An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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Archive 6947

THE ORIGINS OF THE BOOK OF THE DEAD. To understand the mythologic literature of Egypt it is needful to have regard to the many sources of population, each of which has in turn probably added to the heterogeneous mass of myths that is seen in the historic times, One great group of myths, known the Pyramid Texts, is particularly the royal religion, identified with the line of kings in the Vth dynasty, and knows nothing of the geography of the Book of the Dead ; as it contains much of remote savagery in its composition, it has clearly been brought in with ancient tribal traditions. On the other hand, the Book of the Dead is the popular mythology, cherished by the majority down to the end of paganism, yet containing much that is very primitive embedded in its structure. Until we obtain a firm outline of the various tribal movements and invasions of prehistoric times, we cannot hope to analyse the confusion of the mythology. There is good hope that, by advancing the study of the varied civilisations side by side with that of the mythology, each may serve to elucidate the other. The discovery of the Badarian civilisation has greatly changed our ideas o f the early history. We are in the presence of an advanced culture, apparently imported, and decaying in Egypt. There is the probability that it came from Asia and connections point to the Caucasus region. This is a very old idea, as Herodotus comments on the traditional connection of the Colchians with Egyptians, and states that in his time they were still alike in customs, way of living, and language. Now, in the Book of the Dead, as Prof. Fessenden has pointed out, a most striking peculiarity is the frequent mention of lakes of fire, not as places of horror, but in the midst of the paradise of cultivation, yet also and high mountains. Such incongruous conditions are not often to be found; they cannot have been suggested by Egypt itself, but certainly belong to some distant region, and the nearest country with such features is the Caucasus, with its oil springs in the midst of the most fertile valley surrounded by barren mountains. The suggestion that the Book of the Dead embodied traditions of the Caucasus region has been noted already in this journal (1924, p. 124). Such a possibility is so important, that it is worth close examination to see whether the evidence is systematic, or is only an accidental resemblance. There are some geographical indications to be gathered in these traditions, places being described as east or west, north or south, up or down stream. So long as the whole descriptions are referred to mere imaginations of a spiritual world, the d etails have been neglected. But if the possibility of a tradition being based on real localities is considered, then the descriptions should be carefully observed. During the present misfortunes in the region of the Caucasus, it is impossible to examine the early civilisations there; all that can be done is to take the evidence of names, so as to prepare the way for testing the conclusions on the actual ground at some future time. The suitability of such a region for civilisation is attested by Strabo (XI, iv, 3); he describes Albania, the lower part of the valley of the Kur, as producing ” every kind of fruit, even the most delicate, and every kind of plant and evergreen; . . . all that is excellent grows without sowing, and without plowing……In many places the ground, which has been sowed once, produces two or three crops, the first of which is even fifty-fold, and that without a fallow . . . The whole plain is better watered than Babylon or Egypt, by rivers and streams, so that it always presents the appearance of heritage. The young trees bear fruit even in the second year, but the full groove yield so much that a large quantity of it is left on the branches. The cattle both tame and wild thrive well in this country. The men are distinguished for beauty of person and for size.” In modern times Maurier, in his guide Guide au Caucase (1894), mentions maize as the main crop, growing seven to ten feet high, and bearing eight hundred-fold. Flax has been an immemorial crop in Mingrelia. These descriptions accord with the fertile Egyptian paradise, with flowing streams and growing corn seven cubits high. The temperature in the winter is that of the south of England in the summer it is like that of northern Lombardy. In looking at the Egyptian traditions, the natural condition of a people who have emigrated must be taken into account. The Norse entering Britain planted the names of their gods in many places; they adopted these places the new homes of their mythology. In modern times, emigrants use names from their old country in new conditions. In the United States there are two or three dozen of each of the names of our principal cities. The spoken form of a name may be commoner than the real form. There are seven Sandfords in England, only one in America, alongside of nineteen Sanfords there. Further, when migrating people are without writing they depend entirely on the spoken names, and when, in later time, the names begin to be written, it is natural for them to be expressed by rebus words, which have nothing to do with the sense, but only show the sound. An unlettered Englishman might address a letter to Livorno by drawing a leg and a horn. It is obvious that the Egyptian form of writing an imported name may appear quite Egyptian in its dress, and yet be a verbal representation of its original sound. In order to test the possible connection of Egyptians with the Caucasus, all the geographical terms of direction associated with place-names must be noted; the names must then be searched for in the Caucuses in the same relative connection, as this greatly limits the range, and so gives further likelihood to such similarities of name as may pass this test. The results of this comparison stated on the accompanying map; the names in capitals are those in the Book of the Dead, those in small type are the classical forms in Ptolemy’s Geography, those in italics are the modern names. One of the most important names is that of the kingdom of Osiris (ch. xviii, cxxvii) or Un-Nefer (ch. xv), called AKRET or IKRET. This is closely like the Greek name of a region in the upper part of the main river, Ekretike, the modern Kartlia; [see note below]. The “Pillars of Shu” were prominent hills over which the sun rose (ch. cix of Nu), therefore somewhere east of the kingdom of AKRET. The gate ZESERT (=TOSORT, Gr) is the gate of the pillars of Shu (ch. xvii), and therefore also east of AKRET; in that relation we se the district of Tosarene. Near ZESERT lay the most fertile plain of the fields of A?RU or I?RU, and thus near Tosarene is the river lora through the midst of Transcaucasia. This river has others on either side of it which receive the mountain torrents, while it only drains a fertile plain free of violent changes, In a Trip through the Eastern Caucasus, 1889, the Hon. John (later Lord) Abercromby describes the level cultivated plains traversed by tile Iora; again, a splendid open grassy space, with abundance of wood and water at an elevation (of 3,600 feet above the sea, with the Iora, and beyond it more wooded hills. The blessed Fields of the Iaru yet had a lake of fire in them, and on the Iora is a great naphtha spring, marked ‘N’ on this map. The fields of Iaru are described as behind, or at the back of the head of K?RU (ch. xvii), and the waters of the Iora start from the mountain at the head of the Kur river. The description rather suggests looking at this region from the Colchis side. From AKRET the Egyptian sailed down the river (ch. xv) to DADU or TATTU; so, descending from Ekretike, the region of Tot, Totene, is reached, half-way to the river mouth. Further on, it is said, the eastern gate of heaven had on its south the lake of KHALUSA (NU, ch. cix); so at the eastern end of the valley, on the south side, was Kholuata, now lake Chalasi. We read that that RESTAU is the DUAT region (ch. xvii) – they are identical. The DUAT had its north gate at ZESERT, Tosarene, and so lay south of that, and in the south-east is Resht, agreeing to the name of RESTAU. To the north of the fields of IARU was the river REU (ch. cxlix) ; and at the north of the Caucasus is the great river Rha, the Volga. BAKHAU is often named; it was a great mountain upon which heaven rested, 9½ by 6½ miles in size, which seems like a real estimate. It was the “Mount Bakhau of the rising sun ” (ch. clxxii, Nebseni): the name seems connected with beka, “the dawn”.” Baku at the eastern end of the Caucasus range agrees with this position. At the other end of the day was the land of sunset, TAMANU (ch. xv, D.6,12; E. 15). The western end of the Caucasus range is the Taman peninsula. So far, we are dealing with places whose position is stated in relation to each other, and which therefore support each other in identification. Other places may less certainly be identified, by the names in a suitable position, but not directly connected one with another. Homage is paid to the divinity of the stars in AUN or 0N, which lay to the west (ch. lxxxv), and the god Annu in ANDES (ch. xv). The stars of the gods are specially the undying ones in the north, and looking no rth from Ekretike there is the city Oni, and the mountains of Andish. The “divine door of the city of BTA” may possibly be the city of Ptua near Totene. ANRUDEE, “it does not increases” the barren region, had DUAT and RESTAU to the south of it (ch. xvii). It seems likely that it was the Caucasus mountain range. There was a lake of fire in that region near the SHENY dwelling (ch. xvii); at the foot of the mountains in Sanua. Not far from this is Mosega, and this might be MESQTO, which was a place of purification, probably by fire (ch. cxxii, clxxvi). ASTES is reached after ANRUDEF (ch. cxlvi), probably the same as ASSET, which is said to be too remote to be seen (ch. cxlix). Both descriptions would agree to the northern place Ashti. DESDES was the lake over which the sun set (ch. XV)) and repeatedly it is claimed that this lake is at peace. ‘The name is literally “the choppy”; from the position, it would refer to the Black Sea, and the prevalent west wind would make it rough on the eastern coast. MAOATI was a lake, of which the heads, or sources, were known (ch. xvii). It is singularly like the name of the lake of Maiotis, or Sea of Azov. The FENKU were a people who gave gifts, which were buried on the shore of the lake MAOATI (ch. cxxv), and they were therefore in its region. This suggests a possible link with Phanagoria at the mouth of Maiotis. In chapter cx there are three lakes drawn, named URMU, QETQETMU, and HETEPMU, or the “great”, the “moving” and the “peaceful” lakes. The name URMU may be linked with Urmia, the large lake south of the Caucasus; if so, the moving and quiet lakes might be lakes Van and Sevan. This list accounts for most of the important names of places in the mythology of the Book of the Dead. Names, however, are very risky material on which to base conclusions; no doubt almost any name may have one or more parallels somewhere in the world, yet here we are dealing with a single region, and the names fall into place in accord with the indications of direction one from another. It seems very improbable that in so limited a field, already indicated by the physical description, more than a dozen names should so closely correspond, without having a real connection. If this localisation should be accepted, it will have much influence on our understanding of the early religion. We may begin to analyse the Book of the Dead into the Caucasian and Nilotic sections. Osiris, repeatedly named as ruler of Akret, will thus be linked to the earliest stratum, and be of northern origin. Byblos may then have been an Osiris sanctuary during the migration through Syria. The strange mention of Sebek at Bakhau looks like some transference of Egyptian ideas. Possibly, the Zeus named by Strabo was Zeus Sabasios of Asia Minor, and so the name Sabas might have been transformed to Sebek on going to Egypt. The mediaeval history of the kingdom of Akret or Ekretike may be here noted, from Telfer’s Crimea and Transcaucasia (1876). The position of Ekretike is that of the modern Imeritia, which kingdom was formerly called Egris (ii, 30). from Egros, son of Thargamos (Togarmah). This Egros seems to be equivalent in another dialect to Karthlos, son of Thargamos (i, 172). From him is named Mount Karthlos and the rivulet Karthly (i, 162, 172). Evidently this district was the great kingdom of the country (see i, 176; ii, 33), with a long tradition of its early importance, which we can now perceive far back in the beginnings of civilisation. In looking at a remote origin for the popular mythology of Egypt, we must remember the persistence of folk -tales and their long antiquity. They are cherished as religious literature even when of secular origin, such as the Tibetan sacred books, which are the racy and vivid stories of north Indian life during the Asok a period. When only transmitted by word of mouths they can survive for thousands of years, like the Eskimo tales which are verbally the same on the Atlantic and Alaska, though the people rarely know anything more than a day’s journey from their own centre. The maintenance of a detailed record of history goes back for many centuries in the African kingdoms, and the Polynesians (in spite of being so scattered) have kept in memory their migrations and colonising of New Zealand. There is, therefore, no improbability in place-names which have been embodied in mythology being preserved for very long periods. It appears, then, that the cultural connections of the earliest Egyptians, as well as the physical descriptions in their mythology, point to the Caucasus region. When, further, we find there the names of the principal places of the mythology in their relative positions, it gives strong grounds for regarding that region as the homeland of the earliest civilisation of the Egyptians. FLINDERS PETRIE. ‘Ancient Egypt’, June 1926. Table of Place Names mentioned by Flinders Petrie on Map. Book of the Dead Ptolemy’s Geography AKRET Ekretike (river) ANDES Andish (mountain) ASTES Ashti BAKHAU Baku BTA Ptua DEDU / TATTU Tot / Totene FENKHU Phanagoria IARU Iora (river) KARA Kur KHALUSA Kholuata MAOATI Maiotis MESQTO Mosega ON Oni RESTAU Resht REU Rha (river) SHENY Sanua TAMANU Taman URMU Urmia ZESE