Geography of Gilgamesh Travels, Part II:
The Route to Mount Mashu
In this part of the paper, we consider Gilgamesh trip to Mount Mashu.
We identify this mountain with the Anye Maquen range, close to the sources
of the Yellow River, sacred to the local Ngolok population. We propose
that Gilgamesh reached this mountain via the Zungarian Gates.
In questa parte del lavoro consideriamo il viaggio di Gilgamesh verso
il Monte Mashu, da noi identificato nella catena montuosa detta Anye Maquen,
localizzata presso le sorgenti del Fiume Giallo e sacra alla tribu' degli
Ngolok. Proponiamo che Gilgamesh abbia raggiunto tale meta passando dalle
Porte di Zungaria.
1. The second trip. Numerics and geographical information
The second trip aims to reach mount Mashu, the dwelling place of Utanapishtim
(in Assyrian; Ziusudra in Sumerian), a man who survived the Flood and who
was granted granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh hoped to get from
Utanapishtim the secret for immortality. He did not get it (we may hint
that the secret is the one that locally survived till the time of Marpa,
the teacher of Milarepa).
In the following we give the surviving information from the Gilgamesh
texts in Pettinato (1992).
Tablets from Assurbanipal library.
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.
IX, 36: The name of the mountain is Mashu.
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?
IX, 132-134 : You, Gilgamesh, do not be afraid! I open for you Mount Mashu,
cross without fear the mountains and the hills!
X, 1 : Siduri, the hostess who lives far away at the shore of the sea.
X, 43-47: Why do you look as someone who has travelled over long distances?
Why does your face show signs of hot and of cold wheather? Why do you wander
only covered with a lion skin?
X, 76-91: Gilgamesh insisted: Please, hostess, which is the direction to
Utanapishtim? Give me accurate directions. 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, fraught 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".
X, 156-160: Gilgamesh, take an axe, go to the wood, cut planks of 30 meters
length, work them smooth, bring them to me.
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.
X, 259-261: I have killed bears, hyenas, lions, leopards, tigers, deer...
XI, 194-195: Now let Utanapishtim and his wife be like gods. Let Utanapishtimdwell
far away, at the mouth of the rivers.
XI, 257-258: Gilgamesh and Urshanabi enter the boat. They free the boat
and begin the [return] voyage.
Berlin/London tablet, 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.
Berlin/London tablet,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 the two lions you killed to the city, bring
them to the temple of Sin.
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.
Hittite version by J. Friedrich (1930), quoted by Sitchin (1980):
2. Identifying the route of the second trip
According to the scenario proposed by us, 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 succeeded
in performing a voyage of truly epic dimensions.
Gilgamesh reached mount Mashu by a route about which some information
had to be available. The distance travelled in the second trip was about
3000 km longer than by the route he had attempted the first time. Now however
he did not have to go through the almost impassable high ranges of the
Karakorum. The route 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 tple 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 my mind. I first read Gilgamesh epic in the Penguin edition, in
1971, when I was visiting the University of Essex in UK for research in
numerical optimization. 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 great italian Enciclopedia
Treccani (almost twice the size of the Britannica), about cedars of Lebanon.
To my delight I found out that they grow in the variety 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.
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". 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 visualized the map of central Asia. 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. Of Leonard Clark, possibly
with Heyerdahl the greatest explorer of the 20th century, I had read and
reread in my teens the fascinating book Thr rivers ran to east,
describing his explorations in Amazonia. Reading his less known book The
Marching Wind, led me to the proposed identification of Mount Mashu.
Let us now discuss the route that we propose to Mount Mashu. Our guess
is very natural once the "sea" with the temple of Sin and Mount Mashu are
Let us first discuss the "sea" with the temple of Sin. The text calls
it a "sea", and the local Kirghiz actually call it "sea" (their word for
sea being just "Balkash"), but it is actually a large lake. Notice that
what we call "Caspian sea" is also 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 the Atlas of Ptolemy shows, see the critical edition
by Pagani (1990).
We claim that Gilgamesh reached this "sea" after a very long way, in
a mainly easterly direction, along which he was attacked by wild beasts
and had to cross large rivers always full of water. The "sea" appearead
just after crossing a mountain pass. Going beyond the sea appeared to be
difficult, the steppes around were also appearing difficult, making Gilgamesh
feel depressed. Near the "sea" there was a city with a temple dedicated
to Sin, the god, inter alia, associated with the Moon.
We identify the above "sea" with the Balkash lake on the following grounds:
It is certainly far away from Sumer, about 4000 km as the crow flies, probably
well over 5000 km by the route taken by Gilgamesh, where many detours and
false starts had to occur.
It lies in a rather flat basin, elevation around 350-400 meters, which
is surrounded on the north and west side by a chain of hills (the Khaisaghin
Daban hills in the north reach 1559 meters, the Chu-Ili hills on the west
reach 1053 meters). On the south-east, beyond the mainly flat gently sloping
delta of the Ili, there are the quite high Tien Shan mountains, reaching
almost 5000 meters.
The lake is fed mainly by a river coming from the fertile green Fergana
valley among high mountains, where the city of Alma-Ata is located. The
river has the intriguing name Ili, easily associated with the semitic
EL, one of the main gods.
From a description of the lake at the end of the 19th century by Grégoire
(1876) we have the following information (to be probably updated in the
sense of a decreasing size of the lake, the phenomenon of drying up of
inner lakes being common worldwide and being probably related to the fact
that such lakes were filled over their normal capacity during some catastrophical
flooding event, the Noah-Utanapishtim flood being one of such likely events):
The waters are salty, undrinkable by man, so salty that only small fish
live in the lake. It has a tormented coastline, it is surrounded by marshes,
quick sands and salty deposits, over which it is extremely difficult to
move by foot, either for man and for camel, see Hedin (1943) for the claim
that these areas, called scior in central Asia, are avoided by everyone.
Around the shores there are woods. The lake has sources of sweet water
on his bottom, that apparently have contributed in reducing the high salinity
noted in the 19th century to a more moderate salinity, especially in the
southern part (industrial pollution is now poisoning the lake).
the lake is 530 km long, at most 85 km large, area 22.000 square kilometers;
- present elevation (Times Atlas, Comprehensive Edition, 1974) is 339 meters
over sea level. Just east of Balkash 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 lake around 1950 was very shallow, max depth only about 11 meters
- if the level of the lake would reach the isoipse 500 meters, quite a
possibility in the event of a great flood, it would give rise to a water
expanse with no outlet to the ocean and a size of about 150.000 square
kilometers. We do not know how was the elevation of the Balkash at Gilgamesh
time (but see below). We guess, in view of the drying up tendency of inner
lakes, that it was significantly higher than now;
the form of the lake is arcuate, rather half-Moon like.
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 the
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 etymology
of that name, that for the Kirghiz is now synonimous of "sea". Our proposal
is that the name BALKASH is the contracted form of a more ancient BALKASHIN.
To my delight I have found that atlases and geographic dictionaries up
to the mid 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 meaningful
monosyllabic words, namely BAL - KA - SIN, for which we claim the validity
of the following translation: Sin, Lord of the people. The references
to Sin and the term Lord are obvious. The main point is the validity of
the identification KA = PEOPLE, that is addressed in the Appendix.
the name of the lake is indicative, in the linguistic analysis that we
will propose, of a relation with the god Sin, to whom perhaps the lake
was sacred in view of its peculiar half-Moon shape (if not at Gilgamesh
time, before the Flood).
Having thus identified the "sea" with the temple of Sin with the Balkash
lake, we can now make an 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 continued
the trip alone overland. Sitchin identifies Magan with Egypt, while most
scholars identify Magan with the easternmost coast of the Arabian peninsula,
i.e. 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 the Kashmir
mountains not by 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 a land including the southern coast of the Iranian plateau, the
ancient Gedrosia, a vast extremely dry expanse of valleys, plateaus and
low mountains, 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 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 Erythraean Sea, had a number of ports
and a coastal population, the Icthyophagies, that survived on sea life
(some of them even had cows, that were fed with dried fish: the flesh of
these cows tasted of fish, according to the report of Nearchos, quoted
in Arrianus book on India; thus we see that feeding proteins to cows predates
our times!!). The present local name, 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 phonama. Moreover the name MAKAN appears in the 18th century great
D'Anville Atlas as a region in the present Kara Kum desert, which comprises
much of Turkmenistan, north of Khorasan. In view of references to a people
called Maka in several inscriptions found in the excavations of Persepolis
after second world war, located in the east, and of other considerations
that will be developed in a forthcoming paper, we claim that MAGAN/MAKAN
should be indentified with the eastern part of the "great Iran" to which
Shanameh refers, comprising much of present Turkmenistan, Khorasan, Sistan,
Baluchistan and Makran.
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.
First from Uruk to Sistan. This could have been done via sea and then crossing
the Makran region, along one of the valleys that certainly allowed the
precious hard stones and the copper mined or worked in Sistan to reach
the Indian Ocean for trade to the east and to the west. Notice also that
there are important copper mines in Birjand, just about 150 km north-west
of central Sistan, that possibly were already exploited in bronze age time,
therefore voiding the claim that Oman was Magan because of the presence
of copper in Oman, and that recently translated Accadian documents refer
to metal specialists sent to eastern Iran to get hold of copper. Or the
trip could have been made overland, possibly even by same route taken in
the first trip.
Let us now discuss the second stage of the trip, from lake Balkash to Mount
Mashu. As observed before and as additionally discussed below, at Gilgamesh
time lake Balkash was almost certainly much larger, with a length close
to 1000 km and a width possibly over 100 km on average. We do not know
where the temple of Sin was, certainly close to the ancient higher shore,
so at some distance of the present shore. A look at the map of the Times
Atlas of the World, Comprehensive Edition, 1974, suggests that Gilgamesh,
who presumibly had coasted the western side of the Tien Shan (Mountain
of the Sky), may have crossed the Chu-Ili hills in the pass where both
a road and a railway exist now, near the towns of Khantau and Burubaytal,
hence approaching the lake at its southern shore. At his time the lake
probably filled much of the Zhusandala steppe, that extends east of the
present southern side of the lake. As is the case for many flat bottomed
lakes in central Asia, navigation is often extremely dangerous due to the
low level of the waters. Once a boat gets stuck in the muddy bottom, putting
it again in motion may be an almost impossible task, because the soft bottom,
essentially consisting of quick sands, is extremely dangerous for anyone
who would jump in the waters trying to push the boat.
From Sistan the natural way to the Balkash, not less than 3000 km, skirts
the western side of the mountains of Afghanistan and Pamir, in a basic
direction north-east. On this way Gilgamesh had to cross a few really large
rivers, certainly not fordable and rich of water the whole year around,
including the Amu Darya (literally The sea of Amu, Adamu?; classical
Oxus, meaning The great water), the Syr Darya (classical Jaxartes/Araxes,
meaning The sea of lions) and, finally, the Chu river. The epic
states that Gilgamesh was attacked by dangerous animals along the way.
Leopards and hyenas are still found in the area; the famous Aral tiger
became extinct around 1950 and was common along the Amu Darya even in the
Termez region still before Second World War, see McLean (1949); lions were
common in classical times.
The above navigational problem first suggested to me that the "stone
stelae" that looked so important to Urshanabi and that Gilgamesh had broken,
might have been magnetite, and could have been used as a compass (recall
that compass comes from China, and that many elements of Chinese culture
and science have their original source in the heart of Asia). This would
also explain why Urshanabi was still able to navigate using apparently
fragments of the broken stelae, since they of course would still maintain
their dipole characteristics.
There is however an even more interesting possibility. If the water
level of lake Balkash at Gilgamesh time was about 150 meters higher than
now, the lake would extend into Zungaria flooding the Zungarian depression
and the pass called Zungarian Gates, a corridor about 80 km long,
10 km wide, with very steep mountains walls, appearing from Shuttle photographs
just as a clear vertical cut in the mountains (let us recall the biblical
statement that at the time of Peleg the earth was dividedů.) and
would almost reach the present city of Urumchi. Thus there would have been
a connected water basin, most certainly of salt water possibly originated
from the Arctic Ocean via a huge tsunami associated with the Flood. It
would have had an extension of several hundred thousand kilometers, given
by a much larger Balkash connected with the flooded Zungarian basin. Under
these conditions one had to navigate the flooded Zungarian gates to enter
Now the Zungarian gates are a very special geographical structure, characterized
not only by steep walls where trails were probably not existing and (presently
at least) by lack of sweet water, but they are extremely windy, so much
so that caravans in the past tended to avoid them when they had to reach
Kirghizistan and Khazakistan from Xinjang, preferring to pass by the longer
and more northernly way of Chuguchak, through the Tarbagatai hills, see
Lattimore (1929, 1995). In view of the difficulty of navigating the flooded
Zungarian Gates, with their strong winds and presumibly also strong and
turbolent currents, it is possible that the big stones used by Urshanabi
were the so called "drag stones", i.e. flat large stones that tied with
a rope to the boat were used to increase the drag of the boat, hence to
stabilize it against winds and currents. Such stabilizing technique is
known from Herodotus to have been used by people navigating the Nile when
strong northernly winds from the Mediterranean made navigation impossible
even by following the natural Nile current; the boatmen in such a case
dropped large stones and so were able to navigate as under normal conditions.
The technique is essentially even now used by fishermen in the Bosphorus,
who have no problem in navigating tp an easternly direction by following
the upper current from the Marmara Sea towards the Black Sea, and are able
to navigate to the westernly direction against such a current by dropping
a chest full of stones that catches the lower cold current from the Black
Sea towards the Marmara Sea. It should finally be noted that several huge
specially shaped anchor stones have been found in the Kazan/Uzengili region
near Mount Judi of last century Armenian maps in eastern Turkey, where
a structure has emerged in 1948 that might be the remnant of Noah's Ark,
see Fasold (1988); in this context Fasold, a marine expert dealing in recovery
of foundered spanish vessels in the Caribbeans, has proposed that the stones
were drag stones stabilizing the ark against the strong winds and rough
seas of the Flood.
Finally notice that evidence that the inner basins of central Asia were
in fact huge lakes, as we have above proposed in connection with the Balkash-Zungarian
system, has recently been given by the Turkish geomorphologist Erol on
the basis of satellite pictures, see Ryan and Pitman (1998).
Now near Urumchi, precisely on the northern side of the Bokhda-Ula (or
Bogdo Ola, sacred mountain) range, there is a huge solfatara, with
a perimeter of some 25 km at the beginning of the 19th century, see Marmocchi
(1856), where large amounts of poisonous gases are emitted, killing every
being, birds included, that would attempt to cross the area. The gases
would escape from the waters and might kill anyone on a boat. We are presently
unable to ascertain the actual coastline of the Balkash at Gilgamesh time,
but the phenomenon here described would provide a perfect explanation of
the "waters of death" described in the epic. Another phenomenon that may
have characterized such an extended Balkash would also have been the low
visibility associated with the dust carried by the winds, very strong in
Zungaria, making the availability of a compass very important.
3. 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 scenario and the considerations that will be put
forward in a forthcoming paper about the original land of the Sumerians.
Now, to introduce our identification of Mount Mashu, let us recall some
war 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 Tibetans
in the south still hoped they could keep their ancient autonomy, while
in the north, along the corridor Xining-Lanzhou, a muslim army led by general
Ma Pufang tried to stop the advance of a Chinese army led by Lin Biao.
The muslim army was quickly routed, and Xinjang returned under the firm
control of Beijing. 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, an American military envoy by Ma Pufang, tried to ascertain whether
it would have been possible to continue resistence against the communists
from the northern Tibetan territory. Clark made a recognition of northern
Quinghai, particularly of the Tsaidam Basin, rich of rivers and lakes,
including two lakes, Gyaring Hu and Ngorin Hu, formedby the Yellow River
at about 100 km from its multiple sources. This region was inhabited by
a Tibetan tribe called the Ngolok (also spelled as Gu-Lok, Go-Log, Mgo-Log),
who still practiced the ancient Tibetan pre Buddhist religion named Bon-Po,
and who were excellent horsemen and fighters.
The territory of the Ngolok included a great mountain range sacred to
them and closed 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. The name of the mountain is so given in the following
ANYE MAQEN SHAN, in the Atlas of People's Republic of China (APRC) and
in the 1992 National Geographic Atlas (Maquen is pronounced as Machen)
AMNE MACHIN Range and ANI MACHING Shan, in the quoted 1974 Times Atlas
AMNIE MACHIN, in the Grande Atlante Geografico, M. Beretta and L. Visintin
editors, Istituto Geografico De Agostini, 1927
The Yellow rivers, which braces most of the range, has also a special local
name, written as follows:
AMNIA MACHER, in the book Dach der Erde, Berlin, 1938, quoted by Messner
(1999). In Richardson (1998) the mountain is spelled as A-MYES RMA-CHEN
and the local name of the Yellow River is spelled as RMACHU.
MACHU, in The Times Atlas, 1895 (no local name is given in the 1974 edition)
Now we 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
dative suffix?) is intriguingly suggestive of the Sumerian name of the
god ANU, the head of the Sumerian pantheon. Changes from I to U are linguistically
well documented, e.g. in the well known iotization undergone by
modern versus classical Greek and in some transitions from Arabic to Farsi
in personal names (e.g. ADHUB becomes ADHIB, HAMUD becomes HAMID..). Hence
on linguistical grounds the sacred mountain of the Ngolok can be equated
with the sacred Sumerian Mashu, a relation reinforced by the additional
reference to ANI=ANU. Thus we may conclude that the sacred mountain of
the Ngolok fits the basic requirents 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
MAQU (read as above), in the APRC Atlas.
ANYE MAQUEN = ANU MASHU
= the place of god Anu, where the Sun rises .
We might even infer the identification ANU MASHU = NIMUSH, Nimush being
the name of the mountain where Ziusudra (alter ego of Utanapishtim in the
older versions of the epic) landed his boat, thus confirming the assertion
that we made elsewhere (Spedicato, 1991) that Noah and Ziusudra are distinct
survivors of the Flood, by them experienced in quite far away lands, Noah
in eastern Anatolia, Ziusudra in the heart of Asia. That many boats were
built to survive the Flood and that more than one of them survived the
event is stated in Talmud and in Midrashim, and additionally in the Koran.
Having thus identified the final destination of Gilgamesh second trip,
let us make an educated guess on his route from the Zungarian Gates.
In a general east-east-south direction, for about 3000 km, pointing to
the "great sea" in the Hittite text translation by Friedrich, that we can
now identify with a real great sea, namely the Pacific Ocean.
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. Notice that the name Zungaria comes from
the Mongolian JA'UN-GHAR and corresponds to the Chinese PE-LU, which is
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 Géeographie, 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 Friedrich. Notice moreover that the present name Urumchi may be considered
equivalent via the allowed transition fron R to L to ULUMCHI, ULUM being
intriguingly similar to the name of the god ULLU to which the place was
sacred, according to the Hittite text, CHI meaning in mongolian "place"
(place of good grazing is presently considered to be the meaning
of the word Urumchi).
Reaching Dunhuang, about 1000 km to the south-east, by way of the great
oasis of Hami and Anxi. Notice that Dunhuang 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 1500 years old, among
them the first documents found written in Tocarian, a previously unknown
new indoeuropean language.
From Anye Maqen 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.
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
time for this trip coming from piratery, a profession certainly not yet
developed at his times.
From Dunhuang there are several routes into the Tsaidam Basin and then
to Anye Maqen, 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 disturbed or eaten by the local population. This region, as is true
for most of Tibet, is also full of aromatic medicinal plants 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.
This paper (parts I and II) would never have been written without the
the corpus of all Gilgamesh texts provided by Pettinato
the Hittite text version of Friedrich in Sitchin (our itineraries differ
from those proposed by Sitchin)
the relation of LBN with "milk, dairy products" and the rendering of PRT
as PAROT is due to dr. Lia Mangolini, as PERATH is due to Antonio Agriesti
the information on the Hunza valley has come by Agriesti, who, having studied
many languages, helped much in the analysis of etymology of some words
the information on Anye Maqen came via my aunt Amelia Risso and my late
uncle Umberto Risso's unquenchable thirst for books, among which I found
the book by Clark
the information on the solfatara near Urumchi comes from Mariuccia Risso's
inspection of the Marmocchi's four volumes, bought years ago by my uncle
D. Fasold, The ark of Noah, Wynwood Press, New York, 1988
J. Friedrich, "Die hethitischen Bruchstueckes des Gilgamesh-Epos", Zeitschrift
fuer Assyriologie, 49, 1930
L. Grégoire, Géographie Générale,
S. Hedin, Il lago errante, Einaudi, 1943-XXI
O. Lattimore, The desert road to Turkestan, Little, Brown and
(also by Kodansha International, 1995)
F. McLean, Eastern approaches, Jonathan Cape, London, 1949
F.C. Marmocchi, Geografia Universale, SEI, Torino, 1856
G. Pettinato, La saga di Gilgamesh, Rusconi, 1992
L. Pagani (editor), Cosmographie, Tables de la Géographie
de Ptolémé, Bookking International, 1990
W. Ryan and W. Pitman, Noah's Flood. The new scientific discoveries
on the event that changed history, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1998
Z. Sitchin, The stairway to heaven, Bear and Company, Santa Fe,
E. Spedicato, Apollo objects and Atlantis, a catastrophical scenario
for the end of the last glaciation, NEARA Journal 26, 1-14, 1991
E. Spedicato, "Who were the Hyksos?", C\&C Review 1, 55,
G. Tucci, La via dello Swat, Newton Compton. 1978
Appendix: 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 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 hamitic, sitic, indoeuropeans, turkish
and other previously defined families.
Here we claim that the syllable KA should be related to an afroasiatic
word vowel - K - vowel with the general meaning of people, clan
on the basis of the following arguments:
the great anthropologist Luca Cavalli Sforza, of Stanford University, spent
many years researching a tribe of Pygmies living in Cameron; as many other
"primitive" people, these Pygmies called themselves AKA, a word meaning
there are four main tribes in Ghana who speak a common language, whose
name, AKAN, means "of the people"
a very interesting "primitive" tribe of hunters lived on a sacred mountain
at the border of Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. It was led to extinction when
the British prohibited their ancestral way of life based on hunting. They
called themselves IK, presumibly meaning "people", albeit the meaning of
this name is not given in Turnbull (1972), the anthropologist who studied
them. This tribe had anthropometric features unrelated to those of the
surrounding Bantu tribes and a language apparently close to that of ancient
the work IK means "clan" in several dialects of the Berbers and in Guanche
the Khazars had two leaders, one, the Bek, involved in administrative matters,
another, the Kagan, involved in religious matters. Now the acceptable equivalences
KA-GAN = KA-HAN (a Hebrew name) = CO-HEN (a high priest in Levi's tribe)=
KA-HN (the king of Mongols) = CAC- ANUS (the latin name used by Paulus
Diaconus with reference to the chiefs of the Avars, by him related to the
Huns) seem all to have the same original meaning, that we interpret as
AN = divine light, KA = of the people, in perfect correspondence with the
actual role associated with these names
perhaps the original meaning of the term Inca is IN-CA=AN-CA,= divine
light of people
the Afghani are divided into differently named tribes, but share, or at
least shared till about half of 19th century, the common name
Aklai = AK-LAI, where the exact meaning of LAI is not clear to me (perhaps
by metathesis it is related to AK-EL, i.e. "divine people", "people of
the gods"); in a future paper we will argue that the land where Sargon
II relocated most of the 10 tribes deported from Samaria was Afghanistan/Kashmir,
hence explaining the proposed origin of the word Aklai and the presence
of many clearly hebraic words in local topography and in the Pashtun language
- - - - -
one of the tribes living in Swat (a mountain province of Pakistan, whose
name derives from sanscrit Suvasto, country of the beautiful buildings)
is called locally Assaka, the Assakenoi of the Greeks, see Tucci (1978).
Now ASSA (prascrit) = ASVA (sanscrit) = ASPA (old Persian), means "horse",
implying, with our interpretation of the word KA, the expressive meaning
people of the horses. It is known that the Chinese called the invading
Mongols of Gengis Khan the People of the Horses. In Spedicato (1997)
it has been argued that the real meaning of the word Hyksos, the fierce
warriors that invaded Egypt at the end of the 13th dynasty, is also People
of the horses, from HYK = AK and SOS = SUS (hebrew) = HORSE. In the
framework of this interpretation we can also propose that the Saka people
who invaded Sistan were the same as the Assaka, and even that such a meaning
is behind the name Kazakh (an eastern Kazakh tribe is still named Sachs).
[The first part of this paper has been
published in Episteme, N. 1, June, 2000]