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


Hello Tsurugi,

You asked:
"Why do you think the biblical flood is connected to creation myths"?

Because, as I wrote above, the contours of the Milky Way is mythically named and mentioned as "the great river in the Sky".

Thus, this great river runs/floats in the (night) Sky and it can be observed "running all OVER the Earth" up in the Sky.

This ancient myth is confused be historic interpreters and modern scholars and interpreted as "a river coming from the Sky (from the God in the Sky), running down on, and all over the surface of the Earth". (Google Milky Way Mythology)

The two hemisphere Milky Way contours are also named by ancient people as "huge boats in the sky" because the Milky Way shows up a crescent figure on each hemispheres and when one mark the celestial poles on each hemispheres, these two crescent figures seemingly revolves around the celestial poles, "sailing around these poles in the Sky". (Google heavenly ship++barque)

The ancient known part of the Universe was at the most connected to what could be observed be the physical eyes and this included the contours of the Milky Way. For instants the Egyptian creator Goddess Hathor, was directly connected to the Milky Way and the Egyptian story of creation, the Ogdoad, speaks specifically of the elementary times before and under the creation of the Milky Way, where all elements came together and created at huge light, Ra, in the Sky from where everything were created. (Google Hathor and Ra)

And, since Hathor and Ra have a very close relationship in the story of creation, this story deals specifically with the Milky Way on which crescent figure Ra is sailing on the night Sky. In this logical way, the connection of the Mythical Flood, the heavenly river, and the Story of Creation is fully explained.

In the Egyptian telling, it is RA and Hathor who sails in the heavenly ship and in the biblical telling, it is Noa and his wife and children. (Google mythical ship)


Tsurugi's picture

Heya Ivar,

Thanks for the detailed answer! All very interesting stuff.

I don't dispute any of it either, the mythos connections you make seem accurate to me.

Still...the presence of known mythological references in the flood story does not mean there was no flood...? It seems like you are assuming that mythological symbolism indicates a purely symbolic narrative or story. But couldn't mythological symbolism be injected into relevant parts of a story about real events? Especially if said event was monstrous, godlike....such as the deluge.

In my opinion, the Flood was a real event. We know that at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, there were meltwater pulses of vast size taking place amidst a world in a state of geological upheaval. Immense tidal waves and glacial waves repeatedly inundated landmasses, and global sea levels rose some 300-400 ft., permanently flooding around twenty five million square miles of costal lowlands.

Humans witnessed and (some)lived through this period. Perhaps the flood stories they told survived to eventually be written down, albeit changed over the years and "mythologicized"....

Hello Tsurugi and thanks for your reply.

Og course there have been numerous factual disasters of floodings all over the world, just as today.

But think about it: The bible state "water completely covering the Earth and after 40 days, the water sank" so Noa coould land the ark on Ararat mountain.

Water covering even the mountains? Where should this amonunt of water come from? And to where did all this water disppear afterwards?

I think this logical questions bins the standing Flood Myths interpretation and qualify the mytho-comsological perception of the Milky Way River running OVER the Earth up in the Sky and not ON the Earth.


Tsurugi's picture

"Water covering even the mountains? Where should this amonunt of water come from? And to where did all this water disppear afterwards?"

Good questions. I don't know the answers, but there are some possibilities.
There are huge reservoirs of water underground, all over the world. Some are ocean-sized. How would these have gotten to the surface, I have no idea...but the Bible does say "the waters came from above and below".
It is also possible that the highest mountains weren't submerged, and it just took a long time(40 days etc) for the ark to drift close to any remaining dry land. By the way, I don't think it says the water was all gone in 40 days....that's just how long it took to find land.

It is difficult to believe or understand how there could have been enough water to totally submerge every bit of dry land on the entire planet. But remember, there are ancient terraced mountain slopes in the Andes that go all the way up to glacial ice and continue even beneath the ice. And there are marine sedimentary deposits in the highest places of the Himalayas. :)


There have probably been severall floodings and of different nature in history, as I am sure you also would believe. My Point with this statement is that a more local flooding would posibly manage a greater change of the water level as compared to a global one. For example, it is clear that the mediteranian sea have been isolated and partly dried out with a much lower coast line, and then at some point, the Atlantic sea broke in. It is supposed that this happened much earlier than to appear in any myth, but proven how?


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