Tracing the etymology of the ancient term zu

The ancient Mesopotamian term su/zu, meant “dark, black”. There is little doubt that it relates etymologically to the Setswana term “tsho”, as we will see. Given this, “AP.SU” (a pivotal term in the Sumerian text Enuma-Elish – also called the Epic of Creation) means not “primordial waters”, as scholars suppose, but “a covering of darkness”. Indeed ap means “cover” in Setswana.

As such, apara – which evidently relates to “apparel”, a dress – is “put on cover” and apola is “remove cover”. This is but one case to illustrate my learned contention that we once all spoke the same language.

 The symbol for AP.SU was evidently wave-like, hence the mistaken association with water. Actually, it likened “darkness” to a wave form (just as “light” certainly is). But scholars were not too far off: they were no doubt influenced by the biblical phrase (Genesis 1:2) “In the beginning…the earth was dark and without form…and the spirit of God moved over the waters of the deep”. Indeed, in scientific terms, the “eruption” of the sun not only brought forth light, the molten material (the “waters”) it flung out cooled and solidified into spheres (“earth” or soil) in the weightlessness of space, which became planets. These then orbited the sun due to the effects of gravitational pull. (The earliest parts of Genesis, however, were not written by Moses but adapted from Babylonian legend which in turn derived from the Sumerian culture.) But even so, why does the term “sun” appear to entail a polar-opposite term su (darkness)?

The original Sumerian term for “sun” was evidently ZU.AN.ZI.A. ZU means “darkness”, AN means “space/heavens”, ZI means “here” and A means “there/away”. ZU.AN would mean “darkness of the sky” and ZI.A (sia in Setswana) means “run!” – but literally,  “[from] here, [go] away!” The sun was thus the triumphant chaser away of darkness. ZU.AN.ZI.A eventually abbreviated to zanzi, which hardened to tsatsi in Setswana.

The term SU can also be found in Indian languages. India’s dark-skinned Dravidians were also known as “Sudras”. In fact, “Sudra” was more likely sut-ra, and sut is of the same etymology as ‘soot’ – a dark carbonite deposit resulting from the burning of coal. The term sut itself, we can now reasonably extrapolate, was originally su-ed (“become black”). “Sud”’ also has a connotation of ‘south’ or ‘southerner’ (as in French), which is the general direction from which Black people originate. The two meanings, of course, are likely to be directly or semantically related.

Zu also appears in many much-used compound words found in Sumerian mythology. One evocative term is AB.ZU. AB (later abba: see Mark 14:36) commonly means “father/ancestor” and the term literally means “source/root/depth [of something]”. As such, the AB in “abyss” literally means “the depths” and the compound word AB.ZU therefore means “dark depths”.  Abzu was slightly miscued by scholars as meaning “underworld” – but not totally.

AB.ZU actually referred to Africa in three distinct senses. Firstly, Africa was called “underworld” because the continent lay south of (“below/under”) Europe and Asia. But the world is actually a globe and there is no real “under” and “over”.  Secondly, it was a celebrated “Land of the Mines”, most of which were evidently of the “deep shaft” type: the feared “black depths” which, even today, many people would not like to venture into. This is where the concept of the AB.ZU as a feared “underground” place was reinforced. But Atra Hasis only noted that the primordial LU.LU (“mixed creature”) originated in the AB.ZU and was created specifically to relieve the gods of their toil in the mines. He carried the DNA of the gods and at least one of Earth’s now extinct hominids – most likely Cro-Magnon man. It is indeed in Africa that scientists hope to find the elusive “Cradle of Humankind”.

Regarding mankind’s roots, scholars miscued the Sumerian Myth of the Hoe which said that Enlil used a hoe to dig out LU.LU from inside the ground by concluding that they were initially planted there as seed to be later harvested! Actually, the god Enlil and his half-brother Enki were quarrelling over the LU.LU in Africa. Enlil needed them for land reclamation in Europe and Asia but Enki hid them in an underground bunker. A determined Enlil fashioned a “penetrating hoe” which he loaded onto the roof of his light aircraft, sped with it to the AB.ZU, and then used it to smash into Enki’s bunker from which the LU.LU broke out in numbers. Third and lastly, Africa was where – certainly in the post-Flood era – a-ba-zu (black people) abounded. All the above takes on the term AB.ZU, it seems, became semantically related.

Zu can also mean “potent/fertile” though this semantic shift derived from the metaphor of rich soil, which is typically dark. The association is clear when looking at the name “Khem”, Egypt’s ancient name. It was short for Khemet (kgemetha in Setswana: “rich to overflowing”) and referred to the rich, black soil annually deposited in Egypt’s delta area by the river Nile. Al-khem (alchemy) thus literally meant “Black Arts”. As such, the epithet SU.EN (“Sin”) meant “Multiplying (i.e. fertile) God”. EN (Lord) is indeed ene (“the One”) in Setswana. In Ugaritic texts, where he was simply known as “El”, Su-en was reputed to have fathered as many as 80 sons. From this, we can easily see why he was the same god as Egypt’s AT.EN (ata means “multiply” in Setswana). Given that ata relates to “add”, and ene/one both mean “the One” in Setswana, Canaan’s AD.ON was also Su-en! Indeed, “Sinai” and “Adonai” relate to each other.

 Closer home, “Sotho” is evidently su-ntu (dark person). To me, it relates to “Tswana” in one clear sense. Today, sotho means “brown” and tshwana (i.e. zu-ana) means “blackish”, i.e. not-too-dark. Indeed, “ana” means “smaller/watered down version of” e.g. koko/kokwana. Once again, the term zu seems to confirm that we did indeed at one point all speak the same language.

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