Mesopotamia - Part IThe art of metallurgy soon encompassed the ability to alloy copper with other metals, resulting in a castable, hard but malleable metal we call bronze. The Bronze Age, our first metallurgical age, was also a Mesopotamian contribution to modern civilisation. Much of ancient commerce was devoted to the metals trade; it also formed the basis for the development in Mesopotamia of banking and the first money - the silver shekel (‘weighed ingot’).
The many varieties of metals for which Sumerian and Akkadian names have been found and the extensive technological terminology attest to the high level of metallurgy in ancient Mesopotamia. For a while this puzzled scholars because Sumer, as such, was devoid of metal ores, yet metallurgy most definitely began there.
The answer is energy. Smelting, refining and alloying, as well as casting, could not be done without ample supplies of fuels to fire the kilns, crucibles and furnaces. Mesopotamia may have lacked ores, but it had fuels in abundance. So, the ores were brought to the fuels, which explains many early inscriptions describing the bringing of metal ores from afar. The fuels that made Sumer technologically supreme were bitumens and asphalts, petroleum products that naturally seeped up to the surface in many places. It has been shown that the surface deposits of Mesopotamia were the ancient world’s prime source of fuels from the earliest times to the Roman era. There is strong evidence to show that the use and knowledge of the fuels and their properties were greater in Sumerian times than in later civilisations. The names of bituminous and petroleum materials in other languages - Akkadian, Hebrew, Egyptian, Coptic, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit - can clearly be traced to the Sumerian origins; for example, the most common word for petroleum - naptha - derives from napatu (‘stones that flare up’).
Tablets containing Mesopotamian hymns to Ea exalt him as ‘Bel Nimiki’ (‘lord of wisdom’), but the correct translation should undoubtedly be ‘lord of mining.’ Just as the Tablet of Destinies at Nippur contained incredible Earth orbital data, it follows that the Tablet of Wisdom was in fact a ‘Tablet of Mining’, a data bank pertaining to the mining operations of the Nefilim.
Ea was assisted by the god GI.BIL, (‘he who burns the soil’), who was in charge of fire and smelting. Earth’s Smith, he was usually depicted as a young god whose shoulders emit red-hot rays or sparks of fire, emerging from the ground or about to descend into it. The texts state that Ea steeped Gibil in ‘wisdom’, meaning that Ea had taught him mining techniques.