David Rohl's "Legend"

AJ Crowl (ajcrowlx2@ozemail.com.au)
Wed, 19 May 1999 22:31:10 +1000


Finally I've managed to read David Rohl's "Legend". Essentially it has two
parts (a) Eden & the Flood, and (b) Egypt's origins. In Rohl's
reconstruction the two are inextricably linked since the focus is on
Mesopotamia as the origin. He sets out what he wants to achieve fairly early
in the book... to put a bit of historical flesh on the bones of Genesis. To
that end he draws on the various King Lists and traces of history in the
Sumerian "records", which are more tales than histories, but the result is
kind of interesting.

Eden is located in Azerbaijan, next Lake Urmia, and not too far from modern
Tabriz. There are hill passes and valleys that all get roped in to fit
different legendary travels to "Paradise", which would make an interesting
tour [possible motive here] but hard to verify otherwise. He also locates
"Nod" and "Cush" near by. He then tracks down the Land of Arrata, which
happens to be in the general vicinity - and is the homeland of the later

As for the Sumerians, following some older work, he suggests they are the
"sons of Shem" i.e. Shum[er] is Shem, so perhaps the Hebrews thought they
were related to the Sumerians. Rather than descending into the land of
Shinar after the Flood, Rohl suggests that the real migration happened
before, culminating in the Ubaid period. This preceded Woolley's Flood, and
that's Noah's according to Rohl, which he places at c.3100. Gilgamesh gets a
mention and is redated to Uruk's Early Dynastic I period. King Enmerkar, the
first writer in clay, is tracked down too, and he also helps redate things
through his recorded association with Inanna's temple. Quite interesting
pieces of early Sumerian history get mentioned, but the whole Flood exercise
is a bit unconvincing, though consistent with the Sumerian material. Rohl's
c.3100 date is actually based on the Mayan date of 3113 and not much else.
The relevant king-lists give it as c.2500 if reasonable regnal periods are
interpolated for the kings, or 11,183 BC if you use the king-list blindly.
It's all a bit arbitary. Rohl doesn't accept radiocarbon as useful except
for broad relative dating, so that doesn't help either. So I'm left
wondering: what was the Flood? Rohl glosses over that and there's no
cross-site correlation between that one silt layer in Ur and the
stratigraphy of other cities.

Next Rohl tries to cross-correlate between the Sumerian and Genesis
pre-Flood genealogies, with some really interesting insights. This chapter
would unsettle fundamentalists because it dredges up a few odd facts about
the lists [Cain's descendents = Seth's, which is plausible] and then renames
God as "Ea", which is linguistically viable. He won't make friends with that
one, but he might open a few closed minds. He plunges head long into
identifying Eve with the goddess Ninti/Ninhursag, and then continues into
identifying Cush and Nimrod as Enmeskiagkasher and Enmerkar, and a temple at
Eridu was the Tower of Babel. Maybe. Eridu and Babel/Babylon actually have
the same name "Nun.ki" which may explain why Babylon is credited with a
tower that it never had in those earlier eras. The later great ziggurat in
Babylon is dated to the Babylon I Period, which is Hammurabi's Dynasty.

Migrations of various figures are mentioned in the Sumerian material, just
like Cush and Nimrod were said to have migrated according to Josephus. Rohl
hints this is the real Babel event, and elaborates with his research on the
Mesopotamian/Egyptian links that indicate a foreign ruling dynasty in early
Egypt - Naqada II is the material culture signature of these people, and
this is supported with Egyptian written material indicating different racial
groups. The material presented is fascinating and even if popularised it's a
good presentation of data. Just how accurate all his quotes and sources are
would take a lot of checking - beyond my powers - but the visual data is
good. He's gone a long way to create and research the details of his theses,
which makes me wonder what's driving the guy. A real love of the material,
for one, and that archaeological obssessiveness is there too, but is he a
bit of a nut or an entrepreneur trying to make a buck out of Biblical

Have a read and you can decide.


PS Fiddly details...

Rohl redates Early Egypt [Dynasty I begins 2781 BC, rather than the orthodox
3100/ 2920] and Mesopotamia [Sargon I redates at 2100 BC [Old Chronology:
2370/2334/2300] , Ur I starts at 2348, and prior he's guessing like everyone
else.] The Mesopotamian dates have quite a few astronomical cross-checks
that all match up neatly, so there's a good chance he's on the right track
at least up to 2348 BC. Prior is anyone's guess since the King-Lists are
hopelessly over-inflated and effectvely useless, and C14 has a broad error
bar. Several archaeological periods have to fit in between Ur I and the
"Flood", but how much time did they take? Using Biblical figures gives a
Flood anywhere between 4990 BC and 2100 BC, so that's no help either. The
Yezidis say c.5500 BC, which is worse, and the Copts say 10,300 BC, which is
really way off. Rohl opts for 3100 due to the Mayan thing, which might seem
a cop-out, but there's some ice-core data that suggests something odd
happened at that time, so who knows?

"Legend" was published in the UK by Century Books which is a sub-section of
Random House, and in my homeland by Random House Australia. I have no idea
who'll carry it in the USA - presumably the publishers of "Pharaohs and
Kings", which is Volume One of his "A Test of Time" project. In "Pharaohs
and Kings" he redates the Egyptian Middle and New Kingdoms to give a better
correlation between archaeology and the Bible, producing a New Chronology
that has some important implications if true. To do this he makes parallel
several Dynasties normally thought consecutive - specifically he contracts
the 22nd [NC: 823 - 664 BC], starts the 20th in c.866, and the 21st c.830,
and so they're all partly parallel. Overall the New Kingdom is moved down in
time from c. 1540 - 1069 BC, to c. 1194 - c.800 BC. The end of the Middle
Kingdom [OC: c.1620] is made the time of the Exodus [NC: c.1447], and the
12th and 13th Dynasties are contracted and expanded respectively, in Rohl's
reconstruction. The Egyptian records only partially record this period, so
allowing this sort of modification. In all this Rohl draws on early writers
like Josephus quite extensively, bringing out details that form a compelling
argument and distrust for his apparent naivete in other Egyptologists, I
suspect. His New Chronology excites a lot of non-professionals, but the
professional response has been quietly hostile when he treads on toes or
glosses details. The tree of modern Egyptology is yet to be successfully

Is your God image an idol?