The Gebel el-Arak Knife from Egypt, showing clear Mesopotamian cultural motifs.
In biblical tradition, the story of the Tower is followed immediately by that of Abraham, the 'father of many' and founding patriarch of the Jewish people.
The Book of Genesis tells us that Abraham's father Terah was instructed by God to leave his homeland - 'Ur of the Chaldaeans' in Lower Mesopotamia - and set out for a Promised Land to which he would be directed. Terah dies before he reaches his goal, but his son Abraham arrives in due course in the land of promise.
Because of the confused chronology of the textbooks, it is generally believed that the Abraham migration occurred in the Middle Bronze Age, when the great civilizations of the Middle East were already long established. However, any close examination of the story, together with a look at extra-biblical Jewish tradition, leaves no doubt that the entire context of the events related place them in a very primitive age.
First and foremost, human sacrifice seems to be of central importance. This is seen in Abraham's abortive sacrifice of Isaac on a mountain-top, but also in the extra-biblical tradition about Abraham's own birth and infancy. In this Jewish legend the tyrant king Nimrod wishes to sacrifice the child Abraham, but his mother substitutes her own child for that of a servant girl - which is then sacrificed.
Human sacrifice was a central feature of the earliest phase of urban civilization throughout the globe.
Again, we are told that it was Abraham who intiated the custom of circumcision - which operation seems to have been performed with a flint knife (for such was the custom much later in Jewish history). Now in Egypt circumcision is attested from the very earliest phase of pharaohnic civilization, and seems to have been linked to the worship of the phallic god Min (much honored in Early Dynastic times). This would apparently place the Abraham story right at the start of Egypt's history - an impression reinforced by much other evidence.
Last but not least, extra-biblical Jewish tradition is very specific that when Abraham arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians were primitive barbarians, and that it was the patriarch who taught them the rudiments of civilized life.
Now this claim seems to find dramatic confirmation in the discoveries of archaeology, which have shown a very clear Mesopotamian influence on the Nile Valley just before the beginning of the First Egyptian Dynasty.
Archaeologists were in fact astonished to discover this, for it was something they did not in the least expect. (Remember, it is still universally believed that the Abraham migration occurred long after the beginning of Egyptian civilization. In fact, Abraham is normally placed around the time of Egypt's Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Dynasties). They found astonishing evidence of Mesopotamian input in all fields: in art, in architecture, in religion, and even in language. So pervasive was this Mesopotamian cultural impact that it is now an accepted fact of Egyptian history.
The Egyptians themselves, it seems, recalled the early culture-bearing migration from the east; for they always claimed the eastern land of Punt as their ancestral home. The Phoenicians too, it seems, had a memory of an ancestral migration from Mesopotamia at the dawn of their history.
Yet if once we accept that the Abraham migration was identical to the primitive culture-bearing migration from Mesopotamia to Egypt we are immediately involved in a massive realignment of ancient chronology. For according to the textbooks, Egyptian civilization was founded around 3200 B.C., whereas Abraham's migration to Egypt is said to have occurred around 2100 B.C. - a difference of almost a thousand years. Other evidence will show that both dates are too long by far, and that Abraham, as well as the beginning of Egypt's First Dynasty, need both to be downdated by a substantial margin.
For the moment, however, let's work on the premise that Egypt's early history is out of sync with regard to that of Israel by around a thousand years. If we reduce Egyptian dates by a thousand years, does the history of the Nile Kingdom, which has hitherto shown no agreement with that of Israel, match?
It does match, and in a most spectacular way.