(Emilio Spedicato)


Abstract. We consider Gilgamesh travels, as described in the surviving Gilgamesh epic. Assuming that the epic in based on actual travels, we propose different itineraries than usually assumed. We claim that Gilgamesh aimed to the heart of Asia, possibly the original land of the Sumerians, via two different routes: one taking him through the Karakorum, the other via the Balkash lake and most probably the Zungarian gates. Final aim was a mountain range still now sacred to the local Ngolok tribe.

This work is dedicated:

to the late Leonard Clark,
whose adventures in Amazonian Peru fascinated my young years,
whose report of his military duty in Northern Tibet
opened a new light on the dawn of civilization,
in the year of my first flight over Amazonian Peru,
land of secrets to be unveiled

to the Ngolok
fierce tribe of North Tibet
preservers of the ancient sacred Anu Mashu mountain,
let them for ever own the land of their fathers
and keep faithful to their traditions

to Khubaba
and to the Yetis
peaceful creatures in the high mountains,
our genetic brothers,
hunted down by Homo Sapiens Sapiens,
by homo homini lupus.

Sunt nomina lumina

Oh, Geography Cinderella of sciences!

S.H. beautiful daughter of the Hunza people learn Burushaski language of your ancestors language of a special people of a very special place...

1. Introduction

The Gilgamesh epic deals with the adventures of Gilgamesh, king of the Sumerian city of Uruk (biblical Erech), son of the semigod Lugalbanda and of the goddess Rimat Ninsun, hence himself two thirds "god", one third man, but mortal as all men. The text of the epic is not known in its entirety. The first tablets were found in the excavations of the library of Assurbanipal (668-627 BC) in Ninive by Layard in the 1840s. The first communication that these tablets contained a Chaldaic story of the Universal Flood was made on December 3, 1872, in London, by the assyriologist Smith. It is now known, see Pettinato (1992), that the epic in the version of the Assurbanipal library (where apparently four copies were kept) consisted of 12 large tablets, each one having about 300 lines, for an estimated total of 3059 lines. Currently about 2000 lines are known. More may be discovered in future excavations or more simply in the deposits of the world museums. It is interesting to note that the first four lines of the epic were found in September 1998 by Theodore Kwasmann while searching among the collections of the British Museum (see the article of R.J. Head in Odyssey, July-August 1999). The four lines, published in Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires, are given here in the original Assyrian text and in their published translation:

(sha nagbu iimuru i) shdi maati

(xxx-ti iid) uu kalaama hhassu

(Gilgamesh sha n)agbu iimuru ishdi maati

(xxx-t)i iidu kallama hhassu

He who saw the nagbu (the country’s foundation)

who knew.... was wise in all matters!

Gilgamesh (who saw the nagbu), (the country’s foundation)

who knew.... was wise in all matters!

In the above translation the correct meaning of nagbu was a point of discussion. In the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary the word is translated as "totality" or "spring, fountain, source". We will see at the end of this essay an intriguing relation with "spring", in both a geographical and an ethnographical sense. In addition to the Assyrian version of the epic found in Ninive, fragments in different languages, including non semitic Hurrian, Sumerian and Hittite, have been found in several locations in the Middle East, most of them predating Assurbanipal time. At least ten documents are dated to the paleobabylonian period (i.e. Hammurabi’s time, circa 1800 BC), while half a dozen documents in Sumerian are dated to the second half of the third millennium BC. There is the intriguing possibility that the epic was originally composed by an advisor of Gilgamesh (no more a semigod apkallu, but a human ummanu), named Sileqiunnini, see Pettinato (1992). About the historicity of Gilgamesh opinions are divided. Gilgamesh is listed in ancient tablets as the fifth king of the first dynasty of Uruk, often dated at the period 3500-3100 BC. Now the dendrochronological record, see Baillie (1999), suggests that in the year 3195 BC a dramatic climatic event occurred, possibly associated with a substantial world flooding episode of extraterrestrial origin (i.e. a cometary or asteroidal impact or the close passage of a large body). If the suggested flood event is the one described as the Utnapishtim/Ziusudra flood in the Gilgamesh epic (and as the Noah flood in Genesis, the Pygmalion flood in Greek traditions, etc.), then the dating of the first Uruk dynasty should be lowered by a few centuries. This would be in agreement with the chronological revision proposed in the last fifty years by several authors, starting from Velikovsky (1953), see in particular Rohl (1998), who dates Gilgamesh at circa 2500 BC. The following Tables provide some of Rohl’s dating.

Table 1: Rohl’s dating of First Uruk dynasty
3000 BC Heskiagkasher (biblical Cush)
2900 BC Enmerkar (biblical Nimrod)
2800 BC Lugalbanda
2588 BC Dumuzi
2487 BC Gilgamesh
2348 BC Urlugal


Table 2: Roh’ls dating of first four Egyptian dynasties
2789-2669 BC Menes and First dynasty
2669-2514 BC Second dynasty
2514-2459 BC Third dynasty
2459-2350 BC Fourth dynasty


Rohl dates the Flood to about 3100 BC, but has a discrepancy in his chronology. Indeed he notices (p. 425 of his monograph) that a different counting of dynasties lengths based upon the Turin Royal Canon would provide 2898 BC for Year 1 of Menes. If we take the suggested dendrochronological dating (at 3195 BC) of the Flood and we notice that according to Manetho there was in Egypt a period of 350 years of confusion and crisis before Menes, a period that can be naturally explained as the aftermath of a huge destructive flood, then we would have a date of 2845 BC for Year 1 of Menes, about half way between the date provided by the Turin Canon and the date in Table 2. In view of likely unavoidable errors that may affect both the dendrochronological record (despite the high accuracy claimed by its proponents) and the surviving lists (where coregencies have always been a question difficult to extricate), it seems safe to conclude that the Flood should be dated in the period between 3100 and 3200 BC. An additional support for dating in this century a catastrophic climatic event is provided by the analysis of ice cores at Camp Century, Greenland, where a large acid layer has been identified and dated at 3150 plus or minus 50 BC. It is interesting to note that another acid layer at Camp Century, dated at 1390 plus or minus 50, comes close to the dating of the Exodus at exactly 1447 BC, proposed first by Velikovsky (1953) and again claimed by Rohl (1995). Both Velikovsky and Rohl have identified the pharaon of the Exodus with the last pharaon of the 13th dynasty, the obscure Dudimose, whose name appears in the Turin canon, and whose tragic kingdomship is certainly more characterized by a great natural catastrophe and by the onslaught brought by the Hyksos than by the departure of a few hundred thousand Hebrews. In this paper we will not discuss the historicity of Gilgamesh and its dating. We will not propose explanations of the extraordinary semigod qualities that he shows in the epic (see for instance Sitchin (1980) for the nonstandard interpretation of Gilgamesh mother "goddess", as a female belonging to a group of extraterrestrial "gods" that according to him visited the Earth in ancient times, "created" man by genetic engineering and were able to copulate with their creatures, as also Genesis states with regard to the Nephilim). Under the assumption that the epic is based upon an actual traveller’s experience, we will try to identify the routes in the two trips of Gilgamesh, the first one to the "Forest of Cedars", the second one to the mountain called "Mashu". Our proposed routes and final destinations are wholly different, as far as we know, from those usually considered, these being not too far from Sumer. We claim that Gilgamesh final destination was the heart of Asia, the land where quite possibly the Sumerians came from, the land which in the case of a catastrophical flood of extraterrestrial origin is the best protected in the whole world from the effects of a global tsunami and of long lasting torrential rains. According to our thesis Gilgamesh tried to reach this land via the two most natural routes from Sumer. The first one, shorter but of much more difficult terrain and of great altitude, took him to the Karakorum passes (e.g. Kilik, 4755m, Mintaka, 4709m, or Khunjerab, originally 4934m now after the construction of the Karakorum highway reduced to 4602m), quite probably via Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir (Barda, Buner, Hazara, Kohistan, Dardistan, Punjal, Hunza), from which he could have descended into the heart of Asia via eastern Pamir and the Tarim basin region. This approach failed, probably for the extreme difficulty of the Karakorum trails, often closed by landslides and snowslides, possibly also for the failure of Gilgamesh to acclimitize to the high altitude of the Karakorum passes. The two heroes consoled themselves by killing poor Khubaba (we will suggest who Khubaba might have been) and by cutting a large cedar tree that they brought back to Uruk. The second route is longer, by some 3000 km, and went most probably through very little populated land. It allowed however access to the heart of Asia by the much easier Zungarian Gates pass, less than 500 meters. Mount Mashu, we claim, is the great sacred mountain range surrounded on three sides by the Yellow River, still locally called Maqu (pronounce "Machu"), whose sources are not far from it. The mountain is sacred to the local north Tibetan Ngolok tribes and till the fifties was closed to foreigners. Its name still bears obvious reference to Mashu and to the highest god of the Sumerian pantheon.

2. The trip to the Forest of Cedars. Numerics and geographical information in surviving tablets

The first trip takes Gilgamesh and Enkidu to the Forest of Cedars, in a land called "Lebanon", which is reached overland. Here they kill the monster Khubaba (in Assyrian; Huwawa in the Hittite text) and cut a very big cedar to be taken to the temple of Enlil in Nippur. They return to Uruk via water, navigating a river called "Euphrates". It is commonly assumed that the Forest of Cedars is present Lebanon. The trip is described in Tablets II 184 to V 266 in the Assurbanipal text, affected by several lacunes, only partially remedied by use of the other texts. For the following discussion of the route, here we report the passages containing numerical and geographical information. These passages are translated from the italian version of the whole corpus of surviving material given by Pettinato (1992). We first give the passages from the Assyrian texts in Assurbanipal library.

1. II, 184-193: Khubaba whose cry is stormy.....who can hear at 60 leagues through the forest trees..... to protect the Forest of Cedars he has been commanded by Enlil and a bodily fatigue takes possession of anyone who tries to enter this forest....
2. II,221-224: I have made my mind. I will leave to the far away land where Khubaba lives. I want to face a defy even if of uncertain outcome, I want to explore an unknown way
3. III, 6-7: Let Enkidu preceed you, he knows the way to the Forest of Cedars
4. III, 48-51: He (Gilgamesh) intends to take the long travel to the place of Khubaba. He will engage a fight of uncertain outcome, he will walk over unknown trails till the day when, after a long way, he shall reach the Forest of Cedars.
5. IV, 1-6: After 20 leagues they took a meal, after 30 leagues they stopped for sleep, 50 leagues they had made in their daily march, a distance of one month and a half they made in 3 days, reaching the "mountains of Lebanon".
6. IV, 78: Gilgamesh ascended the mountain
7. IV, 84: ... spit blood...
8. IV, 87: was overwhelmed by sleep
9. IV, 100: let us go back to the steppes
10. IV, 91: why am I so nervous?
11. IV, 93: why do I feel so week?
12. IV, 207-208: ... a difficult trail, that a single person cannot easily take, better to be in two...
13. V, 2: ...they were astounded at the height of the cedars...
14. V, 5-8: there were nicely cut trails, they looked at the mountain of cedars, the place where the gods dwell, the sanctuary of Irnini, the cedar was tall and majestic...
15. V, 5 (Uruk version): when you (Enkidu) were young, I saw you...
16. V, 255: Gilgamesh cut the trees...
17 V, 258-265: My friend, the wonderful cedar has been cut, it no more reaches the sky. I want to use it to build a gate, of height 6 times 12 spans, one span of width, the lower and the upper hinges one span. Let it be carried to Nippur by the Euphrates.... they put the trunk in the river, Enkidu guided it, Gilgamesh was carrying the head of Khubaba.
Information from other sources:
18. Yale tablet, 165: They made axes of 3 talents each
19 Yale tablet, 170: Gilgamesh and Enkidu each one were carrying ten talents of weapons
20 Yale tablet, 193: The forest extended 60 leagues in each direction
21 Yale tablet, 247-250: Let Enkidu lead you, let him check the way, he knows the access to the forest and every trick of Khubaba
22 Yale tablet, 255: May he (Shamash) open to you the close trails
23 Yale tablet, 262-269: the river of Khubaba, as you wish, put your feet
24 Baghdad tablet 1-2: Climb the mountains crevasses, the gods have taken away my sleep...
25 Hittite version: When they arrived to the shores of Euphrates they made a sacrifice.... from there after 16 days they were in the middle of the mountains.... then they looked at the cedars.... Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut the cedars... when Huwawa heard the noise he got angry and said: who has cut the cedars I have grown?....
26 Huwawa said: I will lift you, I will carry you up hill, I will hit your head, I will put you in the black earth!
27 Gilgamesh and Khubaba, 53: Young men like him, in number of 50, went with him...
28 Gilgamesh and Khubaba, 82: The sons of your city who accompanied you should not wait long for you at the foot of the Mountain.
Remark. The "span" is about 60 cm. The "league", Assyrian beru, is the distance walked in two hours, commonly estimated at 10 km but possibly more, 15 km or more.

3. Identifying the location of the Forest of Cedars

From the above given texts, features of the Land of Cedars are the following:

It is usually assumed that the destination of Gilgamesh first trip was some point in the mountains of present Lebanon, where cedars are known to have existed since ancient times (only half a dozen of them still live in the wild, well fenced in a national park). The identification of the land with Lebanon seems supported in the text by references to Lebanon and Euphrates, despite Lebanon is mainly a modern name for a country in ancient times known as Phoenicia or with other names. It is our opinion that this standard identification must be rejected on the following grounds: Our proposal is that the Forest of Cedars was located in Kashmir, i.e. in the mountainous region cut by the river Indus and its several affluents. We will more precisely argue that the meeting with Khubaba took place in the northern reaches of Kashmir, probably just north of the Hunza valley, on the way to one of the passes (Khunjerab or more probably Mintaka, for reasons that will be discussed in a forthcoming paper), that lead via eastern Pamir to the Tarim basin (now mainly a desert, the Takla-Makan, but still borderd by chains of oasis) and hence to China via the Yellow River valley. The Hunza valley, about 100 km long, elevation between 1700 and 2500 meters, is a very special place, with nice climate and where many fruits are grown. Its natural access from Gilgit, about 120 km as the crow flies, was in the past, before the opening of the Karakorum highway, extremely difficult, taking over two weeks, see Bircher (1980). The approaches to the passes at the end of the valley are also extremely steep and difficult. We will argue that the word translated as "Euphrates" should more correctly and meaningfully be translated as the "River of the cows" and should be identified with the Hunza/Indus river, while "Lebanon" should be translated as "Land of milk", this referring to the general high Kashmir region. We propose that Gilgamesh and Enkidu reached the Indus via Iran and most probably via southern Afghanistan, hence via the Khyber pass, reaching their friends at the foot of the Kashmir mountains somewhere between present Peshawar and Rawalpindi, not far from ancient Taxila, possibly at the meeting point of the Kabul and Indus river (near present cities of Attock and Nowshera). The 16 days of ascent to the "middle of the mountains" were most probably first along the Indus (locally "Sind") river, then, after the Indus turns in an easterly direction towards Ladakh via Baltistan, by following the affluents Gilgit and Hunza. We identify, as said before, the "Middle of the mountains" with the special Hunza valley, gently elevating from 1700 to 2500 meters, surrounded by steep montains, the river Hunza having a rather deep bed crossing which is not so easy (different tribes live on each side of of the river). The valley has about 200 villages, population about 10.000 people at the time of Second World War, now over 35.000. Every cultivable piece of land is used to produce cereals, vegetables and fruits (some 20 varieties of superb tasting apricots, dried for the winter). Till the construction of the Karakorum highway (opened in 1978 for special, mainly military use, in 1986 to general passage, first European to cross it Danziger, 11 October 1984, who filled the visa form n. 1 declaring himself to be Donald Duck, see Danziger (1993)) which crosses the ridge at 4602 meters, the most used pass was the Mintaka pass (4709m), the one where probably Gilgamesh was directed. The pass was used to import some products from China, silk and a few objects of daily use. By this way, we surmise, Gilgamesh intended to cross into the heart of Asia towards the sacred mount Mashu that he reached by a longer easier way in his second trip. Our proposals above are based upon the following considerations: Our proposal is that Gilgamesh tried a new approach via land towards the Indus region. We feel however that his final aim was entering the heart of Asia. He failed attaining this goal in his first trip due to the difficulties on the Karakorum trails. At his time the Indus valley civilization (Harappa, Mohenjo Daro; the name of the region in Sumerian was probably Meluhha; any relation with the Moluccas?) was in full blossom and contacts via water (by the Indus river and then by coasting the Baluchistan/Iran coast), implying commercial trade, were well developed, as proved for instance by the excavations of Bibby (1970) in Bahrein, a stopover for merchant boats in view of the rich wells of sweet water. So we think it was merit of Gilgamesh to try a new road (and we will discuss later how Enkidu could be a guide). The text does not provide any clue to precisely which route was taken by Gilgamesh. A reason for this may be that he went for most part by unpopulated lands, certainly full of wild animals, no check for Gilgamesh and Enkidu. We suspect however that in the missing lines some clues were probably available, since there was at least one important developed area they crossed. Now we give an educated guess about the possible route. It is natural to assume that the starting point for the ascent to the mountains of the Forest of Cedars was near the meeting of the Kabul and the Indus. This is also a likely place where the 50 friends referred to in the Gilgamesh and Khubaba text waited for the return from the mountain expedition. The 50 friends most probably arrived via the normal route, i.e. by sea and river, whose feasibility with reed boats was proved by Heyerdahl (1980), see also Severin (1982). Because navigation along the Indian Ocean must take into account the effects of the monsoons, this means that Gilgamesh started his trip most likely around May-June, when his friends could start the water voyage to the meeting point on the Indus. The monsoon (whose name comes from the arabic word MAWSIM = season) from October to April blows from NE to SW, i.e. from the Tibetan mountains towards the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula (such a monsoon is mainly dry, except in the terminal part; even nowadays a branch of the monsoon brings rather heavy rains and mist to the Dhofar mountain region of Oman, (inhabited by tribes possessing four non semitic languages having at least nine nonsemitic sounds), from June to August it blows in the reverse direction, being associated with heavy rains. Monsoons are active only below 4000 meters. >From the hypothesised point the Indus enters the Hindukush-Karakorum ranges, characterized by deep and very steep canyon-like valleys and peaks reaching over 7000 m (e.g. the K2, 8611m, first climbed by the Italian expedition directed by geologist Ardito Desio in 1954, the Nanga Parbat, 8126m, the Distagil Sar, 7885 m). In 1986, on my first flight to China, I flew a Swiss Air airplane that after a night stopover in Sharja crossed over the Karakorum in the early morning. I still vividly remember the fantastic view of the most rugged mountain area I have ever contemplated from an airplane. I was particularly impressed by the very deep canyons zigzagging through forested mountains. The pyramid like magnificent K2 jutted to the sky just a couple of thousand meters under the airplane. Beyond the K2 the blue sky changed to a greyish-yellowish colour that lasted for almost three hours, the effect of winds lifting the fine dust of the Takla-Makan and the Gobi deserts. By following the Indus river and its affluents one can reach the heart of Asia via several passes. A natural possibility is by following the Indus (through Dardanistan), then the Gilgit, then the Hunza rivers. From here following the Khunjerabi one arrives at the Khunjerab pass, originally 4934m, now 4602 after the completion of the Karakorum highway. To the left of this pass there is the Mintaka or Minteke pass, 4709 m, wherefrom the river presently called by the Chinese as Ming-t’ieh-kai-ho is born, flowing ultimately into the Tarim, that was mostly used before the construction of the Karakorum highway (and that most likely, also for further reasons to be discussed in a forthcoming paper, was the pass where Gilgamesh was directed). We can give the following justification for the proposed mountain route: We suspect that the Hunza valley, elevation between 1700 and 2500 meters, gently sloping (but with very difficult access, hence the need of "being in two"), now well cultivated, was the place where Gilgamesh found the great cedar forest, intersected by trails and "taken care of" by Khubaba. Here we suspect the great cedar was cut, to be transported to the foot of the mountains by flotation over the river. The meeting with Khubaba appears to have occurred further on, at higher elevations, since the symptoms indicated in the epic, i.e. weakness, fatigue, strange dreams, loss of blood, sleeplessness, are clear symptoms of mountain sickness. The fact that they affected Gilgamesh and not Enkidu is intriguing and a possible explanation will be offered in a next section. Gilgamesh was a man of low plains and a fast walker. From Hunza valley the trail goes up very steeply, so he may have been unable to acclimitize when he reached elevations over 4000 meters. The failure of crossing into the Tarim basin may be explained, in addition to the physical problems of mountain sickness, by the impassibility of the Mintaka pass, due to landslides or snowslides. Since snowslides are often produced just by human high voices, one wonders if the great cries of Khubaba may have resulted in closing the pass by starting a snowslide.

4. Numerics of the first trip

It is stated that the route from Uruk to the river Eupfrates, by us identified with the Indus river, was equivalent to a month and a half (i.e. to about 45 days) of normal travel, but was accomplished in 3 days, corresponding to a total distance of 150 "leagues", or, in Assyrian, "beru". Leaving aside the question of how this distance could have been made in three days (we think there is a symbolic meaning behind), we note that 150 beru imply a distance of at least 1500 km but possibly even of over 2700 km. Indeed one beru being equivalent to the distance walked in two hours, presumibly in the easy flat region of Sumer, it would depend on the speed of the walker. Nowadays a person used to walk easily walks 12 km in two hours; persons well trained in walking, which was the normal way of moving in Sumerian times, could certainly make more than 12 km in two hours, possibly even 18 km (notice that techniques for fast walking were developed on the plateaus of Tibet, as noticed for instance by Alexandra David Néel). Now the distance "as the crow flies" between Uruk and the Indus/Kabul joining point is about 2400 km. If the 150 leagues should be considered as the shortest distance between the two points, this would give a value for the beru of 16 km, certainly an acceptable value. The actual overland route is not along a geodetic and has unavoidable detours. A reasonable estimate of it would be around 4000 km. Such a distance can certainly be covered in 45 days by trained people who know the way. Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and most of their contemporaries, were certainly well trained in walking over long distances and Enkidu is claimed to have known the way (we will suggest in a next section why). Now 4000 km divided by 45 makes an average walk of about 90 km a day. That this is not an impossible feat is shown by the following examples:

In view of the above examples, and the fact that Gilgamesh and Enkidu were unusually tall, strong and trained persons, reaching the Indus river in 45 days by foot is in our opinion a perfectly possible feat. The ascent to the Middle of the mountains where the Forest of Cedars was located took 16 days. The description of the Forest (with good trails, taken care by Khubaba) does not seem to relate to a wild pristine forest on the slopes of steep mountains, but more to a forest somehow managed in an area somewhat flat. We guess that the location of the Cedar Forest was the Hunza valley, over 100 km long, about 10 km wide, gently sloping, now cultivated as much as possible, especially in fruits (over 20 types of the best apricots in the world). The Hunza valley can presently be reached over the Karakorum highway from the Kabul/Indus meeting point in about 600 km (via an older road by the Malakand and Shangla passes in about 530 km). Along ancient trails distance would have been certainly different, but it is difficult to estimate if it was longer or shorter (some ancient trails cut directly through very steep slopes, where modern roads must wind up their way). Assuming a distance of 600 km this would correspond to about 40 km a day, thus a distance per day about half that made in the easier way from Uruk to the Indus; 40 km a day over mountains is certainly a possible feat (when I was 14 staying in the summer house of the Collegio Rotondi in Campestrin, in the Italian Dolomiti, our frequent excursions were usually of 14 hours, up and down for over 3000 meters altitude difference and for about 40 km; we were dead tired at evening!). The trail from Chilas, near Gilgit, to the beginning of the Hunza valley (the villages of Chilt and Pissan) is very difficult, with up and downs, since the river bed cannot generally be followed due to the narrowness of the canyon like valley. Still is does not go over elevations higher than those met in the crossing of the Zagros mountains or on the way from Sistan to the Indus. Hence the mountain sickness symptoms of Gilgamesh described in the epic should not have occurred before arrival to the Hunza valley. Therefore it is likely that the final event, the meeting with Khubaba, occurred at much higher elevations, on the way to the Karakorum passes, probably over 4000 meters. Let us recall that the tree line is now close to 4000 meters and that at Gilgamesh times, a period of climatic optimum, it was possibly higher. A further reason why the meeting with Khubaba must have taken place in the 4000/5000 meters region is given in the next section. We do not believe that the real aim of the first trip was to kill Khubaba or to cut cedars. We think that the trip had to be terminated on the way to the Karakorum passes for the following reasons: After the killing of Khubaba a great cedar was cut, Gilgamesh intending to bring it home to build a gate for the great temple of Enlil in Nippur. It is natural to assume that the gate would be constructed using single planks. Since the given height of the gate is 72 spans, corresponding to about 43 meters, the cut cedar had to be at least 45 meters long, with a likely average diameter of over 2 meters. Cedar trees in pristine forests could certainly reach this height (just recall that according to Strabo yew trees, which presently are not known in giant sizes, on the mountains of Liguria could reach a diameter of over 4 meters!). Thus the cut cedar volume would have exceeded 150 cubic meter and its weight would have been at least 100 tons. It was certainly possible to cut such a giant using the huge axes in dotation to Gilgamesh and Enkidu (recall that Miro of Croton cut giant trees and used his hands as wedges; till a too big tree clinched his hands so hard that he could not districate himself and was then devoured by wild animals....). It would also not have been impossible to roll such a tree into the Hunza river and float it down till the meeting point with the 50 friends, wherefrom it could have reached Uruk along the well known watery way used in trade between Meluhha and Sumer. It appears however to this author that it would have been impossible to accomplish this feat if the cedar was cut in the mountains of Lebanon. Indeed, even assuming that the Orontes had enough water and gradient to float it to the closest most convenient point to reach the Euphrates, say to the region of Hama, from there the huge tree should have been hand carried, pushed or pulled for over 100 km of country not precisely flat. This would have meant a weight of at least 2 tons for each man, a probably impossile feat, which could have resulted also in substantial damage to the trunk. Moreover we feel that such a sweaty slavish job would not have been considered appropriate for a person being two thirds divine and for his friends, certainly chosen among the highest ranking families in Uruk. We think that this statement in the test strongly contributes to rejecting present Lebanon as the place where the cedar was cut.

5. Who were Khubaba and Enkidu?

Here we will offer a suggestion on the nature of Khubaba, and possibly of Enkidu. We let aside the possibility that the two characters are fictional or mainly loaded of symbolic elements. We try to identify which real creatures they could have been. According to our scenario the meeting with Khubaba took place in the heart of the high mountains between the Indus, the Tarim and the Amu Darya basins, a region where the three great ranges of Karakorum, Pamir and Hindukush join. That this is a very special place in history of mankind will be claimed in a forthcoming paper. We also observed that the meeting took place most probably on the way to the Mintaka pass and at an elevation well over 4000 meters, in view of the symptoms of mountain sickness shown by Gilgamesh. It is important to note that Enkidu did not show such symptoms. Now it is a fact known since very ancient times that people in the Himalaya, Karakorum, Pamir regions, and till last century at least also in Caucasus, have strong belief in the existence in their mountains of great bipedal walking creatures with the following features:

These creatures are known with different names, the common name in the west, "yeti", being just a local name in Nepal meaning "the man in the rocks". Among other names we recall tshemo, dremo, tschemong, meti, sciukpa, migo, kangmi, baman, jangal. Most people think that the stories about the yeti (here we will use this well known name) are fruit of imagination. This was also the opinion of the great mountain climber Rheinhold Messner, till the day, 19th July 1986, when, while trekking the high reaches of the Mekong in south-east Tibet, on the way from Chamdo to Nagqu, near the hamlet of Alando, at dusk he saw not far in front of him a great creature, well over two meters high, moving fast and silently. He was utterly surprised and could not believe his eyes. He moved to the place where the creature had been and there a great deep print was visible in the soft humid soil, which he photographed. Some minutes later he saw again the creature, moving fast, stopping sometimes, emitting hissing sounds. It had stocky legs and long arms. It disappeared uphill, apparently running with both legs and arms. A strong phetid smell was left, a mixture of rancid butter, garlic and excrements. The footprint was about 20 by 30 cm. Sightings of yeti have been made by several reliable western persons, e.g.: in 1921 by colonel Howard-Bury, who led the first expedition that tried to reach the summit of mount Everest; by the Polish officer Rawicz, on his escape to India from a soviet lager (he saw a yeti near the Bajkal, height about 2.4 meters, huge chest, arms reaching the kneels, looking like a hybrid of a human and an ape). At the end of the 19th century a female yeti, named Zana, was caught and kept captive in a semi-domesticated state in the Caucasus village of Tkhina, as documented in official reports based upon local testimonies by academicians Porsnev and Maskontsev. She had a huge hairy body, used stones as weapons, could run faster than a horse, was unable to speak but emitted sounds, had extremely good hearing, her face was terrifying with reddish eyes. She learnt to do simple jobs, as collecting wood. She copulated with village males producing babies! As soon as a baby was born, she washed him in the freezing waters of the local river, which resulted usually in the death of the child. Four babies however survived, were taken away from her and developed as normal persons. Tha last of her children, named Khvit, died in 1954. In another story a woman, living in the village named Hushe in Baltistan, not far from Hunza, was taken by a yeti and had children from him. When villagers found her they killed her children, despite her protests. She was returned to the village, where the yeti again tried to retake her. This story was told to Messner in 1997. The above information is mainly taken from Messner (1999). It is clear from the above that Khubaba shares with the "yeti" several elements: big hairy body, extreme good hearing (he hears sounds from at least 600 km; recall that elephants hear at several hundred km distance, whales at over 1000, birds migrating from Arctic to Antarctica probably hear sounds from over 10.000 km; such hearing is in the low frequency range, related to large atmospheric waves produced by macrogeographical structures acting on the atmosphere), and, very intriguingly, the special way of dealing with big preys: a hit on the head, lifting the dead body under the arm, bringing it uphill, hidding it in the soil. It is therefore natural to hypothesize that Khubaba was a huge yeti, one exemplar of a population of human-like creatures acclimitized to high elevations. Messner currently seems to believe that the yeti is an unkown variety of bear. However the persistent stories of yeti-human copulations with production of offsprings, if true, necessarily imply a strong genetic similarity; moreover the story that the children of Zama grew as normal persons implies the essential equivalence of the genetic material, differences thus being behavioral and probably related to the very special ecological niche utilized by the yeti. Here we certainly have one of the most fascinating questions on the origin and the evolution of homo sapiens. The above facts moreover suggest that Enkidu, whom Khubaba claims to have met when he was young, might have been the offspring of a yeti, who was able to overcome the cultural gap between "wild man" and man not really because of his love making with the sacred prostitute, but because he had been taken very young by the hunter (who may have killed his parents or found him orphaned). Perhaps and more interestingly the hunter had a yeti "wife", about whom he was loath to speak, so that the real story of Enkidu’s first years was not what the epic says. Our last hypothesis, moreover, would also explain how Enkidu could communicate with Khubaba and how he could speak Sumerian, two feats that are left unexplained in the text and that could have no other explanation if not a miracolous one, or the fact that Enkidu is a totally fictitious being. The epic states that Enkidu knew the way. Not much is said about the hunter who informed Gilgamesh about Enkidu. Maybe this man was he too a great traveller, moving on the vast steppes east of the Tigris, and on the mountains and plateaus of Iran and beyond. He might already have visited the Karakorum reaches where Gilgamesh went. His feat had clearly to be censored, not to detract from the glory of the king. That primitive hunters had no problem in walking thousand of kilometers during their hunt for game is a fact. Coronado described the plain Indians following the million rich packs of buffalos from the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi inside present Canada. Van der Post wrote that once a Bushman (a San, using their name) followed a wildbeast he had only wounded with his arrow for an estimated 800 km till the beast collapsed; moreover, he was always able to identify the footprints of the wounded animal among the hundreds of footprints of the animals in the pack.

6. The second trip. Numerics and geographical information

The second trip has as destination mount Mashu, where Utanapishtim (in Assyrian; Ziusudra in Sumerian), a man who survived the Flood, was dwelling, having being granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh too hoped to get immortality, having gone through a period of depression at the thought of human mortality, especially after the death of his friend Enkidu. In the following we give the surviving information from the corpus of Gilgamesh texts offered by Pettinato (1992). Tablets from Assurbanipal library.

1. IX, 5-9: I wander by the steppes. I am going to the place of Utanapishtim, the son of Ubartutu. I am moving fast towards this place. In the night I have reached a mountain pass. I have seen lions, I was scared
2. IX, 36: The name of the mountain is Mashu
3. IX, 55-59: Who are you who came by far away roads, who wandered till you got to my presence, crossing with difficulty ever fast flowing watercourses?
4. IX, 132-134: You, Gilgamesh, do not be afraid! I open for you mount Mashu, cross without fear the mountains and the hills!
5. X, 1: Siduri, the hostess who lives far away at the shore of the sea..
6. X, 43-47: Why do you look like someone who has travelled over long distances? Why does your face show the signs of a hot and of a cold wheather? Why do you wander only covered with a lion skin?
7. X, 76-91: Gilgamesh insisted: Please, hostess, which is the direction to Utanapishtim? Give me accurate information. If necessary I will cross the sea, otherwise I will take the way by the steppe. Gilgamesh, there has never been a boat for the crossing, no one in memory has ever crossed this sea. Only Shamash can cross it... The crossing is difficult, full of dangers, in the middle there are lethal waters that make navigation impossible. How, Gilgamesh, can you cross this sea? Once you get to the mortal waters, what will you do? There is however, Gilgamesh, the boatman of Utanapishtim, his name is Urshanabi. You can find him cutting trees in the woods, near the stone "stela"
8. X, 156-160: Gilgamesh, take an axe, go to the wood, cut planks of 30 meters length, work them smooth, bring them to me
9. X, 166-170: Gilgamesh and Urshanabi entered the boat and began the voyage. A route of one month and a half towards the land of..... they made in three days. Then Urshanabi arrived at the waters of death
10. X, 259-261: I have killed bears, hyenas, lions, leopards, tigers, deer...
11. XI, 194-195: Now let Utanapishtim and his wife be like gods. Let Utanapishtim dwell far away, at the mouth of the rivers
12. XI, 257-258: Gilgamesh and Urshanabi enter the boat. They free the boat and begin the [return] voyage
Berlin/London tablet
13. 100-104: So Gilgamesh spoke to Surshanabu: Gilgamesh is my name. I have come from Uruk, from the Eanni, I have wandered by the mountains. I have made a long way towards the rising Sun
14. 115-119: The stones "stela", Gilgamesh, are my guide, so that I avoid the waters of death. In your fury you have broken them. I keep them with me, so that they can guide me
Hittite version
The god of the Moon (Sin) said: bring these two lions you killed to the city, bring them to the temple of Sin
Hittite version by J. Friedrich (in Die hethitischen Bruchstuekes des Gilgamesh-Epos, quoted by Sitchin (1980), without date)
After crossing the death waters with Urshanabi, they were in Tilmun, aiming to the Mashu mountain in a straight way, in the direction of the far away great sea. On the way there was the town Itla, sacred to the god Ullu-Yah
7. Identifying the route of the second trip
According to the proposal defended here, Gilgamesh trip took him to the heart of Asia, to mount Mashu, that we will identify, close to the sources of the Yellow River, with a huge mountain range still sacred to the local population, the Ngolok tribe. Then he returned to Uruk by water, first following the Yellow River (for about 4000 km), then coasting the eastern-southern side of Asia, for at least 15.000 km. Thus Gilgamesh truly succeeded in completing a voyage of epic dimensions, perhaps, after him, surpassed, in terms of mileage and difficulties, only by Ibn Battuta, who crossed the Sahara, the Central Asia deserts and visited China, India, the Meccah nine times.... Gilgamesh reached mount Mashu by a route about which vague information had to be available. The distance travelled in the second trip was about 3000 km longer than by the route he had attempted in the first trip, but now it did not take him through the almost impassable high ranges of the Karakorum. It took him through wild and almost unpopulated steppes, fraught of difficulties in term of quick sands, salt flats and lack of sweet water. We think that without the guiding help of Urshanabi he would have been lost after the about 5000 kilometers that had taken him to the "sea" where he met Siduri, the custodian of the temple of Sin. It is perhaps interesting at this point, before unveiling the final destination, to introduce a digression on how the routes proposed here came to the mind of this author. Gilgamesh epic was first read by me, in the popular Penguin edition, in 1971, when I was visiting the University of Essex in UK for research on Quasi-Newton methods with professor C. Broyden. During my visit a theatrical stage of the epic was performed, where two stark naked actor and actress represented the erotic meeting of Enkidu and the sacred prostitute Shamkhat (the following day a colleague at the CS Department asked me: did you like the performance of my wife? She had acted Shamkhat). Already at that time I had doubts about the real destination of Gilgamesh trips. Several years ago, having reread the epic in the 1992 book of Pettinato, I looked in the Enciclopedia Treccani, the great italian encyclopedia (almost twice the size of the Britannica), about cedars of Lebanon. To my delight I found out that they grow in the variaty Cedrus Deodara in Kashmir. Since the Indus basin and Mesopotamia at Gilgamesh time were in well documented contacts via water, it made sense to hypothesize that not only Kashmir had to be a well known source of cedar timber, but that reaching and exploring that region might have been an interesting goal - personal and even political, in view of incipient trends towards forms of "imperialism" - to a strong willed, intelligent and physically powerful person as king Gilgamesh. Perhaps it is worth here to remember that Alexander too aimed to that region (but perhaps only visited Swat, in the lower reaches of Kashmir), and that before him, apart from the Persian emperors, also Sesostris I the Great had accomplished this feat, at least according to the classical sources (Diodorus, Herodotus) that modern historians have yet to accept. Sesostris I lived some 700 years after Gilgamesh (in a forthcoming paper we will claim that Abraham was his contemporary, worked for him, got a wife from his family and a new land "of honey and milk" in Asir, better than his previous land somewhere located in eastern Anatolia/Azerbaijian/Armenia, not in Sumer). The identification of mount Mashu came suddenly to my mind on a day of May 1999, while I was reading Sitchin’s "The stairway to heaven" (in its Italian translation as "Le astronavi del Sinai", Piemme, 1988). At the point where Sitchin, whose source is mainly the Hittite text in Friedrich’s translation, describes how Gilgamesh, after crossing a mountain pass, saw a water extent, near which there was a city with a temple dedicated to Sin, I closed the eyes and tried to visualize the map of central Asia (since a child I have been fascinated by maps; I possess a remarkable collection of maps and of atlases, several of them of the 18th and 17th century; I sadly miss not having bought a beautiful 1613 edition of the Mercator Atlas, but is was priced 45.000 pounds....). It dawned to me that the water expanse, certainly not a sea but a large lake, had to be the Balkash lake, which, as will be discussed soon, fully satisfies the features in the text. Then I thought what mount Mashu might be in this geographical context, and the answer flashed back immediately, the product of a geographical and anthropological information I had memorized a couple of years before from a book by Leonard Clark, to whose memory this paper is dedicated. Of Leonard Clark, possibly with Heyerdahl the greatest explorer of this century, I had read and reread in my teens the fascinating book The rivers descended to Orient, describing his exploration of the Tambo, Perenè, Ucayali and Maranon rivers. If I had not read his other book The Marching Wind (Funk and Wagnalls, New York; italian translation as Alle porte della Mongolia, Garzanti, 1960), mount Mashu would still remain unidentified. I was lent the book by my cousin Sergio Risso, after it was recommended to me by my aunt Amelia Risso, who at over 80 still reads several books a month. It is quite remarkable that the sacred mountain of the Ngolok has remained unnoticed in the community of people who investigate world places that have ancient religion connections or esoteric significance. As far as I can recall, it is never quoted in the works of the great Tibetanologist Alexandra David Néel. It not cited in the recent book listing sacred mountains by Roux (1999). It is quoted in passim by Messner without any special notice. Almost nothing about it was known by the people I met March 3, 2000, in the Tibetan Foundation in London. Let us now discuss the route that we propose to mount Mashu. Of course the precise itinerary is beyond any possible identification, since the text does not provide sufficient elements. Perhaps if more of the missing lines are found our proposal will have more elements for support or for rejection. Ours is an educated guess, as we did in relation the the route to the river "Euphrates" at the foot of the mountains of the Forest of Cedars. Our guess comes very naturally once the "sea" with the temple of Sin and mount Mashu are identified. Further elements in favour will be presented in a forthcoming paper, Spedicato (2000). Let us first discuss the "sea" with the temple of Sin. The text calls it a "sea", and the Kirgisi actually call it a "sea" (their word for sea being just "Balkash"), but we identify it actually with a large lake. Notice that what we call "Caspian sea" is actually a large lake, the remnant of a previous very large lake, hence in a sense a "sea", that included at least also the Aral lake, as it still appears in the Atlas of Ptolemy, see the edition by Pagani (1990). Notice also that the Caspian is called by Persians "Darya-ye-Khazar", i.e. the "sea" or "water" of the Khazars (whose empire flourished along its northern and eastern sides for seven centuries before the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century). Now "Darya" is a Turkish word that means generally "water expanse" and is used in the whole of central Asia for both rivers, lakes and sea. Thus we claim that Gilgamesh reached this "sea" after a very long way, in a main easterly direction, along which he met wild attacking animals, had to cross large rivers always full of water (the crossing of easily fordable rivers would not merit any mention). The "sea" appears just after the crossing of a mountain pass, appears difficult to cross directly, the steppes around it also appear difficult, making Gilgamesh feel depressed. Near the "sea" there is a city with a temple to Sin, the god, inter alia, associated with the Moon. We identify the above "sea" with the Balkash lake on the following grounds:
- the lake is long 530 km, large at most 85 km, area 22.000 square kilometers; the lake around 1950 was very shallow, max depth only about 11 meters;
- present elevation (Times Atlas, Comprehensive Edition, 1974) is 339 meters over sea level. Just east of it two smaller lakes are found aligned in an easterly direction: lake Sasykul, elevation 334m, and Alakul, 340m. In case the water level in the Balkash would increase by about ten meters, these two lakes would join with the Balkash, as appears it was the case from maps in atlases of the 18th century, then giving rise to a lake over 800 km long but no more than 100 km wide;
- the form of the lake is arcued, rather half-Moon like;
- if the level of the lake would increase to the isoipse 500 meters, quite a possibility in the event of a great flood, it would give rise still to a water expanse with no outlet to the ocean, with a size of circa 150.000 square kilometers, about the area of the Caspian Sea. We do not know how was the elevation of the Balkash at Gilgamesh time. We guess, in view of the drying up tendency, that it was significantly higher than now; the lake could have had the characteristic half Moon shape before the Flood, making it sacred to the god Sin; an increase of the water level to ther isoipse 500m, for instance, about 160 meters higher than now, would completely change its shape.
Let us now discuss our proposal about the meaning of the name BALKASH. We have been unable of getting literature information on the ethymology of that name, even by asking an educated Khazack met on a flight to Oman, and by contacting the greatest expert in Italy on Turkish and Islamic civilization, professor Jibril Mandel, author of close to 200 books, proficient in several central Asia languages, descendent of a noble Afghan family, owner of an 8th century Koran and of some objects that belonged to Gengis Khan (professor Mandel is muslim, the head of the Milan Sufis, his three children are one catholic, one muslim, one jewish...). Our proposal is that the name BALKASH is the contracted form of a more ancient name BALKASHIN. It was to my delight that after having got this idea, I found that atlases and geographic dictionaries up to half the 19th century call the lake BALKASHI, one step closer to the proposed BALKASHIN. Now there are no linguistical problems in the equivalence BALKASHIN = BALKASIN, that we see as a word composed by three each one meaningful one syllabe words, namely BAL - KA - SIN, for which we claim the validity of the following translation: Sin, Lord of the people. The reference to Sin and the term Lord is obvious. The main point is the validity of the identification KA = PEOPLE, that is addressed in Appendix 2. Having on the above grounds identified the "sea" with the temple of Sin with the Balkash lake, we can now make our educated guess on the first stage of Gilgamesh trip, from Uruk to the Balkash lake.
From the Hittite text in Friedrich translation, but not from the corpus in Pettinato, the trip appears to have started when Enkidu was still alive, and by sea, on board of a boat named MA-GAN. The boat sank near the coast of MA-GAN, with Enkidu dying in the accident. Then Gilgamesh continues the trip alone overland. Sitchin identifies Magan with Egypt, while most scholars identify Magan with the easternmost coast of the Arabian peninsula, i.e. mainly Oman and part of the Emirates, in view of the fact that copper was among the exports of Magan and that bronze age mines of copper have been found in the mountains of Oman. If the Hittite version used by Sitchin is correct, then we may think that Gilgamesh again intended to reach the heart of Asia by the Karakorum passes tried before, reaching however the foot of the Kashmir mountains not along the overland route explored in the first trip but by the more usual way via the Indian Ocean and the Indus river. Moreover we claim that MAGAN, also read as MAKAN, is neither Egypt nor Oman, but the southern coast of the Iranian plateau, the ancient Gedrosia, a vast expanse of low mountains extremely poor in wells, that Alexander insisted to cross on the return from India, for reasons that are not clear in the surviving reports of his adventures (Arrianus, Curtius Rufus, Plutarch), perhaps not unrelated to a memory of the feat that we are now proposing Gilgamesh accomplished. This region, while difficult and even now very sparsely populated, is not a complete desert. Now mainly inhabited by Baluchi people, divided between Iran and Pakistan, in classical times, as reported in that superb navigational reference book that is the Periplus of the Erithraean Sea, had a number of ports and a coastal population, the Icthiophagy, that took water and food from sea life. The present local name of this region, attested as I have checked at least in atlases of the 18th century, is MAKRAN (sometimes also spelled as MEKRAN, MUKRAN). The name MAKRAN has obvious similarity with MAGAN/MAKAN, a fact reinforced by the observation that the sound KR does not belong to the Sumerian phonema. Incidentally, let us note that Vinci (1998), in his seminal monograph Omero nel Baltico, (where mainly on geographical grounds he sets the Homeric world and sagas in the Baltic/North Sea region at a time before the circa 1600 BC migration of several indoeuropen people from Northern Europe/western Siberia to central/southern Europe, Anatolia, Iran and India) notices that Homeric TROIA must be located with the southern Finnish town of TOIA, the sound TR not existing in Finnish....
Whether or not the second trip of Gilgamesh began by boat, the "sea" with the temple of Sin was reached overland. The likely route is the following.
If our localisation of the crossing point is correct, then it is likely that Urshanabu took the boat beyond the Ili river. From here there are two ways towards the heart of Asia. One follows the Ili towards Kuldjia (now named Ining). The Ili valley is cut among very high mountains, reaching 7345 meters in the soviet named Peak of Victory, ancient name Khan Tengri, but entrance into Zungaria is possible via a pass elevation about 2000 meters. The second way skirts for about 350 kilometers the Zungarian Alatau range and meets the other way near the Ebinur/Aipi lake. From this point the distance to our proposed Mount Mashu is about 2000 km, along a series of oasis and high plateaus steppes, with plenty of game and of water.
8. Mount Mashu and the return to Uruk
According to a recent proposal by Temple (see Hera Magazine, n. 1, 2000), Mashu means "the place where the sun rises in the orient". This interpretation fits perfectly with our identification and the considerations that we will put forward in a forthcoming paper about on the original land of the Sumerians. Now, to introduce our identification of Mount Mashu, let us recall some bellic events of the 20th century. At the beginning of 1949 the armies of Mao Tsedong were already in control of the whole eastern part of continental China. On the western part Tibet in the south was still dreaming it could keep its former practically complete autonomy, while in the north, along the corridor Xining-Lanzhou, a rather large and combative muslim army led by general Ma Pufang was waiting to check the advance of a Chinese army led by the great general Lin Biao, the man who, with He Long, Peng Dehuai and Chu Teh, implemented in military terms the strategy devised by Mao Tsedong. The muslim army was soon wiped out and Ma Pufang escaped for a golden exile as a guest of his friend King Faruk of Egypt, taking with him 600.000 ounces of gold (perhaps some of it from the graves of Lou Lan) and a rather large number of young girls, presumibly attractive and not particularly expert in military techniques. Xinjang, where attempts had been made several times in the course of last century to gain independence, returned under the firm control of Beijing and was later subject to a policy of Han immigration, that is going to reduce the local Turkish population to a minority, as will also probably happen to Tibet. The way was then opened for the Chinese army to enter Tibet, via the eastern, warriors inhabited, Kham and Amdo regions.
During the few months when Ma Pufang army still hoped to stop Lin Biao, Leonard Clark, acting as a secret officer of the US army, operated behind the lines of the muslim army with the aim to ascertain whether it would be possible to continue resistence against the communists from the northern Tibetan territory. This meant in particular evaluating the food reserves available locally, quite poor in fact, since in practice that would have meant stealing the animals (horses, sheep, yaks) bred by the local tribes. Clark made a quite extensive recognition of northern Quinghai, particulalry of the Tsaidam Basin (Quaidam Pendi), rich of rivers and lakes, including two lakes, Gyaring Hu and Ngorin Hu, formed by the Yellow River at about 100 km from its multiple sources. This region was inhabited by a local Tibetan tribe called the Ngolok (also spelled as Gu-Lok, Go-Log, Mgo-Log). Among the interesting features of these people:
The territory of the Ngolok included a huge mountain range that had never been explored before by westerners and that some geographers had claimed might include the highest mountain in the world. The height of this mountain range is not given in the quoted 1974 Times Atlas, but is given at 6282 meters in the 1992 Revised 6th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas, this figure most probably having been taken from the 1989 Atlas of the People’s Republic of China (APRC), Foreign Languages Press, Beijing. The whole mountain range was sacred to the Ngolok and entrance to it was strictly prohibited to foreigners. The range is over 300 km long and, except for the northern part, is surrounded by the Yellow River that defines its border for over 800 km. As noted before, this huge sacred mountain has escaped attention of apparently all people who have studied sacred mountains. The name of the mountain is so given in the following atlases:
The Yellow rivers, which embraces most of the range, has also a special local name, written as follows:
From the APRC Atlas we also notice a small river named MEQU entering MAQU in a marshy area, and that the administrative capital town of the district is named MAQEN (previously DAWU). Now one can linguistically accept the equivalence between MAQU=MACHU with the Gilgamesh epic word MASHU, especially since these wordings do not completely characterize the exact local prononciations, which moreover certainly has local variations and changes in time. The term ANI, ANYE (ANY-E ?, E turkish-like genitive suffix?) is intriguingly suggestive of the Sumerian name of the god ANU, the head of the Sumerian pantheon. Changes from I to U are indeed linguistically well documented, e.g. in the well known iotization underwent by modern versus classical Greek and in some transitions from Arabic to Farsi in personal names (e.g. ADHUB becomes ADHIB, HAMUD becomes HAMID....Adhib and Hamid are two of my iranian collaborators, Adhub and Hamud were friends of Laurence of Arabia...). Hence on linguistical grounds the sacred mountain of the Ngolok can be equated with the sacred Sumerian Mashu, and this relation is reinforced by the additional reference to ANI=ANU. Thus we conclude that the sacred mountain of the Ngolok fits the basic requirements for an identification of Mashu (a sacred place; a place in the east; a place named Mashu) and we propose, using also Temple’s claim, the following translation of the name/names of the sacred mountain

= the place of god Anu, where the Sun rises.

Having thus identified the final destination of Gilgamesh second trip, let us make an educated guess on his route from the Zungarian Gates.
(a) In a general east-east-south direction, for about 3000 km, pointing to the "great sea" in the Hittite text translation by Friedrichs, that we can now identify with a real great sea, namely the Pacific Ocean
(b) Skirting the northern side of the Tien Shan for about 500 km. This part of Zungaria has several oasis and rivers and at Gilgamesh time was probably even more rich in water than now. The recently completed railway of Xinjang passes here allowing a shorter way between Moscow and Beijing. Notice that the name Zungaria comes from the Mongolian JA’UN-GHAR and corresponds to the Chinese PE-LU, which is Northern Road. Zungaria produces rice, many fruits and till the beginning of last century even tigers were living there.
(c) Crossing into the Turfan depression by way of an easy pass where the city of Urumchi is now located. The Chinese name of Urumchi is TIWA or TI-HOUAS (see Atlas Classique de Géographie, Monin, Paris, 1839-1840). Allowing by metathesis the change TI in IT and noting that W = HOUA is a liquid vowel, essentially a consonant, we can claim the virtual identity of TIWA with ITLA, thereby retrieving the information in the Hittite text according to Friedrichs. Notice moreover that the present name Urumchi may be considered equivalent via the allowed transition fron R to L to ULUMCHI, the ULUM being intriguingly similar to the name of the god ULLUM to which the place was sacred, according to the Hittite text.
(d) Reaching Tun Huang, about 1000 km to the south-east, by way of the great oasis of Hami (also called Kumul or Khamil), which produces the best melons in the world, and by way of Anxi (An Hsi). Notice that Dun Huang (Tun Huang) is an historically very important town, famed for the One Thousand Buddhas, but more importantly for the invaluable cache of some 60.000 scrolls by chance found hidden behind a wall in a monastery around 1920, many of them about 2000 years old, some of them written in Tocarian. It has been fortunate that most of these scrolls were taken out of China to western collections. Thus they probably avoided the fate of ending in flames that affected the great libraries of the Tibetan monasteries, 99% of which were utterly destroyed during the Great Cultural Revolution (Tucci estimated that at least 200.000 different manuscripts of very great antiquity were contained in the Tibetan libraries. Notice that less than 1000 books have come to us from the Greek-Roman world, less than 1% of the important books! The destruction of the Tibetan libraries will certainly be considered by far the greatest crime committed during the Great Cultural Revolution, the loss of perhaps 20 million people in mainland China having been more than overcame in demographic terms by a population increase of two hundred millions, due to the collapse of the one child policy in that period).
(e) From Dun Huang there are several ways into the Tsaidam Basin and then to Any-e-Machen, a distance of about 1000 km. It is a region of elevation between 2000 and 3000 meters, rich of marshes, lakes, rivers, game and minerals. Lakes should be noted (or so were at the time Clark saw them) for the incredible transparency of their waters, allowing to see their bottom at great depths, and for the beauty of big richly coloured fish, never taken or eaten by the local population (Clark could easily catch them with his hands; curiously the same full respect of fish life, not a feature of the Chinese who came after Lin Biao, was practiced by several tribes on the Atlantic seaboard of Canada when Europeans first arrived there; possibly these American tribes, who migrated not several millennia before from northern Asia, had ancient ties with northern Tibetan tribes). This region, as is true for most of Tibet, is also full of aromatic medicinal plants, the so called Chinese herbal medicine having originated in the plateau of Tibet (the Tibetan School of Medicine was one of the very few Tibetan institutions to escape whole destruction during the Great Cultural Revolution). The area is also rich in rare minerals, including uranium ore. Perhaps these special features may explain certain "esoteric" details characterizing the region where Gilgamesh met Utanapishtim.
From Any-e-Machen the return to Uruk can be accomplished over water. First by following the Yellow River, which is a rather peaceful river, without the dangerous gorges and currents found for instance in the Yang Tze-Kiang (the Blue River also called now the Chang Jang). Then by coasting China, Indochina, India and Makran to Uruk via a short stretch of the Euphrates. Certainly a rather long trip, some 15.000 km, but without any real great difficulties, the main danger after Gilgamesh years for this trip coming from piratery, a profession certainly not yet developed at Gilgamesh times. We end this section with a remark on Pettinato’s translation in XI, 195, reading, in Italian, "alla foce dei fiumi", i.e. at the "exit of rivers into the sea". In Sitchin and other authors this passage reads as "the mouth of rivers", leaving untranslated the original word "mouth". From our identification the meeting with Utanapishtim took place in a mountain very far away from any sea or ocean. In fact we will discuss in a future paper that Utanapishtim story is unrelated to the Noah story, except for the fact that both men were survivors of the same Great Flood. Notice that Talmudic and Midrashic sources quoted by Velikovsky (1999) state that there were several "Noahs" and that many boats were built to survive the Flood, most of which were recked in the violence of the event. As already it was suggested in Spedicato (1984) Noah’s flood should be located, as also Rohl does, in the region between lake Van and lake Urmiah, i.e. in eastern Anatolia-Azerbaijian, while the original Sumerian Ziusudra’s story (perhaps Ziusudra original name was changed to Utanapishtim by semitic scribes who knew Noah’s story and believed the two persons were the same) must be located much more to the east. In a future paper we will be able to pinpoint the exact place where Ziusudra boat stopped. This localisation suggests also that a reason for the survival was the fact of being right in the heart of Asia, where a huge tsunamic wave washing south from the Arctic Ocean had already spent much of its fury.

From the above observations, we suggest that the term "mouth" should be read as "source", i.e. the place where the river "drinks, gets" its waters. Moreover an inspection of the Qinghai map in APRC shows that the Yellow River, locally now and possibly already at Gilgamesh times called MAQU/MASHU, has several sources, none of which can really be pinpointed as the longest one, no less than 9 of them being located west of the village of Horgorgoinba. This interesting geographical feature may explain the plural "rivers". Additionally we may also note that, in a stretch of land no more than 500 km long south-west of the Yellow River in the Any-e-Machen region, several huge rivers are found, that wash almost half of Asia, namely the Yang Tze Kiang, the Mekong and the Brahmaputra. This region was historically eastern Tibet, but in the course of the last 150 years most of it has been added to the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Szichuan and Quinghai. Present Tibet now covers less than half of what it was when the Mongols, as Chinese Yuan emperors, for the first time added it to the Chinese (more precisely then the Mongolian) empire. We will claim in a next paper that Tibet was originally even larger, arguing for the identity TIBET=TILMUN.

9. Final remarks

The above paper is based upon a quite limited amount of documentation. We believe that more research and use of documents from Central Asia will shed more light and, we believe, will give further confirmation of the thesis defended here. In the course of this research it suddenly dawned to this author that the proposed itinerary of Gilgamesh is associated with an apparently never before proposed identification of Eden, that appears to be a perfect fit with the biblical data, while several discrepancies are easily noticed in both the Salibi (1988) and Rohl (1998) proposals. Moreover our Eden identification leads naturally to identifying the route taken by Adam when he left Eden, Cain land of Nod and what is the special sign left to his descendents, Aratta, Dilmun and the original place of the Sumerians (it will be clear that they arrived in Middle East only after the Flood). Salibi and Rohl’s identifications are however valuable because they relate to two different places where the ancestors of the Hebrews moved in the course of their long peregrinations, when, reaching a new land, they renamed places according more or less to the geographical configuration in their previous territory, exactly as the Danai/Achaioi did when they came to the Mediterranean from their original Baltic lands, as Vinci (1998) has so convincingly claimed. These new identifications will be presented in a forthcoming paper, Spedicato (2000).

Acknowledgements - This paper would never have been written without the following contributions:

To all the above persons my warm thanks are given.

Appendix 1: on some numbers in the epic

Numbers are given in the text in term of "talents". The Sumerian talent had a huge value, corresponding to 1800 kilos. This would make the weight of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s axes 5.4 tons, which is an unrealistic value. We think that the talent referred to in the Yale paleobabylonian tablet, circa 1800-1600 BC according to standard chronology, but circa 1670-1370 BC according to Rohl (1997), must already be taken as the value corresponding to the Homeric and classical talent value, about 27 kilos. We base this claim on the fact that first it leads to load that, while still huge, will be shown to be acceptable in the context of unusually strong men; secondly because the recent revolutionary work of Vinci (1998), by dating the Homeric world to the full of the bronze age before 1600 BC (and locating it around the Baltic and the North Sea), implies the antiquity of the talent, that may have substituted at the beginning of the second millennium BC the talent in Mesopotamia, after Indoeuropeans arrived to Iran and the Caucasus (at least one indoeuropean tribe reached even southern Arabia, the Shihu, who live on the mountains of Sharjia, see Bibby (1970)). Let us start be recalling that Gilgamesh and Enkidu were tall and strong men, Enkidu perhaps the strongest, since he had beaten Gilgamesh in the fight that made the walls of the Uruk houses shake. While the figures for Gilgamesh given in the Hittite version ("he was taller than 11 "arus", his chest was 9 spans wide, his phallus was 3 ? ") seem to be exaggerated (but perhaps again here the unit of measure was no more the ancient original Sumerian measure) and would have led to some practical problems in his implementing of the "primae noctis ius", it does not appear impossible that his stature would have been well over two meters, such sizes being not a feature only of our age. This would correspond to a body weight of possibly over 150 kilos. The equipment of Gilgamesh and Enkidu included 3 axes (about 80 kilos assuming our late value for the talent) and more than 10 talents (over 250 kilos) of weapons. This would give a total load of over 300 kilos, about twice the estimated weight of their body. Now that man can make long hours of walk or of work under loads that are over his body weight is quite a common fact, as we show again by a few examples.


Appendix 2: on the meaning of KA

It is now believed by many language specialists, in the aftermath of the seminal work done by professor Joseph Greenberg of Stanford University, that all human languages descend from a single original language, paralleling the recent discovery, by sophisticated genetic analysis (of mithocondrial DNA and of the Y gene), that all present humans descend from a single woman and a single father, who lived an estimated circa 200.000 years ago. The work of Greenberg and coworkers has led to group the existing and the known extinct languages in different levels of families and superfamilies, one of which, called the Afroasiatic family, includes camitic, semitic, indoeuropeans, turkish and other previously defined families. Here we claim that the syllabe KA should be related to an afroasiatic word vowel - K - vowel with the general meaning of people, clan on the basis of the following instances:


Appendix 3: on the cedars in the world

Cedars grow naturally on the vast expanse of land from the mountains of Morocco up to the Himalayas, an arc of over 10.000 km. Cedars are denominated as belonging to different species, but in fact are now considered to be all a same species, which has developed varieties. Here are some information on cedars, taken from Emciclopedia Treccani, 1953 edition.


Appendix 4: Yetis in Africa?

In Chioffi (2000) a translation is given of the integral text of a voyage by Hanno, a Carthaginian general, who followed the coasts of Africa at least up to the region of the great Cameroon volcano, which was in full eruption. The voyage description is preserved in a 10th century manuscript and contains intriguing description of some creatures whose behaviour is strongly reminiscent of the yetis. Here are the relevant passages:

Do gorillas throw stones? At least Gilgamesh did not skin Khubaba. Killing yetis with guns and skinning them seems to be, nowadays, a passatempo of the Chinese soldiers in Tibet, see Messner (1999). Homo homini lupus.


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Emilio Spedicato è nato a Milano nel 1945. Laureato in fisica e PhD in matematica computazionale alla Dalian University of Technology, Cina, è attualmente ordinario di ricerca operativa presso l’Università di Bergamo. Ha lavorato anche sette anni per il CISE e 5 anni per il CNR. Ha soggiornato per alcuni anni in USA (Stanford University), Inghilterra e Germania. Oltre a lavori relativi all’ottimizzazione nonlineare ed all’algebra lineare (fondatore con Abaffy e Broyden dei metodi ABS ora documentati in circa 400 lavori, nel cui ambito è stata data recentemente la migliore soluzione del decimo problema di Hilbert), ha interessi per la storia antica, l’astronomia e l’origine delle mitologie e delle religioni.