Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kushite Shrines

Alice C. Linsley

A reader recently asked why I maintain that Abraham's ancestors came out of Africa. The anthropological evidence of Genesis and other Old Testament  passages indicate that Abraham's ancestors were descendants of Kush. They were Kushites. The term "Kushite" does not designate a single people but rather a regional identity that includes many peoples of the Nile Valley, Lake Chad, and the Sahara during the African Humid Period.

Kush is first mentioned in the Bible as the father of Nimrod and Ramah. Kush and his sons were great rulers who controlled the water ways in their territories. The rivers were used to transport cargo and supplied the necessary water for mining industries. Kush was famous for gold, a fact to which Genesis alludes when speaking of the river Pishon that flowed through the land of Ha'vilah, where there is gold (Gen. 2:11). Havilah speaks of the place where the waters part, probably the point of separation of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Another river mentioned is the Gihon which flowed through the land of Kush (Gen. 2:13).

The Kushites built shrines and temples along the rivers. The Egyptians continued this practice. The shrine cities were at the highest elevations to prevent flooding and also for defense. The fortified shrine cities held temples, palaces, quarters for priests and their families, barracks for warriors, sections of the city where castes of artisans and metal workers resided. These elevated cities or "high places" were known as kar. Karnak on the Nile and Carnak in Brittany are examples. In Dravidian car means "sheltered together" and kari refers to a river. In Manding kara means "to assemble." In ancient Sumerian é-kur refers to a mountain house, pyramid, or elevated temple.

The kars of the archaic world were mainly circular. Ki-kar refers to a circle, as in Exodus 25:11: ki-kar za-hav ta-hor, meaning "circle of pure gold." Among the Nilotic Luo kar specifies a place with boundaries, such as a rock shelter or a fortified settlement.

Since the kar were places of burnt offerings, the term is often associated with charcoal and soot. In Magyar (Hungarian) korom refers to soot, as does the Korean word kurim. The Turkish kara means "black." Priests living in Greece often held names with the word kar, such as Karampetsos. This refers to their ancestral service at the high places. Some have mistakenly assumed that because the word means "black" in Turkish, these priests had a black skin color.

The Carpathian mountain range is called Karpaty in Czech, Polish, and Slovak, and Карпати in Ukrainian, Carpați in Romanian, Karpaten in German, Kárpátok in Hungarian, Karpati in Serbian, and Карпати in Bulgarian. In Albanian karpë means "rock."

Kushite shrine at a 3rd century BC trade center near ancient Meroe.

The Kushites were a highly organized people, consisting of numerous clans and castes. The marriage and ascendancy pattern of their rulers drove their expansion into new territories. They were skilled in hunting, combat, sailing, astronomy and metal working. Their rulers controlled the major water systems and founded early mining industries along the Nile, in Arabia, Palestine, Mesopotamia and southern Europe.

The Kushite rulers were great patrons of artisans, especially stone and metal workers. Kushite mining operations have been identified in Sudan, the Nile Valley, and southern Israel.

In 2007, archaeologists from the Oriental Institute discovered a 4000 year gold-processing center along the middle Nile in the Sudan. The site is called Hosh el-Guruf and is located about 225 miles from Khartoum. More than 55 grinding stones made of granite-like gneiss were found at the site. The ore was ground to recover the gold and the water was used to separate the flakes from the particle residue. Similar grinding stones have been found in Egypt and at Timnah in southern Israel.

The oldest mines at Timnah are at least 6,000 years old. The miners at Timnah recovered turquoise and copper. They followed ore veins underground and created shafts with stone chiseling tools. These galleries spread in all directions, following the ore. The mines were worked by Kushite metal working clans between 2000 to 1500 BC. Ancient rock carvings showing Kushite warriors in chariots, holding axes and shields have been found in the area. A temple dedicated to Hathor was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timnah by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University. In his book Timna, Rothenberg concluded that the peoples living in the area were "partners not only in the work but in the worship of Hathor." (Timna, p. 183)

The gold mines of Kush were described by the Greek author Diodorus Siculus. He mentions fire-setting as a method used to break down the hard rock. The ore was then ground to a fine powder before washing. The process required a substantial source of water, such a river. 

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