Stories of Enoch and the Deluge
Firstly, let’s assume that the Assamites are telling the truth when they claim to have recorded a 10,000 year history, dating back to the First City. This is supported by canonical out-of-character evidence, such as several 4th generation characters with their embrace dates listed as early as 7000 BCE, such as with Japheth. While some in-character sources, such as the interview with Katherine of Montpelier in the Toreador Clanbook Revised place the First City as contemporaneous with Sumer, Ancient Egypt, or the Indus Valley civilization, those settlements only date back to the 2nd or 3rd millenniums BCE. That’s only halfway back enough!
In fact, going back any further than Sumer causes a lot of problems when it comes to the story of the First City in the first place. The story of Cain and Abel is from Judaism, a religion dating back to, at most, 1000 BCE. The stories of the Deluge that destroyed the First City are believed to be based on Mesopotamian tales such as the story of Gilgamesh, which date back at most to 3500 BCE. Are we saying that the Israelites got a story right that they heard from a civilization that documented it over 2500 years earlier about an event over 4000 years before that? This is starting to get dubious, but maybe Cainites, with their long lives, kept alive the truth. Or at least some part of it.
Let’s assume there was a First City and that it was destroyed in a flood. Let’s also assume that the First City that the True Black Hand had access to in the shadowlands was not perfectly representative of the truth, since White Wolf has done everything it can to put that city out of our minds and cast doubt on whatever was going on there. What we’re looking for is a city that predates the various Bronze Age civilizations (Sumer, Egypt, Indus) by several thousand years.
The Earliest Known Cities
The Lasombra Clanbook revised actually gives us one option: Çatalhöyük, a city in what is now Turkey which dates back to around 7100 BCE. The Clanbook doesn’t directly say that this is the first or second city, but rather suggests it as a likely early city of vampires. I would offer that this might be a potential site of the Second City, with the First City an even earlier settlement; one with a direct tie to the myth of Cain and Abel: Jericho.
Jericho is a city which goes back a long long long time. Its earliest settlements date to the very beginning of the current Holocene epoch, just after the last ice age, before humans had developed agriculture. The name Jericho is thought to derive from the Canaanite word for “fragrant”. Let’s recall that the Cainite historian Katherine of Montpelier places the First City at the fabled lost city of Ubar, which she says means “Queen of Frankincense” and jokes that it was selected because it covered the smell of Caine and his childer. The name might alternatively be a reference to the word moon, or for Yarikh, a moon god whose worship was based there.
The earliest “settled” areas of Jericho where essentially campgrounds for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups around 10,000 BCE who left scattered crescent-shaped tools behind. This was a time of cold and drought and no permanent pre-agriculture habitation was possible. Around 9600 BCE conditions had improved and permanent, year round settlement began. They began constructing circular structures, with the dead "buried" under the floor. By 9400 BCE there where more than 70 buildings.
Caine and Abel as Metaphore
This was an important place and time in human history. This was where humans switched from hunter-gatherers to cultivators of grain. Modern scholars believe that the biblical story of Cain and Abel was about the human change from nomadic hunting to sedentary farmers and herders. And here it is, perhaps the first human city, switching from one kind of lifestyle to another.
Now obviously, Caine is a reality to Vampire: The Masquerade. He’s a character in at least one novel and a very real force in the world, but we can’t ignore the very real history of humankind. Maybe Caine was a leader of the settlers, as suggested in the notes and commentary in the published Book of Nod. His name appears to mean “metal worker”, so this might give us some inspiration or insight into just what he was all about. Perhaps Caine’s most important feature was his endorsement of early smithing.
Setting the First City at early Jericho has additional interesting implications. The reason you’ve heard of Jericho is because it’s got its own story in the bible, where god knocks down the walls and involving the Ark of the Covenant. Fun stuff.
The Deluge as Metaphore
The one question all of this begs is: when was the flood? Again, let’s return to Katherine of Montpelier in the Toreador Clanbook for revised: “You do know of the flood, do you not? The battle wherein the 12 killed the three, and Caine’s wrath afterward?” I read this not as a list of three events, but a description of one. The great Deluge was not a flood of water, but a metaphorical flood of blood as the Cainites went to war with each other. But I guess that’s a blog post for another night.