A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, October 3, 2016

Iraqi Transport Minister: Sumerians Built First Airport 7,000 Years Ago; Went to Pluto

The headline is not an exaggeration. At a press conference in Dhi Qar, Iraqi Transport Minister Kazem Finjan announced that Dhi Qar was the site of the world's first airport, which he dated to 7000 years ago, and that they had discovered Pluto, and, he seems to imply, had visited it. See the story here. If you know Arabic, watch the video at the link, which I can't embed. (Even if you don't, you mat want to watch the expression of the man in the light jacket at right as the reacts as the Minister goes off the rails.

Iraq's Transport Minister Kazem Finjan has claimed that ancient Sumerians in Iraq invented space travel.

Finjan made the outlandish claim during a press conference in the southern Iraqi province of Dhi Qar.

In a speech, he said that the ancient civilisation had built the world's first airport in the area around 5,000 BC.

Finjan went on to claim that the airport had served as a hub for space exploration, and that the Sumerians discovered Pluto falsely claiming it to be the solar system's "twelfth planet" and discovered by NASA.

In front of a beleaguered audience Finjan sought to back up his claims asking sceptics to study the works of Sumerian experts such as Russian professor Samuel Kramer.
He specifically cited Kramer's History Begins at Sumer, a familiar popular introduction. Apparently the copy on my shelf is a different edition from the Minister's, since it doesn't mention airports or space travel, and uses the standard dating in which Sumer rose around 3000 years BC, or 5,000 years ago, not 7000. (Did he confuse 5000 Before the Present with 5000 BC?) True, he mentions the Sumerians as pioneers in astronomy, but with no mention of Pluto  (which used to be the ninth planet, not the twelfth, until it was demoted). And it was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, long before NASA existed. I think the Minister may have confused Kramer with something he saw on Ancient Aliens.

Or perhaps he's made the biggest discovery by an Arab official since the Egyptian Army discovered a cure for both AIDS and hepatitis C without blood tests.  I wonder how that worked out.


Alastair Northedge said...

You don't understand much about what is happening in Iraq today. Yes, it is a ridiculous claim. But you have to remember that Iraq was and has been a closed country since the communist-style revolution of the 1970s. That closed country has been traumatised by the US invasion and occupation. The consequence, because of the trauma, has been even more closure to the outside. Not surprising the they have some bizarre ideas.

David Mack said...

My Iraqi friends with whom I am still in touch are not all that isolated, and they will be embarrassed by the Minister's claim.