By Alexander Jacob
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’. So we may presume that these early cultures were founded by the genius of that broad racial group. The dolichocephalic Mediterranean, or “brown”, race may thus have constituted the earliest strata of the populations of Asia, Egypt and Europe.
Genesis as a Genealogical Resource
Given the difficulty of descrying the racial identities of the peoples related to the early cultures of the Near East, we may attempt to derive a fuller view of their affiliations by resorting to sacred and mythological texts. In this regard, the Biblical ‘Table of Nations’ in Genesis 10-11 is of considerable value. Genesis 10:1 gives Shem, Ham and Japheth as the three ‘sons’ of Noah. Genesis 11:2 also mentions that Shem, Ham and Japheth originally lived together and journeyed ‘from the east’ (presumably Elam) to Shinar, or Sumer (from [Emesal dialect] Shengir=[Sumerian] Kengir). The Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic peoples mentioned in the Bible are thus all closely related as part of the original Noachidian race.
According to the ‘Table of Nations’, in Genesis 10:22, the earliest Semites were located in Elam, in western Iran, and contributed to the neighboring Assyrian state as well as to the formation of the Aramean and Hebrew races. The Elamite language however is, unlike the Semitic, agglutinative and bears similarities with Hurrian and Dravidian. F. Bork and G.W. Brown, for instance, have revealed the intimate linguistic relationship between Hurrian (along with its Mitanni dialect), Elamite, and Dravidian. In this context we may recall that, according to the Bhāgavata Purāna, VIII,24, the survivor of the “flood”, Manu (the counterpart of Noah) is himself called Satyavrata, King of Drāvida.
Ancient Near East Cultures
As regards the extent of the diffusion of proto-Dravidian culture, we may rely on Lahovary’s pioneering research into the ‘Mediterranean race’, which he identified with the Dravidian, and considered as being the original inhabitants of the ancient Near East “in its largest meaning”, that is, including “Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Caucasia, Persia, Mesopotamia with its extensions towards India, as well as Arabia and the African regions facing Arabia, i.e. from the Nile valley to the high tablelands of East Africa”.
Although the Hurrians are attested in historical records only from the eastern Semitic Old Akkadian period (ca. 2340-2200 BC) and more particularly in the following Sumerian Ur III period (ca. 2100-2000 BC), the fact that the Hurrians, as Wilhelm has shown, are in all probability identical to the Subarians may advance their presence in Mesopotamia to a much earlier date.
Of the early Ubaid culture of southern Mesopotamia, Eridu – which dates from around 5400 BC – shows marked Elamite affinities. The relics from the Ubaid culture have, interestingly, been described by Landsberger as indicative of a predominantly agricultural society, which later mingled with a more ‘professional’ Sumerian stratum that included scribes, physicians, and judges.
The Subarians were traditionally identified as a northern highland people, though they may have moved south to Elam as well. According to Speiser, the original name of Ku’ara (near Eridu) in the early dynasty of Uruk (ca. 2900-2400 BC) – “HA.A” – may also be of Subarian, or proto-Hurrian origin. The very term “subari” or, more precisely, “suwari”, is related to Suvalliyat (Suvariya)/Sūrya, which is also the Hititte/Indic name of the sun-god. Hurri then would be the Iranian pronunciation of the same name, as the Iranian name of the sun-god, “Hvare”, suggests. And the entire Hurrian ethnos may have been characterised by sun-worship. It is possible that the proto-Hurrians, or proto-Dravidians, typified the original Noachidian family.
It cannot be forgotten that the Japhetic, or Āryan, branch too was early related to the same Noachidian family. Gordon Childe’s conjecture regarding the ‘Mediterranean’ aspect of the earliest populations of the large region between West Asia and Central Europe seems to be confirmed archaeologically by the fact that the graves of the Āryan culture of Bishkent (ca. 1700-1500 BC) related to the northern Bactro-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) have also yielded mostly Mediterranean skeletons.
The youngest branch of the Noachidian race, the Hamites, are stated in the Biblical Table of Nations to be the actual founders of Sumerian and Egyptian cultures since Kush (Sumer) and Mestraim (Egypt) are the sons of Ham.
Influence of the Curse of Babel
According to Genesis 11: 1-9, the Semites, Hamites and Japhetites that are located in the ‘east’ (perhaps Elam) were split into different branches speaking different languages following the curse of Babel. So it is likely that the language of the early Mesopotamian Ubaid culture (ca. 6500-3800 BC) of Elam and Eridu as well as of the earliest Uruk (ca. 4000-3200 BC) and the Semitic proto-Akkadian Kish (ca. 3100 BC), was a common Noachidian one, perhaps a form of (agglutinative) proto-Dravidian/proto-Hurrian, whereas the languages of the Akkadian period (ca. 2300 BC) were already split into (inflected) Akkadian, (agglutinative) Sumerian, (agglutinative) Elamite and (inflected) Āryan.
The king associated with Babel, where the different branches of the original Noachidian family split into separate cultures, is the Hamitic king, Nimrod, the son of Cush. It is difficult to identify Nimrod with any one of the rulers of Mesopotamia. Levin, for example, suggests that he is a recollection of the famous eastern Semitic ruler Sargon of Akkad (fl. 23rd century BC), who also called himself King of Kish (which may represent the Biblical Cush). In Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (Biblical Antiquities) (1st century AD), besides, the Tower of Babel was constructed not just by Nimrod, ruler of the Hamites, but also by Joktan, prince of the Semites, and Phenech, as ruler of the Japhetites. Seely considers the date of the building of the tower to have been between 3500-2400 BC, though it may have been later than the first settlement of Kish around 3100 BC.
The dating of the Tower of Babel is significant because, although the vast majority of the people in the Mesopotamian region seem to have been of the Mediterranean type, there is a noticeable difference in the Uruk culture of Sumer (fl. 3500 BC), as well as in early Egypt, between an early stratum of Mediterranean folk and a later brachycephalic, or “Armenoid” one. A major difference that is evident between the Ubaid and Uruk cultures is their respective customs of interment, with the former favoring an extended posture of the corpse and the latter a flexed. While the skulls found in the graves of the Ubaid period are all dolicocephalic and “Mediterranean”, those of the subsequent Uruk culture are mixed, showing at first a “predominance of brachycephali” which is gradually replaced by dolichocephaly. The new race thus seems to have been fully assimilated into the older population.
What of Egypt?
The brachycephalic skulls of Uruk are similar to those found also in early dynastic Egypt. As regards the oldest Egyptian civilization, which we may characterize as Hamitic, following the Bible and Malalas, it is chiefly characterized by the pottery of the area around Badari and Wadi Hammamat. Petrie identified the group around Wadi Hammamat as “Punites”, or the people who came from Punt and worshipped Min of Coptos. Wilkinson, however, has recently claimed that the petroglyphs from the Badarian period (5000-4000 BC) suggest that the origin of Egyptian civilization is to be found in the Eastern Desert itself. Wilkinson maintains that the people who made the petroglyphs were indigenous Badarians since their boat drawings are earlier than those of the Mesopotamians whom Winkler had considered as the source of his hypothetical group of “Eastern Invaders”.
However, even though the Badarians may have been long settled in Egypt, it is possible that the Badarians themselves were not originally native to Egypt since the “rippling” evidenced in their ceramic decorations also bears a resemblance to that of the Palestinians. This Badarian or “Punite” race may thus have been the Hamitic branch of the proto-Dravidian/Hurrian race which first settled Elam, though the latter was probably original to Anatolia whence it spread to both Elam and Palestine.
Nevertheless, both in the case of pre-dynastic Egyptians of Naga-ed-der and Giza, and in the case of the Naqada “New Race” graves, G.E. Smith and W.M.F. Petrie, respectively, pointed to the evidence of an intrusive “Armenoid” race that should be distinguished from the original founders of Egyptian civilization. Smith noticed the difference between the indigenous dolicocephalic variety and the alien brachycephalic type both at Naga-ed-der near Abydos and Giza in the Delta, that is, both in Upper and Lower Egypt. This New Race, also called the Dynastic Race, may have been characteristically brachycephalic, big boned and light-skinned, whereas the Mediterraneans are dolicephalic, small boned and brown. They are in all probability identifiable with the Armenoid, or Alpine, branch of the Indo-Europeans related to the Biblical Japheth.
This Armenoid type seems to have, already in the fourth millennium BC, entered the Nile Delta from Palestine and Syria, but, as Petrie points out, the type is equally present in Libya and could have entered Egypt from the west as well. In fact, Petrie notices family resemblances between the “new race”, as he calls them, and the Libyans, Palestinians, Amorites, as well as the earliest inhabitants of Mycenae, Cyprus and even central Italy. Crete in its Neolithic period seemed to Sir Arthur Evans to be “an insular offshoot of an extensive Anatolian province”. The name of the legendary king Minos of Crete is cognate with Manu/Menes [representing the First Man]and this may be due to their racial relation to the “Armenoid” Egyptians of the Delta, and to those farther west, in Libya, in the period immediately following the Neolithic.
The arrival of the new race is dated by Petrie to around 3200 BC, that is, at the time of the Uruk culture, the rise of which may have been dependent on the infusion of newcomers into a more indigenous Mesopotamian society. As in Mesopotamia, the arrival of the “New Race” in Naqada coincides with the emergence of a greater complexity of social organization. The culture of the later dynastic Egyptians probably involved a fusion of the original Badarian with the “New Race”.
Although the Smith-Petrie theory of the new race has been discounted by contemporary historians, it has been revived recently by a couple of British historians such as David Rohl and Michael Price. And it is quite possible that the “Hamitic” founders of Egyptian dynastic culture and of Sumer may have benefited from an interaction with a rather different race that has been called the New Race, or the Dynastic Race. For a clearer identification of this New Race, we may have to turn to the Beaker Folk who appeared throughout Europe and North Africa in the third millennium BC.
Part II Coming Soon
Top image: Noah’s Sacrifice – watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot (Public Domain)
G. Childe, The Dawn of European Civilization, London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1961, p.109.
G.E. Smith, The Ancient Egytians and the Origin of Civilization, London: Harper, 1923,
F. Bork, “Die Mitanni Sprache”, MVAG, I and II, 1909.
G.W. Brown, “The Possibility of a Connection between Mitanni and the Dravidian languages”, JAOS, 50 (1930), 273-305.
N. Lahovary, tr. K.A. Nilakantan, Dravidian Origins and the West: Newly discovered ties with the ancient culture and languages, including Basque, of the pre-Indo-European Mediterranean world, Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963, p.2.
E.A. Speiser, “The Hurrian participation in the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine”, Cahiers d’Histoire Mondiale, I,2 (1953), p.313).
G. Wilhelm, The Hurrians, tr. J. Barnes, Warminster: Aris and Phillips Ltd., 1989, p.1.
Interpreter’s Bible, N.Y.: Abingdon Press, 1952, p.665)
B. Landsberger, “The Sumerians” (1943), in Three Essays on the Sumerians, tr. M. De J. Ellis, Los Angeles: Undena Publications, n.d., p.11f.
E. Speiser, Mesopotamian Origins: The basic population of the Near East, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930, p.38f.
A. Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of the Indo-Europeans, Hildeheim: G. Olms, 2005, ‘Introduction’, and Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012, Ch.IV.
A. Parpola, “The Problem of the Aryans and the Soma”, in G. Erdosy (ed.), The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p.366.
The Interpreter’s Bible, I:560.
Yigal Levin, “Nimrod the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Sumer and Akkad”. Vetus Testamentum. Vol. 52 (2002), pp. 350–356.
J.P. Mallory and Victor Mair, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, London: Thames & Hudson, pp.314-8).
Paul H. Seely, ‘The Date of the Tower of Babel and some theological
Implications’, Westminister Theological Journal, 63 (2001), 15-38.
 Short-headed, as distinct from dolicocephalic, long-headed.
J. Oates, “Ur and Eridu”, p. 42; cf. the same flexed position in the Naqada graves studied by DeMorgan (see G.E. Smith, op.cit., p.89)
H. Frankfort, op.cit., p.9.
G. P.Verbrugghe and J.M. Wickersham, Berossus and Manetho, introduced and translated: Native Traditions in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, p.153).
W.M.F. Petrie and J.E. Quibell, Naqada and Ballas, London: Bernard Quaritch, 1896, p.59ff.
T. Wilkinson, Genesis of the Pharoahs, London: Thames and Hudson, 2003.
S. Mercer, Horus Royal God of Egypt, Grafton, MA: Society of Oriental Research, 1942, pp.5ff.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt III:63.
G. Steindorf, Aniba, Serv. des Antiquités del’Egypte, Glückstadt, 1935, p.2.
Cf. A. Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2005, ‘Introduction; Brahman: A Study of the Solar Rituals of the Indo-Europeans, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2012, Ch.IV
G.E. Smith, op.cit.
A. Jacob, ‘The Dynastic Race and the Biblical Japheth II’.
The earliest Greeks may also have been part of the Celto-Scythians who emerged in Europe as the Beaker Folk (see the reference to the ‘Italic’ Thoth in Malalas, fn.22 above).
G. Childe, op.cit., p.17. Evans also pointed out the similarities between the cod-pieces of the ancient Libyans and those of the early Bronze Age Minoans (see S. Hood, The Minoans: Crete in the Bronze Age, London: Thames and Hudson, 1971, p.30f).
G. Childe, The Dawn of European Civilization, London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1961, p.109. The German evidence for this type dates from the late chalcolithic period (early 4th millenium B.C.) called Danube III.
David Rohl, Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation, London: Century, 1998.
Michael Price, Egypt’s Making, London: Routledge, 1990.
This article (The ‘Dynastic Race’ and the Biblical ‘Japheth’ – Part I: After the Deluge) was originally published on Ancient Origins and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.