Damien F. Mackey
The Akkadian kings were extensive builders, so why, then, so few traces of their work?
Not to mention, where is their capital city of Akkad?
The Ur III founder, Ur-Nammu, built a wall at Ur. Not a trace remains.
Remarkable, too, that, whilst the kings of Akkad were celebrated down through the millennia,
regarding the Ur III dynasts, the later Mesopotamians showed a surprising lack of interest.
My attempted fusion in this new series of Akkad with Ur III, tentatively done at this stage,
might serve to account for some of these surprises for archaeologists.
This article is effectively Part Four of my series:
Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham
Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham. Part Two: Narmer as Naram Sin.
Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham. Part Three: (Narmer) Naram Sin as Amraphel.
in which series I have, with an eye to a suitable archaeology for the patriarch Abraham, argued for him to have been a contemporary of both Narmer and pharaoh Hor-Aha “Menes”. Narmer, I have gone on to identify with Naram Sin of Akkad. And, accepting the view of then Dr. Albright, I have taken Naram Sin’s foe “Manium”, of “Magan”, to have been pharaoh Menes of Egypt.
Finally, given Naram Sin’s might and world extensive conquests – effective as far as Egypt and Ethiopia (“Meluhha”) – his alliance with a powerful Elam, plus his contemporaneity with Abra[ha]m, I have considered him as being a highly likely candidate for the biblical Amraphel of Shinar in his partnership with Chedorlaomer of Elam.
But I had also thought, as have others, that Amar Sin of the Ur III dynasty held some useful qualifications towards being Amraphel. And that has led me to this article, which – with the inclusion of Ur III – takes me now in a bit of a different direction.
Can the dynasty of Akkad be identified with the Ur III dynasty?
And can Naram Sin be identified with Amar Sin?
Those Archaeological Anomalies
Some major problems associated with the Akkadian empire may have been resolved by the intriguing argument of Anne Habermehl (see Part Three), according to which the biblical ‘land of Shinar’ was, not Sumer, but the Sinjar region of NE Syria.
For one, this may enable for the Akkadian capital city of Akkad (Agade) finally to be discovered – or simply recognised, since Habermehl thinks that ancient Akkad is the long-known site of Tell Brak. Indeed, Tell Brak was a place of great importance for the Akkadian rulers.
Secondly, the extensive Sumerian revolt against Naram Sin would surely have overwhelmed the king if his city of Akkad had truly been located in Sumer. Naram Sin’s enemies would have been massing right ‘on his doorstep’, so to speak. If instead, however, the centre of the Akkadian kingdom was in NE Syria, then its rulers would have had more room to manoeuvre when fighting against Sumerian insurgents.
Now, if I am right in thinking that the Akkadian kingdom actually needs to be merged with that of Ur III, then that would immediately dissolve certain further mystifying elements.
For one, archaeologists would no longer need to argue that some of the Akkadian structures were so completely swallowed up by the (presumably later) Ur III builders as to have completely disappeared. For instance, we read this in S. Lloyd’s The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest (Thames and Hudson, 1984, p. 139):
We have mentioned earlier in this present chapter [i.e., Chapter 7] the energy which the Akkadian kings devoted to the rebuilding of temples and sanctuaries in the old Sumerian cities. With this in mind, it is curious to observe how few traces of their work have actually been revealed by excavations at the sites themselves. One explanation to be considered is that, in almost every case, the process of rebuilding had in fact to be repeated a couple of hundred years later by the Third Dynasty kings of Ur, who, perhaps intentionally, concealed all evidence of their predecessors’ accomplishments.
[End of quote]
Lloyd also makes mention here of the “shortcomings of these early systems of excavating ….”.
Most mysterious is the complete disappearance of Ur Nammu’s wall at Ur. Lloyd is here (ibid., p. 151) quoting Sir Leonard Woolley:
… Woolley adds:
… of Ur-Nammu’s wall not a trace remained. We would come on examples of very large bricks specially moulded with the king’s name and titles, reused in some later building, but none of them were in situ.
- van de Mieroop tells of further peculiarites in his book, A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC (Blackwell, 2003, p. 72). While, as he writes:
Third Dynasty of Ur
Virtually no period of ancient Near Eastern history presents the historian with such an abundance and variety of documentation ….
…. Remarkable is the lack of interest in this period by later Mesopotamians when compared to how the Akkadian kings were remembered …. In later centuries, only a handful of references to Ur III kings are found.
By contrast (ibid., pp. 67-68):
There was no doubt in the public imagination that Sargon and Naram Sin had been the greatest kings who ever ruled. They became the paradigms of powerful rulers and were the subjects of numerous detailed stories, created and preserved for almost two millennia.
[End of quotes]
Now, what van de Mieroop will proceed to explain in this context has helped to clear up a difficulty that I had long had with Sargon of Akkad and his place in the revision of history. All of my previous experience had been that – contrary to the conventional viewpoint – Israel, not Mesopotamia or Egypt, has had the precedence in matters of culture and civilisation.
For instance, contrary to the wide-held view that the 18th Egyptian dynasty literature (say of a pharaoh Hatshepsut, or of an Akhnaton) had influenced the thought (wisdom, psalmody, love songs) of the Israelite kings David and Solomon, I have proposed instead, via the revision of history, that David and Solomon were the ones influencing, now Hatshepsut:
Solomon and Sheba
and now, even more so, pharaoh Akhnaton (whose Sun Hymn is universally likened to king David’s Psalm 104).
For a revised perspective on the El Amarna period of Akhnaton and Nefertiti, see my:
The Shattering Fall of Queen Nefertiti
The same observation applied to king Hammurabi of Babylon, who, far from being the one who had influenced Mosaïc Law (Torah), that so resonates in the famous Law Code of Hammurabi, was found to have long post-dated Moses:
Hammurabi the Great King of Babylon was King Solomon
And I had assumed that the same order of precedence must again have been the case regarding Sargon of Akkad and that very Moses-like tale of Sargon’s mother placing him in a reed box in the river (cf. Exodus 2:1-10):
I am Sargon, the powerful king, the king of Akkad. My mother was an Enitu priestess, I did not know any father . . . . My mother conceived me and bore me in secret. She put me in a little box made of reeds, sealing its lid with pitch. She put me in the river. . . . The river carried me away and brought me to Akki the drawer of water. Akki the drawer of water adopted me and brought me up as his son. . .
Now, whilst I have come more lately to accept (see my previous articles in this series) that Sargon of Akkad was the same person as the biblical Nimrod, hence well pre-dating Moses, I believe that I was nevertheless right to have held that the legend of Sargon, as a baby, was dependent upon the Exodus tale. And that brings me right back to van de Mieroop and legends associated with the kings of Akkad (op. cit., p. 68): “Fact and fiction”, he writes, “were combined in tales that accorded [Sargon and Naram Sin] increasingly greater achievements … some of those very details may be entirely fabulous, or embroidered with anachronisms …”.
Creating New Problems?
But will my planned re-alignment of Akkad against Ur III, whilst perhaps solving some above-mentioned problems, cause its own difficulties?
For, indeed, it does appear from former archaeological conclusions that Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Ur III dynasty – who must therefore in such a re-alignment as mine well pre-date Naram Sin of Akkad – had built over (or after) the works of this same Naram Sin. Lloyd, for instance, has written regarding this (op. cit., p. 139):
- V. Hilprecht, excavating at Nippur in 1899-1900, discovered that the great Third Dynasty ziggurat covered the remains of an earlier one, founded by Naram-Sin of Akkad, but its investigation he considered to be impracticable ….
At Ur, any traces of building dating from the Sargonic period were deeply buried beneath the ruins of later times ….
[End of quote]
Perhaps an excavation having occurred as long ago as Hilprecht’s needs to be reconsidered, given those “shortcomings of these early systems of excavating ….”.
There is also to be taken into account the case of (ibid., p. 142): “… the ‘palace’ of Naram Sin at Tell Brak …. Plundered after the fall of the Akkadian empire, and destroyed by fire, it has been replaced by a less substantial building in the time of Ur-Nammu (2113-2096 BC)”. A certain amount of doubt, though, might be allowed here apparently. For H. Crawford, writing of the same “building”, says “there may be traces of Ur III activity at the site of Tell Brak in the Habur region of north Syria” (Sumer and the Sumerians, p. 35, emphasis added: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=eX8y3yW04n4C&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=ur+na).
In Part Two of this title, “Sargon of Akkad (Nimrod) as ‘Divine’ Shulgi of Ur III”, I shall be attempting to bring together, as one, what are conventionally considered to have been two separate dynasties.