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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 17

Of special interest in this connection is the evidence afforded by Palestine and Egypt. The former country has ever been subject to periodic ethnic disturbances and changes. Its racial history has a remote beginning in the Pleistocene Age. Palaeolithic flints of Chellean and other primitive types have been found in large numbers, and a valuable collection of these is being preserved in a French museum at Jerusalem. In a northern cave fragments of rude pottery, belonging to an early period in the Late Stone Age, have been discovered in association with the bones of the woolly rhinoceros. To a later period belong the series of Gezer cave dwellings, which, according to Professor Macalister, the well-known Palestinian authority, "were occupied by a non-Semitic people of low stature, with thick skulls and showing evidence of the great muscular strength that is essential to savage life".[20] These people are generally supposed to be representatives of the Mediterranean race, which Sergi has found to have been widely distributed throughout Syria and a part of Asia Minor.[21] An interesting problem, however, is raised by the fact that, in one of the caves, there are evidences that the dead were cremated. This was not a Mediterranean custom, nor does it appear to have prevailed outside the Gezer area. If, however, it does not indicate that the kinsmen of the Ancient Egyptians came into contact with the remnants of an earlier people, it may be that the dead of a later people were burned there. The possibility that unidentified types may have contributed to the Semitic blend, however, remains. The Mediterraneans mingled in Northern Syria and Asia Minor with the broad-headed Armenoid peoples who are represented in Europe by the Alpine race. With them they ultimately formed the great Hittite confederacy. These Armenoids were moving southwards at the very dawn of Egyptian history, and nothing is known of their conquests and settlements. Their pioneers, who were probably traders, appear to have begun to enter the Delta region before the close of the Late Stone Age.[22] The earliest outpourings of migrating Arabians may have been in progress about the same time. This early southward drift of Armenoids might account for the presence in southern Palestine, early in the Copper Age, of the tall race referred to in the Bible as the Rephaim or Anakim, "whose power was broken only by the Hebrew invaders".[23] Joshua drove them out of Hebron,[24] in the neighbourhood of which Abraham had purchased a burial cave from Ephron, the Hittite.[25] Apparently a system of land laws prevailed in Palestine at this early period. It is of special interest for us to note that in Abraham's day and afterwards, the landed proprietors in the country of the Rephaim were identified with the aliens from Asia Minor--the tall variety in the Hittite confederacy.

Little doubt need remain that the Arabians during their sojourn in Palestine and Syria met with distinctive types, and if not with pure Armenoids, at any rate with peoples having Armenoid traits. The consequent multiplication of tribes, and the gradual pressure exercised by the constant stream of immigrants from Arabia and Asia Minor, must have kept this part of Western Asia in a constant state of unrest. Fresh migrations of the surplus stock were evidently propelled towards Egypt in one direction, and the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates in another. The Semites of Akkad were probably the conquerors of the more highly civilized Sumerians, who must have previously occupied that area. It is possible that they owed their success to the possession of superior weapons. Professor Elliot Smith suggests in this connection that the Arabians had become familiar with the use of copper as a result of contact with the Egyptians in Sinai. There is no evidence, however, that the Sumerians were attacked before they had begun to make metal weapons. It is more probable that the invading nomads had superior military organization and considerable experience in waging war against detached tribal units. They may have also found some of the northern Sumerian city states at war with one another and taken advantage of their unpreparedness to resist a common enemy. The rough Dorians who overran Greece and the fierce Goths who shattered the power of Rome were similarly in a lower state of civilization than the peoples whom they subdued.


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