Early civilizations, religious documents
during the ‘vedic era’
To put it in perspective, here is
the general time line of the "Vedic Period" where the oral tradition is
said to have prevailed. Elsewhere in the civilization mankind had
developed writing and had their religious writings in place whereas in
India Vedism had only the "oral traditions" with all its pitfalls and
misuse right in place and extravagant unrealistic claims of antiquity. It
was only by the second century BC Rig Veda was written down. The theology
of Rig Veda was simply that of nature worship, though we try to impose
untruthful symbolic meanings into it now.
The four centers of culture were based on large rivers:
Nile River– Egyptian Civilization – Hieroglyphics
Euphrates-Tigris Rivers - Sumerian Civilization - Cuneiform
Indus River– Indus Civilization – Indus Script
Huang He River - Chinese Civilization – Chinese Characters
TILL 2200 BC
3000 BC Mesopotamia
Iku-Shamagan, king of Mari 3000 BCE
Cultic stela from Mari ca. 3000 BCE
Royal Tombs of Ur 2600
Lugalzagesi, Ensi of Umma 2360-2335
2,550 BC Construction of the Great Pyramids
This period includes the 3rd to the 6th dynasty of Egypt. The first pharaoh, or king, of the Old Kingdom, was Zoser.
2,500 BC Ancient Libraries
2700 -2200 BCEbla (Tell Mardikh) Tablets
an ancient city that flourished between 2700 and 2200 B.C. in what is now northern Syria. Nearly 15,000 tablets and fragments were found, but when joined together they will consitute about 2,500 tablets. Written in the cuneiform characters originated by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, adapted to the language of Ebla's Semitic inhabitants.
Monotheism was not unknown even from the beginning of
mankind. It was the norm. This tablet reads:
2,300 BC Invention of 'Paper'
In Ancient Egypt, 'paper' was made from the papyrus plant.
The paper making remained a fine art. Regular medium still remained stones and clay for a long time
Egyptian paintings done on papyrus 'paper'.
2200 – 1000 BC
Vedic Period in India? – No written scriptures existed till second century BC
The following time line indicates how various cultures communicated their spiritual and religious thoughts through expressive documentations thus defining them.
The letters in a Semitic language, carved in stone cliffs west of the Nile, were found by Yale University Egyptologist, Dr John Darnell. He says they are nearly 4,000 years old, dating from around 1800 to 1900 BC.
The hieroglyphics, and the language and religion of ancient Egypt.
= HIEROGLYPHS symbols on Gerzean pottery resemble hieroglyphic writing. 4000 BC
Narmer Palette 3200 BC
Earliest known hieroglyphic inscription was the Narmer Palette, at Hierakonpolis dated 3200 BC.
Amduat ("That Which Is In the Afterworld") 2494-2345 BC
This lintel once stood above the door to the tomb chapel of a high official of the Kings of the 5th Dynasty (2494-2345 BC). Its beautifully carved hieroglyphs tell us that his name was Ka’Aper
Ancient Egyptian Wisdom Literature and was probably written in the 6th Dynasty (2300 to 2150 BCE). It only comes down to us from much later copies. Papyrus Prisse is dated to the Middle Kingdom (2040 to 1650 BCE).
Early Dynastic Period of Egypt 3100-2890 seven rulers 2890-2686 nine rulers
Famine Stela--Djoser grants to temple of Khnum a share
The Precepts of Ptah-Hotep, 2200 BC
The lines 3 to 5 of the above translated gives:
2,050 B.C.Middle Kingdom in Egypt
The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2050 to 1800 B.C. It was ruled by the 11th and 12th dynasties with its capital at Thebes. During this time, the Nile river was also greatly used for trading. They also used irrigation systems to aid in farming.
The Temple of Amen at El Karnak, the largest known temple that was ever built even up till today
The oldest religious texts are Egyptian. "The Pyramid Texts were a collection of Egyptian mortuary prayers, hymns, and spells intended to protect a dead king or queen and ensurelife and sustenance in the hereafter. The texts, inscribed on the walls of the inner chambers of the pyramids [from c. 2686-c. 2160 BC]., are found at Saqqarah in several 5th- and 6th-dynasty pyramids, of which that of Unas, last king of the 5th dynasty, is the earliest known. The texts constitute the oldest surviving body of Egyptian religious and funerary writings available to modern scholars." -Encyclopedia Britannica
Babylonian Creational Myths - Enuma Elish
Law Code of Hammurabi 1792-1750 BC
The main Canaanite languages are Phoenician, Punic, Moabite, Edomite, Hebrew and Ammonite. Initially all these were written in Phoenician script.
A Boundry Stone (kudurru)
"Probably the most important of the Middle Eastern
religions was that which was developed by the peoples of Mesopotamia
(i.e., the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians). These peoples,
besides spreading their influence, absorbed contributions of the Hittites,
the Phrygians, the Ugarites, and the Phoenicians. It was in Mesopotamia
that the Sumerians implanted reverence for the sky and for high places.
Later, when they came into contact with the Semites, new gods were
absorbed into the pantheon. The result was a blend of religious thought,
Sumerian and Semitic, in which everything (a tree, a stone, a fish, a
bird, a person, or even an abstract idea) had a particular significance in
There was a gradual development among the Middle Eastern cultures toward belief in a supreme god. One of the most widespread cults was that of the mother goddess (Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, Cybele; see Great Mother Goddess). She was considered as more kindly disposed toward humans than the other deities but was also capable of cruelty and vengefulness.
It was the Hittite kingdom in Anatolia (Asia Minor) who brought to an end the first dynasty of Babylon. Mursilis I, king of the Hittites, invaded Babylonia by surprise and sacked Babylon."
Hittites are Aryans.
We can see very close parallel between the Vedic gods and the Babylonian gods.
HEBREW 2000 BC
== "A magic spell to keep snakes away from the tombs of Egyptian kings, adopted from the Canaanites almost 5,000 years ago, could be the oldest Semitic text yet discovered." Associated PressThursday, January 25, 2007
The first pure alphabet emerged around 2000 BC to represent the language of Semitic workers in Egypt (see Middle Bronze Age alphabets), and was derived from the alphabetic principles of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Proto-Sinaitic HEBREW 1900 BC
[The Invention of the Alphabet]
A specimen of Proto-Sinaitic script, one of the earliest (if not the very first) phonemic scripts. Possibly translate as"death to/for Ba'alt" (feminine form of Ba'al) 1500 BC
Wadi el-Hol inscriptions
Luxor in upper Egypt, Egyptologists have found limestone inscriptions that they say are the earliest known examples of alphabetic writing, in a Semitic script with Egyptian influences, has been dated between 1900 and 1800 B.C. The first experiments with alphabet thus appeared to be the work of Semitic people living deep in Egypt
HEBREW 1000 BC
Hebrew flourished as a spoken language in Israel from the 10th century BC.
Afterward Hebrew continued as a literary language until the Modern Era. when it was revived as a spoken language in the 19th century.
This picture shows many carved texts sitting on shelves.
This is in a museum in Turkey.
Dr. Parpola's work, Deciphering the Indus Script was published by Cambridge University Press in 1994.
"I still very strongly believe that the Indus civilization language was in all probability an early form of Dravidian. Having said this, let me also sound a word of caution. This is still a theory."
"We haven't had final proof, we haven't been able to crack
the code primarily because we do not have a bilingual [inscription in two
languages] and also because the available inscriptional materials are all
in the form of repetitive tablets and seals which are extremely small, not
more than an average of five symbols strung in a row."
The longest Indus document
While there is a continuity of development of scripts and a growth of literature in all other early cultures, the Indus Valley civilization has no continuity nor literature to claim. Something happened to this ancient culture with elaborate cities and structures that is culture was cut off with nothing to replace.
Shang Dynasty1752 - 1111
Oracle bone script
writing was invented in China during the latter half of the 2nd millenium BC and that there is no evidence to suggest the transmission of writing from elsewhere. The earliest recognisable examples of written Chinese date from 1500-950 BC (Shang dynasty) and were inscribed on ox scapulae and turtle shells - "oracle bones".
Bronze Inscription )
the total number of these symbols in the Chinese writing
system is staggering. Even to be able to read a novel, it is absolutely
necessary to learn at least 3,000 symbols. People with college degrees are
judged to have mastered about 6-7,000 of them, but some large dictionaries
can contain as many as 60,000 characters.
A page from a medieval Chinese manuscript. Bamboo strips (ca. 300 BCE)
The Bamboo inscription reads:
...form is not different from emptiness, emptiness is
not different from form, emptiness is nothing but form, form is nothing
China was an isolated civilization and trade did not affect its literature. In spite of its difficult scripts they developed a large literature and religion of their own.
1500 – 1200 BC
1500-700: Vedic period of India.: "Rig-Veda" is said to have been remembered in oral form as handed down by Brahma the creator and handed down through generations.
1500-1200: Akkadian Cuneiform became common language of Near East
The principal known member of the Indo-European Language (Aryan) family is Hittite. The oldest surviving written records of Hittite, dated at about the 15th or 14th cent. B.C., are among the earliest extant remains of any Indo-European language. From c.1500 to 1200 B.C., Hittite was written both incuneiform (a system of writing taken over from Mesopotamia) and in hieroglyphics (a form of picture writing unrelated to the hieroglyphics of Egypt). After the fall of the Hittite Empire (c.1200 B.C.) the use of cuneiform ceased, but writing in hieroglyphics continued until the 7th cent. B.C. Cuneiform and Hieroglyphic Hittite are separate but closely related languages.
Hieroglyphic Hittite (1500-700 BC)Cuneiform Hittite (1500-1200 BC)
A bilingual Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform Hittite Plate
GREEK 1450 BC
The first known Greek writings date back to 1450 BC.
1447: Hebrew Exodus lead by Moses:
Moses was trained in the Royal Art of writing
As one brought up at the court of the Pharaoh, and learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he must have had some knowledge of hieroglyphics. Moses was of Semitic Origin (Jew). So he must have been familiar with Babylonian Cuneiform as well
Ras Shamra tablets :Phoenician or Hebrew alphabet 1400 – 1000 bc
Among the Ras Shamra tablets, belonging to the Tell el
Amarna period some tablets are written entirely in a Canaanite language,
and in the cuneiform script. In this case, however, it is surprising to
learn that the cuneiform is no longer syllabic, but (apparently under
Phoenician influence) has been simplified for use as an alphabet. 'The
decipherment of this script, which represents the Phoenician or Hebrew
alphabet of actually 1400 BC, is one of the most interesting achievements
of the present century.'
Amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls were found the oldest known Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts of parts of the Old Testament. Some extensive, some only small fragments, nevertheless, every book is represented except Esther. They are all dated earlier than BC 100. These and also the "Septuagint" Greek translation of BC 285-246, to a remarkable degree, verify the accuracy of the Masoretic Hebrew Text of circa AD 900.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
This hieroglyphics explains what happens after death when the heart is weighed to determine the level of rewards. If it is found wanting the heart is eaten by the wolf
Period of Judges in Israel
1200 – 1100 Book of Caverns – Egypt
It was written on the inside of the tomb for reference by the deceased. It describes the journey of the sun god Ra through the six caverns of the underworld, focusing on the rewards and punishments in afterlife.
Limestone ostracon with a drawing of a cat bringing a boy before a mouse magistrate, New Kingdom Egypt, 20th dynasty (1200–1085 BC); in the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
1,100 B.C.The Age of Greece (1100 BC - 323 BC)
The beginnings of Greece was in the form of the Minoan culture, named after the legendary King Minos, on the island of Crete. From here, this great civilization spread to the rest of Europe, resulting in what we term the Greek civilization today. Greek gods and goddesses corresponds to later Indian mythical panthenon.
1000 – 800 BC
Vedism as a religion was formalized with the Brahmans as
This corresponds to the period of the beginning of Kingship in Israel – Period of Saul, David and Solomon. We have the songs of David (Psalms) written down and elaborate temple rituals in Jerusalem at that time
David – King of Israel wrote a number of Hymns
1000-586: 1st period (Classical) of Hebrew literature in
Old Hebrew alphabet: Song of Deborah [Jdg 5], Song of Miriam [Exo
15:1-18], Song of Songs
961-922: Solomon: King of Israel, Solomon’s Temple
Moabite Stone :West Semitic Language
I am Mesha, son of Kemosh-yat, the Dibonite
800 – 700 BC
776 B.C.The Olympic Games
It was supposedly started at Olympia, named after Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. The first Olympic games were initially dedicated to Zeus, the king of all gods.
Rome founded 753 BC
Rome was founded by Romulus, son of Mars, brother of
Remus, raised by she-wolf
Homer 8th c BC
Homer's Iliad. Book XIV, ll. 227-253, 256-263,
Oxyrhynchus, II A.D.
700 – 600 BC
721 The first Exodus of Jews: settled in countries to the East to escape slavery by the Assyrians.
Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon
This clay tablet reads, "In the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the country of Babylon, he went to Egypt [Misr] to make war. Amasis, king of Egypt, collected, and marched and spread abroad."
600 –500 BC
Zarthustra (630-553 ?)
Yasna 28.1, Ahunavaiti Gatha (Bodleian MS J2)
604 - 571 Lao-tzu- Chinese philosopher, "Tao Te Ching"
"The Way gave birth to unity, Unity gave birth to duality, Duality gave birth to trinity, Trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures." (Tao Te Ching Capter 42 tr. Mair 1990:9).
"Requite injuries with good deeds" (chap. 63, tr. Waley)
The Valley Spirit never dies
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry. (chap. 6, tr. Waley)
Earliest available copy of Tao Te Ching is dated270 AD
Solon 594 BC
The founding of Greek democracy in ancient Athens is credited to a lawgiver named Solon, who lived from the late 7th to the early 6th century BC. He put an end to the wealthy aristocrats' complete control of the government and advocated that control of the government be shared among the people. He divided society into four classes and instituted economic and political reforms. He also cancelled debts and freed people imprisoned for debt.
Confucius(551-478) (Kung Izu)
Confucius had a simple moral and political teaching:
was famous (1) as an expert on the fate of the soul after death, who
thought that the soul was immortal and went through a series of
Thales of Miletus (Greece)(----547 BC)
Thales of Miletus was the first known Greek philosopher, scientist and mathematician. He is credited with five theorems of elementary geometry.
Parmenides (515 - )
Parmenides stated that the senses deceive us and, hence, our perception of the world does not reflect the world as it really is. Instead, the real world is something above our apprehension and can only be apprehended through logic. His chief doctrine is that the only true being is "the One" which is indivisible and infinite in time and space.
575 B.C.Creation of the caste system (India)
The caste system was a social division system in India and
contained 4 classes.
The serfs included many of the native people, the dasas, who were very skilled artisans and those Aryans who had intermarried. A person is born into a caste and according to Hinduism, the only way to move up in the caste system in the next lifetime is to do good in the present one. Professions are heriditary in the caste system and reflect a division of labour. The caste system also has taboos on commensality (eating together) as well as marriage limits; one can only marry within one's own caste.
Darius I (522 to 486 BC).
A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many.
I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries containing all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.
King Darius says: By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries which I seized outside of Persia; I ruled over them; they bore tribute to me; they did what was said to them by me; they held my law firmly; Media, Elam, Parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Arachosia, Sattagydia, Gandara, India, the haoma-drinking Scythians, the Scythians with pointed caps, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks, the Scythians across the sea, Thrace, the sun hat-wearing Greeks, the Libyans, the Nubians, the men of Maka and the Carians.
Cyrus II (550 – 530 BC)
The Cyrus Cylinder speaks of Cyrus the Persian and his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC
500 – 400 BC
528BC MAHAVIRA (the Great Hero), the founder of Jainism in India
Vardhamana Mahavira or 'The Great Hero' founded Jainism during 540-468 B.C.
Jainism, Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma
Jains believe all souls are equal because they all possess the potential of being liberated and attaining Moksha. Tirthankars and Siddhas are role models only because they have attained Moksha. Jains believe that every human is responsible for his/her actions and all living beings have an eternal soul, jīva. Jains view God as the unchanging traits of the pure soul of each living being, chiefly described as Infinite Knowledge, Perception, Consciousness, and Happiness (Ananta Jnana, Ananta Darshana, Ananta Caritra, and Ananta Sukha). Jains do not believe in an omnipotent supreme being, creator or manager (karta), but rather in an eternal universe governed by natural laws and the interplay of its attributes (gunas) and matter (dravya). The universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. But there is going to be an infinite repetition of the Kalchakra
Fall of Israel and Judah
Second Temple Period Like the first temple built by King Solomon they were both built out of white limestone, which is a fossil rich rock.
No Vedas yet written down yet.
BUddha (563 to 483 BC)
Catvāry Āryasatyāni (Pali: Cattāri Ariyasaccāni), or the "Four Noble Truths".
Noble Eightfold Path:
THE AXIAL AGE
This figure identifies the religions that evolved in the civilizations that were based on languages. Vedism was not the major religion of India. They never were because they did not have the knowledge of writing nor the philosophical content until the coming of St.Thomas. Vedism remained a minor religion of a few.
400 – 300 BC
Zeno 333 – 262 BC
Zeno-Stoic (333-262BC) God is not separate from the world; He is the soul of the world, and each of us contains a part of the Divine Fire. ... All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature
Epicurus341 – 270 BC
Plato 428 - 349 BC
Plato held that there were no eternal rewards or punishments --
except for an evil few who were not allowed out of Hades. All the others
had to face the prospect of their next life, and they were given the
opportunity to choose the character of their next life from a variety of
alternatives. Suffering amnesia upon being
born into a new body, the soul cannot easily recollect its divine origin,
but instead becomes fascinated with sensory and sensual phenomena in a way
that attaches the soul ever more to the body. Plato suggested that
philosophy involved the process of recollecting what the soul knew before
Alexander the Great
Alexander (356 – 323BC) the Great invaded India
Yavana (Greek) Culture
comes to India
300 – 200 BC
Asoka273 -232 BC
Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, has caused this
Dhamma edict to be written
This Dhamma edict was written twenty-six years after my coronation.
PRAKRIT AND PALI 1000 BC – 500 BC
Brajbuli dates to 1000 BC
Greek and Aramaic translation of an edict by Asoka. Khandahar
No Sanskrit in existence. No Upanishads in existence.
Several walls, referred to as the Great Wall of China, were built since the 5th century BC, the most famous being the one built between 220 and 200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang
Septuagint translation of Old Testament From Hebrew into Greek
200 – 1 BC
The Rig Veda,
the oldest of the four Vedas (except Mandalas I and X)
is supposed to be composed about 1500 B.C.,
and codified about 600 B.C.
It is unknown when it was finally committed to writing,
but this probably was at some point
after 300 B.C
The language is the same as the Old Avestan or Gathic Avestan
Old Avestan or Gathis Avestan: This form of the language was used to compose the Gathas and other more ancient portions of the Yasna. Gathic Avestan is an archaic language with a complicated grammar which consists of eight case forms and a highly inflected noun system. It is still quite close to the Vedic Sanskrit.
"The Vedās were written on palm-leaves and birch-barks.
The earliest printed text of the Rigveda mantra Samhita
with the Bhāshya of Sāyaņa was brought out during (1848-1874) by Friedrich
Max Muller (1823-1900).
Eugene Burnouf (1801-52) produced the German translation of "Kauthumīya Sāmaveda Samhitā in 1848.
Roth and Whitney (1827-94) published the Atharva Veda Samhitā.”
The whole purpose of looking through the time line was to indicate that while all the other religions of the world insisted on the scriptures to be written down and crystalized so that it may not be perverted or interpolated, Vedid religion alone do not have any such heritage. We only have oral traditions for Vedism. We do not have any way of determining its integrity and we have aboslutely no means of dating the vedas since they were never really in any "hard copy" and we have only the hearsay evidences of their antiquity. While oral traditions especially in songs and music are a powerful means of reaching the population, it has no built in safeguard against interpolation and omissions. Thus by the time it was written down, there were several parallel versions and most of the orally transmitted portions of Vedic hymns were totally lost. Only 1% survived.
Out of the more than a thousand 'shakhas' (recensions) of
the four Vedas in our country, unfortunately only 11 shakhas survive today
in the oral tradition