Skip to comments.Did we plough up the Garden of Eden?
Posted on 10/17/2006 6:10:35 AM PDT by NYer
I am standing above an archaeological dig, on a hillside in southern Turkey. Beneath me, workmen are unearthing a sculpture of some sort of reptile (right). It is delicate and breathtaking. It is also part of the world's oldest temple.
If this sounds remarkable, it gets better. The archaeologist in charge of the dig believes that this artwork once stood in Eden. The archaeologist is Klaus Schmidt; the site is called Gobekli Tepe.
In academic circles, the astonishing discoveries at Gobekli Tepe have long been a talking point. Since the dig began in 1994, experts have made the journey to Kurdish Turkey to marvel at these 40-odd standing stones and their Neolithic carvings.
But what is new, and what makes this season's dig at Gobekli so climactic, is the quality of the latest finds - plus that mind-blowing thesis which links them to Paradise.
The thesis is this. Historians have long wondered if the Eden story is a folk memory, an allegory of the move from hunter-gathering to farming. Seen in this way, the Eden story describes how we moved from a life of relative leisure - literally picking fruit from the trees - to a harsher existence of ploughing and reaping.
And where did this change take place? Biologists now think the move to agriculture began in Kurdish Turkey. Einkorn wheat, a forerunner of the world's cereal species, has been genetically linked to here. Similarly, it now seems that wild pigs were first domesticated in Cayonu, just 60 miles from Gobekli.
This region also has Biblical connections, tying it closer to the Eden narrative. Muslims believe that Sanliurfa, a nearby city, is the Old Testament city of Ur. Harran, a town down the road, is mentioned in Genesis twice.
Even the topography of Gobekli Tepe is 'correct'. The Bible describes rivers descending from Paradise. Gobekli Tepe sits in the 'fertile crescent' between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Bible also mentions mountains surrounding Eden. From the brow of Gobekli's hills you can see the Taurus range.
But how does this intoxicating
notion link to the architecture of Gobekli, and those astonishing finds?
Klaus Schmidt (left) explains: "Gobekli Tepe is staggeringly old. It dates from 10,000BC, before pottery and the wheel. By comparison, Stonehenge dates from 2,000BC. Our excavations also show it is not a domestic site, it is religious - the world's oldest temple. This site proves that hunter-gatherers were capable of complex art and organised religion, something no-one imagined before."
As for the temple's exact purpose, Schmidt gestures at a new discovery: a carving of a boar, and ducks flying into nets. "I think Gobekli Tepe celebrates the chase, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And why not? This life was rich and leisured, it gave them time enough to become accomplished sculptors."
So why did the hunters of Gobekli give up their agreeable existence? Schmidt indicates the arid brown hilltops. "Gathering together for religion meant that they needed to feed more people. So they started cultivating the wild grasses." But this switch to agriculture put pressure on the landscape; trees were cut down, the herds of game were dispersed. What was once a paradisaical land became a dustbowl.
Schmidt explains that this switchtook place around 8,000BC. Coincidentally, the temple of Gobekli Tepe was deliberately covered with earth around this time.
We may never know why the hunter-gatherers buried their 'temple in Eden'. Perhaps they were grieving for their lost innocence. What is unquestionable is the discoveries made in Gobekli Tepe, in the last few weeks, are some of the most exciting made anywhere in half a century.
Schmidt shows me some workmen scraping earth from a rock relief (left). It is marvellously detailed: it shows scorpions, waterbirds, and river life. I suddenly realise I am the first person other than an archaeologist to see it in 10,000 years.
Since Eden only had Adam and Eve, I don't think its Eden.
Eden's in Iraq. Noah's Ark is in Turkey.
Paved paradise, put up a parking lot.
There was NOTHING along the Nile at that time, but there were towns in Ukraine (on the other side of the Black Lake since the Black Sea didn't yet exist).
Call me when they find the apple core....
I think the best guess is that Eden is near where Basra is today.
The pictures of the carvings are stunning- if they are as old as they are supposed to be, they are revolutionary.
Whatever its significance, it is a remarkable and very ancient discovery.
Yep. You just don't know what you've got 'til its gone...
Hold on a minute. Hunter-gatherers are inherently nomadic. They go where the food is. How could they build a temple of stone anywhere, and what good would it be since they couldnt expect to be in proximity to it much of the time? Perhaps we should question some assumptions about the behavior of people 10,000 years ago rather than viewing them through the prism of conventional wisdom. For instance this find indicates a culture which was rooted to a specific geographical location for generations. How did they do that? Did they already have agriculture back then? Was the cresent so fertile that generations of people could live in one spot, gathering and hunting with no effort to replenish and not pick it clean?
I begin to wonder about some of those people who claim ancient egypt is way older than anyone imagines and get laughed at by scholars because it's simply a ludicrous proposition. In other words, conventional wisdom precludes it, so any evidence presented must have some other explanation even if one cannot be identified. Perhaps there is some credibility to those arguments after all.
A few concerns:
1. The reptile looks like a mammal to me. There's a difference in the way the legs are set.
2. The Tigris and Euphrates are two rivers and I didn't see a desrciption of a third riverbed.
3. Although we like to see grain agriculture as a good thing, I doubt it was seen that way back then. More a way of shifting to an efficient way of preventing starvation when the good stuff (fruits, meat) became hard to find in an increasingly overcrowded world.
Has anyone considered that if we did find Eden that the explorers might want to be careful of that big flaming sword God left there? Seems like that could cause some unpleasantness...
looks like your kind of thing
Great line! LOL.
Eden is in Iraq; Noah's ark is in Iran.
It also provides a more convenient basis for taxation. :)
Iraq proper wasn't even a recognized country until 1932. Are you sure you don't mean Babylon?
Me too. Look at the rib cage and the way the eyes set in the head. I think it represents a dog.
Anyone who has ever gone hunting knows that it would be a rigorous lifestyle if you had to live off of your kill.
Apple only uses dual cores these days.
And surely that leads to advanced civilization, with a census, a tax, tax collectors, census takers, inspectors, and buildings with guards...
You are so right, even being tongue in cheek- you can't really have formal taxes in a hunter-gather economy.
Huh? Your statement suggests he was just wandering about looking for something to do, and eventually decided on farming. Forgive the slam, but I'm more used to such sideways inaccuracies in the liberal media. David was being hunted by Saul. Until Saul died he was always on the run in spite of his attempts to reconcile the relationship. When Saul was dead David took the throne. I don't think he did much "gardening" then, it was done for him.
The problem I see with dog is the feet. More bear-ish than dog-ish. Maybe chimera? Or dog-faced baboon?
The bird panel is somewhat weird, too. The upper one looks ibis-like.
If the mammal is a baboon and the bird an ibis it could be pre-cursor to Egyptian deities. Yes, I know the geography would be wrong but people and ideas move around.
I learned way back in Hebrew school that the Garden of Eden was where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers met in the south (I know--they both go to the sea).
I know it is between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The Bible also mentions two other rivers which have disappeared from sight today. But they can be detected from space in satellite images. If you take the Bible and match up the info there to these images and the current Tigris and Euphrates, it lands you near modern-day Basra.
Anyone find the program for decoding the Bible code yet?
It must have taken lots of tax dollars to construct those statues! Maybe even a temporary surtax was imposed. :)
The Garden Of Eden was probably here in SE Asia.
This article is so ideological it is laughable. Noble savage and all that!
Southern Mesopotamia, where the Tigris and the Euphrates flowed, first separately, then united, towards the Persian Gulf, was more beguiling in history than in fact. Here were Babylon and Nineveh, here Sennacherib had fought his battles, here indeed, some said, had been the Garden of Eden at the start of the world. But it was a fearful country now. Much of it was empty desert, inhabited by lawless predatory Arabs who loathed nearly everyone, the rest wide and foetid fen, inhabited by amphibious marshmen who detested everyone else. The irrigation works of the ancients had long since crumbled, and the long years of Turkish rule had left only decay and depression. There were no paved roads, no railways. Such towns as existed were hardly more than excretions of mud, like piles of rubbish in the wasteland, relieved only by the minarets of shabby mosques, or the lugubrious walls of forts. In the summer it was indescribably hot, in the winter unbearably cold. In the dry season everything was baked like leather, in the wet season 10,000 square miles were flooded, the waters gradually oozing away to leave malodorous wastes of marsh. Fleas, sand-flies and mosquitoes tormented the place, and its inhabitants lived lives of ignorant poverty, enlivened only by sporadic excitements of crime or brigandage, the illusions of religion and the consolations of sex.
Is this the land of dear old Adam (one British soldier wondered),
And beautiful Mother Eve?
If so dear reader small blame to them
For sinning and having to leave.
James (Jan) Morris, Farewell the Trumpets.
WHatever it is, it is hungry or its ribs wouldn't be sticking out.
How about going for real heresy and postulating that this culture existed prior to the last ice advance and was wiped out by a combination of invading hunter-gatherers and climate change as the ice advanced? I think humanity has dropped the ball more than once.
David was in a group - but none of the tribes of Israel were with him; they were positioned throughout the land.
Then to suggest that the "tribe" flourished under David because of a more stable agricultural environment strikes me as completely missing all of the points. Or perhaps I'm missing something - the civil war in David's later years... Bad crops in successive years? "Absolem, oh Absolem! You should have irrigated!"
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