Ancient Origins IRAQ Tour

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

Of One Language: In Search of Our Mother Tongue

Mankind is familiar with the narrative surrounding the construction of the Tower of Babel, passed down through the generations and across multiple cultures. The most well-known version is chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis: “And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.” Not pleased with the progress humans were making in the constructions of this tower to the heavens, the Biblical account quotes God in which he states: “‘Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ And He took it upon himself to end what He deemed to be sacrilege.  So, the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.  Therefore, was the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”

Human Language Family Map (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Human Language Family Map (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As indicated earlier, parallels about Babel do exist, some predating its Biblical counterpart. Author Petros Koutoupis has written about an Assyrian version in his publication, Biblical Origins: An Adopted Legacy, (2008) and in his article, Gateway to the Heavens: The Assyrian Account to the Tower of Babel.

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