How Europeans saw the Garden of Eden in the Middle Ages. Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

Was the Garden of Eden a Real Place?


Mention the Garden of Eden to a group of friends and you are likely to get as many suggestions on its true location as people you ask, plus a fair number who will deny that it was ever a real place at all. Places that have been claimed as the true whereabouts of mankind’s original home include numerous sites in Iraq and around the Persian Gulf, Bahrain, Iran, Anatolia, Armenia, Turkey, Jerusalem, east Africa – and even the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, and Jackson County, Missouri. And those are just the better known claims; there are literally hundreds.

Will we ever know for sure where it was, or even if it really existed? Given that most of the clues to the garden’s location come from ancient texts, will we ever find any new evidence to its whereabouts? As it turns out, remote sensing, archaeological and DNA studies have provided some compelling hints to its true location in recent years, and future work might well prove it once and for all.

The Original Legend

The Garden of Eden features in the creation stories of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, being the place where Adam, the first man, and Eve, the first woman, were placed by God to live after their creation. The Book of Genesis, written around 500 BC, contains our main clues about its geographical location through a description of the rivers flowing through it and its proximity to a gold-mining area. Genesis 2:3 says:  ‘Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows from the land of Havilah, where there is gold.[...] The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria and the fourth river is the Euphrates.’

The Tigris and Euphrates are well known, they flow from Turkey through Iraq and into the Persian Gulf. But the Pishon and Gihon do not exist today – however science has given us a strong clue where the Pishon once was. In 1994 Dr Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University and a pioneering figure in remote sensing, used ground-pene­trat­ing radar images from the Space Shuttle to locate and trace the bed of an ancient river that flowed for about 600 miles (965 kilometers) through Saudi Arabia, ending in Kuwait where it became a broad water­course three miles (almost five kilometers) wide.

This ‘Kuwait River’ as El Baz named it, also known as Wadi Al-Batin, is believed to have been flowing until around 2500-3000 BC and has its origins in Medina province in western Saudi Arabia in an area called Mahd adh Dhahab, also known as the Cradle of Gold, which has been the main gold-mining area in the Arabian Peninsula since at least 3000 BC. This lost river therefore appears to match well the biblical description of the river Pishon ‘flowing from the land of Havilah’, suggesting a probable north­ern Gulf location for the Garden of Eden, per­haps offshore modern Kuwait. The Gihon River however has not been unambiguously identified, but a strong contender is the Karun River which flows out of Iran to join the Pishon, Euphrates and Tigris just north of the Gulf.

When did all this happen? Two events help tie it down. The Pishon dried out around 4,500 years ago, so it must have been before then. Perhaps more importantly we know the northern Persian Gulf was largely a dry valley until around 10,000 to 8,000 years ago, so if the Garden existed beneath the present northern Gulf as we will see later it most probably did, then it must have been prior to this date.


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Top Image: How Europeans saw the Garden of Eden in the Middle Ages. Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) ( Public Domain )

By David Millar


Walter Mattfeld's picture

My research indicates that the Bible's Garden _in_ Eden is based upon a reworking or recasting of earlier Mesopotamian myths about man's origins. The Sumerians, and later, the Babylonians, had myths about man's origins. Why was man created? Why was he in a location called EDIN? Why is man naked at first and unaware it is wrong to be naked? Why is it that man's first companions are animals? Why is a naked woman held responsible for his undoing and removal from the EDIN, replacing EDIN'S beasts as his new companion? Why is a flood sent to destroy man? The Mesopotamian myths answered all these questions. I have published two books on this subject in 2010 and they are available on the internet at from several book-sellers in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, India, and Qatar. The two books are (1) _Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origin,_ and (2) _The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths._ I also have a website accessible to the general public since December of 2000, which has my research on the Bible (with over two million page accesses).

Walter R. Mattfeld

Native's picture

@Dan Moore,

We agree on the Garden of Eden as a real place :-)

But what are your logical arguments about the Great Flood if taking the Garden of Eden literally?

Is it likely that Noah´s Ark contained a pair of all animals for 40 days? And why should any divine creator destroy his/hers creation? And what happened to all that water on the Earth which covered even higher mountains?

Think of this: The Milky Way contours is observable all around the Earth. The MW. Contours are mythically mentioned as “The Great River in the Sky” in several cultures.  This river runs all around the Earth UP in the Sky but this is interpreted by scholars with no mytho-astronomical knowledge to run “ON and all over the Earth as a terrestrial flood of disaster”. Link –

That is: The Milky Way River resembles the Flood Myth and there was No sin in the Garden of Eden and no divine revenge at all. The telling is a mytho-cosmological description of the creation as we still can observe this. Link –

Ivar Nielsen

I believe the Garden was a real place, before the Cataclysm or Great Flood. That event rearranged the topography and oceans of the planet. Therefore, the site of Eden is buried and no longer accessable. Hunting for a present location is futile.

Native's picture

“Was the Garden of Eden a Real Place?” Yes it was – and it still is.

The ancient world perception included without any doubts the Milky Way and everything in it. This knowledge is embedded in the numerous and very similar cultural Stories of Creation which derives from the fact that we all live on the same planet Earth, in the same Solar System, in the same Milky Way galaxy and in the same local part of the Universe.

This is the local creation and the Milky Way center is the specific location of the Garden of Eden where all creation in the local part of the Universe takes place. The Milky Way contours are mentioned as "heavenly rivers” in the garden and the Serpent represents the entire countours of the Milky Way which can be observed all around the Earth.

When dividing the Earth hemispheres in south and north, the southern hemisphere Milky Way contours represents the female part of the creation and the northern hemisphere Milky Way contours represents the male part of the creation.

Ivar Nielsen

"Mosaic nonsense"?



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