Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Prehistoric Babylonia--The Confederacies of Sumer and Akkad--Sumerian Racial Affinities--Theories of Mongolian and Ural-Altaic Origins--Evidence of Russian Turkestan--Beginnings of Agriculture--Remarkable Proofs from Prehistoric Egyptian Graves--Sumerians and the Mediterranean Race--Present-day Types in Western Asia--The Evidence of Crania--Origin of the Akkadians--The Semitic Blend--Races in Ancient Palestine--Southward Drift of Armenoid Peoples--The Rephaims of the Bible--Akkadians attain Political Supremacy in Northern Babylonia--Influence of Sumerian Culture--Beginnings of Civilization--Progress in the Neolithic Age--Position of Women in Early Communities--Their Legal Status in Ancient Babylonia--Influence in Social and Religious Life--The "Woman's Language"--Goddess who inspired Poets.
Much controversy has been waged regarding the original home of the Sumerians and the particular racial type which they represented. One theory connects them with the lank-haired and beardless Mongolians, and it is asserted on the evidence afforded by early sculptural reliefs that they were similarly oblique-eyed. As they also spoke an agglutinative language, it is suggested that they were descended from the same parent stock as the Chinese in an ancient Parthian homeland. If, however, the oblique eye was not the result of faulty and primitive art, it is evident that the Mongolian type, which is invariably found to be remarkably persistent in racial blends, did not survive in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, for in the finer and more exact sculpture work of the later Sumerian period the eyes of the ruling classes are found to be similar to those of the Ancient Egyptians and southern Europeans. Other facial characteristics suggest that a Mongolian racial connection is highly improbable; the prominent Sumerian nose, for instance, is quite unlike the Chinese, which is diminutive. Nor can far-reaching conclusions be drawn from the scanty linguistic evidence at our disposal. Although the languages of the Sumerians and long-headed Chinese are of the agglutinative variety, so are those also which are spoken by the broad-headed Turks and Magyars of Hungary, the broad-headed and long-headed, dark and fair Finns, and the brunet and short-statured Basques with pear-shaped faces, who are regarded as a variation of the Mediterranean race with distinctive characteristics developed in isolation. Languages afford no sure indication of racial origins or affinities.
Another theory connects the Sumerians with the broad-headed peoples of the Western Asian plains and plateaus, who are vaguely grouped as Ural-Altaic stock and are represented by the present-day Turks and the dark variety of Finns. It is assumed that they migrated southward in remote times in consequence of tribal pressure caused by changing climatic conditions, and abandoned a purely pastoral for an agricultural life. The late Sumerian sculpture work again presents difficulties in this connection, for the faces and bulging occiputs suggest rather a long-headed than a broad-headed type, and the theory no longer obtains that new habits of life alter skull forms which are usually associated with other distinctive traits in the structure of skeletons. These broad-headed nomadic peoples of the Steppes are allied to Tatar stock, and distinguished from the pure Mongols by their abundance of wavy hair and beard. The fact that the Sumerians shaved their scalps and faces is highly suggestive in this connection. From the earliest times it has been the habit of most peoples to emphasize their racial characteristics so as to be able, one may suggest, to distinguish readily a friend from a foeman. At any rate this fact is generally recognized by ethnologists. The Basques, for instance, shave their pointed chins and sometimes grow short side whiskers to increase the distinctive pear-shape which is given to their faces by their prominent temples. In contrast, their neighbours, the Andalusians, grow chin whiskers to broaden their already rounded chins, and to distinguish them markedly from the Basques. Another example of similar character is afforded in Asia Minor, where the skulls of the children of long-headed Kurds are narrowed, and those of the children of broad-headed Armenians made flatter behind as a result of systematic pressure applied by using cradle boards. In this way these rival peoples accentuate their contrasting head forms, which at times may, no doubt, show a tendency towards variation as a result of the crossment of types. When it is found, therefore, that the Sumerians, like the Ancient Egyptians, were in the habit of shaving, their ethnic affinities should be looked for among a naturally glabrous rather than a heavily-bearded people.