Do the Four Rivers Lead Us to the Garden of Eden?

Do the Four Rivers Lead Us to the Garden of Eden?


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In the Biblical Book of Genesis, chapter 2, the description of the Four Rivers of Eden provides clues for locating the lost garden of paradise. Following these clues leads to a connection between the lost city of Akkad and Eden.

The Nature of Eden’s River

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads.

Modern readers of the Bible often mistake the phrase “from thence it was parted and became four heads” to mean that the headwaters of four rivers originated in Eden. In fact, the exact opposite is indicated. From Eden one river flows into four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates, these rivers then go outward to become separate rivers, each forming its own head. Simply put, a river, flowed through or near the garden and then joined four separate rivers.

In verse 10, although the writers had many words available to denote a river, the ancient Hebrew word used is nahar which generally refers to a large river like the Nile or Euphrates, but can also mean the sea.

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A map of the Tigris – Euphrates in the area of ancient Babylon ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Another common error that is made in identifying these rivers is our modern perspective that a river begins at its source and then ends where it disperses into the sea. For an ancient riverine people, who had never seen a picture of their world from a satellite view, a river was a course you could travel. As indicated by the use of the word nahar a river could also be the sea. Once you emerged into a sea from a river you were still traveling on a nahar.

In antiquity the Tigris and Euphrates were connected by multiple canals effectively uniting the two rivers into one vast watery network. Also in ancient times the two great rivers entered the Persian Gulf separately. For a person standing along an irrigation canal that connected the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the region of Babylon, the waterways available to you would indeed head off in four directions.

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The Euphrates River ( Public Domain )

The Two Ambiguous Rivers

11 The name of the first is Pishon; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

The name Pishon comes from the root puwsh , which means to grow fat, spread out, or be scattered. If a traveler went south on the Tigris this is exactly the condition they would find as the river gives way to marshland.

12 and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

Following the river into the sea and continuing along its eastern bank will take a traveler around the harsh deserts of southern Iran and Pakistan. Indeed the word Havilah can be traced to the root chuwl which means circular, to twist or whirl, or writhe in pain and the root chowl which means sand.

The identification of Havilah as a source for bdellium, a resin for incense making, and onyx further points to Iran and Pakistan. The Greek writer Theophrastus, and Pliny the Elder both identified areas in Afghanistan as the source of bdellium and even today Pakistan is one of the few suppliers of Onyx.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush.

Gihon comes from the root giyach, which means to gush forth. This may well have described how an ancient traveler would experience the mighty Euphrates as it finally emptied into the Persian Gulf. By following the western bank of this course the traveler would eventually find themselves rounding the Arabian peninsula and encountering Africa wherein lies the expected land of Cush, ancient Ethiopia.

The Tigris River in Êlih-Hafizbiniyan ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

14 And the name of the third river is Tigris; that is it which goeth toward the east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Modern maps still show how the Tigris River follows the eastern flank of the land known as Assyria by the Greeks and Ashur by its inhabitants. The Euphrates was presumably so well known that it needed no appellation. This leaves us with four rivers that are joined by canals forming a large x-shaped river network.

Do the Rivers Lead us to Eden?

So where does this place the garden? If we look for a river that flows out of the steppe and enters near the joint course of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers the eye cannot help but be drawn to the Diyala River in eastern Iraq. Even today Iraq’s Diyala Province is known for its oranges and boasts one of the largest olive groves in the region.

The Four Rivers of Eden -Arianna Ravenswood (Source: theancientneareast.com)

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it .

The description of the garden frames it as being the center of a trade network. Locating the Garden of Eden based on the worldview of merchant trade coincides with the actual term for garden in the ancient text which is gan. The word gan specifically refers to a fenced in area that was likely used to corral animals as well as to secure property, in this case presumably as tribute or for trade.

The Akkad Connection

An ancient text, "The Cursing of Akkad," tells of the times following the fall of Akkad, ca 2000 BC, when amidst the Gutian invasions the land was so overcome by chaos and violence that the gardens needed to be placed behind the walls of cities.

The introduction of man into the garden to “dress and keep” further reveals the language of commerce. The term “dress” is abad in Hebrew. Abad means to serve as a laborer or in this case perhaps as a husbandman. This meaning is reinforced by the word “keep” which in the ancient text is shamar, a word that means to stand guard over.

The records from ancient Iraq are replete with contractual arrangements between landlords who owned large herds and groves and the shepherds and guardsmen who tended their flocks and foodstuffs as specialized laborers. The advent of large scale animal husbandry and irrigated agriculture together with the connection to the world by vast trade networks is part of the legacy of Mesopotamia. Fenced in groves and secure animal pens would have been commonplace and well known in Babylonia at the time of the Hebrew Captivity when it is possible the Genesis accounts were written. During this time Akkad and the Akkadian Empire would have been remembered in legends of a golden age that ended due to the sins of its rulers.

The Garden of Eden by Erastus Salisbury Field 1860

Akkad, a known trading center, was likely in or near the Diyala Province of Iraq. Placing it East of Babylon. This matches the claim of Eden being a garden eastward. For over two thousand years the commercial center of the world was Babylonia, where, for a time, the Jews languished in exile. Here kings claimed dominion over the four quarters of the Earth. The Earth’s markets could be reached by following one of its four great waterways to the North, South, East and West and on the eastern side of those rivers was a fertile steppe land that is replete with gardens to this day.


Origins and architecture of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal represents the finest and most sophisticated example of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its origins lie in the moving circumstances of its commission and the culture and history of an Islamic Mughal empire's rule of large parts of India. The distraught Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the project upon the death of one of his favorite wives Mumtaz Mahal.

Today it is one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world and while the large, domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument, the Taj Mahal is an extensive complex of buildings and gardens that extends over 22.44 hectares (55.5 acres) [note 1] [1] and includes subsidiary tombs, waterworks infrastructure, the small town of Taj Ganji to the south and a 'moonlight garden' to the north of the river. Construction of Taj Mahal began in 1632 AD, (1041 AH), on the south bank of the River Yamuna in Agra, and was substantially complete by 1648 AD (1058 AH). The design was conceived as an earthly replica of the house of Mumtaz Mahal in paradise.


What is the location of the Garden of Eden?

The only thing the Bible tells us concerning the Garden of Eden’s location is found in Genesis 2:10-14, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold…The name of the second river is the Gihon it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” The exact identities of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers are unknown, but the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are well known.

If the Tigris and Euphrates mentioned are the same rivers by those names today, that would put the Garden of Eden somewhere in the Middle East, likely in Iraq. However, even a small local flood can change the course of a river, and the Flood of Noah’s day was more than a localized flood. The Deluge completely changed the topography of the earth. Because of this, the original location of the Tigris and Euphrates is uncertain. It could be that the modern rivers called the Tigris and Euphrates are simply named after those associated with Eden, in the same way that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is named after the town in Judea.

If the Middle East region is where the Garden of Eden was, and if crude oil is, as most scientists believe, primarily decayed vegetation and animal matter, then it stands to reason that the Middle East is where we would find the greatest oil deposits. Many people speculate that the vast stores of oil in the Middle East are the result of the decomposition of Earth’s lushest organic materials in the Garden of Eden. While the oil in the Middle East could be the dregs of Eden, but those who promote such ideas are simply theorizing.

People have searched for the Garden of Eden for centuries to no avail. There are various spots claimed as the original location of Eden, but no one can be sure. What happened to the Garden of Eden? The Bible does not specifically say. It is likely that the Garden was completely destroyed in the Flood.


Garden of Eden

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Garden of Eden, in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, biblical earthly paradise inhabited by the first created man and woman, Adam and Eve, prior to their expulsion for disobeying the commandments of God. It is also called in Genesis the Garden of Yahweh, the God of Israel, and, in Ezekiel, the Garden of God. The term Eden probably is derived from the Akkadian word edinu, borrowed from the Sumerian eden, meaning “plain.”

According to the Genesis story of the creation and fall of man, out of Eden, east of Israel rivers flowed to the four corners of the world. Similar stories in Sumerian records indicate that an earthly paradise theme belonged to the mythology of the ancient Middle East.

The story of the Garden of Eden is a theological use of mythological themes to explain human progression from a state of innocence and bliss to the present human condition of knowledge of sin, misery, and death.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


David wrote about the first man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). Clearly Adam and Eve, having been made in God’s image had a measure of his glory. Had they obeyed, they would have been transformed from one degree of glory to another. “Transformed from one degree of glory to another” has always been and still remains God’s plan for those made in his image. Even now, as the Holy Spirit works in us, we are being changed from one degree of glory to another. But it is the fullest resurrection glory we anticipate the most. “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20–21).

When we read in Genesis 2 that Adam and Eve were naked in Eden, it may initially seem to us to be a good or neutral thing. But Moses’ original readers would have recognized that something was lacking. These were royal representatives of the great king. And royal representatives in Scripture are always dressed in royal robes (think of Joseph’s coat of many colors, Jonathan’s robe given to David, the robe and ring given to the prodigal son). The report of their nakedness indicated a need for royal clothing which would have been given to them had they faithfully exercised dominion. But instead of being further clothed, Adam and Eve lost the original glory that covered them. This is what made their nakedness before God so unbearable that they sought to cover themselves up with fig leaves.


Do the Four Rivers Lead Us to the Garden of Eden? - History

By using an interdisciplinary approach, archaeologist Juris Zarins believes he's found it--and can pinpoint it for us. The author, a frequent contributor, met Dr. Zarins and his Eden theory when writing of Saudi archaeology (September 1983) and has followed his work since.

"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden and there he put the man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:8). Then the majestic words become quite specific: "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel [Tigris]: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates" (Genesis 2:10-14).

But where now are the Pison and the Gihon? And where, if indeed it existed as a geographically specific place, was the Garden of Eden? Theologians, historians, ordinary inquisitive people and men of science have tried for centuries to figure it out. Eden has been "located" in as many diverse areas as has lost Atlantis. Some early Christian fathers and late classical authors suggested it could lie in Mongolia or India or Ethiopia. They based their theories quite sensibly on the known antiquity of those regions, and on the notion that the mysterious Pison and Gihon were to be associated with those other two great rivers of the ancient world, the Nile and the Ganges.


The area thought to be the Garden of Eden, which was flooded when Gulf waters arose, is shown in green.
Yellow areas of Bahrain and Arabian coast represent Dilmun, paradise land of Ubaidians and Sumerians

Another favorite locale for the Garden had been Turkey, because both the Tigris and the Euphrates rise in the mountains there, and because Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark came to rest, is there. In the past hundred years. since the discovery of ancient civilizations in modern Iraq, scholars have leaned toward the Tigris-Euphrates valley in general, and to the sites of southern Sumer, about 150 miles north of the present head of the Persian Gulf, in particular (map, above).

To this southern Sumerian theory Dr. Juris Zarins, of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, would murmur: "You're getting warmer. For Dr. Zarins, who has spent seven years working out his own hypothesis, believes that the Garden of Eden lies presently under the waters of the Persian Gulf, and he further believes that the story of Adam and Eve in-and especially out-of the Garden is a highly condensed and evocative account of perhaps the greatest revolution that ever shook mankind: the shift from hunting-gathering to agriculture.

No single scholarly discipline will suffice to cover the long, intricate road Zarins has followed to arrive at his theory. He began, as many another researcher has, with the simple Biblical account, which "I read forward and backward, over and over again." To this he added the unfolding archaeology of Saudi Arabia (SMITHSONIAN, September 1983), where he spent his field time for more than a decade. Next he consulted the sciences of geology, hydrology and linguistics from a handful of brilliant 20th-century scholars and, finally, Space Age technology in the form of LANDSAT space images.

It is a tale of rich complexity, beginning 30 millennia before the birth of Christ. Of climatic shifts from moist to arid to moist, with consequent migrations eddying back and forth across, and up and down the Middle East. And of myriad peoples. There were hunter-gatherers whom agriculturists displaced. There were prehistoric Ubaidians who built cities, Sumerians who invented writing and the Assyrians who absorbed Sumer's writing as well as its legend of a luxuriantly lovely land, an Eden called Dilmun. Finally there were Kashshites in Mesopotamia, contemporaries of the Israelites then forming the state of Israel.

An endless search for food

There are two crucial if approximate dates in reconstruction. The first is about 30,000 B.C., with the transition from Neanderthal to modern Man. This, some anthropologists believe, took place along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas and in Iraq. At that time the Great Ice Age still held most of Eurasia in its grip, and it caused the sea levels to fall by 400 feet so that what is now the Persian Gulf was dry land, all the way to the Strait of Hormuz. It was irrigated not only by the still-existing Tigris and Euphrates but also by the Gihon, the Pison and their tributaries from the Arabian peninsula and from Iran. It seems reasonable that technologically primitive but modern Mm, in his endless search for food, would have located the considerable natural paradise that presented itself in the area where the Gulf now lies.

But Eden wasn't born then. That came, Zarins believes, about 6000 B.C. In between 30,000 and 6000 B.C., the climate varied. From 15,000 B.C., rainfall diminished drastically. Faced with increasing aridity, the Paleolithic population retreated, some as far as the area known to us as the "Fertile Crescent" (north along the Tigris and Euphrates, westward toward the moist Mediterranean coast, south to the Nile), and also eastward to the Indus River valley. Others, perhaps wearied by the long trek, made do with the more austere conditions of central Arabia and continued foraging as best they could.

Then, at about 6000 to 5000 B.C., following a long arid stretch, came a period called the Neolithic Wet Phase when rains returned to the Gulf region. The reaches of eastern and northeastern Saudi Arabia and southwestern Iran became green and fertile again. Foraging populations came back to where the four rivers now ran full, and there was rainfall on the intervening plains. Animal bones indicate that in this period Arabia had abundant game. Thousands of stone tools suggest intensive, if seasonal, human occupation around now dry lakes and rivers. These tools are found even in the Rub al-Khali or Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. And so about 6000 to 5000 B.C. the land was again a paradise on Earth, provided by a bountiful nature-God---and admirably suited to the foraging life.

This time, however, there was a difference: agriculture had been invented. Not overnight-"It was a very gradual process, not an event," Zarins emphasizes. It grew up along the Mediterranean coast and in today's Iran and Iraq as groups of hunter-gatherers evolved in-to agriculturists. Foragers from central Arabia, returning to the southern Mesopotamian plain, found it already resettled by these agriculturists. Because the process occurred before writing was invented, there is no record of what upheavals the evolution caused, what tortured questions about traditional values and life-styles, what dislocations of clans or tribes. Zarins posits that it must have been far more dramatic than the infinitely later Industrial Revolution, and an earthquake in comparison with today's computer-age discombobulation of persons, professions and systems.

"What would happen to a forager when his neighbors changed their ways or when he found agriculturists had moved into his territory?" Zarins asks. These agriculturists were innovative folk who had settled down, planted seeds, domesticated and manipulated animals. They made the food come to them, in effect, instead of chasing it over hill and dale. What would the forager do if he couldn't cope? He could die lie could move on he could join the agriculturists. But whatever happened, he would resent it."

Eden, Adam, and the birth of writing

The crunch came, Zarins believes, here in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys and in northern Arabia, where the hunter-gatherers, flooding in from less hospitable regions, were faced with more technically accomplished humans who knew how to breed and raise animals, who made distinctive pottery, who seemed inclined to cluster in settled groups. Who were these people? Zarins believes they were a southern Mesopotamian group and culture now called the Ubaid. They founded the oldest of the southern Mesopotamian cities, Eridu, about 5000 B.C. Though Eridu, and other cities like Ur and Uruk, were discovered a century ago, the Ubaidian presence down along the coast of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has been known for little more than a decade, when vestiges of their settlements, graves and distinctive pottery turned up.

It was in Saudi Arabia that Zarins encountered the Ubaidians, and there that he began developing his hypothesis about the true meaning of the Biblical Eden. One clue lies in linguistics: the term Eden, or Edin, appears first in Sumer, the Mesopotamian region that produced the world's first written language. This was in the third millennium B.C., more than three thousand years after the rise of the Ubaid culture. In Sumerian the word "Eden" meant simply "fertile plain." The word "Adam" also existed in cuneiform, meaning something like "settlement on the plain." Although both words were set down first in Sumerian, along with place names like Ur and Uruk, they are not Sumerian in origin. They are older. A brilliant Assyriologist named Benno Landsberger advanced the theory in 1943 that these names were all linguistic remnants of a pre-Sumerian people who had already named rivers, cities-and even some specific trades like potter anti coppersmith-before the Sumerians appeared.

Landsberger called the pre-Sumerian language simply Proto-Euphratian. Other scholars suggest that its speakers were the Ubaidians. However it was, the existing names were incorporated into Sumerian and written down for the first time. And the mythology of the lush and lovely spot called Eden was codified by being written.

"The whole Garden of Eden story, however, when finally written, could be seen to represent the point of view of the hunter gatherers," Zarins reasons. "It was the result of tension between the two groups, the collision of two ways of life. Adam and Eve were heirs to natural bounty. They had everything they needed. But they sinned and were expelled. How did they sin? By challenging God's very omnipotence. In so doing they represented the agriculturists, the upstarts who insisted on taking matters into their own hands, relying upon their knowledge and their own skills rather than on His bounty.

There were no journalists around to record the tension, no historians. But the event did not go unnoticed. It became a part of collective memory and at long last it was written down, highly condensed, in Genesis. It was very brief, but brevity doesn't mean lack of significance."

How did it happen that an advanced people would perpetuate a myth making their own ancestors the sinners? It may be that the Ubaidians, who are known to have sailed down the east coast of Arabia and colonized there, ran into descendants of foragers displaced from a drowning Eden, from them heard the awful story of the loss of paradise and repeated it until it became their own legend. Or it may be that, responding to the increasing pressures and stresses of a society growing in complexity, they found comfort in a fantasy of the good old days, when life had been sweeter, simpler, more idyllic. However, it was a tale firmly established in Ubaidian mythology, then adopted and recorded by the Sumerians.

LANDSAT spots a "fossil river"

At this stage in his thesis, Zarins goes back to geography and geology to pinpoint the area of Eden where he believes the collision came to a head. The evidence is beguiling: first, Genesis was written from a Hebrew point of view. It says the Garden was "eastward," i.e., east of Israel. It is quite specific about the rivers. The Tigris and the Euphrates are easy because they still flow. At the time Genesis was written, the Euphrates must have been the major one because it stands identified by name only and without an explanation about what it "compasseth." The Pison can be identified from the Biblical reference to the land of Havilah, which is easily located in the Biblical Table of Nations (Genesis 10:7, 25:18) as relating to localities and people within a Mesopotamian-Arabian framework. Supporting the Biblical evidence of Havilah are geological evidence on the ground and LANDSAT images from space. These images clearly show a "fossil river," that once flowed through northern Arabia and through the now dry beds, which modern Saudis and Kuwaitis know as the Wadi Riniah and the Wadi Batin. Furthermore. as the Bible says, this region was rich in bdellium, an aromatic gum resin that can still be found in north Arabia, and gold, which was still mined in the general area in the 1950s.

It is the Gihon, which "compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia," that has been the problem. In Hebrew the geographical reference was to "Gush" or "Kush." The translators of the King James Bible in the 17th century rendered Gush or Kush as "Ethiopia"---which is further to the south and in Africa--thus upsetting the geographical applecart and flummoxing researchers for centuries. Zarins now believes the Gihon is the Karun River, which rises in Iran and flows southwesterly toward the present Gulf. The Karun also shows in LANDSAT images and was a perennial river which, until it was dammed, contributed most of the sediment forming the delta at the head of the Persian Gulf.

Thus the Garden of Eden, on the geographical evidence, must have been somewhere at the head of the Gulf at a time when all four rivers joined and flowed through an area that was then above the level of the Gulf. The wording in Genesis that Eden's river came into four heads" was dealt with by Biblical scholar Ephraim Speiser some years ago: the passage, he said, refers to the four rivers upstream of their confluence into the one river watering the Garden. This is a strange perspective, but understandable if one reflects that the description is of a folk memory, written millennia after the events encapsulated, by men who had never been within leagues of the territory.

It was Speiser again who suggested that the mysterious Gush or Kush should be correctly written as Kashshu and further that it refers to the Kashshites, a people who, in about 1500 B.C , conquered Mesopotamia and prevailed until about 900 B.C. This Zarins considers a vital clue. "At the time the Kashshites were in control in Mesopotamia, the nation of Israel was being formed. The Hebrews must certainly have encountered them, and learned the handed-down traditions of early Mesopotamia, the myths and tales. They must have heard the words Eden and Adam."

The name Eve does not appear in Sumerian but there is a most intriguing link---the account of Eve's having been fashioned from Adam's rib in the Garden story. Why a rib? Well, in a famous Sumerian poem translated and analyzed by scholar Samuel Noah Kramer, there is an account of how Enki the water god angered the Mother Goddess Ninhursag by eating eight magical plants that she had created. The Mother Goddess put the curse of death on Enki and disappeared, presumably so she couldn't change her mind and relent. Later, however, when Enki became very ill and eight of his "organs" failed, Ninhursag was enticed back. She summoned eight healing deities, one for each ailing organ. Now the Sumerian word for "rib" is "ti.," but the same word also means "to make live." So the healing deity who worked on Enki's rib was called "Nin-ti" and, in a nice play on words, became both the "lady of the rib" and the "lady who makes live." This Sumerian pun didn't translate into Hebrew, in which the words for "rib" and "to make live" are quite different. But the rib itself went into the Biblical account and as "Eve" came to symbolize the "mother of all living."

This and other ties with Sumerian myth are very clear, and Zarins finds it telling that although the Hebrews had close associations with Egypt, their earliest spiritual roots were in Mesopotamia. "Abraham journeyed to Egypt, Joseph journeyed to Egypt, the whole Exodus story is concerned with Egypt, but there is nothing whatever Egyptian about the early chapters of Genesis," he points out. "All these early accounts are linked to Mesopotamia. Abraham indeed is said to have come from Ur, at the time near the Gulf, and the writers of Genesis wanted to link up with that history. So they drew from the literary sources of the greatest civilization that had existed, and that was in Mesopotamia. In so doing they turned Eden into the Garden, Adam into a man, and a compacted history of things that occurred millennia before was pressed into a few chapters."

Long before Genesis was written, Zarins believes, the physical Eden had vanished under the waters of the Gulf. Man had lived happily there. But then, about 5000 to 4000 B.C. came a worldwide phenomenon called the Flandrian Transgression, which caused a sudden rise in sea level. The Gulf began to fill with water and actually reached its modern-day level about 4000 B.C., having swallowed Eden and all the settlements along the coastline of the Gulf. But it didn't stop there. It kept right on rising, moving upward into the southern legions of today's Iraq and Iran.

"The Sumerians always claimed that their ancestors came 'out of the sea,' and I believe they literally did," says Zarins. "They retreated northward into Mesopotamia from the encroaching waters of the Gulf, where they had lived for thousands of years."

Their original "Eden" was gone but a new one called Dilmun, on higher ground along the eastern coast of Arabia, enters the epics and the poems in the third millennium i.e. The by then ancient mythology of a land of plenty, of eternal life and peace, had lodged firmly in the collective mind and in a specific geographical area.

The scholarly world first heard about Dilmun a little more than a century ago, when scholars were able to decipher cuneiform tablets unearthed by archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in Nineveh, an Assyrian stronghold in today's Iraq. Its earliest mention was in economic texts referring to traffic in people and goods. On later tablets, to their astonishment. scholars began reading, in literature, not only about Eden and Adam and the "lady of the rib" but also about a Great Flood, a Sumerian hero called Gilgamesh and his search for the Tree of Life. There was even a serpent. Gilgamesh had gone "down" from Sumer to the Gulf area where he had been told he would find a plant that would give him eternal life. "What he found may have been coral, which in antiquity was a symbol of eternal life," Zarins explains. "And after his labors he went to sleep and a serpent came along and stole his eternal life--his coral, maybe. Now it may not have been a serpent as we think of one, but instead one of those beautiful feathery creatures that Assyrians depicted in reliefs. But the descriptions of Dilmun are of an area that fits what I've been saying, where societies could exist at the will and bounty of God, in a beautiful setting."

A land for commerce and consecration

There is a curious dichotomy in Dilmun as economic center and also as hallowed place of legend. Its exact location has been a debated issue. It is Zarins'---and most scholars'---conviction that it was the islands of Bahrain and Failaka and the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. "The island of Bahrain was the Hong Kong of its era," lie says, "a rich hub of international trade, with ships coming and going between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilization. Both there and on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia are tens of thousands of tumuli---far more than the sparse indigenous population would have accounted for-some very rich tombs, most dating to the period 2500 to 1900 B.C.

Some suggest close ties with the Sumerians. Eden was gone so they would want to go to the paradise land of Dilmun either for pilgrimages or as the site of their final resting place. After all, if riches or eternal life were to be had in this area, they might as well get in on it."

One final question must be asked. Why, when the Israelites accepted the ancient stories of Mesopotamia-Arabia, with all their freight of long-forgotten struggles, climatic changes, half-forgotten traditions, did they choose the word Eden instead of Dilmun?

"Perhaps they never heard of the word Dilmun," says Zarins. "We don't really know. Archaeologist Daniel Potts is working on that problem right now.

Did the word Dilmun exist in Hellenistic times? There was a linguistic break in Alexander the Great's time. The wedgelike cuneiform was replaced by the alphabetic writing of the Greeks, a much more efficient system. Power passed from the East to the West, to Greece and Rome. The old stories, the old words, faded into obscurity because power goes to those who have it. Until the discovery of the Nineveh tablets, Assyrian cuneiform was dead. Early translators never heard of it. The name and concept of Eden were transmitted not through the Sumerian language of Dilmun but through the Hebrew-Hellenistic one of Eden."

It is an accident of history, of archaeology, of translation, perhaps, that Dilmun was lost and Eden remained. It should not shake the faith of any intelligent human being. If Zarins is correct, there is embedded in the Bible a very ancient folk memory, not only the story of Creation but also the story of Man's emergence from total dependence to perilous self-reliance, with all the man-made dangers incipient therein.

First appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Volume 18. No. 2, May 1987. Used with permission of Miss Hamblin's sister and executor, Mary H. Ovrom. December 1, 1997. Note added 8/14/07: The Flood of Noah was likely such a huge world-wide catastrophe that the site of the Garden of Eden may presently be buried under miles of sediments. If the earth originally had one continent, and the continents split apart during or after the Flood, then the location of the Garden in the land of Eden is even more uncertain. In recent years several documentary films have been made which explore the Mesopotamian region for the possible location of Eden. Old place names, local legends and folk lore make the ongoing search interesting. (LTD)


Do the Four Rivers Lead Us to the Garden of Eden? - History

A rendering of the Grand Renaissance Dam under construction in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile. Its completion is expected to profoundly change the allocation of water resources in Africa.

Editor's Note:

Egypt and Sudan are utterly dependent on the waters of the Nile River. Over the past century both of these desert countries have built several dams and reservoirs, hoping to limit the ravages of droughts and floods which have so defined their histories. Now Ethiopia, one of eight upriver states and the source of most of the Nile waters, is building the largest dam in Africa. Located on the Blue Nile twenty five miles from the Ethiopian border with Sudan, the Grand Renaissance Dam begins a new chapter in the long, bellicose history of debate on the ownership of the Nile waters, and its effects for the entire region could be profound.

On water and environmental issues, readers may also want to see these Origins articles: World Water Crisis The Changing Arctic Climate Change and Human Population Global Food Crisis and Over-Fishing.

In the fall of 2012 newspapers around the world reported on a Wikileaks document, surreptitiously acquired from Stratfor, the Texas security company, revealing Egyptian and Sudanese plans to build an airstrip for bombing a dam in the Blue Nile River Gorge in Ethiopia. The Egyptian and Sudanese governments denied the reports.

Whether or not there were such plans in 2012, there is a long history of threats and conflicts in the Nile River Basin. Downriver Egypt and Sudan argue that they have historic rights to the water upon which they absolutely depend—and in 1979 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat threatened war on violators of what he saw as his country’s rights to Nile waters. Upriver Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania argue that they too need the water that originates on their lands.

Since the twelfth century C.E. Christian Ethiopian kings have warned Muslim Egyptian sultans of their power to divert waters of the Nile, often in response to religious conflicts. But these were hypothetical threats.

Today, however, Ethiopia is building the Grand Renaissance Dam and, with it, Ethiopia will physically control the Blue Nile Gorge—the primary source of most of the Nile waters.

The stakes could not be higher for the new leaders in Egypt and Ethiopia, President Mohamed Morsi and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as Sudan’s long-time President, Omar El Bashir. The stakes are perhaps even higher for the millions of people who owe their livelihood and very existence to the Nile’s waters.

Egypt and the Nile

The Nile has been essential for civilization in Egypt and Sudan. Without that water, there would have been no food, no people, no state, and no monuments. As Herodutus famously wrote in the 5th century B.C.E., “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.”

For millennia peoples have travelled along the banks of the Nile and its tributaries. Scores of ethnic groups in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan share architecture and engineering, ideas and traditions of religion and political organization, languages and alphabets, food and agricultural practices.

In 3000 B.C.E., when the first Egyptian dynasty unified the lower and upper parts of the Nile River, there were no states in Eastern or Central Africa to challenge Egypt’s access to Nile waters.

The Nile was a mysterious god: sometimes beneficent, sometimes vengeful. Floods between June and September, the months of peak flow, could wipe out entire villages, drowning thousands of people. Floods also brought the brown silt that nourished the delta, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, feeding not only Egypt but many of its neighbors.

The river’s central importance to Egyptian life is captured in A Hymn to the Nile, recorded in Papyrus Sallier II:

Hail to thee, O Nile, that issues from the earth and comes to keep Egypt alive! …
He that waters the meadows which He created …
He that makes to drink the desert …
He who makes barley and brings emmer into being …
He who brings grass into being for the cattle …
He who makes every beloved tree to grow …
O, Nile, verdant art thou, who makes man and cattle to live.

The Nile’s seasonal flooding is a central theme in Egyptian history. The river flow follows regular patterns, increasing between May 17 and July 6, peaking in September, and then receding until the next year. But the river volume is very unpredictable, as documented by nilometers (multi-storied structures built in the river to measure water heights). Successive empires of Pharaohs, Greeks, Romans, Christian Copts, and Muslims celebrated the rising waters of the Nile and dreaded floods or droughts.

Five millennia of Nile history show how years with high water have produced ample food, population growth, and magnificent monuments, as during the first five dynasties from 3050 B.C.E. to 2480 B.C.E. Periods with low water have brought famine and disorder. The Book of Genesis describes seven years of famine that historians associate with the drought of 1740 B.C.E.

From the time of the Pharaohs until 1800 C.E., Egypt’s population rose and fell between 2 to 5 million, due to food availability and epidemics. The irrigation projects of the 19th century Ottoman ruler Mohammad Ali allowed year-around cultivation, causing population growth from 4 to 10 million. Since the opening of the Aswan High Dam in 1971, Egypt’s population has increased from about 30 to 83 million.

The Sources of the Nile

Despite the extraordinary importance of the Nile to people downstream, the origin of the great river was a mystery until the middle twentieth century. Herodotus speculated that the Nile arose between the peaks of Crophi and Mophi, south of the first cataract. In 140 C.E. Ptolemy suggested the source was the Mountains of the Moon, in what are now called the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda.

The 11th century Arab geographer al-Bakri postulated West African origins, confusing the Niger River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean, with the Nile River. In 1770 the Scottish explorer James Bruce claimed his discovery of the source in Ethiopia, while in 1862 John Hanning Speke thought he found it in Lake Victoria and the equatorial lakes.

The river’s limited navigability only increased its mystery. The Blue Nile River descends 4501 feet in 560 miles from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands through a deep gorge with crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and bandits to the Sudan border and the savannah. Despite the efforts of scores of intrepid adventurers, the Blue Nile in Ethiopia was not successfully navigated until 1968 by a team of British and Ethiopian soldiers and civilians equipped by the Royal Military College of Science.

Further south up the White Nile in the lakes and rivers of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the Egyptian cultural influence is less pronounced, due to the Sudd, a gigantic and impassable swamp which absorbs waters from the equatorial lake tributaries. The Nile River historian Robert O. Collins reports that “no one passed through this primordial bog” until 1841.

Not until the 20th century did it become clear that the Nile is part of a vast river system with dozens of tributaries, streams, and lakes, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the remote mountains of Burundi, in tropical central Africa, and to the highlands of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa.

Spanning more than 4,200 miles, it is the longest river in the world. It has also become clear that the volume of water which flows through the Nile is relatively small—a mere two percent in volume of the Amazon’s and fifteen percent of the Mississippi—and mostly (86%) from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Historical Struggle for the Nile’s Waters

Ethiopia and Egypt have had a long relationship of both harmony and discord, the latter the result of religious issues and access to Nile water, among other factors.

Ethiopia’s first well documented government was in Aksum, a city-state that controlled a large empire from the Ethiopian highlands across the Red Sea to Yemen. From 100 until 800 C.E. Aksumites participated in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade.

The cultural relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia was institutionalized when the Aksumite King Ezana converted to Christianity in 330 C.E. For 16 centuries (until 1959) the Egyptian bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was appointed by the Egyptian patriarch in Alexandria, often under the influence of the Egyptian government.

Ethiopians were profoundly influenced by the Middle East, even writing their state and geography into Bible stories. The source of the Blue Nile became the Gihon, one of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. The 14th century C.E. myth of national origins connected Ethiopia’s rulers to the Old Testament. In this legend the Queen of Sheba (Mekedda), journeyed north from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon in 900 B.C.E. A romantic relationship produced a child, Menelik I, the first in Ethiopia’s Solomonic Dynasty.

When Menelik became an adult, despite his father’s wish that he become the next King of Israel, he escaped to Ethiopia with the Ark of the Covenant—the cabinet which contained the tablets of the ten commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Menelik stored the Ark on an island in Lake Tana—into which the Gihon flows—before it was moved to Aksum, where many Ethiopians believe the Ark remains to this day. Another Ethiopian legend is that Mary and Jesus stayed a night on that same island (Tana Cherquos) during their flight from the Holy Land to Egypt.

The Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 C.E. put Christian Ethiopia in a defensive position. Because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church remained subordinate to the Orthodox Church in Alexandria, and Egypt had become a Muslim country, Ethiopians became suspicious and resentful of the control Egypt had on the appointment of their Christian bishop (abun). Muslim Egyptians also controlled Jerusalem and had the power to expel Ethiopian pilgrims to their holiest of cities.

So Ethiopians began to claim power over Egypt through control of the Nile. During the Crusades the Ethiopian emperor Lalibela (1190-1225)—who built a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia, safe from Muslim occupation in magnificent, underground rock-hewn churches—threatened retribution by diverting the Tekeze River from its pathway north into Sudan (where it becomes the Atbara and then joins the Nile).

The first Egyptian to write about the potential for an Ethiopian diversion of the Nile was the 13th century Coptic scholar Jurjis al-Makin (d. 1273).

Stories about Ethiopia’s power over the Nile inspired the 14th century European legend of Prester John, a wealthy Christian Ethiopian priest king. In 1510 the legend returned to Ethiopia with Portuguese explorer Alfonso d’ Albuquerque, who considered the possibility of destroying Egypt by diverting the Nile to the Red Sea. In 1513 d’Albuquerque even asked the Portuguese king for workers skilled in digging tunnels. Nothing came of the plan.

But conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia continued, often as proxy wars between Christians and Muslims on Ethiopia’s northern or southeastern borderlands. The sixteenth century invasion of Ethiopia by Ahmad Gragn, the Muslim imam from the Adal Sultante, was seen as an Egyptian conflict.

In the nineteenth century Egypt and Ethiopia fought over control of the Red Sea and upper Nile Basin. The climax came in 1876 at the Battle of Gura in present day Eritrea where the Ethiopians delivered a humiliating defeat to the Egyptian army.

Colonial-Era Conflicts over the Nile

The European partition of Africa in the 1880s added huge complexity to this conflict.

Egypt was colonized by England in 1882. Ethiopia defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 becoming the only African country to retain its independence during the “scramble for Africa.” But colonization created many new states in the Nile Basin (Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, and Tanganika) and set off new competition for resources and territory.

Egypt was prized for the Nile Delta, a region of unsurpassed agricultural productivity. After the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt also offered access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. For the British control of Egypt meant more profitable trade with India, its richest colony. For the French, the canal offered quicker access to Indochina, its most lucrative colony.

In the late nineteenth century, since controlling Egypt was the key to Asian wealth, and since Egypt depended on the Nile, controlling the source of the Nile became a major colonial goal.

The French-English competition for control of the Nile Basin climaxed in 1898 at Fashoda.

The French conceived of the idea of building a dam on the White Nile, so as to undermine British influence further downriver and establish east-west control of the continent. They organized a stupendous pincer movement with one group of soldiers traveling from East Africa across Ethiopia and the other from West Africa across the Congo.

The British heard of the French expedition, and, having just captured Khartoum ordered a fleet of gun boats and steamers with soldiers under the leadership of General Horatio Herbert Kitchener upriver to Fashoda, the site of the proposed dam. With fewer than 200 men, the French were embarrassed. In 1899 the two colonial powers reached an agreement which designated to France the frontiers of the Congo River and to England the frontiers of the White Nile.

The Fashoda Incident revealed how little Europeans understood about the Nile River. Thinking that most of the Nile waters came from the equatorial lakes (Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, and Edward), the English spent enormous energy on plans to increase White Nile water flows.

First called the Garstin Cut and later the Jonglei Canal, the British intended to create a channel that would maximize water transfer through the great swamp (where half of it evaporated).

One of the most expensive engineering projects in Africa, it was terminated in 1984 by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, because of the severe disruption it brought to the lives of the indigenous upper Nile peoples. If the 300 mile-long Jonglei Canal had been completed, it would have increased water flows by nearly 4 billion cubic meters into the White Nile.

Negotiating the Nile: Treaties and Agreements over the Nile Waters

Treaty negotiations about Nile waters started during the colonial era as England tried to maximize agricultural productivity in the delta.

In 1902 the British secured from the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II an agreement to consult with them on any Blue Nile water projects, especially on Lake Tana. As the controlling imperial power in East Africa, agreements with Kenya, Tanganika, Sudan, and Uganda were pro forma, internal colonial matters.

After achieving its independence in 1922, Egypt negotiated the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929 with the East African British colonies. This accord established Egypt’s right to 48 billion cubic meters of water flow, all dry season waters, and veto-power over any upriver water management projects newly independent Sudan (1956) was accorded rights to 4 billion cubic meters of water. The Ethiopian monarch was not consulted—at least in part because no one understood how much Nile water actually came from Ethiopia.

The 1959 Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan was completed before all the upriver states achieved independence: Tanganika (1961), Uganda (1962), Rwanda (1962), Burundi (1962), and Kenya (1963).

The signatories of the 1959 Agreement allocated Egypt 55.5 billion cubic meters of water annually while Sudan was allowed 18.5 billion cubic meters. These 79 billion cubic meters represented 99% of the calculated average annual river flow.

The treaty also allowed for the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed in 1971), the Roseires Dam (completed 1966 on the Blue Nile in Sudan), and the Khashm al-Girba Dam (completed in 1964 on the Atbara River in Sudan).

The treaty so negatively affected the upriver states that it provided the inspiration for the Nyerere Doctrine, named after independent Tanzania’s first president, which asserted that former colonies had no obligation to abide by treaties signed for them by Great Britain.

Emperor Haile Selassie was offended by President Nasser’s exclusion of Ethiopia in the Nile Waters Agreement and in planning for building the Aswan Dam. He negotiated the 1959 divorce of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church from the Orthodox Church in Alexandria, ending 1600 years of institutional marriage.

He also began planning for several dams on the Blue Nile and its tributaries, contributing $10 million dollars from the Ethiopian treasury towards a study by the U.S. Department of Reclamation resulting in a seventeen volume report completed in 1964 and titled Land and Water Resources of the Blue Nile Basin: Ethiopia.

Nasser responded by encouraging Muslims in Eritrea (reunified with Ethiopia after World War II) to secede from Ethiopia. He also encouraged Muslim Somalis to fight for the liberation of Ethiopia’s Ogaden region.

Ethiopia won the war with Somalia in 1977-78 and retained the Ogaden. Its 30 year war with Eritrea, an Egyptian ally, came at a tremendous cost. Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, and after 1993 Eritrea won independence and Ethiopia became a landlocked country—although it still possessed the headwaters of the Blue Nile.

In the middle of the 1980s, rains failed in the Ethiopian highlands, causing a serious water crisis upriver and downriver. One million Ethiopians died as a result of drought and famine—made worse by Civil War with Eritrea. Egypt averted disaster but Aswan’s turbines were nearly shut down, creating an electric power nightmare and crops failed in the delta, bringing the real prospect of famine.

As a result, Egyptians came to understand that their great Aswan Dam had not solved their historic dependency on upriver Nile water. In 1987, after years of hostile rhetoric, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the Ethiopian President Haile Mariam Mengistu replaced the language of threat and confrontation with words of conciliation and cooperation.

Then in the 1990s the Ethiopian rains returned and, remarkably, Hosni Mubarak redoubled efforts begun during the Sadat administration to build the Toshka Canal, one of the world’s most expensive and ambitious irrigation projects. This plan would take 10% of waters in Lake Nasser to irrigate Egypt’s sandy Western Desert, increasing Egypt’s need for Nile water even if they maintained their 1959 treaty share of 55 billion cubic meters.

In anger and disbelief, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi protested: “While Egypt is taking the Nile water to transform the Sahara Desert into something green, we in Ethiopia—who are the source of 85% of that water—are denied the possibility of using it to feed ourselves.”

He then began plans for the Grand Renaissance Dam.

International water law has not resolved differences about ownership of Nile Waters. The Helsinki Agreement of 1966 proposed the idea of “equitable shares”—and the idea was taken up again in the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

A proposal for “equitable shares” was again put forward in the 1999 Nile Basin Initiative, which included all the affected countries. Unfortunately the initiative did not resolve the conflict between Egypt and Sudan’s claims of historic rights and the upper river states’ claims for equitable shares.

In 2010, six upstream countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania) signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement seeking more water shares. Egypt and Sudan rejected the agreement because it challenged their historic water rights.

Ethiopia and the Lessons of Dam Building

One lesson from the last century of mega-dam building is that upriver countries have the most power when negotiating water rights. The first of the mega-dams, the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the United States, cost Mexico water. The Ataturk Dam in Turkey has had a devastating impact on downriver Syria and Iraq. China and Tibet control waters on multiple rivers flowing downstream to India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

Another lesson is that mega-dams have enormous and unanticipated environmental impacts. The Aswan High Dam has disrupted the ecosystems of the river, the delta, and the Mediterranean with results of reduced agricultural productivity and fish stocks. It also caused a series of seismic events due to the extreme weight of the water in Lake Nasser, one of the world’s largest reservoirs.

Although late to mega-dam building, Ethiopia is now making up for lost time. One of the tallest dams in the world was completed in 2009 on the Tekeze River in northern Ethiopia. Three major dams on the Omo and Gibe Rivers in southern Ethiopia are either completed or nearly so.

The biggest of Ethiopia’s water projects, the Grand Renaissance Dam, will have a reservoir holding 67 billion cubic meters of water—twice the water held in Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake—and is expected to generate 6000 megawatts of electricity.

Ethiopians hope these water projects—which extend to 2035 with other Nile tributaries and river systems—will lift their country out of poverty. Similar large dams have produced economic miracles in the United States, Canada, China, Turkey, India, Brazil, and, of course, Egypt.

Ethiopia’s options for economic development are limited. With nearly 90 million people it is the most populous landlocked country in the world. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries—174 on the list of 187 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index for 2012. (Sudan is 169 and Egypt 113.) This index rates countries based on life expectancy, education, and income, among other criteria.

Part of Ethiopia’s challenge is that 85 percent of the workforce is in agricultural commodities that bring low profits. Ethiopia is already leasing land in its southern regions to Saudi Arabia, India, and China for large irrigated water projects—despite severe land shortage in its northern regions—because it does not have the funds to develop this land on its own.

If Ethiopia cannot use its elevation and seasonal rains for hydro-electric power and irrigation, what is it to do?

The Grand Renaissance Dam

The state-owned Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation optimistically reports that the Grand Renaissance Dam will be completed in 2015 at a cost of nearly 5 billion dollars. As of 2013, the project is 13% complete, suggesting that it may be many years and billions of dollars before the dam is finished. The Tekeze dam was well over its predicted budget and years behind schedule.

The major obstacle to completion is financing.

The World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Chinese Import-Export Bank, and the African Development Bank provided financing for some of the other dams but concerns about the environmental and political impact of this latest dam have discouraged lenders.

The International Monetary Fund suggested that Ethiopia put the dam on a slow track, arguing that the project will absorb 10% of Ethiopia’s Gross Domestic Product, thus displacing other necessary infrastructure development.

Nevertheless the Ethiopian government insists that it will stick with its schedule and finance the project domestically. It probably will secure more help from China, a loyal ally and the world’s major developer of hydroelectric power.

The Ethiopians argue that the Grand Renaissance Dam could be good for everyone. They contend that storing water in the deep Blue Nile Gorge would reduce evaporation, increasing water flows downstream.

The Ethiopians also argue that the new dam will be a source of hydroelectric power for the entire region and will manage flood control at a critical juncture where the Nile Gorge descends from the Ethiopian highlands to the Sahel, thus reducing risk of flooding and siltation, extending the life of the dams below stream.

Egypt and Sudan are understandably concerned about Ethiopia’s power over Nile waters. What happens while the reservoir behind the Grand Renaissance Dam is filling up, when water flow may be reduced 25 % for three years or more? After the reservoir is filled what will happen when rains fail in the Ethiopian highlands? Who will get the water first?

If the question of Nile waters was sensitive in the centuries before 1900, when Ethiopia and Egypt each had populations of 10 million or less, what will happen over the next twenty years, as their populations each surpass 100 million and the collective population of the Nile River Basin countries reaches 600 million?

The Grand Renaissance Dam poses a question as basic as water itself: Who owns the Nile? When the Grand Renaissance Dam closes its gates on the Blue Nile River, whether it is in 2015 or 2025, the time for a final reckoning will have arrived.

Ethiopia will then have the power to claim its water shares, with the backing of all the upriver states. Egypt and Sudan’s claims to historic water rights will have become merely hypothetical. In the context of a difficult history, violence is a possibility, but good solutions for all can be achieved through diplomacy and leadership.

Suggested Reading

Collins, Robert O. The Nile. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.

Erlich, Haggai. The Cross and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile. Boulder and London: Lynn Rienner Publishers, 2002.

Henze, Paul B. Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

Solomon, Steven. Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Tignor, Robert L. Egypt: A Short History. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.


Do the Four Rivers Lead Us to the Garden of Eden? - History

Unite 2: The Beginnings of Human Civilizations • The Four River Valley Civilizations • Early Israel

Introduction: “Bon Jour!” “Kojaa!” “Selamat!” “Guten Tag!” “Chiao!”

After the Tower of Babel the human race spread out over the face of the earth. Initially they were propelled to distance themselves from each other by major language differences. There is nothing so uncomfortable as being around people who don’t speak your language, and nothing more comfortable than finding others who do! Gradually skin color, cultural differences, and religious differences separated them. The weaker tended to move out farther, and the stronger tended to settle down more quickly and claim their space.

The stronger groups tended to settle in the more desirable areas where there was an abundance of water, natural resources (wood, clay, iron ore, coal), and natural protection (hills, sea coast, rivers, lakes). Because they settled in these areas and because they settled first, they had more time and resources to develop civilizations. Those who were constantly on the move and being chased from place to place by the stronger had less opportunity to develop a civilization or to benefit from natural resources.

And by the time the weaker finally arrived at a location to settle down, they were frequently so far removed from other groups that there was little contact, trade, or interaction. One thing that is usually required for a culture to develop is interaction with other culture groups.

For these reasons while civilizations were forming in Mesopotamia, India, China, and North Africa, groups that had roamed as far as North and South America and islands in the Pacific developed little further in cultural organization than the tribal unit and possessed a technology that was far less developed than in the larger civilizations. Hence, the imperialistic armies of Europe with canons, ships, and guns met tribesmen in parts of Africa armed with spear and bows and arrow. The Spanish conquistadors, while few in number, were able to subjugate an entire Latin American continent due to their superior technology. And Christian missionaries from Europe and the United States armed with computers, flashlights, and modern medicines, encountered stone age tribesmen in the islands of the Pacific as late at the end of the 20th century.

About the early civilizations, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 1-3, states that they were created with a clear knowledge of God, but having rejected and twisted what truth they did possess, they worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. Therefore, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

2.1 The Four Major River Valleys

Four early civilizations formed in four major river valleys: the Tigris/Euphrates River Valley (Mesopotamia), the Nile River Valley (Egypt), the Indus River Valley (India), and the Yellow River Valley (China).

2.2 Sumer (Tigris/Euphrates River Valley)

Sumer was one of the first civilizations to form in the Tigris/Euphrates River Valley area. The Sumerians were a people who perhaps migrated from the Caspian Sea area into the Fertile Crescent, the fertile area lying between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. One of the major cities was Ur in Chaldea. Ur is best known because it was the hometown of Abram, who later became Abraham. Ur was a community of moon-worshippers and from among them God called out Abraham and his family to become the father of all who have faith (Romans 4). It was with Abraham that God made his redeeming covenant that resulted in the coming of Jesus into the world as Savior. Sumer was located near to where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers merge and flow into the Persian Gulf.

It is likely that the Tower of Babel was a forerunner of the Sumerian ziggurats.

Sumer was a collection of over thirty city-states, each possessing its own patron deity, but sharing a common religion featuring the worship of Elil with a central religious center at Nippur. Little is known about this period or people, but there are written records that indicate that there were kings who ruled Sumer during the antedeluvian period (period of time between Creation and the Flood). It is thought that they developed their civilization beginning about 4000 B.C. and that they were not the first inhabitants of the area.

Other innovations of the Sumerians were the wooden wheel , the wooden plow , and the wooden oar for their ships. They also advanced the building and use of agricultural irrigation, canals, and roads. They cultivated fields of wheat, groves of date palms, developed herds of cattle, manufactured pottery and woven baskets, and developed a wide-ranging trade system using their sea-worthy boats. They developed a system that divided a circle into units of sixty , from which we today get our minute composed of sixty seconds and a system of counting based upon the unit of ten . They practiced taxation, conquest of neighboring peoples, slavery, and developed an early monarchial form of government.

The Sumerians developed (or recovered from their spiritual memory derived from Noah) an elaborate belief system that included many gods who possessed human characteristics, a concept of personal sin, that they had been created to serve the gods, a class system of sorts between major and minor gods, and an elaborate flood story. Nammu was the god of the ocean who created all things and who had no personal beginning. He was eternal. Nammu had created others gods, from whom emerged Elil, who became their central god. Elil became the

On their tablets of clay they recorded the Epic of Gilgamesh , the story of a perfect, idyllic world into which the first created humans were placed, a world free from warfare, hatred, and one where everyone spoke the same language. But humans sinned. This caused the god Elil to become very angry. Two of the consequences were (1) a confusion of languages, and (2) a huge flood that lasted for seven days and seven nights. A Sumerian king, Ziusudra, survived the flood in a large boat, in which he preserved the seeds of plants and life. After seven days the sun god Utu shed light on the earth. Ziusudra fell down before Utu in worship and sacrificed a lamb to Utu.

2.3 Sargon and the Akkadians

The Sumerians were weakened due to the salinization of their wheat fields and were overcome by an invading group of people led by Sargon, the Great. Sargon established the powerful and vast empire of Akkad that ruled over most of the Fertile Crescent. He ruled by means of a powerful military nobility that lived off of a vast taxation network extracted by those whom they subjugated.

An Akkadian legend says that Sargon was abandoned by his mother in a reed basket which she placed in a river. Sargon was rescued by Sumerian, a story very similar to that of the Hebrew Moses.

Sargon developed an industry of bronze weapons making, and to secure an abundant supply of tin and copper with which to make the bronze, he extended his kingdom north into present day Syria. He also developed a library of several thousand clay tablets, built a vast network of roads, and established the first known postal system.

Sargon’s empire lasted only one hundred years. Gradually a revived Sumerian power around 2050 B.C. regained control of the area.

2.4 Amorites, Hammurabi, and Babylon

The revived Sumerian kingdom lasted until 1950 B.C. when it was invaded by a Semitic people, the Amorites, who arrived from Syria. The Amorites built a city further northwest on the Euphrates River, Babylon . But they were described as being primarily a nomadic people who were never conquered, refused to live in houses, and moved frequently from place to place.

Around 1800 B. C. an Amorite king, Hammurabi , who ruled from Babylon, sent out his armies to conquer neighboring people, including his northern neighbor, Assyria. Hammurabi developed Babylon into a central hub of roads and canals and an important center for bronze making. He also developed vast wheat and barley fields, groves of date palms, and under his leadership Babylon became a central power in Mesopotamia.

The growth of such an urban, economic empire (which is also known as the Babylonian Empire ) required codes and laws to govern life generally and the economy in particular. Therefore, Hammurabi developed an extensive set of laws to govern the culture and the economy. These laws, known as Hammurabi’s Code , were the first known written laws. It divided the population into three classes: nobles, merchants and farmers, and slaves. It also advocated the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Although the Babylonians absorbed much of the Sumerian worldview, they also developed a complex religion based upon astrology . They observed the movement of the stars through astronomy in an attempt to understand the behavior and will of the gods.

2.5 Assyria and Greater Mesopotamia

The Assyrians, located to the north of Babylon, revived and were able to fight off several other invading groups that came into the Fertile Crescent from Indo-Europe and Syria. By 1300 B. C. the Assyrians controlled all of Mesopotamia.

The constant flow of invading peoples into the Fertile Crescent resulted in a blending of cultures, religions, and gene pools. People in the area became known as “Mesopotamians” rather than Amorites, Sumerian, Assyrians, or Babylonians.

The area suffered from numerous maladies. The growth of population created problems with sewage, garbage, overcrowding in urban centers, decreasing drinking water supplies, disease, and the constant threat of a new people group arriving to take advantage of the fertile soil -- even though salinization continued to be a constant problem.

Around 1200 B. C. a group of people called the Hebrews took prominence in the land of Canaan to the south of the Fertile Crescent, and during their peak of power controlled the territory extending from the Euphrates River in the north to the Nile in the south.

These were the descendants of Abraham who originated in Ur of Chaldea or Sumer. In a revelation from Elohim , Abraham was promised an inherited land that would remain the possession of his descendants. According to the Bible, a portion of the Hebrews moved to Egypt to escape a local famine. One of their number who had gained prominence in Egypt, Joseph, was able through his position to ensure their safe move into Egypt. There they were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians, and they remained slave for over 400 years.

Abraham was promised by God that: (1) he and his wife Sarah would have a son in their old age, Isaac (2) God would be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants (3) Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens (4) God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants as an everlasting inheritance and, (5) out of Abraham’s descendants would come a Messiah.

After over 400 years as slave in Egypt, Abraham’s descendants, under the leadership of Moses , left Egypt miraculously under God’s guidance around the year 1250 B.C. During a period of 40 years in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan Moses received from God the Ten Commandments while communing with God on the top of Mount Sinai.

During this period of time God delivered to the Hebrews the religious system known as Judaism.

After the 40 years of wilderness living, which resulted from their disobedience evidenced in worshipping the golden calf fashioned by Aaron, the brother of Moses, the Hebrews entered Canaan. Under the leadership of Joshua , the Hebrews systematically defeated all the people groups living in the land of Canaan and possessed the land promised to them by God.

From Moses was received the Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses. He also established the first representative government, a system of government, People’s Law, that was carried across Europe into England by the Anglo-Saxons, and became foundational for the United States of America.

From their flight from Egypt until the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem in 70 A. D. by the Romans, the Hebrews possessed Canaan. They did not always experience independence. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans moved in and out of Canaan. But the Hebrews for the most part lived under a series of male and female Hebrews judges, and then a series of kings. The Hebrews were divided into ten specific tribes named for the ten sons of Jacob. The most famous of their kings were David and Solomon . Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem in 957 B.C.

The northern section, Israel, was invaded, captured, and sent into exile by Assyria in 732 B. C. The people never returned. After Babylonia conquered Assyria in 609 B.C., the exiled people from Israel settled around the Black Sea area. The southern section, Judah, with its capitol, Jerusalem, was invaded, captured, and exiled by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B. C. A portion of the exiled Jews from Judah returned in 530 B.C. with the permission of Cyrus, king of Persia, rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem, and from among them in the small town of Bethlehem was born the promised Messiah, Jesus around 1 B.C.

During their centuries of development, God raised up among the Hebrews the ancient prophets, who were raised up by God to give warnings to both Israel as well as to their pagan neighbors. These constitute the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

They were chosen by God to be his covenant people, from among whom the Messiah was born of the virgin Mary.

How were the Hebrews different from the nations that surrounded them?

The Hebrews were a kingdom that was:

• built upon faith and obedience to the true God, Jehovah.

• established in a specific geographic location chosen by Jehovah.

• lead by kings who lived in faith and obedience to the true God Jehovah.

• the recipient of revelations received from Jehovah through the ten commandments and the writings of Moses and the prophets.

• the location of the temple in which Jehovah dwelt among them and practiced sacrifices in view of the coming Messiah and his final sacrifice of himself for the sins of his people.

The Philistines were descendants of a sea people who originated from around the Aegean Sea area to the east of Greece. They were a continual problem for the Egyptians. As with the Vikings much later in history, the sea people were ruthless, relentless in their attacks, and arrived at unexpected times. Eventually they were controlled by the Egyptians who at times extended their control northward to Syria. Eventually, however, the sea people were able to settle along the Mediterranean coastline of the land of Canaan and were known as the Philistines. From their name is derived the name of the area “ Palestine .”

The Philistines were a literate people who originally spoke the language of people living in Crete, Cyprus, and the Aegean area. They gradually adopted the language of the Canaanites and blended their religion with that of the Canaanites and featured the worship of the god Baal. The history of the Hebrews after the Exodus from Egypt is a story of constant conflict with the Philistines, including the story of Samson and Delilah, and the numerous battles between the Hebrews and Philistines under the Hebrew king, David.

2.8 The Nile River Valley Civilization (Egypt)

Another of the major early river civilizations was Egypt. Egypt built from huge carved stones tall tombs called pyramids for their dead rulers.

This civilization eventually concluded that their ruler, the Pharaoh , was actually divinity in the flesh. Therefore they could not corrupt the divine blood line through marriage with common people. Only brothers and sisters in the same ruling family could intermarry.

Egypt developed a unique system of pictorial writing, hieroglyphics .

The major religious system in Egypt revolved around the cult of the sun god. For one brief period, however, one of the Pharaohs, Akhenaten, promoted a form of monotheism. At his death the powerful traditional priesthood restored polytheism to Egypt.

Egypt reached its zenith as a cultural and military power during the Golden Age under the leadership of Ramses II (1290-1224 B.C.)

Perhaps the most famous of its rulers was Cleopatra who was the lover of both Julius Caesar and of Marc Anthony of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra was a descendant of General Ptolemy who was given governance over Egypt by Alexander the Great of Greece.

Review notes you have taken from viewing the video in class, Egypt’s Golden Empire, PBS. The emphasis in class will be on three of the pharaohs.

(1) Ashkenaten (1351-1384 B.C.) , the belittled son of the royal family who was excluded from the feasts, celebrations, and royal sacrifices and ceremonies because of reported extraordinary physical handicaps and features. When Ashkenaten became Pharaoh he banished the gods of Egypt, banished their priests, emptied their temples, and forbade their worship or sacrifices made to them. He declared that only the sun god, Ra, would be worshipped. This was not a monotheism that resulted from special revelation granted by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but developed from his angry response to all those who belittled him when he was a boy.

During his short reign, Tutakamen reversed several practices of his father. He (1) ended the worship of Aten, contrary to his father’s policy, and (2) restored the worship of Amun. He abandoned the new royal city built by his father at Akhanaten and moved the capitol back to the traditional capitol at Thebes.The royal celebrations and sacrifices to Amun were restored, winning him great favor with many of the people.

Egypt experienced troubled foreign relations during his reign. Warfare with the Nubians and armies invading from Asia took place.

At his death Tutakamen’s family’s royal line came to an end. His wife petitioned the king of the Hittites, asking to be given as a wife to one of his sons. However, she became the wife of the new Pharaoh and soon after disappeared from history.

(3) Rameses II (1303-1213 B.C.) was pharaoh at the height of Egypt’s influence and power, a period referred to as Egypt’s Golden Age. He was known as a war pharaoh, leading campaigns against the Hittites, Syrians, Libyans, Nubians, and other neighboring nations. He was also the most prolific builder of monuments honoring his rule, as well as pyramids for the burial of his many children. He fathered at least 80 sons and 60 daughters, all with the purpose of leaving behind a royal line and a successor to the throne.

He restored Egyptian religious worship and traditions back to their state prior to the radical revisions introduced by Tutakamen’s father, Pharaoh Akhanaten.

Rameses ruled for over 60 years and died at the age of 93, an age far exceeding the average 35-year life span of Egyptians who were his contemporaries. He was so revered by the nation (for three generations of Egyptians knew no other Pharaoh) that for generations after his death he was referred to as the Great Ancestor of the nation.

Contributions of the Ancient Egyptians

• The early Minoan settlers of Crete and southern Greece were descendants of Egyptians who first migrated to the island of Crete. They founded the Minoan civilization and their capitol city of Knossos on the island of Crete.

• The Egyptians created the system of writing that featured pictographs, or hieroglyphics.

• They were the first to develop the skills necessary to build large stone columns for their many massive palaces, monuments, and temples.

• They were the first to develop paper from crushed papyrus.

• They were major importers and exporters of gold, silver, ivory, bronze, pottery, and animals from the continent of Africa to the south and developed extensive trade with Middle Asia, North Africa., and even East Asia.

• The Egyptians developed a unique architecture featuring pyramids and obelisks.

• They developed a calendar of 365 days.

• They were master canal builders and specialists in highly developed agriculture and irrigation systems.

• They mastered embalming the dead.

• They created a number system that included fractions.

• It is speculated that they were extensive travelers, and that skills needed to build the pyramids constructed by the Mayans in South America may have been brought by Egyptians traveling in their reed boats.

• They hosted the descendants of Abraham for over 450 years, first as guests and family members of the house of Moses, and later as slaves. They fell victim to the plagues brought by God against the Pharaoh’s (likely Rameses II) stubbornness to refuse to allow over one million Hebrew slaves to leave Egypt peacefully.

• Together with the Hittites after the Battle of Kadesh, the Egyptians pioneered a format for developing a long-lasting treaty between two powerful nations that numerous other subsequent civilizations followed.

• The Gospel of Christ was brought to the Egyptians by the Apostle Mark who was martyred during his ministry in Egypt. Egyptian Christians today maintain that they are the descendants of the pharaohs and that the ancestors of present day Muslims in Egypt descended from foreign invaders from Arabia.

2.9 The Indus River Valley/Harappa Civilization (India)

At the apex of its development, the Harappa population was about 10% of the known world’s population, making it comparable to the Nile River civilization in Egypt and probably larger than that in Mesopotamia. The Harappa developed the largest cities in the known world. The large cities excavated show that buildings were made of kiln-hardened bricks. Central avenues were 30 feet wide with narrow streets running through the residential areas. Large granaries were built to hold surplus wheat and barley. The architecture shows the clear presence of a nobility class with walled residences.

The large Harappa civilization was agrarian. It carried out extensive cultivation of wheat, barley, cotton, and perhaps rice. They were also cattle herders. The vast area of fertile soil and extensive forests was fueled by tremendous amounts of soil that annually washed down from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. Estimates now available from satellite imagery shows a ridge of fertile soil up to 20 feet deep, 10 miles wide and 100 miles long that straddles the Indus River. In addition to the rich alluvial soil, water was plentiful from typhoons that annually dumped immense amounts of rainfall on the area.

A large, extensive sewage system to which all of the buildings in the cities were connected. was the most significant development in the Harappa civilization.This was the most highly developed sewage system constructed in the ancient world.

The decline of the Indus Valley civilization around 1250 B.C. is thought to have been brought about primarily by climate change. What were once vast forest and agricultural areas are today dry, arid areas. Recent studies now propose that it was a change in the path and frequency of typhoons that brought the decline of the Harappa civilization. The pattern of the annual typhoons gradually moved increasingly eastward and the people followed the rainfall in scattered, smaller groups. In addition, the fact that the Harappa’s bronze tools and weapons were inferior in design and quality to those manufactured in Egypt and Mesopotamia may also have resulted in invasions as the cities declined in population.

2.10 The Yellow River Civilization (China)

Agriculture was made possible by the annual flooding in the spring when the ice melted and in July and August during the rainy season. Billions of tons of sedimentary soil is still deposited annually.

From the Xia Dynasty (2000 B.C.) to the Tang Dynasty (900 A.D.) the Yellow River basin also served as the political, cultural, and technological center of China.

At first the people cultivated millet, a grain similar to corn. They also domesticated dogs and pigs.

The Longshan Culture built large fortified towns along the Yellow River, fortified by large earthen walls and ramparts.

There are indications that the early Chinese who settled along the Yellow River believed in the same God as the Hebrews, the God who was revealed to them in creation and in the stories received from Noah and his sons. It is probable that they moved into the Yellow River area after the Tower of Babel event and retained the knowledge of God received from Noah and his offspring. They did not call their God “Elohim” as the Hebrews did. They called him Shang Di . His qualities are in every respect similar to Elohim of the Hebrews. There is evidence to suggest that the Chinese prior to 2000 B.C. were monotheists who only later became polytheists. Examples from the present-day Chinese pictographic vocabulary shows clear evidence of a prior knowledge of God and of events, such as the Great Flood, the temptation in the Garden of Eden, and sacrificial lambs to achieve righteousness (see the Keynote presentation that accompanies this unit.)

Black polished pottery (left) Bronze casting water container (below) Jade carving (above) Oracle bone carving with pictographs (top left).


The Institute for Creation Research

Over the years, many have claimed the Garden of Eden has been found. Of course the location of each "discovery" is in a different location. The Bible describes the area around the Garden in Genesis 2, even using recognizable place names such as Ethiopia. It mentions a spring in the Garden which parts into four major rivers, including the Euphrates. This has led many, including Bible scholars, to conclude that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in the middle eastern area known today as the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley, with its remains long ago vanishing.

It is also true that this area (the "fertile crescent") was the location of the ancient Tower of Babel and the patriarch Abraham's home in the city of Ur. Without a doubt, the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley plays a unique role in Biblical history, but was it the location of the Garden of Eden? I think not.

First, let's examine the Biblical information. While the Tigres and Euphrates both have their headwaters in the area surrounding Mt. Ararat, they do not flow from a source like the spokes on a wheel, filling the land as mentioned. Nor are the other two rivers present and none go to Ethiopia. Furthermore, the mineral deposits mentioned bear no resemblance to those in this area. In short, the geography and descriptions don't match.

The key is in recognizing that through the Flood of Noah's day, "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (II Peter 3:6). As described in Genesis 6-9, the Flood would have totally restructured the surface of the globe. It would have done what major floods do&mdasherode the land surface in one area and redeposit those sediments elsewhere. Biblically, the Flood covered the planet with processes operating at rates, scales, and intensities far beyond those possible today. No place on Earth could have survived untouched.

These sediments would have been full of organic debris, which over time would either fossilize or metamorphose into oil and gas. The sediments would harden into sedimentary rock, in places bending into mountains or breaking along fault systems.

Today, the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley contains sediments over two miles thick, from which are pumped enormous quantities of oil and gas. The sediments, now rock, are dramatically bent into modern mountains as well as subsurface mountains, and brutally broken by major fault systems. They deeply cover and obscure any possible pre-flood locations. Furthermore, the basement rock, if indeed it was present before the Flood, would have likely undergone erosion also. No present topography or underground surface could possibly bear any resemblance to the pre-flood world. That world is gone!

Noah and his family would have encountered the present-day Tigris and Euphrates Rivers soon after leaving the Ark. As their descendants migrated, they would give familiar names to the new rivers and places.

God placed an angel at the entrance to the Garden to keep pre-flood men from returning. The Flood made even that precaution unnecessary.

* Dr. John Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Morris, J. 1999. Where Was the Garden of Eden Located? Acts & Facts. 28 (12).


Columbus and Christianity: Did You Know?

Contrary to legend, Columbus did not sail to prove the earth was round. Most educated Europeans and mariners already knew that.

Columbus estimated the size of the Atlantic Ocean partially from reading his Bible. He had read in the Second Book of Esdras (in the Apocrypha) that God created the world in seven parts, six of them dry land and the seventh water. He thus calculated that the ocean separating Portugal from Cipangu (Japan) was one-seventh of the earth&rsquos circumference, or about 2,400 miles. He figured that by sailing 100 miles per day, he could reach the Indies in 30 days.

Unlike many sailors then and now, Christopher Columbus never used profanity.

During Columbus&rsquos voyages, the ships&rsquo crews observed religious rites. Every time they turned the half-hour glass (their primary means of keeping time), they cried: &ldquoBlessed be the hour of our Savior&rsquos birth / blessed be the Virgin Mary who bore him / and blessed be John who baptized him.&rdquo They finished each day by singing vespers together (although reportedly they sang out of tune).

Not until his third voyage did Columbus actually land on the American mainland. Seeing four rivers flowing from the landmass, he believed he had encountered the Garden of Eden. He died in 1506 unaware he had landed thousands of miles short of the Orient.

Irish and French Catholics have argued that Columbus, who &ldquobrought the Christian faith to half the world,&rdquo should be named a saint. Though the move had the approval of Pope Pius IX (reign 1846&ndash1878), Columbus was never canonized because he fathered an illegitimate child, and there was no proof he had performed a miracle.

Between 1493 and 1820, Spain sent some 15,585 missionaries to the Americas. .

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