Man from the earth

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The Birth of Enkidu by Rebecca Yanovskaya.

Man from the earth is a trope from mythology where humans beings, men especially, are molded from the clay, dirt, dust, etc. of the earth. The earliest occurrence of this in mythology that I'm aware of is in the Epic of Gilgamesh which was written around 2100 BCE.

Growing up attending a fundamental Christian church, I was frequently told that the creation of Adam narrative in the Book of Genesis was a factual historical account. However, while reading about other ancient mythologies, I discovered that most of the stories from Genesis are just re-tellings of much older Middle Eastern myths, the creation of man included.


This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a collection of the oldest mythologies that incorporate this trope.

Time Work Culture Quote
c. 2100 BCE Epic of Gilgamesh Babylonian "[The goddess] Aruru conceived a man of Anu in her mind. Aruru washed her hands, she broke off a piece of clay; she cast it on the ground. Thus she created Enkidu the hero." (Tablet I)
c.1900 BCE Inanna and Enki Babylonian "Ninmah took clay from the top of the abzu in her hand and she fashioned from it first a man..." (58) "Ninmah threw the pinched-off clay from her hand on the ground and a great silence fell. The great lord Enki said to Ninmah: 'I have decreed the fates of your creatures and given them their daily bread. Come, now I will fashion somebody for you, and you must decree the fate of the newborn one!'" (79-82)
c.500 BCE Book of Genesis Hebrew "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (2:7 KJV).
c.650 CE Quran Arabic "And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place, Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators." (23:12-15 Pickthall)

Unknown Time

  • Khnum, one of the oldest Egyptian gods, was attributed to forming gods and men out of clay and placing them into their mother's wombs, although I haven't been able to find a date-able historical reference.