Cergat. Earthmare: The Lost Book of Wars. gnOme, 2017. ISBN-10: 0692841083. ISBN-13: 978-0692841082. 280pp. $18.00

In mid-October 1997, two clay tablets marked in wedge-shaped signs, were discovered inside a cave in the Accursed Mountains in Albania. The local shepherds who found them, took the artifacts to their pastor, an amateur linguist and folklore aficionado, who at first glance identified the cuneiform writing as Sumerian. He visited the discovery site and found several other fragments prompting him to further continue his search. In the winter months from November 1997 to February 1998, four more tablets were put together out of thirty-seven fragments collected in the interior of the cave. Six fragments (frgs. 2, 5, 18, 13, 27, 9) did not match any of the partially restored tablets, suggesting that more pieces may lay hidden deeper into the cave. These were not discovered until the end of September 1998, when a landslide revealed a separate cave pocket, enclosing a wooden ark adding three more tablets to the collection.

Clearly, the artifacts did not belong to the local culture. Their scattered condition suggested that similar earlier landslides might have caused loose tree-roots and mud to close part of the cave off from its mouth. As the texts have only been partially translated, it is as yet unknown whether the last three pieces made up the full set of the original tablets. Most of what we know comes from the notes of the pastor, who for nearly ten years worked in isolation to decipher a good part of the scripts from a language he initially believed to be the original Indo-European, but subsequently identified as the lost language of the Pelasgians. In a later note, he writes that this was a mixed language, reminiscent of Odysseus’s description of Crete, where many barbarian tongues were spoken side by side and mingled with one another (Hom. Od. xix. 172-8). After decoding the cuneiform, he translated their texts into Albanian, trying to keep as close to the original as possible. What emerged was another version of Genesis, a creation  full of strife the pastor called “the lost book of wars.”

Dating back to c. 1400-1100 bc, the tablets are among the oldest apocrypha materials ever found. They are as well of particular interest not only for their content, but also for the unusual site of their discovery. Following recent archaeological finds revealing the Philistines to be only one of a conglomerate of tribes that fought against God’s chosen people (see e.g., Bierling 2002), these ancient warriors have been conjectured to be the ones who brought the tablets from Israel.

In his description of the Sea People pirate alliance, Ramesses II (c. 1285 bc) names some of these tribes, among them the Dardanians (Da-ar-d(a)-an-ya), who, after attacking Egypt, turned their attention to Israel. As it is well known, these were Aeneas’s people, the Trojans’ allies in the war. In ancient times, however, there was also a Dardanian kingdom in present-day Kosovo, likely one of the several colonies of that branch of the Dardanian tribe that traveled westward after the sack of Troy. The pastor came to consider these people as the possible carriers of the ark and the cuneiform tablets.

Assuming that this might be what Israel called the Ark of the Covenant, which was lost to the Philistines in the wars described in 1 Samuel, the warriors who buried its contents in the Accursed Mountains may well be the ones referred to in the Bible as the giants, Goliath and company. These are the mythical giants north of Greece (ancient Gr. gegas), whose demonym still survives in the Gheg tribes of northern Albania.

“This is a truly fascinating, singular work that carves our descent into unknown ‘Earthmare’ terrain. A dark combination of daring and brilliance guides us here, through vast territories of consciousness and vision (those of the barbarian, the exile, the sea people). A book like no other.” — Jason Mohaghegh, author of The Chaotic Imagination: New Literature and Philosophy of the Middle East

“Earthmare documents a wound around/inside a hole, a hole both excavated by God and indiscernible from him, a hole the universe crawled out of in spite of itself, deranged, demonic, cancerous, riddled with paradox, coated in etymological layers of increasingly rarefied and scarified tissue. An encyclopedic drop of poison in the void. A book about beginnings and of beginnings that is beguilingly and honestly lost for any credible place to start, which is exactly where it finds itself.” — Gary J. Shipley, author of The Face Hole

“Tearing open the wound of the Beginning, Earthmare installs within each who reads it a unique secret protocol for never having been. As light as it is deep, occult as it is clear, unsettling as it is consoling, the work also charts a new ancient home for intellectual practice, one that might be provisionally designated philological horrotics (cf. Pseudo-Dionysius, Lovecraft). If ever there were, for lack of better words, a noetic intersection of Agamben, Negarestani, and Cioran, as perforce there always already is, this is it—at least for now. Archaeology of the incognitum hactenus, the trouble with being torn . . . To read Earthmare properly is to have a palpably better chance of discovering what it means to escape the future the only way possible: by altering the past.” — Nicola Masciandaro, co-author of Spheresy 1693


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