The Garden of Eden is the biblical place deeply rooted in the imagination of Christianity and Judaism, but is it based on a real place? And if so, where is it located? The Garden of Eden is steeped in symbolism and has many historical aspects that cannot be rationally understood (for example, there is no evidence of talking snakes). However, it is not unreasonable to assume that this mythological garden is based on an actual location, IFL Science writes.
Where is the Garden of Eden?
Eden is believed to be where humans were first created. The first two humans named Adam and Eve wandered innocently through this paradise until a vile serpent and the forbidden fruit plunged them (and thus all of humanity) into deep trouble. This narrative is said to symbolize how humans fell from a position of childlike innocence and bliss to a state defined as free will and knowledge as well as evil and death.
As for the location of the garden, it is described in Genesis 2:10–14 as follows: “And a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, from where it branched out into four main rivers. The name of one is Fison; it is she who roams all the land of Evilat, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; there is also aromatic resin and onyx stone. The name of the second river is Gion; it is she who goes round the whole Huska land. The name of the third river is Tigris[a]; it is that which flows eastward from Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”
The key here is that Paradise was located where four rivers meet. Today we know two of these rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, which start in Turkey before flowing through Syria and Iraq and emptying into the Persian Gulf. However, it is not clear what the names Fison and Gion refer to. Over the centuries, some theologians have suggested that they may refer to the Ganges in India and the Nile in Egypt, although others have noted that this would result in a vast portion of the Earth. Jean Calvin, a sixteenth-century theologian known for his role in the Protestant Reformation, wrote: “Many think that Phison and Gion are the Ganges and the Nile; the error of these men, however, is disproved by the distance of the positions of these rivers. People who fly even as far as the Danube are not wanted; as if indeed the habitation of one man extended from the remotest part of Asia to the end of Europe.” However, based on the mention of the Tigris and Euphrates, we can assume that the Garden of Eden took some inspiration from an area in Iraq and Iran where these two rivers meet near the Persian Gulf. In particular, there is a river on the border between Iran and Iraq called the Shatt al-Arab, which is formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris.
Maybe it’s in Africa?
If we are to believe that the Garden of Eden symbolizes the origin of humans, then we must surely look to Africa.
The so-called cradle of humanity can be found in South Africa about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. This site is home to the largest concentration of human ancestral remains. Among the thousands of fossils found here, researchers have found the remains of an Australopithecus dating to about 3.4 to 3.7 million years old. It was not until 200,000 to 300,000 years ago that modern Homo sapiens evolved. Again, Africa is the site of this development, with modern humans most likely first appearing somewhere around modern Ethiopia. So if we’re looking for a more scientific paradise, it looks like South Africa and Ethiopia are the best choices. Whether these places were once home to a paradise where four rivers once met remains to be seen, however.
Peter Paul Rubens / Public Domain