In my research for Land of the Watchers, I have found an interconnected web of facts all leading, perhaps unsurprisingly, to oil. While it may come as no big revelation, America’s war in the Middle East has been over oil, as have both world wars. The quest for oil has been the cause of innumerable deaths around the world for years and this quest is not new. Many are surprised to learn how ancient humanity’s knowledge of oil is. The Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians were aware of the importance of oil, as were Native Americans. Let’s take a quick look at ancient oil, starting with the Sumerians.
To start, the term oil is usually used as a more generalized term referring to a viscous, flammable liquid, insoluble in water. However, petroleum is a more specific term referring to a hydrocarbon oil found in the upper strata of the earth, which goes through a refining process to be used as fuel. The word petroleum literally means “rock oil,” translated from the Greek to Latin form petra ‘rock’ and oleum ‘oil.’ Drilling is not the only way to find oil. Oil can also be found in what are called seeps, or oil springs. When the oil from these springs evaporates, it leaves behind a semi-solid hydrocarbon product called bitumen. This has been used for thousands of years as a waterproofing agent, for plumbing, boat building and brick bonding. There is even some debate on whether or not it was the pitch used to waterproof the reed basket that carried the infant Moses into the Nile River. Herodotus, Aristotle, Strabo, Plutarch, and others have discussed the ancients’ use of bitumen in detail. It is credited as being the literal glue that held together the Tower of Babel. Petroleum was essential to the infrastructure of Babylon the Great. It was also an important component to ritual sacrifice.
Vegetable and animal oils have traditionally been used in Abrahamic religious ceremonies. In fact, the word Christ is from the Latin ‘Christus,’ which is from Greek ‘khristos’ meaning "the anointed.” This anointing refers to a ceremonial process where oil is smeared on the head. Many are familiar with these etymologies and many are familiar with anointing ceremonies which are still performed in numerous modern religious settings. However, the act of anointing with oil predates the Abrahamic religions. It even predates Egyptian religions, which also anointed with natural oils.
In the Sumerian records, there are many mentions of oils and their uses. Cedar oils, vegetable oils, even bitumen was regularly referenced. However, there is one very special oil that was used in an important ritual. It translates simply to “mountain oil.” Could this “mountain oil” be “rock oil” or petroleum? I have spent countless hours combing over Sumerian records, searching for clues to human origins and a better understanding of the power structures that have come to dominate our world. In my personal reading of the Sumerian tablets, I have found more to support that the Sumerian god’s were interested in this mountain oil more than even gold. In fact, I have found very little to support that gold was of special interest to the gods. Mountain oil, on the other hand…
I have traced this particular mountain oil to the Zagros Mountain range, homeland of Enil, Inanna, and other key figures in Sumerian mythology. This oil was used in a strange, yet familiar, ritual to honor Inanna, the daughter of Nanna and Ningal, who is also associated with Venus. Nanna, her father, son of Enlil and Ninlil, later became identified with Assyrian moon god Su'en/Sîn, whose name meant "illuminator." His worship center was Ur, whose name literally meant the dwelling place of Nanna. Now, I will not go too deeply into familial connections in this post but in Land of the Watchers, I do go into more detail and provide clear infographics to simplify the drama of the Sumerian gods. For now, the takeaway is that the oil from the mountain home of the Sumerian creator gods was important to their rituals and civil structure.
It has been known for a very long time that the Zagros Mountains were a special place. In addition to being the dwelling place and retreat of the Sumerian gods, they were also the home to the first known dragon, named Kur. Kur, the serpent, is so much associated with the mountains, that it is depicted as a picture of a mountain in cuneiform. Archaeological evidence has revealed interesting clues to the myths of the Zargos Mountain dwellers. The serpent-man hybrid clay figurines, excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley, have been associated with this civilization, the Ubaid peoples, who originally down from the Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan, hence the 'Kurd' in Kurdistan (stan = place of or home). So, in addition to the Zargos Mountains being associated with the Sumerian gods, they are also known as housing a great serpent or serpents.
The importance of this mountain range to the modern oil industry cannot be stressed enough. Iran's main oilfields are located in the western central foothills of the Zagros mountain range. What I have found in researching Land of the Watchers has lead me down a path that follows big oil, the Kurdish conflict, WWI & WWII, the current war on terror, and the invention of the modern Middle East. The families behind the wars for oil are all too familiar names. The connections are astounding.
I have traveled down a road which starts in ancient Mesopotamia, goes through the Crusades, and onto the Americas, during a time when the Seneca people used petroleum from oil seeps in their rituals (rituals strangely similar to those of the Sumerians). In fact, the tribe became known by pioneers for their oil, which they traded. It would later become known as snake oil, the same snake oil that William Rockefeller, Sr., father of John D. Rockefeller, made a living as a con man selling. William Rockefeller, Sr. took snake oil as it was called, and bottled it under “rock oil.” He claimed it had special life-extension capabilities. He peddled it like a carny in the same way you would expect from a snake oil salesman.
My research has brought me full circle in a way. It has brought me to Cleveland, Ohio, a seemingly unlikely place with connections to Sumerian myths, the Crusades, Native American myths, ritual sacrifice, environmentalism, the quest for the elixir of life, and the strange insatiable thirst for oil. I have walked the paths of the oil barons, looking for the details that others have missed. I have visited newly discovered mysterious Rockefeller archaeological sites and found a series of clues that have been hidden in key places in the area. I have been completely thrown by what I have found and my experience has caused me to question everything I thought I knew.