The Tower of Babel and the Uniqueness of Man
One of the most memorable phrases from Sherlock Holmes is "the dog that didn't bark." It refers to an important piece of negative information.
When something surprising happens, dogs normally bark. An intruder, a loud noise, a sudden movement, anything which jars a dog's nerves will lead him to bark. If a dog doesn't bark, the lack of a bark is significant. In Holmes' stories it suggested that maybe the butler hadn't done it after all; perhaps the dog's owner was the "intruder" who murdered the victim.
Holmes was a famous detective, according to the stories, because he always noticed the "dog that didn't bark," while lesser detectives ignored such seemingly trivial negative details.
Human history contains what seems to me a very obvious dog that never barks - a piece of well-known negative historical data lying right out there in the open. It's hardly hidden, but it is seldom noticed, and hardly ever makes the impression I think it deserves. It has bothered me since I was an undergraduate history major.
It is a very simple observation:
There are no historical artifacts anywhere in the world which date earlier than about 4000 BC. There are pieces of skull or other bones which have been dated earlier than that on various grounds (and most of you are familiar with the pitfalls of assigning dates to archaeological finds); there are various campfires, stone tools and burial sites dated older than 4000 BC, plus a cave painting or two, but there are no solid signs of human culture - no monuments, no temples, no city walls nor clay tablets older than 4000 BC.
And that is a very significant piece of negative information, because mainstream paleoanthropology tells us that modern homo sapiens has been around for at least one hundred thousand, and perhaps two hundred thousand years.
Think about it. Genetically modern human beings - people with the same biology, the same IQs, the same ambition and creativity, the same desires for fame, fortune and dominance, the same desire to leave monuments to their egos have been around for tens of thousands of years. Yet they built nothing that lasted. Or if they did, we haven't found it.
What were they doing, all that time?
This boggles my mind, but the fact remains, there is nothing in civilized human history older than about 4000 BC.
What were people doing all that time with their creativity and energy? Just hanging out in caves, waiting for someone to invent the bow and arrow? Waiting for someone to invent the wheel, or to tame fire? Where was the Henry Ford of 150,000 BC or the Bill Gates of 80,000 BC, not to mention the Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar of 40,000 BC?
If we are to reconcile the timeline of paleoanthropology - that genetically-modern humans have been around 100,000 or 200,000 years - with the absence of artifacts older than 4000 BC, we have to choose an assumption: either the ability to innovate and create is a recent evolutionary addition to the human skill set, or it was there all along; but if it was there all along, why didn't anyone create anything memorable before 4000 BC?
Perhaps another conclusion might be justified: perhaps man hasn't been around as long as some scientists would have us believe. Perhaps the Biblical account accurately describes what actually happened.
After all, if people as we know them really have been around for tens of thousands of years, we should be able to dig up 50,000 year old cities, and find graveyards, or pottery, or clay tablets or wheels even older than that. But we don't. We find essentially nothing anywhere in the world older than about 4000BC.
That seems to me to be a dog that doesn't bark.
At one time, at least in Western Civilization, the historical record was taken as support for the Biblical story of dispersion from the Tower of Babel. That is no longer the case, at least in academia. Nevertheless, I would like to take a new look at that question, by examining several types of historical data. We will consider the monuments which exist around the world and the likely dates that they were built. We will look at the development of modern languages, and at ancient literary accounts, and ask ourselves: "Is this data more consistent with the Biblical account, or with tens of thousands years of modern human existence on this planet?"
Just possibly, we will find that the data support the Biblical account.
I will not address the age of the earth, because that is outside of my areas of historical and medical training, nor does the age of the earth necessarily have a direct impact on the length of human history. God could easily have created the earth a long time ago and added humans more recently, had He desired to do so. My focus will simply be on examining the question: what historical and literary evidence exists, and does it support the Biblical account, or contradict it?
To refresh your memory, the Bible tells us in Genesis that after the Flood, Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, and from there the families of Shem, Ham and Japeth were commanded to increase and multiply and fill the earth. They settled, at first, in the plain of Senaar - modern day Iraq, the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - and prospered so much they began building a tower to reach Heaven. The people were of one tongue, until God separated them by confusing their languages, and the various language tribes scattered away into all lands. The Genesis account gives a list of names of fathers and sons who founded nations, and tacks geographical details onto some of the names.
Secular history tells us that the earliest known records of human habitation are in the Euphrates valley, going back to somewhere between 3900 and perhaps 5000 BC. As you know, dates like that are always subject to criticism. By 3500 BC, you find temple towns like Ur springing up. Around 3100, craftsmen begin working in bronze and writers begin using cuneiform letters on clay tablets. Soon after, literary works like The Creation and the Epic of Gilgamesh are recorded on clay tablets. The famous ziggurats begin to rise around 2100 BC or perhaps earlier.
Settlers enter the Nile Valley a little later, around 3500 BC, and develop hieroglyphics about 3100 BC. They build the step pyramid at Saqqara around 2700 and the famous pyramids at Giza about 2600.
Europe seems to have been settled from the middle east westward, with the western edge of human settlement moving from Crete, Greece and Bulgaria to Holland, France, Britain and Scandinavia over about 1500 years.
Ireland has traces of stone age settlements which are older than those of France or Britain. On first glance, this seems out of sequence with the Continental east-to-west pattern. However, all these dates are somewhat conjectural, so they should not be interpreted too rigidly. Also, settlement by sea could easily leapfrog settlement by land. The point to notice here is the apparent trend of European settlement starting from the middle east and heading north and west.
The Irish began building massive passage tombs like those at Newgrange and Knowth perhaps as early as 3500 BC, 800 years earlier than the Egyptian pyramids, if the dates are correct. According the Irish Book of Invasions, later waves of settlers came into Ireland over the next fifteen hundred years, and political dynastic records begin around 1500 BC. These, like the Chinese Xia stories I will mention in a minute have, since the 19th century, been assumed to be mythical - Victorian anthropologists scorned oral history, especially oral history in Gaelic - but the Irish dynastic records since 500 BC include astronomical observations which have been verified by astronomers, suggesting the earlier dynastic records may also reflect actual events, and may do so accurately.
I will have more to say about the Irish chronicles later in this talk.
Development of China seems a bit later than Europe, with the earliest evidence of civilized life around 2500 BC along the Yellow River, in central China. Between 2100 and 1600 BC, one finds the Xia Dynasty, - which, as I mentioned, was assumed to be mythical until archeologists started digging up Xia cities where the "myths" said they should be. You don't find a lot of major construction projects in China (other than wooden ones, which don't survive very well) until about 300 BC, when the Chinese began building great tombs for their rulers.[A brief digression: the default setting in ancient history since the nineteenth century has been the belief that all old stories are mythical, unless proven factual by archeological discovery. Homer's Troy, for example, was believed to be mythical until Schleimann dug it up. This attitude may be motivated by the desire to prove the Bible mythical (perhaps for moral reasons). Hence the establishment attitudes towards the Irish chronologies, the Chinese Xia dynasty, or the Hittites, whom I have not mentioned. The Hittites, like Troy, were known to be mythical in the 19th century - after all, they feature prominently in the Bible - until archaeologists began digging up Hittite cities.....]
The oldest human records in South America are found in the Atacama Desert of Southern Peru, where two mound pyramids - Huaca de los Idolos and Huaca de los Sacrificios were built between 2000 and 3000 BC, using net bags full of rubble instead of stones. Peruvians started building monuments with stones around 1000 BC, at Chavin de Huantar in the North Andean Highlands.
The first Olmec temple, La Venta, was built in Mexico between 400 and 1000 BC. The famous Aztec pyramids were built in the Christian era, the biggest in Mexico City having been built a few decades before the arrival of Cortez.
India apparently also came to the big monument game rather late, with the oldest stupa, the Great Stupa, having been built around 300 BC. It is possible there were older stupas built, but none survive.
Cambodia's great structures came even later. Baksei Chamkrong was built around 900 AD and Angkor Wat, the huge memorial city, around 1100 AD.
In summary, the oldest signs of civilization are to be found in the Euphrates valley. The further one goes from the Euphrates, the more recent the record. This would be consistent with dispersion from the Tower of Babel, but it does not necessarily prove it. Too many things can happen to old ruins. Some old cultures, like the Chinese, built everything out of wood, and wood does not lend itself to permanent structures. In some parts of the world, such as Africa and South America, jungles make the ruins of abandoned cities hard to find, even from the air. So I do not think the data base is adequate to draw firm conclusions.
It is fair to say, however, that the data which exists is far more consistent with a recent dispersion from Babel than it is with more than 100,000 years of active existence of human beings like us. Surely, if man has been around that long, someone would have built something memorable out of rock. And if man has been around that long, would he have waited until 4000 BC to colonize Europe?
A lot of linguists believe that man - or at least Indo-European man - was hanging around in Armenia until around 4000 BC. No doubt Armenia is a nice place, but it seems odd that people would stay there 100,000 years or so, then suddenly start the relentless westward surge that history records.
There are huge controversies in linguistics, but there appears to me, as an outsider, to be general agreement that the ancestors of those who now speak the various Indo-European languages lived in Armenia - between Eastern Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains - until their dispersal in various directions somewhere around 4000 BC. Some went east and south and their languages became Farsi (Persian) or Sanskrit, which in turn generated several of the languages of northern India and Pakistan. Others went west and their languages differentiated into the ancestors of the Celtic, Germanic, Greek, Slavic, Baltic and Romance languages.
Once again, we find secular evidence of human expansion from a middle eastern site, with scrambling of languages, sometime in the past few thousand years. Data once again more consistent with the Biblical account than with 100,000 years of modern human existence.
Indo-European languages do not include Semitic, let alone African, Asian or native American tongues.
As far as I have been able to determine, there is no consensus about the origins and migration patterns of the non Indo-European language groups. In part, that is because the question was first raised by Indo-European people looking at their own languages, so more work has been done with Indo-European. Also, there are so many non Indo-European languages. Africa has over 2000 main languages, and many times that number of local dialects, making its complexity so great that comparisons such as have been done with the relatively small number of Indo-European tongues are unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future.
The 2000 plus African languages do, however, fall into four main language groups, which have differentiated over time. It is not known whether or not they differentiated from a common ancestral language like the Indo-European languages. There does seem to be a tendency in Africa for human migration to have begun in the northeast and to have spread to the south and west. (Once again, soft data consistent with Middle Eastern origins.) Whether there were indigenous people living in Africa before migration of the four great language groups is also not known.
Asia, too, has many hundreds of languages, which again makes comparison, or search for common ancestry, very difficult. There are a dozen or so main families of languages, with no clear evidence on timetable nor migratory pattern.
Native American tongues also can be grouped into families, and many scholars suggest links with northern Siberian native languages, but dating and migratory patterns remain elusive in our hemisphere as well.
Linguists do agree, in general, that evolution of language does occur over time, and at a surprisingly rapid rate. So Latin speakers separated by a few centuries become speakers of Spanish, Italian, French, or Portuguese. Old German differentiates into English, Dutch, modern German and the Scandinavian languages. Celtic quickly turns into Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Galician. Irish itself, over a few hundred years of geographical separation, further differentiates into Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic.
Language development is a natural process, but only the Indo-European family of languages has a clear pattern of dispersion over time which potentially fits the Tower of Babel hypothesis. That the African languages appear to have migrated from northeast to south and west may be consistent with Middle Eastern origins, but the situation is too undefined to make definite statements. The languages of the other continents have yet to yield a meaningful pattern. They neither support nor contradict the Biblical account.
An interesting sidelight, however, is that modern molecular biologists consider all the races of man to have descended from one woman, based on intracellular genetic evidence. The theory is called the Mitochondrial Eve Theory. It states that mankind arose from a single pair of parents, about 200,000 years ago, based on biological clock considerations. (I should mention that the biological clock is also highly controversial and probably does not keep accurate time.) The single parent part sounds familiar. Perhaps 200,000 years is a huge overestimate.
What about the names in the Genesis account? Genesis 10 and 11 list generations stemming from Shem, Ham and Japeth. The traditional understanding has been that Shem's children settled the Middle East and Asia, Ham's settled Africa and Japeth's settled Europe. Is there external evidence supporting the Biblical account, and especially this genealogy, and its geographic connections?
To begin with, there are quite a few Flood stories in cultures around the world. Many also have a garbled version of the first sin and the fall from Grace. The Babylonian creation story - which is generally assumed by modernists to be the origin of the Biblical account, although it could as easily have been a corruption of original events which are recorded accurately in the Biblical account - refers to Eve as "The Lady of the Rib" which can also mean, in Babylonian, "The Lady who causes to live" - or "mother of all living," as Genesis calls her. It also refers to the Flood, and has a somewhat scrambled version of Adam and Eve and the first sin.
Eden was known to the Babylonians as Idinu. Babylon, itself, meant "The Gate of God," reflecting the Babylonians' awareness of living between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the site of Biblical Eden.
The tower of Babel story can be found outside the Jewish tradition. In the pre-Christian transcripts of the Greek symbols one finds reference to a time:
The Sumerian account of the Tower of Babel dates back to about 3000 BC, and concludes:
(translation from "The Babel of Tongues: A Sumerian Version" by Kramer, S.N., Journal of the American Oriental Society 88:108-11,1968)
There is a similar account from Mexico:
(Reference: Don Fernando de Alvara Ixtlilxochitl, Obras Historicas Mexico, 1891, Vol. I, p. 12.)
The Polynesian story is similar:
(Reference: R. W. Williamson, Religious and Cosmic Beliefs of Central Polynesia Cambridge, 1933, vol. I, p. 94.)
So also the Crow Indian account:
(Reference: Jane Garry and Carl Rubino , Facts About the World's Languages H.W. Wilson, 2001)
Secular history and geography recognizes many of the names from the Genesis account. Noah's son Japheth is generally considered by Biblical traditionalists as the father of the Indo-European group. Greek mythology worshipped someone called Iapetos, whom they regarded as the son of heaven and earth and the father of many nations. The Sanskrit Vedas have a similar father figure called Pra-Japati. Roman mythology's father figure is named Jupiter. Each of these names seems to be potentially a corruption of the original name Japeth. Japeth, Iapetos, Pra-Japati and Jupiter. Even the Saxon genealogies start with a first father called Scaef ("sheef"). This could also be a corruption of Japheth: Japheth....Shafeth....Sheef.
Linguistic manipulations like I just did have to be considered speculative. We know that languages change, that the same name can be pronounced somewhat differently between dialects or languages, and that occasionally such overlaps may be accidental. We must be cautious, and avoid dogmatism. However, that being said, if we allow a little room for linguistic change - an assumption shared by the Babel theory and by modern linguistics - we will see some very interesting overlap between the names in the biblical genealogy and the records of secular history.
Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian writing at the time of Christ, described the dispersion from Babel and the resulting settlement of Europe, stating that
What nations was he referring to?
Japheth's son Gomer was believed by the ancients to be the father of the Cimmerians who lived along the Caspian Sea. They were also known to the Assyrians as Gimarraya.
Gomer's son Ashkenaz settled at first in Armenia, and his nation were called the Askuza by the Assyrians in a war which is also referred to in Jeremiah 51:27; Jeremiah makes it clear the Ashkenaz and Askuza are the same people. Later on, the Greek historian Herodotus tells us the Askuza settled along the Black Sea, where they were called Scythians, and gave their name to the lake and harbor of Ascanius and the port of Ascania.
Ashkenaz' brother Riphath gave his name to the Riphaean Mountains, an ancient name for the Ural mountains, as recorded by Pliny, Josephus and other ancient historians.
Their other brother, Togarmah, gave his name to a region in Armenia which is recorded in Hittite documents from 1400 BC, and in annals of Sargon II and Sennacherib. Their capital city, Tilgarimanu, was destroyed by the Assyrians in 695 BC and the population dispersed throughout their empire.
The descendents of Gomer's second son, Madai, were called Madeans in ancient times, better known to us as the Medes, who lived approximately in Iran. They were known to the Assyrians as Amada, to the Persians as Mada and the Greeks as Medai. The earliest reference to the Medes is in inscriptions of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria. Strabo and Herodotus both wrote that the Medes were of Indo-European stock, and their language was an Indo-European tongue.
Japheth's fourth son, Javan, was the father of a people known to the Assyrians as Iamanu, or Yauna. Homer wrote in the Iliad that Iawones was the father of the Ionians. The ancient Hebrews called the Greeks Jevanim.
Javan's son Elisha was the father of the Aeolians, and he is well known as such to Greek history and mythology. His people were known to the Hittites as the Alasiya and in the tablets from Tel-el-Amarna as the Alashia. They are also mentioned in inscriptions from Ugarit, in Iraq.
Javan's third son, Kittim, settled in Cyprus, and gave his name to the ancient city of Kition, which was known to the Romans as Citium.
Javan's fourth son, Dodan, was the father of the Donanim, who settled in Asia Minor and worshipped their forebear, Dodaneus, as a god. The Greeks called this people Donlani or Dardanians. They settled around Troy and gave their name to the Dardanelles, near modern day Istanbul.
Japheth's fifth son, Tubal, produced a people who first appear in the records of Tiglath-Pileser I, king of Assyria, around 1100 BC. They are called the Tabali at that time. Josephus called them the Thobelites, and recorded their migration northeast to the area of the present day city of Tobolsk.
Japeth's sixth son, Meschech, fathered a nation which stayed in close proximity to the descendents of Tubal, according to the Assyrian records, and Herodotus. Around 1200 BC they overran the Hittite kingdom. They are mentioned in numerous documents from Assyrian and Babylonian records, and appear to have migrated with the Tubalites, perhaps giving their name to the modern city of Moscow. (Linguists write that Moskva in Russian sounds much like Musku in Assyrian.)
As to Noah's second son, Ham, Africa was known in ancient times to pagan geographers as the Land of Ham. The Egyptians called their own land Kam.
Ham's eldest son, Cush, gave his name to the Ethiopian nation, which was called Cush by the Egyptians of pharoah. Ethiopia was still called Cush at the time of Herodotus.
Cush's son Sebah gave his name to the Sabaeans, according to Strabo, the ancient geographer. The Sabaeans lived on the west coast of Arabia.
Cush's second son, Havilah, settled on the east coast of Africa, as documented by pre-Islamic Arab geographers, who called his territory in the horn of Africa Hawlan.
Cush's third son, Sabta, was the father of a people living on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula known to Josephus as Sabeteni, to Pliny as Messabathi and to Ptolemy as Stabei. Their capital city was called Shabwat.
Cush's grandson, Sheba, had descendents who lived in what we now call South Yemen, an area which was known to the north Yemenese in the 9th century BC and the Assyrians in the 8th century BC as the Land of Sheba. Their land was very fertile, being watered by an irrigation system which collapsed in 542 BC, devastating their country.
Cush's son Sabtecha apparently settled in North Yemen, where his descendents were recorded by Josephus as the Sabactens.
Cush's son Nimrod is famous as a hunter, although Biblical commentaries suggest that he was a hunter of men, a ruthless tyrant credited in ancient near eastern traditions as the originator of human sacrifice and astrology. There is evidence he was worshipped from the earliest times. His name is probably perpetuated in the name of the Assyrian god of war, Nimurda, possibly the chief Babylonian god Marduk and the Sumerian god Amaratu. He may also be incorporated into the Roman god Bacchus, which in Indo-European could mean "son of Cush." There is a mount Nimrod in eastern Turkey near Ararat, and a ruined ziggurat at Birs Nimrud in Iraq which is thought by many to be the remains of the tower of Babel. Arabs in Iran and Iraq to this day speak of Nimrod with awe.
Ham's son Mesram fathered a people who settled in Egypt. The Hebrew name for Egypt to this day is Mezraim. Inscriptions in Ugarit call Egypt msrm, in Amarna as Misri, Assyria Musur and Babylon Musri. Josephus mentions an otherwise-unknown war he calls the Ethiopic War in which nations descended from Musir were destroyed. These nations were the Ludim, the Anamim, the Lehabim, the Naphtuhim, the Pathrusim, the Casluhim and the Caphtorim - names which coincide with the names of the sons of Mezraim in Genesis 10:13-14.
I could go on with the descendents of Ham, but time constraints will not permit. Suffice it to say there are secular records of tribes bearing the names of most of the men mentioned in Genesis 10 and 11. Many of them were worshipped as gods by their descendents.
Similar secular correlates occur with the descendents of Shem, the ancestor of the Semitic peoples. On occasion, identification of a people can be confused by merging of Semitic and Hamitic populations (as happened frequently in Arabia), adoption of an outside language or other confusing factors. I will mention only a few before going on to the Irish, Welsh and Saxon chronicles.
Shem's eldest son, Elam, founded the Elamites, who were known to the Babylonians as Elamtu, to the Greeks as Elymais, and to the Romans as Elamaei.
Elam's brother, Asshur, found the Assyrians. He is listed as the first king of Assyria, and reigned about 1960 BC, which would fit the Biblical timetable pretty well. He was one of the first to be worshipped by his descendents. Indeed, for as long as Assyria was a nation, until 612 BC, every Assyrian king was understood to reign with the permission of Asshur's deified ghost.
Talk about political coattails.
Shem's next son, Arphaxad, the founder of the Chaldeans, whose name in the ancient tablets is often rendered as either Arpkeshed - which means the Boundary of Chaldea - or Arip-Hurra - the Founder of Chaldea. He was known to the Akkadians as Arrapu. The Assyrians called him and his people Kaldu. Ptolemy called the land either Arphaxitis or Arrapachitis. The very earliest Chaldean settlement has been discovered. It is called Arpichiya, is near Nineveh, and was an early farming community. Their descendents are the modern Chaldean Catholics of Iraq.
Arphaxad's grandson, Heber, gave his name to the Hebrew race. Arphaxad's brother, Joktan, was the founder of thirteen Arab tribes and is still remembered by modern Arabs as Yaqtan. Arabs distinguish "pure Arabs" descended from Yaqtan, and "pretended Arabs" descended from Hamitic forebears.
And so on. There are numerous other secular traces connecting people in the Biblical genealogy with various Semitic tribes in the near east. But time runs out, so I will move to more recent literary evidence: the Irish, Welsh and Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
I mentioned earlier that Ireland has one of the oldest recorded histories in the world. Manuscripts written around 600 AD still exist. These cover much older events. Much of the information within them, such as details of the settlement of Ireland after the Flood found in an 11th century book called Leabhar Gabhala (The Book of Invasions), have been assumed to be the work of Christian monks who forced pre-Christian Gaelic tales into conformity with the Biblical account.
That may not be the case. Geoffrey Keating, who wrote his history of Ireland in the late Middle Ages, had access to books which no longer exist, the oldest, and most important of which was the Cin Droma Snechta.
The Cin Droma Snechta was compiled in the late 300s or early 400s AD, well before St Patrick's arrival in Ireland around 450 AD. It was probably written by pagans recording ancient oral histories and genealogies; it was probably written without significant Christian influence.
Before I relate what Keating tells us was written in the Cin Droma Snechta, let me deal with two objections which will occur to many: how can detailed oral histories by relied upon, and since when did the pre-Christian Irish have written books?
Regarding oral history, we moderns grossly underestimate the power of the human memory. We know that prodigies of memory beyond our experience were commonplace among ancient Greeks. People lacked note pads (or Palm Pilots), so they used their memory a lot, and their memory, like any other muscle, grew strong through exercise.
We know from existing Irish legal records that certification as ollamh, the highest level of Gaelic bard, required memorization and verbatim recitation of several hundred epic poems, and competence in 360 different types of poetic meter. Such training typically took twenty five years. Far from being impossible, such Herculean memorization is less difficult than it sounds because the epics were all in rhyming meter, and rhyme is much easier to remember than simple prose.
Historians had to be able to recite important histories and genealogies perfectly. Every three years at the Tara Feis, the High Historian chanted the national history and royal genealogy. A single important error would cost him his position, so his competitors listened carefully.
The institutional pressures for accurate preservation of oral history and literature were enormous. Improvisation was not allowed in important matters of history and genealogy. Genealogy mattered, because it was the basis of inheritance and legal privileges.
As to written books, there is much evident of extensive trade between Ireland and the Mediterranean as early as 500 BC. Accounts by Greek tourists tell us the pre-Christian bardic schools in Ireland were large and well-equipped, and had extensive libraries. [These bardic schools formed the basis of the large monastic schools of the Irish Golden Age.] These accounts do not record what sort of script was used in the books - most likely Greek, Latin or some adaptation of Phoenician script. It was probably not Ogham, the Irish stick-and-line alphabet used for milestones and grave markers. More than that we do not know. But books there almost certainly were, and according to Keating, the Cin Droma Snechta was collected by Ernin, son of Duach, King of Connacht, who died around 390 AD, well before the coming of Patrick, Christianity and the Christian Bible with its book of Genesis. Since Keating could read it, it was probably in Gaelic script of the type known as Insular.
That fact becomes important as we look at the content of the Cin Droma Snechta, as related to us by Keating.
The book tells about the settlement of Ireland after the Flood, the dates of arrival, and many specific details.
According to the Cin Droma Snechta, the first wave of settlers was led by Partholan, a descendent of Magog, son of Noah, and arrived in 2520 AM. AM means Anno Mundi, and refers to the number of years since creation. The words Anno Mundi seem to be Keating's translation from the Gaelic into Latin. The Orthodox Jews also use an Anno Mundi system, but it varies from the Irish system by a few decades. 2520 AM in the Irish system would correspond to approximately 1500 BC in our terminology.[I should mention, in case her endorsement is of interest, that the account of the Cin Droma Snechta was taken seriously by Elizabeth I, for in Act 11th Elizabeth, she based her supposed title to the Irish Crown in part on the grant of Ireland to Partholan by the Welsh prince, as related in the Cin Droma Snechta.]
Partholan landed with his ships at the estuary of the River Kenmare. Three hundred years later (around 1200 BC), 9000 of Partholan's descendents were wiped out by plague at Tallaght, where still today numerous burial mounds can be found.
The next group of settlers was led by Nemedh, in 2859 AM (ca. 1140 BC). His followers built ring forts and cleared the land for cultivation. They fought off invasions by the "Fomorians" who according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise were "a sept descended from Cham who lived by piracy....and were very troublesome to the whole world."
After the battles, the descendents of Nemedh moved to the central part of Ireland, and divided into three bands, one of which moved to Europe and became the Tuath De Danann (the Tribe of the Goddess Dana), who were later to return to Ireland; a second moved to the north of England where they merged with the Welsh and Picts and a third group, the Firbolgs, moved to Greece, only to return in 3303 AM (ca. 700 BC) to resettle Ireland, which they divided into the five provinces: Connacht, Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Meath.
The final group of settlers was led by Milidh. These were called the Milesians, after their ancestor Miletus, son of Magog, son of Japeth, son of Noah. These arrived around 500 BC. (Interestingly, that date is about ten years before the destruction of the city of Miletus in Asia Minor by the Persians; perhaps an advance colony left the scene of impending doom.)
All those names, including Magog and Noah, are recorded in the Cin Droma Snechta, according to Keating, who passes on the entire multi-generational genealogy, in all its detail.
It is of interest to note that descent from Magog is claimed here, because many ancient Irish accounts claim Scythian and Phoenician ancestry, and Magog, as we have seen, was the founder of the Scythians, along with Ashkenaz. Also, it is interesting to note that archaeological evidence from the city of Miletus reveals signs of both Phoenician and Scythian habitation.
It is also interesting to note that the word Scot - the ancient name for the Irish - and Scythian come from the same linguistic root. Scythian translated via Greek, through Welsh, ends up Scot in Anglo-Saxon.
Partholon, the ancestor of the natives oppressed by the Milesian aristocracy, was also listed in the Milesian genealogy as a son of Magog, but in a different line from the Milesians. One would have assumed that the Milesians would have had an incentive to omit Partholon from the genealogy, but they did not. (According to the Iron Age stories which survive, generosity was a cardinal Gaelic virtue.)
Several of the names listed in the genealogy enjoyed godlike status among the pagan Irish. The practice of deifying ancestors was common among early pagan nations, as we have seen with other nations, and will see again with the Saxons.
The Welsh records contain genealogies which also begin with Biblical characters. The age of the sources of these genealogies is uncertain. They were written down in the 8th century by Nennius and in the 11th Century by Goeffrey of Monmouth. Both claimed to be copying much older, probably pagan, documents from the Roman Imperial era.
Internal evidence suggests that the original documents may in fact have been from the time of Christ, as among other things they contain names of nations (such as the Gepids) which had ceased to exist centuries before Nennius, but were well known in Roman times. Their genealogies also contain errors which were obvious to Nennius, but which he copied verbatim as an expression of his fidelity to the available data.
Unlike the Irish genealogies which go back to Japheth's son Magog, the Welsh genealogies start with Japheth's son Javan, and cover almost 2000 years, ending with the last king of the Britons (Welsh), Yvor, who died at the end of the 7th century.
The Welsh dating system also begins with Creation but differs from the Irish by about 600 years. Both systems differ a few centuries from the Vulgate calculations made famous by Bishop Ussher, who dated creation as having happened in 4004 BC. They also differ from the Septuagint Old Testament, but that would not likely have been available in Britain or Ireland prior to the Renaissance.
The six Saxon royal houses each maintained its genealogy, and quite a few copies of these still exist. These appear for the most part pagan in authorship, although some have sidebars added later by Catholic monks.
The six Saxon royal houses were rivals until unified by Alfred the Great. They were unlikely to conspire together on anything, let alone to agree on the content of their genealogy documents, but considerable agreement exists, nonetheless, even though it would have been in the interests of each to manufacture a unique and impressive lineage, in order to outdo rival claimants.
There is a good deal more pagan content in the Saxon genealogies than one might expect Christian monks to tolerate, including mention of ancestors like Oden, Baldur and Geat - gods or demigods in the Saxon pantheon - all of whom descended from "Scaef, son of Noah," who was born in the Ark.
I suggested earlier that Scaef was a Saxon corruption of Japheth. It is unlikely the name was supplied by monks erroneously, for they transcribed Japheth Iafeth in the existing manuscripts they copied.
Nor is it likely that monks developed the idea that Scaef was born in the Ark, for Genesis makes clear Japheth was an adult at the time of the Flood, and mentions no children born in the Ark. (Children could have been born in the Ark, since there seems to have been little else for the human couples to do during their year indoors, but the Biblical text does not say so.)
Rather than conclude that these deeply pagan genealogies were provided by Christian monks, I would consider seriously the possibility that the Saxon chronicles were recorded by pagans, who in fact traced their ancestry back to Noah independently of any Biblical or Christian influence.
Like the Gaels and the Welsh, the Saxons put great store on accurate transmission of genealogical data, for inheritance was the basis of political and property rights. The Saxons would have been no more tolerant of genealogical falsification than we are tolerant of notaries public who falsify legal documents.
In summary, modern scholarship tells us that modern man with all his abilities and foibles has been around more than one hundred thousand years. Yet no sign of civilized life can be found dating back more than 4000 years before Christ.
Indo-European languages seem to have been differentiating since about 4000 BC. Various creation, flood and linguistic dispersion stories have been found throughout much of the world. Pagan geographers and historical documents mention the same men found in Genesis 10 and 11, in the same places playing the same roles. And written documents from early Ireland, Wales and Saxon countries seem to provide independent, pagan, confirmation of the dispersion of the sons of Noah throughout the world.
This, indeed, seems to me to be a whole kennel full of dogs that don't bark. And it seems to me gives us a choice between two radically different propositions.
The first assumes that the speculations of paleoanthropology are true. This view rests on the accuracy of the radiological timetable, and assumes that modern man did nothing memorable for 100,000 years, then suddenly got very busy 6000 years ago, producing monuments, migrating, developing new languages and such.
The alternative view looks at the existing historical, archaeological and linguistic records and finds much support for the Genesis account, and little to contradict it.
It seems to me to be reasonable, and consistent with the available data, to conclude that Scripture really is true, and the dispersion of peoples at the Tower of Babel actually happened.