he people who lived about 5,300 years ago -- almost half way to the start of civilizations -- because that's what we're talking about -- these people, in Mesopotamia (which means between the two rivers) in what is now southern Iraq whose temples looked something like this:

and wrote on clay tablets like this:

had a complicated writing system that looked like this:

and had a tradition of explaining how civilized man came into existence.

Because the tablets are so old and in such poor shape, the story has to be pieced together from various copies, some older than others. There are three main works of interest to us. The Enuma Elis ("When from on High" -- that's the opening of the first line) the Atra-hasis epic and the Gilgamesh Epic. Here's a shortened excerpt from the Atrahasis epic, to show you how poetic it was. To set the scene, we have the lesser gods and the greater gods. The lesser gods started the work of creating cities and irrigation schemes, then:

"When the gods, like men,

Bore the work and suffered the toil,

The toil of the gods was great

The work was heavy, the distress was much...

They were complaining, backbiting,

Grumbling in the excavation;

They set fire to their tools,

Fire to their spades they put

And flame to their hods....

Nusku roused (his) lord,

He got him out of his bed,

'My lord (your) temple is surrounded,

Battle has come right up to your gate."

Enlil...addressed the warrior Anu

'Summon one god and have him done to death.'

Anu opened his mouth

And addressed the gods, his brothers,

'What are we accusing them of?

Their work was heavy, their distress was much!"

While Belet-ili, the birth-goddess, is present...

Let her create Lullu--(man).

Let him bear the yoke asigned by Enlil

Let man carry the toil of the gods."

This is a very vivid and powerful style, from about 4,000 years ago or more. The unfamiliar names are all gods and goddesses, or the Immortals, as I call them, following the ancient Greek writer, Homer. The black-headed people is what the Sumerians called themselves.

Here we have reports involving intervention in human affairs by actual physically present gods and goddesses who were said by ancient writers to have taught human beings the complete arts and science of civilization. This has very little to do with the theory of evolution, where everything is said to have happened by a process of natural selection, competition and elimination over very long time periods to produce us as we are today as descendants from a tree shrew many millions of years ago.

Each of these "Immortals" owned their own "people" and territory and each was fed and waited on in his or her own "temple". The word 'temple' originally meant a house for a god or goddess and not a place of worship. Such an event would certainly explain the abrupt rise of civilizations, but how much can we rely on this ancient writers' evidence.

It's a vast subject, this frequent reference by ancient writers to intervention in human affairs by physically present gods and goddesses within the last 10,000 years. It could lead us across the Far East, the Near East, Egypt, North and South America, and that's what we'll look at in the next series: The Immortals.