Is the tower of babel real?

In my studies I have been reading the book A History of the Ancient Near East, by Marc Van De Mieroop. What is interesting is his chapter on the Uruk period, where he mentions the rapid and vast expansion of Uruk culture across the ancient near East, for apparently unknown reasons. Interestingly, John Walton claims that this influence quickly died out, so it is a sudden, rapid, mysterious single vast expansion, coming from Mesopotamia.

Could this be the Babel event?


I found an article on CMI’s site which discusses this period and mentions both Babel and Uruk. This article puts Babel before Uruk. This was published in 1986 so look out for more recent information.
A Better Model for the Stone Age

I’ve been meaning to answer since you posted, but I ended up dropping my reply on the thread about the Ages of Patriarchs. Rather than repost, here’s the link:

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This is frankly ridiculous:

It can be seen that the period from the Flood until the early years of Abraham, if we count the latter at 1,870 B.C., is approximately 432 years. However, Genesis 10:35 against the Genesis 11 genealogy suggests that the catastrophe of Babel may well have been in the fourth generation born after the Flood, which we may approximate to about 100 years. Therefore, we are allowing a post-Babel period until the end of the stone age of 332 years.

The entire stone age is compressed into 332 years. What?! The Tower of Babel was made of brick and mortar, but people somehow possessed that technology before the stone age even ended. What?!

I really don’t know how people come up with this stuff. It reads like a cartoon parody of history. Did the author manage to keep a straight face when he wrote it down for the first time?

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Okay, thanks for your response, and sorry for the wait. The Mesopotamians in particular had stories resembling Genesis precisely because the events of Genesis 1-11 are all local Mesopotamian events.

This is not just an ad hoc position, Genesis 4:17 may in fact refer to Enoch, not Cain, building the city of Eridu (See I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood). The Mesopotamian links of the Eden and Babel stories should go without saying. So there does seem to be somewhat of a focus on Mesopotamia in the primordial stories (probably to prepare for the calling of Abraham from Ur)

See also this article, where Nissim Amzallag links the origin of cities in the Bible to the origin of cities in archaeology: (both suggest an association between early cities and metallurgy)

Which essay? The book is an interesting mix of perspectives, not all of them as conservative as your example.

This has things backwards. Genesis resembles the Mesopotamian stories that were written down in Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform long before the Hebrew alphabet was invented. By the time that Jewish scribes were writing their own history in Hebrew, whatever local events that inspired the Mesopotamian myths were long forgotten.

There’s a more parsimonious explanation. Around 900 B.C., every literate person (scribe) in the ANE was familiar with the Mesopotamian myths they copied in scribal school, especially the flood tablet of Gilgamesh. Knowledge of a flood in Ur (?) two millennia prior wasn’t required for them to recognize the similarities to the story of Noah when they read it.

I never said the stories were copied from hebrew originals, I’m saying the Mesopotamians remembered the original events orally

Okay, sorry if I misunderstood. I didn’t think you meant copied, but it sounded like you were saying the Mesopotamian myths were influenced by Genesis.

I think an original event passed down orally may stand behind some myths, but that mainly applies to the flood. Creation myths are hard to put into that category. What local event could possibly inspire a creation myth? Babel, likewise, is a stretch.

Then, there is the undeniable connection to political propaganda and the appearance of the Sumerian King List and Enmerkar and the Lord of Arratta, both of which are parodied in Genesis 1-11. Those myths were invented to serve the empire-building purposes of Shulgi and his Babylonian/Assyrian successors. Looking for historical antecedents in this or that detail misses the forest for the trees, in my opinion.

The Bible (LXX) dates the Babel event to the mid-third millennium BC, somewhere around 2500 BC

That was the heyday of pyramid building in Egypt (“Great Pyramid of Giza”), and ziggurat building in Iraq (“Tower of Babel”)

These massive building projects, especially in Iraq, contributed to the collapse of Sumerian society at the end of the 3rd millennium BC

Much as the Mayans deforested their lands to build fires to create plaster, the Sumerians plausibly deforested their lands to fire all the mudbricks for their ziggurats…

devastating their environment and pulling the rug out from under their own feet

Sumerian society collapsed, and was invaded by migrants from other areas (plausibly environmental refugees, from some sort of climate shock about 2200-2000 BC)

the unified Sumerian culture collapsed, and was replaced by a multi-ethnic & multi-lingual society

the Biblical memory of the event is accurate & informative, using one specific incident to (efficiently) recall the entire regional era

That’s an interesting way to look at it – I hadn’t thought of it that way before. So you basically see the Babel event not as one specific event but as a composite or representative of many things going on in the world during that time (and hence other possible cases of language confusion/mixing)?

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Of course approached from a scientific perspective (archeology & Occam’s razor) and abandoning the premise that humankind were created de novo and spoke one language, one could reasonably conclude that Homo sapiens reached “full consciousness” and language capability at different times and at different places on the globe. When two tribes met, they had to decipher each other’s language in order to trade goods or wives, or else treat each other as enemies. The Tower of Babel story may just be an accumulation of hundreds of such encounters stored in tribal memory. With the invention of writing, these could be preserved as a single story.
best wishes,
Al Leo

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Well that’s why I love these discussions, really make me think :slight_smile:

Egypt may also have been overrun at the time, and certainly was afterwards

Maybe the Olmecs in meso-America?

History repeats itself, making the biblical event even more of a prescient theme


Exactly where does the Septuagint provide a date for the “Babel event”?

I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but this is off. Shulgi of Ur completed the Great Ziggurat of Ur around 2000 B.C. Interestingly, it had fallen into ruin by the 6th century BC, when it was restored and rebuilt by Nabonidus. He was the last king of Neo-Babylon, defeated by Cyrus.

There have never been forests to burn in southern Iraq, so I don’t think your idea is plausible. Here is a plausible explanation:
Holocene Climate and Cultural Evolution in Late Prehistoric–Early Historic West Asia.

In short, widespread and severe drought events at 6200 B.C., 3200 B.C. and 2200 B.C. were accompanied by political and social upheaval. This had nothing to do with the building of ziggurats, and the collapse of a political dynasty does not mean that the population of Sumeria suddenly was replaced by a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual population.

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basic idea:

as for forests, there are still scattered forests throughout the region, and there were surely more such regions in the distant past – you think Sumeria imported 100% of its timber? There were trees around?

Yes, the Flood story remembers the major climatic shock around 3200 BC, and the Babel one remembers the climate shock of 2200 BC – to which both Egypt & (especially) Mesopotamia were plausibly made more vulnerable by their own monumental building projects (plural) throughout the 3rd millennium BC…

which may have been “compressed” into the singular account of the most famous monument of them all, that of Babylon (?)

The shock in this case was drought, not flood.

The lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates are alluvial plains. There are stands of poplar and willow along the riverbanks, but calling it a forest would be a stretch. The people built homes from mud bricks instead of timber because that’s what was available. You see the same in the desert Southwest of the U.S. We call it adobe, and it’s sun-dried instead of baked.

So, do you subscribe to that chronology you posted of a creation around 5554 B.C.?

Maybe eventually, but the “Piora Oscillation” was an extremely wet period – the Dead Sea level rose 100m and Alpine glaciers descended 100m

Doesn’t it say somewhere (Josephus?) that Nimrod and the Tower of Babel builders demanded the use of baked mudbrick? And that it required the use of enormous quantities of wood?

The LXX, supported by the DSS and Samaritan Pentateuch (to my knowledge), all concur on a ~5500 BC date of Eden

Genesis 1 occurred at least “7 days” prior

Check your dates. The droughts at 3200 BC were followed by the wet period 2900-3200 BC.

I’d have to look it up, but the large ziggurats of Mesopotamia would require baked bricks. Sun-dried bricks would collapse from the weight. Here’s an example of how large adobe structures must be built (thanks for the excuse to post a pic of one of my favorite places!)

As far as how much wood and where it came from, I don’t know on the first, and the mountains where the rivers start are the likely source of timber. Chop down the trees and float them down the river to where they’re needed.

So you’re a young-earther with an even earlier timeline? Fascinating, but it’s a no-go for me.



But accepting your statement, yes a period of drought followed by a “whiplash of wetness” would have surprised the Sumerians so much more, and made Noah’s building of a boat (barge) far inland that much more remarkable, and its ensuing utility in the Flood that much more miraculous

thought so, massive building projects in Sumeria would have deforested somewhere, even as similar scale building projects of the Maya in the Yucatan also led to environmental degradation, and made them much more vulnerable to climate shocks

think there is solid science underlying the Flood & Babel memories

Dear Erik,
I was just reading Bill Nye’s Undeniable, but I will not list all of his arguments against your timeline in this post. I will ask the same question that he does though: How can you use scientific and historical fact to support your timeline and disregard all the other science that disproves a young earth?

There is another thread here on the Babel event that you may want to look at.

Here’s the source for your “Piora Oscillation”
Here’s the source for the colder and wetter period that followed:

Actually, I was reading a bit more about the construction/re-construction of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, and it seems the core was sun-dried bricks with a facade of baked bricks and bitumen for cement. I’m not an engineer, but I suppose the difference is due to the fact that the structure was solid, so there were no walls that required support.

There is zero evidence of deforestation. At least, none that I could find. I wouldn’t call that “solid science.” Harvesting trees in Turkey or the Zagros Mountains of Iran for use in Sumerian building projects would not destroy the environment of southern Iraq.

I don’t really have time to revisit that earlier thread, but everything that you quoted from it here is factually incorrect.

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