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The Endless Beginning

Chapter 1, in its entirety, of The 12th Planet [Book 1 of The Earth Chronicles Series]

(Part 2 of 2)

 

From The 12th Planet

by Zecharia Sitchin

 

    Throughout the many millions of years of his endless beginning, Man was nature's child; he subsisted by gathering the foods that grew wild, by hunting the wild animals, by catching wild birds and fishes. But just as Man's settlements were thinning out, just as he was abandoning his abodes, when his material and artistic achievements were disappearing - just then, suddenly, with no apparent reason and without any prior known period of gradual preparation - Man became a farmer.

    Summarizing the work of many eminent authorities on the subject, R. J. Braidwood and B. Howe (Prehistoric Investigations in Iraqi Kurdistan) concluded that genetic studies confirm the archaeological finds and leave no doubt that agriculture began exactly where Thinking Man has emerged earlier with his first crude civilization: in the Near East. There is no doubt by now that agriculture spread all over the world from the Near Eastern arc of mountains and highlands.

    Employing sophisticated methods of radiocarbon dating and plant genetics, many scholars from various fields of science concur in the conclusion that Man's first farming venture was the cultivation of wheat and barley, probably through the domestication of a wild variety of emmer. Assuming that, somehow, Man did undergo a gradual process of teaching himself how to domesticate, grow, and farm a wild plant, the scholars remain baffled by the profusion of other plants and cereals basic to human survival and advancement that kept coming out of the Near East. These included, in rapid succession millet, rye, and spelt, among the edible cereals; flax, which provided fibers and edible oil; and a variety of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees.

    In every instance, the plant was undoubtedly domesticated in the Near East for millennia before it reached Europe. It was as though the Near East was some kind of genetic-botanical laboratory, guided by an unseen hand, producing every so often a newly domesticated plant.

    The scholars who have studied the origins of the grapevine have concluded that its cultivation began in the mountains around northern Mesopotamia and in Syria and Palestine. No wonder. The Old Testament tells us that Noah "planted a vineyard" (and even got drunk on its wine) after his ark rested on Mount Ararat as the waters of the Deluge receded. The Bible, like the scholars, thus places the start of vine cultivation in the mountains of northern Mesopotamia.

    Apples, pears, olives, figs, almonds, pistachios, walnuts - all originated in the Near East and spread from there to Europe and other parts of the world. Indeed, we cannot help recalling that the Old Testament preceded our scholars by several millennia in identifying the very same area as the world's first orchard: "And the Lord God planted an orchard in Eden, in the east....And the Lord God caused to grow, out of the ground, every tree that is pleasant to behold and that is good for eating."

    The general location of "Eden" was certainly known to the biblical generations. It was "in the east" - east of the Land of Israel. It was in a land watered by four major rivers, two of which are the Tigris and the Euphrates. There can be no doubt that the book of Genesis located the first orchard in the highlands where these rivers originated, in northern Mesopotamia. Bible and science are in full agreement.

    As a matter of fact, if we read the original Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis not as a theological but as a scientific text, we find that it also accurately describes the process of plant domestication. Science tells us that the process went from wild grasses to wild cereals to cultivated cereals, followed by fruit-bearing shrubs and trees. This is exactly the process detailed in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

 

    And the Lord said:
    "Let the Earth bring forth grasses;
    cereals that by seeds produce seeds;
    fruit trees that bear fruit by species,
        which contain the seed within themselves."

    And it was so:
    The Earth brought forth grass;
    cereals that by seed produce seed, by species;
    and trees that bear fruit, which contain
        the seed within themselves, by species.

 

    The Book of Genesis goes on to tell us that Man, expelled from the orchard of Eden, had to toil hard to grow his food. :"By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread," the Lord said to Adam. it was after that that "Abel was a keeper of herbs and Cain was a tiller of the soil." Man, the Bible tells us, became a shepherd soon after he became a farmer.

    Scholars are in full agreement with this biblical sequence of events. analyzing the various theories regarding animal domestication, F. E. Zeuner (Domestication of Animals) stresses that Man could not have "acquired the habit of keeping animals in captivity or domestication before he reached the stage of living in social units of some size." Such settled communities, a prerequisite for animal domestication, followed the changeover the agriculture.

    The first animal to be domesticated was the dog, and not necessarily as Man's best friend but probably also for food. This, it is believed, took place circa 9500 BC. The first skeletal remains of dogs have been found in Iran, Iraq, and Israel.

    Sheep were domesticated at about the same time; the Shanidar cave contains remains of sheep circa 9000 BC, showing that a large part of each year's young were killed for food and skins. Goats, which also provided milk, soon followed; and pigs, horned cattle, and hornless cattle were next to be domesticated.

    In every instance, the domestication began in the Near East.

    The abrupt change in the course of human events that occurred circa 11,000 BC in the Near East (and some 2,000 years later in Europe) has led scholars to describe that time as the clear end of the Old Stone Age (the Paleolithic) and teh beginning of a new cultural era, the Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic).

    The name is appropriate only if one considers Man's principal raw material - which continued to be stone. His dwellings in the mountainous areas were still built of stone, his communities were protected by stone walls; his first agricultural implement - the sickle - was made of stone. He honored or protected his dead by covering and adorning their graves with stones; and he used stone to make images of the supreme beings, or "gods," whose benign intervention he sought. One such image, found in northern Israel and dated to the ninth millennium BC, shows the carved head of a "god" shielded by a striped helmet and wearing some kind of "goggles."

 

Click here for original image!

(fig. 3)

    From an overall point of view, however, it would be more appropriate to call the age that began circa 11,000 BC not the Middle Stone Age but the Age of Domestication. Within the span of a mere 3,600 years - overnight in terms of the endless beginning - Man became a farmer, and wild plants and animals were domesticated. Then, a new age clearly followed. Our scholars call it the New Stone Age (Neolithic); but the term is totally inadequate, for the main change that had taken place circa 7500 BC was the appearance of pottery.

     For reasons that still elude our scholars - but which will become clear as we unfold our tale of prehistoric events - Man's march toward civilization was confined, for the first several millennia after 11,000 BC, to the highlands of the Near East. The discovery of the many uses to which clay could be put was contemporary with Man's descent from his mountain abode toward the lower, mud-filled valleys.

    By the seventh millennium BC, the Near Eastern arc of civilization was teeming with clay or pottery cultures, which produced great numbers of utensils, ornaments, and statuettes. By 5000 BC, the Near East was producing clay and pottery objects of superb quality and fantastic design.

    But once again, progress slowed, and by 4500 BC, archaeological evidence indicates, regression was all around. Pottery became simpler. Stone utensils - a relic of the Stone Age - again became predominant. Inhabited sites reveal fewer remains. Some sites that had been centers of pottery and clay industries began to be abandoned, and district clay manufacturing disappeared. "There was a general impoverishment of culture," according to James Melaart (Earliest Civilizations of the Near East); some sites clearly bear the marks of "the new poverty-stricken phase."

    Man and his culture were clearly on the decline.

    Then - suddenly, unexpectedly, inexplicably - the Near East witnessed the blossoming of the greatest civilization imaginable, a civilization in which our own is firmly rooted.

    A mysterious hand once more picked Man out of his decline and raised him to an even higher level of culture, knowledge, and civilization.

*     *     *

This concludes Chapter 1, The Endless Beginning, in its entirety

All images appear exactly as depicted in The 12th Planet

 

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