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ARCHAEOLOGY and ancient Israel #1

The Land between the Rivers


                        THE CONNECTION WITH ISRAEL


                 E.Roymond Capt M.A. A.I.A., F.S.A. SCOT.

                            (published in 1985)

Maybe little known to most "religious" people but CAPT was one of
the most remarkable Archaeological men of the 20th century. He
wrote about truth concerning the House of Israel that most of
Christianity does not want you to know. His book is full of
photos and drawing and diagrams which I have not reproduced for
space on this Website. And yes, man has been on the earth as much
as 8 to 10 thousand years - Keith Hunt

E. RAYMOND CAPT M.A., A.I.A., F.S.A. Scot.

     At first glance one might think E. Raymond Capt must be an
ordained minister. He quotes chapters and verses from the
Scriptures and tells about Bible characters in a flowing
narrative which would credit any pulpit. What he's been, for over
forty years, though, is a practicing archaeologist - not always
digging to unearth ancient remains but in recent years, sifting
through known archaeological findings to shed new light on the
history of the Bible.
     Capt holds a Master of Arts degree in Christian History and
Biblical Archaeology from Covenant College, Lake Wales, Florida,
and California State teaching credentials in BIBLICAL Archaeology
and History. He is also a member of the Archaeological Institute
of America. In addition to writing, Capt has produced and
presents slide and film lectures on Biblical Archaeology. These
have been enjoyed by clubs, churches and schools in many states
and in Great Britain.
     In 1972 Capt was elected a Fellow of the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland and in 1976 received an honorary
Doctorate of Literature, (Doctor Literatum Honoris Causa) from
the Accademia Testina Per Le Scienze, (established A.D. 450)
Pescara, Italy.

Dean of the Graduate School Covenant College


     For centuries our most famous seats of learning,
universities, colleges and theological institutions have been at
a loss to solve the question - what was the ultimate fate of the
so-called "Lost Tribes of Israel" in Assyrian captivity? Although
there is an abundance of prophecy in the Bible concerning the
destiny of the "House of Israel" there is no record of its
history in exile.
     The prevailing theory, held by modern theologians, is that
they were "cast away;" simply integrated with the people of the
lands of their captivity. However, such conclusions are in
contradiction to the everlasting covenants God made with Abraham
and his descendants. (Gen.17:4-7) Also, the prophets, Hosea and
Amos, both foretold of the Israelite's captivity. They made it
very plain Israel would not be lost forever, but would eventually
be restored as a nation. (Hosea 9:17; Amos 9:8-9) Seemingly, the
ancient Assyrians, alone, held the answer to this Biblical
problem. But, they and their kingdom have long since passed away.
Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, the student of
ancient history had little or no knowledge of the Assyrians
except what the Old Testament and the Greek historians could give
him. From the Bible he knew that Nineveh was the capital of a
cruel and powerful nation whose people God used to punish Israel
for her idolatry and disobedience. The names of the Assyrian
sovereigns, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sargon, and others,
were remembered as being synonymous with violence, cruelty and
sadistic killings.
     The Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was
an eternal object lesson of the doom awaiting those who continue
to break God's statutes and commandments. In spite of the
terrible experiences of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, strange
to say, the Southern Kingdom of Judah did not learn its lesson,
or heed the warning. The Scriptures state that they continued to
sin even more than the Northern Kingdom. (Jer.3:6-11) So we find
the same punishment being meted out to Judah, when a greater part
of the Southern Kingdom of Israel was also carried away captive
to Assyria.
     The inhabitants of Jerusalem successfully resisted the
Assyrians, and lived to see the destruction of Nineveh by the
Babylonians, before their city fell to the armies of
     The people, together with scattered pockets of Israelites
missed by the Assyrians, were carried away to Babylon to become
known as the "remnant of Judah.' History records the return of
less than 50,000 Judeans and other mixed people to Jerusalem
after Cyrus, King of the Persians, conquered the city of Babylon.
But, what happened to the others. (Josephus gives the figure at
several hundred thousand taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar to
Babylon and the Israelites taken captive by the Assyrians,
previously, must have been an even larger number.)
     After a lapse of over 2,500 years, it might be thought that
all hope of solving this Biblical problem has been lost in the
midst of antiquity. However, during the last hundred years,
archaeologists have unearthed and published the original
contemporary records of the Assyrians who took the Israelites
captive. It is from these records, housed today in the British
Museum, that vital clues have recently come to light.
Assyrian artists have given us graphic pictures (inscribed on
wall plaques) of the subjection of the cities of the Israelites
and the deportation of the inhabitants to captivity in Assyria.  
Assyrian scribes also recorded on clay cuneiform tablets the
record of the Israelites' sojourn in captivity. These clay
tablets were found in the excavations of the Assyrian Royal
Library of Ashurbanipal, at Nineveh, in 1850 A.D. Later, they
were translated by Professor Leroy Waterman of the University of
Michigan. Though Waterman's translations were published in 1930,
their relevance to Israel was overlooked at the time. This was
undoubtedly because they were in complete disorder and among
hundreds of miscellaneous texts dealing with many matters of
State.    Contributing to this situation was the fact that the
Assyrians called the Israelites by other names during their
     Some of the tablets found were dated around 707 B.C. They
reveal the fate of the Israelites as they escaped from the land
of their captivity. These tablets form the "Missing links" that
enable us to identify the modern day descendants of the "Lost
Tribes of Israel." In doing so, we increase our knowledge of
Bible history and experience a dramatic revision of our
pre-conceived ideas of Bible prophecy. In the pages that follow,
the writer has attempted no more than a brief review of the
origin and history of the Israelites; a survey of the Assyrian
inscriptions and cuneiform tablets that record the deportations
of Israel as related to Biblical and secular history; their
sojourn in captivity, and a synopsis of their migrations to their
new homelands.



     In Western Asia there is a long valley separating the
deserts of northern Arabia from the Median Mountains on the
western frontier of Persia. Through this valley flows the River
Euphrates (1800 miles) and the River Tigris (1500 miles). Their
separate sources are to be found in the mountains of Armenia, on
the opposite slopes of the same range. These two primeval rivers
join at Kurnah and, under the name of Shatt-Al-Arab, flow as a
single stream into the Persian Gulf.
     Between the two rivers is an immense plain which extends
from the mountains of Kurdistan to the Persian Gulf. This plain,
known as "Mesopotamia" (Greek for 'between the rivers') contains
hundreds of thousands of square miles. Well adapted to high
cultivation, this area once sustained a huge population. The
northern part of the plain is higher than the southern. The soil
of the lower portion is especially fertile.
     Canals leading from the two rivers have distributed their
lifesustaining fluid and deposits for ages. As a result of this
fertile condition of the soil, it has been possible, from time
immemorial, for the inhabitants to raise grain, cultivate the
palm and grow many varieties of fruit-bearing trees.
     The floods of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, combined with
ordinary variations of river courses, over a long period of time,
make it impossible to say, with respect to any portion of the
alluvial plain, that it may not have been, at some former period,
the bed of one of the other rivers. Still, it would seem, on the
whole, a law of compensation prevails. As a result, the general
position of the streams in the valley is not very different now
than what it was some 4000 years ago.
     The lower portion of the valley became known as the "Land of
Sumer and Akkad," which later became part of Babylonia. The
extreme northern portion became known as "Assyria." The Bible
refers to Babylonia, in whole or part, as the "Land of the
Chaldees" and "The Land of Shinar." The land continues to grow,
as the result of silt deposited each year by the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, at the rate of about ninety feet a year, or
less than two miles in a century. Since Alexander the Great, the
waters of the Persian Gulf have receded more than forty-eight
miles from the shore.
     Apart from the torrential rains, occuring in November and
December, and a few lighter showers in the spring, the climate is
extraordinarily dry. As early as April, the heat is very
uncomfortable. In the summer it is simply overpowering, often
rising to 110 and even 120 in the shade. The summer south-east
breezes which come off the sea, lose all their moisture as they
pass over the deserts and add to the discomfort of the
inhabitants by filling the air with a fine, sandy dust which
clogs the membranes of the nose and throat.
     The earliest settlers of Babylonia were the Sumerians, a
people whose origin is unknown. The Greek historian, Herodotus,
(5th century B.C.) had never heard of the Sumerians. Berossus, a
Babylonian scholar who lived about 250 B.C., referred to them as
legendary people (half fish and half man) who had emerged from
the Persian Gulf and settled along the coast, bringing with them
a knowledge of agriculture, writing and metal working. It was not
until about 2000 years after Berossus that the Sumerians were
     When the Sumerians first settled by the banks of the
Euphrates River, it must have been on the sandy plateau to the
west of the river where the city of Ur, (the modern Mugheir) was
later built. The Sumerians found the land between the rivers a
pestiferous marsh, inundated by the unchecked overflow of the
rivers which passed through it. The reclamation of the marsh was
the first work of the newcomers. The rivers were banked out and
the inundations controlled by means of canals. All this demanded
no little engineering skill. The eminent Professor of Assyriology
at Oxford, Rev. A.H. Sayce, wrote in 1899 that "the creation of
Babylonia was the birth of the science of engineering."
     One difficult problem faced by Sumerian farmers was that the
level of the Euphrates rose quickly, and at the wrong time of the
year for crops. Just as the plowing was complete, the fields were
likely to be flooded. Then during summer, when the river was at
its lowest, the crops were most in need of water. Their solution
was, like all great inventions, surprisingly simple. When the
spring flood was at its height, water rose above the ridges of
the ancient river banks, thus inundating land much higher than
the normal river level. During early summer, when the river water
began to subside, the bold farmers blocked its exit to the river,
thereby forming shallow lakes. Then the water was gradually
channelled along specially prepared ditches into the fields, its
flow being regulated by wooden gates, which shut off the flow
when soil in the fields was sufficiently moist.

1. A river flows between older river banks
2. The river floods
3. The old river banks trap the flood water
4. In summer water is channelled into the fields

     By building dikes to hold back the floods and reservoirs to
store water, the Sumerians were able to turn the natural sandy
barren portions of the desert into fertile ground. They grew
wheat, (indigenous to the area) each plant yielding between 200
and 300 grains. The grain grew so fast that it had to be
harvested promptly or left for the cattle to graze upon. Sorghum
and sesame plants grew almost to the size of bushes.

     In the beginning, the Sumerians plowed the ground with stone
hoes and cut their grain with clay sickles. Then they learned to
use metals, and broke the ground with metal plows. These plows
had funnel-shaped containers filled with seed that filtered down
through the funnels as oxen pulled the plows. When the grain
ripened, the farmers would cut it with a copper sickle which
replaced the clay sickle. Then, the grain was threshed by pulling
a heavy stone across the stalks and winnowing it by throwing it
into the air to separate the chaff from the good grain.
Other food produced by the Sumerians included egg-plant, (which
took the place of the modern potato) onions, radishes, beans and
lettuce. Fruits produced included grapes, figs, melons and
apples. The native palm trees that were found along the river
banks were planted into orchards. In addition to providing dates,
the palm trees supplied a host of other needs: a sort of bread, a
sort of sugar, a sort of wine, vinegar and threads from which
fabrics were woven. Beams of palm trunks were used for
construction of buildings and date pits were used by the
blacksmiths to heat their furnaces and farmers to feed their
cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and buffaloes. A Persian inscription
lists 360 uses for the palm tree. (Strabo, XVI 1, p.14)

     The wild animals indigenous to Babylonia appear to be
chiefly the following: lion, leopard, lynx, wildcat, hyena, wolf,
jackal, wild boar, buffalo, stag, gazelle, fox, hare, badger and
the porcupine. The slow-flowing rivers swarmed with many
varieties of fish, including carp and barbel, that grew to a
large size. Eel was also found in abundance and was considered a
     While Babylonia was exceedingly rich in flora and fauna, it
was exceedingly poor in mineral wealth. The alluvium was
absolutely destitute of metals and stone. What stone we find
utilized in buildings had to be transported long distances
overland. Overcoming such engineering difficulties required
advanced skills. Developing these skills helped the people
achieve a greater mechanical ability which, in turn, produced a
higher civilization.
     As early as 3000 B.C., building stone was brought down the
Euphrates River by rafts from the Lebanon and the Amanus - a
considerable land journey. In the course of time, problems in
river transportation and construction of navigable rafts were
solved. Although the early inhabitants did acquire sufficient
stone for their great buildings and inscriptions, it was
necessary to find less costly and more abundant building material
for their homes. There was, beneath their feet, an inexhaustible
supply of the finest clay. This was readily molded into bricks.
Some of these were dried in the sun, and were then deemed
sufficient for filling in the interiors of walls. Others were
baked in kilns and used for facing the exterior walls. The same
material was also used in the manufacture of books or tablets.

     The Sumerian records, which reach back into remotest times,
never mention any other land of origin. Sumer and Akkad were
names apparently not known in the very early times. Although they
appear to be ethnically members of the Great White Race,
the Sumerians were not Semitic (an ethnological usage for a
branch of the Caucasian or white race) and show no relationship
to the Semitic nomads of the Arabian Desert who overran
Mesopotamia by the year 3500 B.C. The Sumerians were not
descended from the Biblical Adamic branch, starting about 5400
B.C., because evidence (artifacts) of their culture has been
found dating many centuries earlier.

     On the southern edge of the plain on what was then the
coastline of the Persian Gulf, the Sumerians built the town of
Eridu which became a center of maritime trade. Its site is now
marked by the mound of Abu Shahrein. (Nowawis). Today, it is
nearly 150 miles from the sea, therefore it must go back to about
7500 years, or around 5500 B.C. Ur, a little to the northwest,
with its temple to the moon god, was a colony of Eridu. The
latest excavations at Eridu have uncovered no less than fourteen
temple vaults, each one built over the other, taking us back in
time, into the fourth, fifth, and sixth millennia B.C.
     At Jarmo, in northern Iraq, an excavation by the University
of Chicago discovered a village dating back to about 6000 B.C.
Several clay figurines found there must be the earliest existing
examples of sculpture, considering that they are almost 8000
years old. Most recently, archaeologists have discovered
something else; no matter how far they delve into this "cradle"
of mankind, the beginnings of human settlements invariably are
buried still deeper in the past. No less than twenty-six stratas,
each belonging to a different period, have been excavated in a
hill (Tepe Gawra) north of Mosul that rises some sixty-four feet
above the plain of Tigris.
     The earliest records of the Sumerians reveal a class of
free, landholding citizens, working their land with numerous
slaves and trading with caravans and small boats up and down the
rivers. Over these free middle-class people were the officials
and priests, the aristocrats about the town. Such communities
controlled the land for only a few miles round about the towns,
but formed the political unit, or state. Eventually the power of
rule was consolidated into a single person who set himself up as
"king." For over a thousand years kings succeeded kings, many of
whom we know nothing, often not even their names.

     From Sumerian inscriptions, one of the earliest Sumerian
kings was Ur-Vina. (cir. 3000 B.C.) He is seen surrounded by his
royal family on an inscribed tablet. Another original inscription
documents the Sumerian ruler (En) - mebaragesi (En-men-barage-si)
2630-2600 B.C. Two known fragments of votive bowls designate him
as king of Kishi. Tradition credits him with the disarmament of
Elam, to the east. He is said to have carried its weapons away,
perhaps to pacify it; perhaps to prevent it from raiding Sumer.
On an inscription, carved in a stone on a suburban temple outside
Ur, there is pictorial description of the earliest known record
of the art of warfare developed by the Sumerians. The king, whose
face is broken off from the stone, marches at the right, heading
his troops, who follow in a compact group. This grouping of men
together in a mass, forming single fighting groups is called a
"phalanx." Such discipline was unknown at this time in Egypt. The
inscription also pictures the Sumerian troops carrying spears set
for the charge. Tall shields cover their entire bodies and they
wear close-fitting helmets, probably of leather. They are
marching over dead bodies, perhaps symbolic of the overthrow of
their enemies.

     The language of the Sumerians was quite unlike that of any
other; neither Semitic nor Indo-European nor Egyptian in
character. It was a living, spoken form of speech from before
3500 B.C. to about 2050 B.C.; then it became a dead classic
language. In its written form it originally was pictorial, each
symbol seemingly representing a complete word and capable of
being read in almost any language. Sumerian writing finally
possessed about 600 signs. These included ideograms representing
ideas or things and phonograms denoting syllables. Often
ideograms were added as determinatives, the result of the
combination formed certain words. The Sumerian system never
developed an alphabet of the letters which made up the syllables.
That is, there were signs for syllables like 'kar' or 'ban,' but
no signs for the letters ' k' or 'r', ' b' or ' n' , which made
up such syllables.

     Although the civilization of southern Babylonia, in the
period of 4000 - 2000 B.C. was basically Sumerian, during a large
part of this time it was influenced by Semitic civilization.     
North of the Sumerians, in a region called "Akkad," a Semitic
language speaking people, known as "Akkadians," moved into the
land about 3800 B.C. Their oldest city, Kish (originally founded
by the Sumerians) is situated at a point where the two great
rivers are closest together. Kish is named in the earliest
Babylonian lists as the first city to furnish a family, or
dynasty of kings in Babylonia. Near Kish was found the famous
temple of Mal-bel, at Nippur.

     The Sumerian civilization was already several millennium old
by the time the Semites appeared in Babylonia and the seeds of
death were in it. The Semitic civilization, on the other hand,
was instinctively full of life and vigour. It was inevitable that
it would permeate at first slowly and then rapidly into the
senile culture of the Sumerians. Raids by the Elamites (a
non-Semitic people) who had moved into and settled in the
towering mountains bordering southeast Babylonia, hastened the
end of Sumerian civilization as a political factor and by 2450
B.C. a Semitic civilization was the dominant force in Babylonia.


To be continued

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