIL also meant "Life."
The Tree of Life in Sumerian was GISH.TIL;
but GISH also
meant a man-made, a manufactured object; so that GISH.TIL could also
mean "The Vehicle to Life" - a rocketship. In art too, we find the
Eagle-men sometimes saluting not the date palm, but a rocket (Fig.
The binding knots tighten further, as we find that in Greek
religious art, the omphalos was associated with the date palm. An
ancient Greek depiction of Delphi shows that the omphalos replica
that was erected outside Apollo's temple was set up next to a date
palm (Fig. 111). Since no such trees grow in Greece, it was an
artificial tree made (scholars believe) of bronze.
of the omphalos with the date palm must have been a matter of basic
symbolism, for these depictions were repeated also in respect to
other Greek oracle centers.
We have found earlier that the omphalos served as
a link between
Greek, Egyptian, Nubian and Canaanite "oracle centers" and the Duat.
Now we find this "Stone of Splendor" linked to the date palm
Tree of the Land of Living.
Indeed, Sumerian texts accompanying depictions of the Cherubim
included the following incantation:
The dark-brown tree of Enki I hold in my hand;
The tree that tells
the count, great heavens
I hold in my hand;
The palm tree,
great tree of oracles,
I hold in my hand.
A Mesopotamian depiction shows a God holding up in his hand this
"palm tree, Great tree of oracles" (Fig. 112).
He is granting this
Fruit of Life to a king at the place of the "Four Gods."
already come upon this place, in Egyptian texts and depictions: they
were the Four Gods of the Four Cardinal Points, located by the
Stairway to Heaven in the Duat. We have also seen (Fig. 72) that the
Sumerian Gateway to Heaven was marked by the date palm.
And we have no more doubt that the target of the ancient Search for
Immortality was a Spaceport - somewhere in the Sinai peninsula.
Back to Contents