The origins of human beings according to ancient Sumerian texts

The origins of human beings according to ancient Sumerian texts


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.

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

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


umesh1's picture


umesh1's picture

Woooww Nice Article

1. Giant leaps of faith in interpreting language
2. Even if correct.. Can produce functioning brains and all other systems
3. If you habe that ability then why the necessity in the first place
4. Easier ways to get resources than an independent being

Walter Mattfeld's picture

I understand that Genesis' Adam is a recast not only of Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh, he is a recast also of Adapa of Eridu appearing in the Adapa and the South wind Myth. Adapa (Sumerian Adaba) loses out on a chance to obtain immortality for himself and for mankind because his god (Ea, Sumerian Enki) tricks him, warning him "Do not eat, it is the bread of death, you will die." When the food "bestowing immortality" is later presented, a tricked Adapa, thinking it is the "bread of death," refuses to eat, obeying his god's warning. The Hebrews apparently objected to this account of why man does not have immortality, their God is not a trickster-god and a liar. Man is created in four different locations in the Mesopotamian myths (1) the city of Eridu, (2) the city of Nippur, (3) the city of Babylon, (4) The EDIN (see Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh). Some accounts have Ea/Enki being the creator of mankind, other accounts have Enlil of Nippur being the Creator of man, still other accounts have a goddess (Mami) creating man under Ea's supervision. The city accounts explain man was created to be a gardening slave of the gods, to care for their city-gardens surrounded by the EDIN (the uncultivated wilderness wastes of modern Iraq). The gods have fleshly bodies and can starve to death if they have no earthly food to eat. They have created cities to live in, and fruit-tree gardens to have food to consume and keep themselves alive. Tiring of the toil in clearing clogging silt sediments from irrigation ditches watering their city-gardens, the gods create man to be their gardening slave. Man will clear the canals, man will harvest the crop, man will present the fruits as food offerings at temples for the gods to consume, keeping the gods from starving to death. This contradicts other Mesopotamian accounts that have man in the beginning, not being a gardener of the gods, he is a wild beast, hairy and naked, wandering animal trails in the EDIN, with naked hairy wild animals for companions, such as wild cattle and antelope (see Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh). Because man is a herbivore, eating grass with wild bulls and antelope, they are his companions, for they are herbivores too (Adam and his beastly companions are herbivores in Genesis). Having the reasoning of a wild beast, Enkidu has no knowledge of good and evil, for he is unaware it is wrong to be naked in the EDIN. Only after he meets Shamhat at EDIN'S watering hole, does he come to learn it is wrong to be naked in EDIN, when she offers him some of her clothes to wear. Enkidu is made of a pinch of clay taken from the EDIN by the goddess Aruru, he is to eventually become a companion in arms to Gilgamesh of the city of Uruk. Genesis is refuting these Mesopotamian myths by recasting them with new characters and location. Man, made to be a gardening slave of the gods, is also recalled as having no knowledege it is wrong to be naked, and his companions at first being animals, until Eve (Shamhat) is brought into Eden by Yahewh-Elohim (Sadu the hunter being recast as Yahweh). I cover all this in my book published in 2010 available at on the internet, _The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths_ and a second book _Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origin_, both books are illustrated and an extensive bibliography is provided on PhD scholars who have written on the subject from circa 1850 to 2010. I also have a website, where I post my research on the Bible's Pre-biblical origins as recast Mesopotamian, Canaanite and Greek Myths. At YouTube I have over 70 videos on the Bible under my channel name Walter R. Mattfeld. These videos being under 10 minutes in length, are accompanied by background music and illustrations.

Walter R. Mattfeld

Walter Mattfeld's picture

The Sumerian texts give contradicting and different accounts about the origins of Humankind or Mankind. These differing accounts might arise from different city-states having different ideas about man's origins. The Sumerians called the uncultivated wilderness wastes surrounding their cities the EDIN. These accounts agree on man's first appearance being in this EDIN. They differ, however, in details. One account has man a naked, hairy beast, wandering animal trails in the EDIN with naked, hairy wild animals like himself. He eats grass with his companion beasts, and he has no knowledege of good and evil, for like the beasts of EDIN, he has a beast's reasoning, unaware it is wrong to be naked in the EDIN. His companions are wild cattle and antelopes (see Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh). I understand that Enkidu was recast as Adam and Shamhat was recast as Eve. Shamhat is brought into the EDIN by a hunter called Sadu, her task is to accomplish the fall and undoing of Enkidu, and to supplant his herbivore animal companions with her companionship and then cause him to leave EDIN. This is accomplished via her undressing and arousing his desire for sex. After mating with her, when he returns to EDIN'S beasts, they run from him, a bewildered Enkidu returns to Shamhat and accepts her as his new companion. She tells him "Why run with EDIN'S beasts? A better life awaits him at the city of Uruk!" He accepts her offer, and she thereupon shares her clothing with EDIN'S naked man, and thus Enkidu comes to realize it is wrong to be naked in EDIN. They leave EDIN for Uruk to meet Gilgamesh. At a shepherd's camp in the EDIN he is offered bread and beer, he gapes at this food and refuses to consume these items, for as a beast, he knows only to consume grass and drink water at EDIN'S watering holes. Sizing up the situation Shamhat intervenes, telling Enkidu to consume the proffered items. He obeys her and consumes the bread and beer. Thereupon the shepherds declare he is a beast no longer, he is a human, and like a god, for the gods, eat bread and consume beer. They give Enkidu a fine robe to wear, befitting a god. Later, on his death bed, he curses Shamhat, blaming her for his pending death. He asks his patron god to carry out his curse. The god refuses, scolding Enkidu, telling him she is not deserving of a curse, for she gave him food to eat fit for a god's consumption (beer and bread) and a fine robe to cover his nakedness, fit for a god to wear, and she has introduced him to Gilgamesh, his companion in arms. A chastened Enkidu withdraws his curse with a blessing for Shamhat. I understand that Genesis' author has recast Enkidu and Shamhat as Adam and Eve. Sadu, the hunter, who brought Shamhat to EDIN to remove Enkidu from his beastly companions and remove him from the EDIN, was recast as Yahweh-Elohim, bringing Eve to replace Adam's animal companions and her causing Adam to eat forbidden food and be expelled from EDEN. For further info see my two books published in 2010, available on the internet at Amazon.Com, _Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origins_ and _The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths_. Or visit my website, for articles posted there since December of 2000 (over 2 million page accesses being noted from locations all over the world). I also have a presence on You Tube under the channel name of Walter R. Mattfeld and 70 videos on the Bible's origins in recast Mesopotamian, Canaanite and Greek Myths. Not so well known to many is that the watering hole that Enkidu meets Shamhat at was in the EDIN. How so? Only scholars who can read Sumerian and Akkadian have this esoteric knowledge. Although Sumerian as a language ceased to be by circa 2500 BC, the Babylonian scribes kept it alive down to the 6th century BC, writing literary works completely in Sumerian as well as Akkadian. The Akkadian word seri was often substituted by the Sumerian word EDIN, this substitution is called in technical language a logogram. The Epic of Gilgamesh uses Sumerian logograms, SERI being substituted by EDIN. Uruk, the city Enkidu goes to when leaving the EDIN, appears as a Sumerian logogram, UNUG, Which I understand was recast the city of Enoch founded by Cain in the land of Nod, Cain, being a recast of Gilgamesh.

Walter R. Mattfeld