Photo of Zecharia Sitchin (left)(CC0)Akkadian cylinder seal dating to circa 2300 BC depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, and Enki, three members of the Anunnaki.(right)

Zecharia Sitchin and the Mistranslation of Sumerian Texts

(Read the article on one page)

In a previous 2-part article (1), the authors wrote about the faulty associations of the Sumerian deities known as the Anunnaki as they are portrayed in the books, television series, and other media, which promotes Ancient Astronaut Theory (hereafter “A.A.T.”). The article traced the portrayal of the Anunnaki popularized by A.A.T. back to Zecharia Sitchin’s Earth Chronicles book series, and pointed out that Sitchin’s version of the Anunnaki appear nowhere in ancient Sumerian literature. Since the publication of the original article, there have been requests for more background on the discrepancies between what the Sumerian texts actually say, and Sitchin’s personal “translations” which supposedly occurred in the 1970s. This article offers more details on this subject, and also presents some of the reasons why the authors feel that it could be of some importance to regard Sitchin’s legacy with a certain degree of skepticism. 

The Anunnaki

Central to Sitchin’s narrative are a group of alien beings known as the Anunnaki, whom he claimed crossed their own DNA with that of Homo erectus in order to create mankind—for the purpose of using humans as slaves to mine gold and other minerals. Today these Anunnaki are often variously portrayed in A.A.T. literature as the scientific equivalent of the creator of the human race as portrayed in numerous religions. Anunnaki actually means “Princely Seed” or “Princely (royal) blood”. Sitchin’s translation of Anunnaki as “those who from heaven came” is itself an error or was completely fabricated, and all modern translations of the term in this fashion are merely relying on Sitchin’s own publications. Scholars are free to search the entire spectrum of Sumerian literature at The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (2) to test any of the terms referenced by Sitchin or the present article for themselves.

Four copper-alloy statuettes dating to c. 2130 BC, depicting four ancient Mesopotamian gods, wearing characteristic horned crowns.  

Four copper-alloy statuettes dating to c. 2130 BC, depicting four ancient Mesopotamian gods, wearing characteristic horned crowns. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In the wake of the popular reception of Sitchin’s books, a plethora of popular media have followed his lead in claiming that the Sumerian literature portrays the Anunnaki as a group of alien beings who descended to the earth in flying vehicles, in space suits, or other paraphernalia. There is no such depiction of the Anunnaki in the Sumerian texts. In fact, the closest match to these portrayals is a description of “The Anunna, the (gods, deities) whom An (or Anu) conceived in the sky.”

The Anunnaki are never depicted as alien space gods in Sumerian art and iconography, and those symbols which Sitchin’s legacy has led many to believe represent them actually refer to other deities. For instance, the winged disks and crescents, which proliferate so much Sumerian iconography, actually represent specific solar and lunar deities—not the Anunnaki.

1st Millennium seal showing a worshipper and a fish-garbed sage before a stylized tree with a crescent moon & winged disk set above it. Behind this group is another plant-form with a radiant star and the Star-Cluster (Pleiades cluster) above.

1st Millennium seal showing a worshipper and a fish-garbed sage before a stylized tree with a crescent moon & winged disk set above it. Behind this group is another plant-form with a radiant star and the Star-Cluster (Pleiades cluster) above. ( Public Domain )

Ancient Gold Diggers

Regarding the subject of ancient divinities mining gold, it may surprise many readers to learn that Sitchin himself never provided a textual reference from the Sumerian corpus to support this theory, which has gained incredible popularity. A search of the instances of gold as found in the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature fails to find any reference to ancient gods mining gold. In The 12 th Planet , Sitchin claims that Bel Nimiki (an exaltation of Ea) should be translated “Lord of Mining”. However, there is no justification for this translation, and neither do any of the portrayals of Ea in the Sumerian texts associate him with lordship over ancient gold mines. In reality Ea is routinely associated with wisdom or knowledge, providing further grounds for the common translation of Bel Nimiki as meaning “Lord of Wisdom”.

Detail of Enki (Ea) from the Adda seal

Detail of Enki (Ea) from the Adda seal ( Public Domain )

The Sumerian corpus nowhere states that the creation of Adamah or mankind was done so that humanity could serve as a slave species to mine gold, and it certainly does not depict an Anunnaki scientist crossing alien DNA with primates. Sumerian literature plainly tells the story of humanity being created by the gods to assist in the process of creation itself. As humans multiplied and grew too noisome, the gods became annoyed and sent a great deluge to wipe them out. The cuneiform has it that one man was instructed to build a boat, and he and his family and select animals were saved from the seven days and seven nights of rain which caused the flood.   


Well said! I agree this has become an industry to peddle books. The underlying seagoing Canaanites/Phoenician belief systems seem to have commonalities with Minoan iconography. My own view is that what maybe represented is actually study of the celestial bodies and stars over a very long period, but the underlying principles have becoming lost/morphed over time. The Minoan iconography seems to be based upon four principle deities that represent cardinal directions and planets, that may have led to confusion. Mother Earth - looking to Thuban the snake, pole star in the Draco constellation, flanked by two griffins that may be the guardians of universe, what we now call procession of the equinox. A male deity the master of domesticated animals - the sun (south) and his twin sister - the virgin mistress of animals, moon and west, and his consort the planet Venus and east - sunrise. These can also be used for time, seasons. The Phoenician seem to use likely different deities but also seem to be related. This is far more interesting than crazy alien stories and you don't need to understand cuniform to work out some are peddling a tall tale, the iconography shows that it may relate to celestial bodies, signs of the zodiac and constellations that are useful for both agriculture and navigation which they both were good at.

Fish garbed sage looks like Dagon to me.

Yes. He is Dagon. I thought the fish associated with Enki made him Dagon as well, which also makes him Oannes, which is "John" who is also Iseu/Jesus.

It gets murky, fast.

Also, the "A.A.T" explains the sudden appearance of the SUmerians themselves, their math, language, culture, and everything else about them.

Absent the A.A.T. there is NO explanation for these things. None.

Forgot, the four copper statuettes may be priests looking into a pool of water to obverse the sun/eclipse of Venus. I have seen exactly the same scene with Minoan prestress. Noting the gender centricity of each culture. I, like you, wish this science section was more science and discussion of ancient tech, rather than sensational.

*yawn* I have heard this line of argument before. Sitchin claims that the mainstream has mistranslated a particular term, and the response is, "Sitchin is wrong! Look at such-and-such official dictionary over there!" You haven't proven a thing, you've just appealed to authority.


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Ancient Technology

The Lycurgus Cup.
A strange chalice made its way into the British Museum’s collection in the 1950s. It is a 1,600-year-old jade green Roman artifact called the Lycurgus Cup. The image on the chalice is an iconic scene with King Lycurgus of Thrace...

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article