The Allegewi Hopewell mound builders inhabited the Ohio Valley from 3,000 BC to 500 AD, then disappeared, leaving only their giant skeletons–nine feet tall in some cases–the mounds, and a huge mystery.Could it be these people were related to the same-sized humanoids found in the rest of the ancient world, including in the British Isles, who may have constructed Stonehenge and other sites? Are these the giant “Amorites” mentioned in the Bible? Are these our ancestors, or some other species entirely?
Gustave Doré – Destruction of the Army of the Amorites
In the earliest Sumerian texts, all western lands beyond the Euphrates, including Syria and Canaan, were known as “the land of the MAR.TU (Amorites)”. This term appears in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, which describes it in the time of Enmerkar as one of the regions inhabited by speakers of a different language. Another text known as Lugalbanda and the Anzud bird describes how, fifty years into Enmerkar’s reign, the Martu people arose in Sumer and Akkad, necessitating the building of a wall to protect Uruk.
There are also sparse mentions in tablets from Ebla, dating from 2500 BC to the destruction of the city ca. 2250 BC: from the perspective of Ebla, the Amorites were a rural group living in the narrow basin of the middle and upper Euphrates. For the Akkadian kings of central Mesopotamia Mar.tu was one of the “Four Quarters” surrounding Akkad, along with Subartu/Assyria, Sumer, and Elam. The Akkadian king Naram-Sin records successful campaigns against them in northern Syria ca. 2240 BC, and his successor Shar-Kali-Sharri followed suit.
By the time of the last days of the Sumerian Ur III empire, immigrating Amorites had become such a force that kings such as Shu-Sin were obliged to construct a 170 miles (270 km) long wall from the Tigris to the Euphrates to hold them off. These Amorites appear as nomadic clans ruled by fierce tribal chiefs, who forced themselves into lands they needed to graze their herds. Some of the Akkadian literature of this era speaks disparagingly of the Amorites, and implies that the Akkadians and Sumerians viewed their nomadic way of life with disgust and contempt, for example:
The MAR.TU who know no grain… The MAR.TU who know no house nor town, the boors of the mountains… The MAR.TU who digs up truffles… who does not bend his knees (to cultivate the land), who eats raw meat, who has no house during his lifetime, who is not buried after death.
They have prepared wheat and gú-nunuz (grain) as a confection, but an Amorite will eat it without even recognizing what it contains!
As the centralized structure of the Ur III empire slowly collapsed, the component regions began to reassert their former independence, and places where Amorites resided were no exception. Elsewhere, the armies of Elam were attacking and weakening the empire, making it vulnerable. Some Amorites aggressively took advantage of the failing empire to seize power for themselves. There was not an Amorite invasion as such, but Amorites did ascend to power in many locations, especially during the reign of the last king of the Ur III Dynasty, Ibbi-Sin. Leaders with Amorite names assumed power in various places, including Isin and Larsa. Babylon, hitherto a politically and military unimportant town was raised to the status of an independent city state under Sumuabum in 1894 BC, and later empire under the Amorites. The Elamites finally sacked Ur in ca. 2004 BC. Some time later, the most powerful rulers in Mesopotamia (immediately preceding the rise of Hammurabi of Babylon) were Shamshi-Adad I and Ishme-Dagan of Assyria, also regarded as Amorites, although Shamshi-Adad I claims decendancy from the native Akkadian king of Assyria Ushpia in the Assyrian King List.
There is a wide range of views regarding the Amorite homeland. One extreme is the view that kur mar.tu/māt amurrim covered the whole area between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, Arabia included. The other extreme is the view that the “homeland” of the Amorites was a limited area in Syria (Jebel Bishri). One minority theory refers to Arabia in general as the area from where the Amorites once came. Another refers to a limited area (unknown) in Arabia, the mountain district of Martu. However, as the Amorite language is a north western Semitic language, it is likely that they originated from what is now modern Syria.
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