What happened to the Garden of Eden? This question has plagued many to go searching for the location of the fabled garden, and as such people have nominated places as crazy as Mars and Missouri as its source, while many scholars believe it never existed at all. Certain descriptions in Genesis leave only a few locations that fit the given criteria: the Armenian Highlands of Eastern Turkey (around where Noah might have landed after the flood), Northeast Africa (the ancestral home of man where Moses supposedly parted the Red Sea), and Jerusalem, even though the Bible describes Eden as east of Jerusalem.
But that leaves us still asking the question: where exactly does the Bible say the Garden of Eden is? Though no single place seems to fit all of the rules, biblical, mythological, and archeological evidence points to Southern Iraq. So, was the Garden of Eden in Iraq? It's not that farfetched, really. With the recent discovery of ancient settlements from before 6,000 BCE, scholars are gathering evidence to show that Eden was a real place that played an important role in forming advanced civilization throughout the Fertile Crescent.
Four Ancient Rivers Led Scholars to Eden's Geographical Location
According to the Genesis, the Garden of Eden was located at the head of one major river that then divided into four rivers to water the garden: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. Because Eden was described at the "head" of this biblical river system, many scholars placed Eden in the mountains of Turkey where the Tigris and Euphrates originate. However, in ancient Hebrew, "head" didn't mean the beginning of a river, but where it intersected with other bodies of water - this would imply that the heads of the four rivers were all in the Persian Gulf.
The Tigris and Euphrates are easy to identify because they still exist, but there's much debate about the biblical Gihon and Pishon rivers. Many scholars have argued that the Gihon was the Nile and the Pishon the Ganges, but at no point in geological history have these four major rivers intersected. A more likely scenario is that the Gihon River corresponds with the Karun River in Iran, and the Pishon River with the Wadi Batin river system (now dry) that once drained from the fertile central area of the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf. These four ancient rivers place Eden at the top of the Persian Gulf in the area of the Mesopotamian Marshes.
It Appears The Ubaidians Were The First To Settle The Persian Gulf
In the past few years, the remains of 60 7,500 year-old settlements from the Ubaid Period have turned up around the edge of the Persian Gulf. These sites hold the ruins of well-built, permanent stone houses, evidence of long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and wood from one of the oldest boats in the world.
What's strange about these advanced settlements is that unlike nearby sites in Yemen and Oman, archeologists haven't found any stone tools that identify preceding Paleolithic settlements in the area. It seems unlikely that the Ubaidians, who were more technologically advanced than people in the Nile River Valley at that time, appeared out of nowhere.
The Stone Tools Of Eden's Hunter-Gatherers Are Now Buried Beneath The Gulf Waters
A new theory gaining momentum is that the usual evidence of Paleolithic settlements that predate the Ubaidians, such as stone tools, are missing because they're underwater. Until 8,000 years ago, a landmass the size of Britain existed within the Persian Gulf. This mass was fed by four rivers and a network of underground springs, making it a lush paradise that was able to support a population of hunter-gatherers. These people, who had traveled up from Africa as far back as 100,000 BCE, sought refuge in the lush Persian Gulf Oasis during an Ice Age that reduced the surrounding lands to vast deserts.
The First People To Gather Seeds And Start Farming Were Women
One way to read Genesis is as a male allegory based on the experiences of the earliest human societies when men brought meat home from the hunt and women were responsible for gathering plant food. Everything went awry 10,000 years ago when women started gathering seeds and developed the practice of intentional food production.
Women saw the benefit of bringing the food to them instead of searching for it, and began to stockpile grains for periods of drought when food was scarce. This way, with more available throughout the seasons, population increased. For the first time, people could stay in one place by producing all the grains and meat they needed.
This transition meant that men, as the hunters, needed job retraining. This shift is supported by numerous myths in cultures ranging from Native American to African to Greek where harvest goddesses must teach men how to grow food.