Sumerian creation myth

The origins of human beings according to ancient Sumerian texts

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Sumer, or the ‘land of civilized kings’, flourished in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq, around 4500 BC. Sumerians created an advanced civilization with its own system of elaborate language and writing, architecture and arts, astronomy and mathematics. Their religious system was a complex one comprised of hundreds of gods. According to the ancient texts, each Sumerian city was guarded by its own god; and while humans and gods used to live together, the humans were servants to the gods.

The Sumerian creation myth can be found on a tablet in Nippur, an ancient Mesopotamian city founded in approximately 5000 BC.

The creation of Earth ( Enuma Elish ) according to the Sumerian tablets begins like this:

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being...

Sumerian mythology claims that, in the beginning, human-like gods ruled over Earth. When they came to the Earth, there was much work to be done and these gods toiled the soil, digging to make it habitable and mining its minerals.

The texts mention that at some point the gods mutinied against their labour.

When the gods like men
Bore the work and suffered the toll
The toil of the gods was great,
The work was heavy, the distress was much.

Anu, the god of gods, agreed that their labour was too great. His son Enki, or Ea, proposed to create man to bear the labour, and so, with the help of his half-sister Ninki, he did. A god was put to death, and his body and blood was mixed with clay. From that material the first human being was created, in likeness to the gods.

You have slaughtered a god together
With his personality
I have removed your heavy work
I have imposed your toil on man.

In the clay, god and man
Shall be bound,
To a unity brought together;
So that to the end of days
The Flesh and the Soul
Which in a god have ripened –
That soul in a blood-kinship be bound.

This first man was created in Eden, a Sumerian word which means ‘flat terrain’. In the Epic of Gilgamesh , Eden is mentioned as the garden of the gods and is located somewhere in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Sumerian tablet depicting Enki in the creation myth. (

Initially human beings were unable to reproduce on their own, but were later modified with the help of Enki and Ninki. Thus, Adapa was created as a fully functional and independent human being. This ‘modification’ was done without the approval of Enki’s brother, Enlil, and a conflict between the gods began. Enlil became the adversary of man, and the Sumerian tablet mentions that men served gods and went through much hardship and suffering.

Adapa, with the help of Enki, ascended to Anu where he failed to answer a question about ‘the bread and water of life’. Opinions vary on the similarities between this creation story and the biblical story of Adam and Eve in Eden.

Featured image: Sumerian chaos monster and sun god. ( Wikipedia)

Note: Ancient Sumerian translations were taken from William Bramley’s book, The Gods of Eden .

Related Links

Adam and Adapa: Two Anthropological characters

Sumerian creation myth

Enuma Elish - The Epic of Creation

Sumerian Myths of Origins

Sumerian Deities

Related Books


By John Black


I am trying to find texts/translations of the Sumerian tablets that are being referred to here. Could you please point me to some colleges/universities that have documented translations. Please don't point me to individuals that have published their own information. I would like good educational analysis. Thank you.

Sorry to Inform you but the University and college translations are exactly what you say you do not want to be pointed to, due to the scant amount of scholars that can actually read the texts.The ones that can have learnt from those that came before, therefore any grammatical errors will be passed on as truth.
The writings as far as scholars are concerned began during the Uruk 3 period circa 3rd millenium BCE, the problem here is that Sumer had already begun as an area of independent city states with Kish then called Kissi being the oldest known, and predated the Uruk 3 period by many many centuries( can anybody see a problem with that?) The languages of the area being known as an sprachbund which is a fancy name for a group of different peoples( nations ) sharing a language base but having different dialects a bit like spanglish, so this is purely guess work on the part of scholars due to the close proximity of of the different nations they tended to borrow words and introduce them into their own language something scholars in todays age DO NOT INCORPORATE but the citizenry do. the language of the sumerians was used in most official texts (and used much like latin is today), far and wide up until the 1st century AD. In my opinion the scholars who are closest to the right translations are those that are native semitic speakers, something that the chroniclers of the corpus where not . I am not suggest they are wrong , for the most part they seem to be correct , but mistranslating of one word offers many problems. the Grammatical overview is not dissimilar to Chinese, and those that can speak Chinese are aware of the very small tonal differences that can change the meaning of a word.
Even the father of Sumerology Samuel Kramer changed his mind on what meant what up until his dying day. scholars also seem to forget the words of the worlds first known librarian ,historian, archaeologist,and a great empire builder who was never meant to be King his name- Ashurbanipal; “The god of scribes has bestowed on me the gift of the knowledge of his art. I have been initiated into the secrets of writing. I can even read the intricate tablets in Shumerian; I understand the enigmatic words in the stone carvings from the days before the Flood ......
which to me denotes a time well before the Uruk 3 period but the corpus says otherwise so Ashurbanpal must be wrong, No I suggest the corpus is wrong and the scholars mistaken.

So before dismissing those that have written their own works but have doctorates or otherwise in other areas bare the above in mind remember Einstien was called stupid by his school teacher and became a clerk before his meteoric rise to international stardom for his brilliant and immense Intelligence.
Marie Curie was a brilliant scientist in a day when women knew nothing of such things (apparently) point is many people make important contributions outside their own field.

None of this has anything to do with the actual origin of creation. It is fascinating that these created beings arrived from some other planet, but they are simply created phenomena and not the origin of the universe.

my little piece of this is this: one of the perennial questions about the flood is "where did the water come from?"
the answer has two parts, as far as my reading informs me (and I read a LOT).

1) the atmosphere has not always been the way it is now. long ago, pre-flood, it did not rain, for example. rather, the atmosphere, which now is often clear with the familiar bright blue sky, was misty. all of the water was in the air. it did not condense into clouds, which not only form the white, puffy things we see but also the clear air around them. think about it: condensation forms clouds by gathering-together water vapor. this forms clouds as well as clear air. also, it seems the mist would rise and fall with the day/night cycle. the morning dew is what watered the plants. atmospheric water, heavy vapor that kept the sky misty and hazy, also shielded the surface from solar radiation which may help explain ancient stories of long lives. water is an excellent radiation shield. if you look at "normal" human aging alongside the effects of radiation exposure, they look identical.

2) star-water. atmospheric oxygen gets bombarded by solar hydrogen, the solar wind, and under certain circumstances water simply forms in the atmosphere. we have seen this in dramatic action over the last few years in the great floods that are occurring in the US and elsewhere. satellites with time-lapse video allow us to see the points at which water simply forms in the air and falls onto the ground. atmospheric science is being re-written constantly now. during the flooding of the last couple of years the question keeps coming up: "where is all the water coming from?" because the current models do not allow for the amount of water that is falling to have been generated by the processes that science has in place.

The Enuma Elish and other stories are valuable to us in that they show us that our biblically focused history is not what we are told. But we have to be careful in our interpretation. they did not think like we think. their assumptions were different. their truth was different. they were different animals than we are.

Did Oannes and Dagon and others of the Nommo from Sirius actually land in celestial eggs and then walk out of the sea each evening to teach humanity about agriculture, math, astronomy, and law? maybe. Were the Nommo the Anunna? Maybe. It certainly appears that way in a fair reading of comparative cultural/historical literature. The Dogon of Africa say so, and they knew of Sirius B eons ago. The Popes hat says so.

But what does that mean for us? It is a historical arc for the human animal but are we that?

To my mind the human animal is a vehicle, a vessel of evolution that the "real" entity inside of each of us inhabits. It is one among many. And so the history of this place, of the species in which we participate is interesting, but it is not defining.

Enki and Enlil (who is NinMa) raised a ruckus when they helped to shape the thinking man from the pre-Adamite ape-man who was that hairy black dude in "2001 A Space Odyssey". They gave to that creature the spark of divinity, the intellectual potential that made us such a good critter to live in and through for our own purposes. But we are not that. We are that which is More than that. As they say "Taht vam Asi", Atman is Brahman.

I misspoke about Enlil, above. It was not Enlil, as everyone will know. Apologies but I do not find an "Edit" button. "Nin" can be translated as the royal term "Lady", and "Ki" can be translated as "Earth" or "level" or even "here". NinKi, who was the female half of the rogue team that altered early "man" via genetic tinkering, is NinMa. It is from the NinMa of the Anunna/Nommo that we get the phrase so familiar to humanity, the simple utterance that every child learns - "Ma" and form which we make Mom and Mommy, those magical words.


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