Saturday, March 23, 2024

The Historical Eve


Badarian Eve (mortuary figurine), housed at the Louvre.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The historical Eve would have been a high-status woman with servants and resources. She would have influenced the style of dress and adornments of women of lesser status. She probably sought high status wives for her sons from among her Hebrew ruler-priest caste.

Analysis of the kinship pattern of the rulers listed in Gensis 4 and 5 indicates that two of Eve’s daughters-in-law were the daughters of a ruler named Enoch/Enosh (Enos in the Septuagint). Enoch is a royal title. The word is derived from the ancient Egyptian anochi, pertaining to the first-person singular. The term is related to the ancient Akkadian anaku which is a reference to the royal first person. The title also relates to royal succession. Among the Igbo, anochie means “a replacer” or “direct heir to a throne.”

Eve was the mother of Cain and Seth who married their cousins, the daughters of a ruler named Enoch. Eve’s firstborn Cain is described as an early city builder and Seth is the founder of the Sethite Hebrew who are mentioned in texts from 2400 BC. This means that the historical Eve probably lived between c.5000-4500 BC.

The historical Eve lived in the vast well-water region called Eden. The term Eden derives from the Akkadian term edinu, which refers to a fertile plain or a flood plain. According to the description in Genesis 2:10-14, Eden extended from the Pishon and Gihon at the sources of the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates. The region is described as rich in gold and bdellium. Bdellium is a semi-transparent oleo-gum resin extracted from Commiphora wightii and from Commiphora africana. These trees grow in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Given the biblical data, it is likely that Eve lived in the Nile Valley. That is where her son Seth was established as a regional chief. Later this region became known as Ta-Seti, meaning “Land of the Bow.” That was the Egyptian description of Nubia (Nub - gold) where hunters used bows and arrows. They are shown on Nubian rock art dating to 4000-2500 BC.

Eve's Sons  

Eve’s firstborn son was Cain (Gen. 4). He left his homeland and settled “east of Eden” (Gen. 4:16-26), probably on the east side of the Red Sea. That would be the land of Canaan where Cain’s metal working descendants lived. They are known as the “Kenites.” The names Cain, Canaan, Kenan, and Kenite are linguistically equivalent.

One of Cain’s daughters married her cousin Enosh and named their firstborn son Kenan, after her father. This is an example of the cousin bride’s naming prerogative, a feature of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the early Hebrew.

Eve's other living son was Seth (Gen. 5). He was a son in the image of his father Adam (Gen. 5:3), meaning he was a red man. The Hebrew language scholar, Jeff A. Benner, explains: Dam is the "red" blood, adamah is the "red" ground, edom is the color "red" and adam is the "red" man. Adam is a reference to the color of blood (dam in Hebrew). That means at least some of Seth’s descendants, known as the Sethite Hebrew, were also red.

The Sethites ranged from the Nile to the Eastern Desert of Egypt, and some were living in the land of Canaan. The ancient Egyptians referred to a man of the Nubian Desert as An-ti Set. They called the dwellers in the Eastern Desert of Egypt An-tiu Sett, according to the archaeologist E. A. Wallis Budge. Budge claims in his Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (1920) that the An-tiu Sett lived as far north as the land of Canaan. This is not surprising because Seth’s descendants living in Canaan would have intermarried with Cain’s descendants living in Canaan.

Many Sethites served at the sacred high places (mounds) along the Nile and are mentioned in the Ancient Pyramid Texts (2400-2200 BC). One of those places was Nekhen where this figurine of red Seth was found. He has the head of a hippo and the body of a man. Perhaps the hippo was the totem of the Sethite Hebrew, and the falcon was the totem of the Horite Hebrew.

Seth as a red hippo

Nekhen is the oldest known site of Horite worship (c.4200 BC). At Nekhen archaeologists found hippos buried in the elite cemeteries (Nekhen News, Vol. 25, 2013, p. 20). They also found numerous carved and sculpted figurines of hippos, some with red coloration. They concluded that hippo imagery is "linked to local elites" (Nekhen News Vol. 27, 2015, pp. 8-9).

Eve’s Cultural Milieu

Eve’s cultural context would have been like that of the Badarian culture (5000-4000 BC). The Badarian culture extended at least as far as between El Badari in the Lower Nile south to Nekhen in the Upper Nile.

The Nilotic culture of that period was agricultural and cattle-herding. The contents of storage facilities included wheat, barley, lentils, and tubers. Fishing provided a substantial source of protein. Reed boats were used to transport produce and livestock. Dogs were used for hunting, and hunting was mainly the sport of the upper class.

Water resources were more than sufficient to sustain the Nilotic populations of Eve’s time. The Nile supplied a year-round water supply of water. In addition to that, there was seasonal rainfall draining from the mountains into the lower elevations. There were many wadi systems terminating in or near the Nile floodplain with water-retaining Pleistocene sands and gravels that supported vegetation, small trees, and shrubs. The local populations were able to draw water from natural springs fed by the Nubian Aquifer which runs under the Sahara west of the Nile.

The burial practices reveal social stratification with separate elite cemeteries. Burial sites of the more wealthy contained grave goods such as green malachite palettes, shells, flint tools, amulets in the shape of the antelope and hippopotamus, ostrich eggshell vessels, hippo tusks, and jewelry made of ivory, quartz, or copper.

The Badarian rulers traded with people of other regions. The turquoise and glazed steatite beads found in the Badarian territory were imported. Upper class Badarian men wore beaded belts. Some rulers had ripple knapped knives with decorative handles.

Mythical Eve versus Historical Eve

The person of Eve is surrounded by the observations of Bible commentators and theologians making it difficult to separate the historical Eve from the Eve of the Genesis creation stories. The mythical Eve is wrapped in profound theological speculation about the origin of sin and death, the presence of evil, and the necessity of divine intervention. The implications of Eve's disobedience have probably been plumbed to the depth. It is time to investigate her historicity using an empirical method. Strangely, most who regard Adam and Eve as historical figures never inquire about the historical Eve. It is as if they were afraid to discover the truth.

The historical Eve was the Hebrew mother of two surviving sons, Cain and Seth. Both sons were clan chiefs and rulers over territories. Further, their descendants intermarried according to an endogamous marriage pattern that was well established before Eve's time. Clearly, Adam, Eve, and their offspring were not the first humans on earth.

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