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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 16

Some light may be thrown on the Sumerian problem by giving consideration to the present-day racial complexion of Western Asia. The importance of evidence of this character has been emphasized elsewhere. In Egypt, for instance, Dr. C.S. Myers has ascertained that the modern peasants have skull forms which are identical with those of their pre-Dynastic ancestors. Mr. Hawes has also demonstrated that the ancient inhabitants of Crete are still represented on that famous island. But even more remarkable is the fact that the distinctive racial type which occupied the Palaeolithic caves of the Dordogne valley in France continues to survive in their vicinity after an interval of over twenty thousand years.[15] It is noteworthy, therefore, to find that in south-western Asia at the present day one particular racial type predominates over all others. Professor Ripley, who summarizes a considerable mass of data in this connection, refers to it as the "Iranian", and says: "It includes the Persians and Kurds, possibly the Ossetes in the Caucasus, and farther to the east a large number of Asiatic tribes, from the Afghans to the Hindus. These peoples are all primarily long-headed and dark brunets. They incline to slenderness of habit, although varying in stature according to circumstances. In them we recognize at once undoubted congeners of our Mediterranean race in Europe. The area of their extension runs off into Africa, through the Egyptians, who are clearly of the same race. Not only the modern peoples, but the Ancient Egyptians and the Phoenicians also have been traced to the same source. By far the largest portion of this part of Western Asia is inhabited by this eastern branch of the Mediterranean race." The broad-headed type "occurs sporadically among a few ethnic remnants in Syria and Mesopotamia".[16] The exhaustive study of thousands of ancient crania in London and Cambridge collections has shown that Mediterranean peoples, having alien traits, the result of early admixture, were distributed between Egypt and the Punjab.[17] Where blending took place, the early type, apparently, continued to predominate; and it appears to be reasserting itself in our own time in Western Asia, as elsewhere. It seems doubtful, therefore, that the ancient Sumerians differed racially from the pre-Dynastic inhabitants of Egypt and the Pelasgians and Iberians of Europe. Indeed, the statuettes from Tello, the site of the Sumerian city of Lagash, display distinctively Mediterranean skull forms and faces. Some of the plump figures of the later period suggest, however, "the particular alien strain" which in Egypt and elsewhere "is always associated with a tendency to the development of fat", in contrast to "the lean and sinewy appearance of most representatives of the Brown race".[18] This change may be accounted for by the presence of the Semites in northern Babylonia.

Whence, then, came these invading Semitic Akkadians of Jewish type? It is generally agreed that they were closely associated with one of the early outpourings of nomadic peoples from Arabia, a country which is favourable for the production of a larger population than it is able to maintain permanently, especially when its natural resources are restricted by a succession of abnormally dry years. In tracing the Akkadians from Arabia, however, we are confronted at the outset with the difficulty that its prehistoric, and many of its present-day, inhabitants are not of the characteristic Semitic type. On the Ancient Egyptian pottery and monuments the Arabs are depicted as men who closely resembled the representatives of the Mediterranean race in the Nile valley and elsewhere. They shaved neither scalps nor faces as did the historic Sumerians and Egyptians, but grew the slight moustache and chin-tuft beard like the Libyans on the north and the majority of the men whose bodies have been preserved in pre-Dynastic graves in the Nile valley. "If", writes Professor Elliot Smith, "the generally accepted view is true, that Arabia was the original home of the Semites, the Arab must have undergone a profound change in his physical characters after he left his homeland and before he reached Babylonia." This authority is of opinion that the Arabians first migrated into Palestine and northern Syria, where they mingled with the southward-migrating Armenoid peoples from Asia Minor. "This blend of Arabs, kinsmen of the proto-Egyptians and Armenoids, would then form the big-nosed, long-bearded Semites, so familiar not only on the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian monuments, but also in the modern Jews."[19] Such a view is in accord with Dr. Hugo Winckler's contention that the flow of Arabian migrations was northwards towards Syria ere it swept through Mesopotamia. It can scarcely be supposed that these invasions of settled districts did not result in the fusion and crossment of racial types and the production of a sub-variety with medium skull form and marked facial characteristics.


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