Skip to comments.Gardens were important to ancient civilizations
Posted on 09/01/2011 4:50:15 PM PDT by Renfield
We tend to think of garden design as a relatively new vocation. The truth told by archaeological findings not only lays such thoughts to rest, it tells a tale of a rich and ancient heritage of garden design.
One such finding shows a garden of Ninevah, in present-day Iraq, that dates back to 650 BC. There are date palms, trees and shrubs of many types. True, an enemy's severed head is seen hanging from one of the trees, but times were different, or are they? They did like their gardens, however.
Our vision of ancient Egyptian temples is one of stark stone against a background of sand and rock. When these amazing temples and tombs were built they were surrounded by gardens. The tomb of the pharaoh queen Hatshepsut shows evidence of large numbers of planters for trees dug into the rock of the site. Intricate irrigation systems were designed to keep these thriving in the desert conditions. Such gardens were built under the guidance of the architects. Carvings and papyrus scrolls show that great importance was placed on the design and care of these gardens.
Even the cities constructed to house the workmen who built the great pyramids had square growing plots separated by mud brick and filled with alluvial soils. Each worker, it appears, had a small garden where he could grow vegetables and perhaps fruits. Pictorial evidence shows such crops as lettuce, leeks, cucumbers, radishes and lentils. Oh what fun it would be to travel back in time to see those gardens in use.
The level of sophistication that went into the creation of agricultural areas and gardens is astounding. Swampy depressions or fayums in Egypt were criss-crossed by extensive systems of canals and drainage channels. Correspondence found from this period shows that the gardeners were carefully controlled in what they had to grow and how much they were paid. One fascinating letter lays out a contract in which the excrement of the gardener is to be examined with a stick to make sure he is not eating the produce of the garden. I wonder how the unions of today would react to this clause.
Evidence from Greece and Rome give clear evidence that the wealthy spent lavish sums decorating the interiors and exteriors of their homes. The city of Pompeii, buried by Mt. Vesuvius in a thick layer of ash, has exquisitely preserved examples of villas with extensive gardens that included fruit trees, roses, herbs and all manner of ornamentals.
Ancient civilizations, as do all, depend on food production. The knowledge of plant husbandry in these civilizations is impressive, and perhaps some might surpass our current knowledge on growing matters. Greek histories tell how various crops were to be watered. Onions were to receive fresh cold water from springs, never sluggish water from irrigation ditches. Crops were directed to be watered once, twice or three times a day depending on species. Basil required three waterings.
Orchards were very important to these cultures. Figs, olives, pomegranates, dates and grapes all grew in the warm areas. Grapes were the base of most wines and would have been given great attention in the selection of varieties, site and care. Wine was an important currency of the times and no doubt, as today, the wine of certain vineyards would have been sought out by aficionados.
In some respects, these revelations should come as no surprise. Food has been and will always be the most important industry of mankind. Without it no culture can survive. What fascinates us is the great sophistication of such endeavors, even many centuries ago.
There is evidence of flowers being placed in the grave of a Neanderthal man. We assume that these were gathered from the wild. Could we imagine even the precursors of modern humans might have cultivated them? We might never know, but what we can surmise is that we humans have always had an interest in growing food for survival, but as well, plants for ornament and pleasure.
* Bob Osborne is the owner of Corn Hill Nursery Ltd., a member of Landscape New Brunswick, an author, farmer and gardener. His column appears each Thursday.
Interesting article. Thanks for posting!
Gardens were a major driving force behind civilization.
Food you can count on leads to a more stable existence which leads to a more civil society.
The Bible says the first couple was in the Garden of Eden.
A garden designed by God for them.
Seems to me God thinks gardens are important too. :)
Thank you masters.
- Jack Handey
How long before the Federal Govt considers it a violation of the Commerce Clause?
Good post! We love our garden.
Is it 4 per property or 4 per person? If that latter, that’s 3 for you, 3 for your wife, 3 each for other family members. Take pictures of each family member with their 3 laying hens and put them on the fridge as proof of ownership and dare the city to say a word.
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