The Garden of Eden

“In Dilmun the raven was not yet cawing, the partridge not cackling. The lion did not slay, the wolf was not carrying off lambs, the dog had not been taught to make kids curl up, the pig had not learned that grain was to be eaten.”
-Sumerian text, Enki and Ninhursag

The Fruit of Wisdom of Good and Bad

The Island of Dilmun and the Garden of Eden are just two of many various traditions about a lost Golden Age in the distant past when there was no death and no disease. In Genesis, this paradise is destroyed when the snake tempts the first woman, Hawah (or Eve) into eating the forbidden fruit with the promise becoming godlike in knowledge. Hawah then tempts Adam (or “Man”) into eating the fruit, causing them to gain the wisdom to know good and evil. Among this is the shame of nudity. Because of his temptation, the snake was cursed to crawl on its belly to eat dust, and as punishment for her transgression, Eve is told that she will go through great pain in childbearing. It is also on her shoulders that blame is rested for the loss of equality between man and woman, as described by the Yahwist: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (3:16). Man and woman are then sent out of the garden paradise, forced to toil the earth for sustenance.

It has been opined that the eating of the fruit is a metaphor for sex. Certainly with phallic and ovarian representations like snakes and fruit, it is hardly a stretch to reach these conclusions. However, a verse in the previous chapter reads that because Eve was made from Adam’s rib, man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife to become one flesh, giving the impression that God had intended sexual relations before the fall. And how would sexual relations relate to being “wiser than God?” Unlike Christianity, Judaism has always been a religion that has encouraged reproduction. Whether priest or rabbi, getting married and having children has generally been the expectation if not the rule, following the proverb from Genesis, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and every animal that creeps on the earth.” (1:28). John Milton also makes note of this in his epic Paradise Lost, in which Adam and Eve have sex before eating the fruit, but fall into a more lustful affair afterwards. In the book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake writes, “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

The central enigma to the garden is the question as to why God did not want man to eat from the fruit of knowledge of good and bad. Knowledge is normally seen as an unequivocal positive force in most cultures. In Norse mythology, Odin sacrifices one of his eyes and crucifies himself on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, with the holy spear, Gungnir, in order receive divine wisdom. The snake itself has been associated with knowledge since ancient times. Even in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes reference to this, saying, “Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” (10:16). The First Book of Enoch speaks of Enoch going over the Red Sea to the Garden of Righteousness, where many trees are said to grow, including “the tree of wisdom from which they eat and know great wisdom.” (32:4). Although the snake is identified with Satan in the Epistle to the Romans, that is not the interpretation of mainstream Judaism, which contends that Satan is more of a “heavenly prosecutor” who is part and parcel of the divine plan. The snake from the garden is seen as a symbol of the seducer.

The Yazidi religion, made up primarily of ethnic Kurds centered in Iraq, also incorporate a Promethean-like figure named Melek Ta’us, the thousand-eyed peacock of cosmic wisdom, into their religion. The sect was founded by Sheikh Adi ibn Mustafa, who died in 1162 A.D., and came to be heavily influenced by the mystical tradition of Sufi Islam. In Chapter 5 of the Book of Illumination, believed to have been written by Melek Ta’us himself, the Peacock Angel says:

“Wherefore, it is true that my knowledge encompasses the Very truth of all that is, And my wisdom is not separate from my heart, And the manifestation of my descent is clear unto you, And when it is revealed to the children of Adam it will Be seen by all. And many will tremble thereby. All habitations and desert spaces are indeed of my own creation, set forth, All fully within my strength, not that of the false gods; Wherefore I am he that men come with their rightful worship, Not the false gods of their books, wrongly written; But they come to know me, a peacock of bronze and gold, Wings spread over Kaaba, temple, and church, not to be overshadowed. And in the secret cave of my wisdom it is known that there is no god but myself, Archangel over all the host, Melek Ta’us. Knowing this, who dares deny? Knowing this, who dares fail to worship? Knowing this, who dares worship the false gods of the Koran and Bible?

The eating of the fruit of knowledge is brought about by the same fault that caused Pandora to open Prometheus’ box: curiosity. Two punishments are given to woman for doing this: increased pain in childbirth and the loss of equality with man (3:16). Ninhursag giving birth without pain in the deathless world of Dilmun provides a context for the Fall of Man entailing the pain of childbirth. Evolutionarily speaking, humans have a longer gestation period and go through more trauma in childbirth than other apes because of our enlarged cranium. In that sense, human wisdom did come at the price of childbirth pain. Although it seems highly unlikely that the myth is a residual memory from that long ago, its possible that the question came about from watching other animals give birth without so much of an ordeal, or it may be a comparison between different races of ancient humans. In Exodus, a midwife makes up an excuse for why she allowed the Hebrew boys live, saying, "Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive."

Judging from the Venus figurines, the submission to the male sex, marked by transition from a female to male head god, seems to have come just as civilization dawned in the river valleys of Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and India. This took the nominal form of “marrying” the goddess off to a god, so that their “son” could represent them both as hero-kings, like Gilgamesh. This mythic background can be seen in Genesis:

“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of Elohim saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then Yahweh said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of Elohim went to the daughters of the human beings and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” -Genesis 6:1-4

This passage is greatly elaborated on in Enochian literature, which explains that 200 “sons of heaven,” led by Samyaza, who marry the daughters of humankind and sire giants. In the surviving Greek versions of Enoch, these giants go on to beget the Nephelim, who in turn bore the “Elioud” (7:9). However, later in the book, it says that the spirits of the giants “shall be like clouds,” and corrupt the earth. The Greek word for clouds, “nephelas,” may have been a mistranslation of “Nephilim,” insinuating that the giants and Nephilim were originally one and the same. This fits many Bible versions, including the King James Version, which uses the translation “giants” for the Hebrew word.

The Book of Enoch goes on to say that Azazel taught men how to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, mirrors, bracelets, ornaments, makeup, eyeliner, stone-working, and dyes, “so that the world became altered.” Because of this:

“Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways. Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots: Armers [taught] the solution of sorcery; Barkayal [taught] the observers of the stars, Akibeel [taught] signs; Tamiel taught astronomy; And Asaradel taught the motion of the moon, And men, being destroyed, cried out; and their voice reached to heaven.” -1 Enoch 8:2-9

In the Genesis passage, Yahweh makes a specific reaction to the sons of Elohim marrying the daughters of humankind: he makes it so humans don’t live forever and limits the number of years of mankind to 120. This restriction is broken by later contributors to the Bible (Abraham is said to live over 160), but the Yahwist keeps this number consistent. In the “J” source, it’s Moses who lives out the maximum limit of life, not Methuselah, dying at exactly 120 years, even though “his eye was not dim, and his vitality had not fled.” It’s also interesting to note, although possibly just a coincidence, that Gilgamesh is said to have ruled 126 years in the Sumerian king list, and is only the second king to have lived such a short life. Before him, Dumuzi the Shepherd ruled either 100 or 110 years, and if he can be identified with Enkidu, then they would both have been the first non-immortals to rule the land, matching the chronology set in Genesis. Before them, Lugalbanda the Shepherd ruled 1200 years, ten times as long.

That Gilgamesh could be identified with these “heroes of old” can be seen from the Book of Giants from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Like other Enochian books, this heavily damaged book relates the fall of mankind being brought on by a race of giants that taught mankind forbidden knowledge. One of these giants is Gilgamesh, and another is called Hobabis, a name that may be derived from the cedar forest monster, Humbaba. In this book, a giant who seems to be Gilagmesh says:

“I am a giant, and by the mighty strength of my arm and my own great strength… anyone mortal, and I have made war against them; but I am not… able to stand against them, for my opponents… reside in [Heav]en, and they dwell in holy places. And not… are stronger than I…. of the wild beast has come, and the wild man they call [me].”

Like in most Enochian literature, it is the corruption brought from this forbidden knowledge that causes God to flood the earth. Although the evil of mankind is described immediately proceeding this event in the original Genesis text, the connection between the Nephilim and the flood is not as clear-cut:

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of Elohim went to the daughters of the human beings and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. Yahweh saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Yahweh regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So Yahweh said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh.” -Genesis 6:4-6

The Enochian answer also provides context for the enigma behind the “forbidden knowledge” symbolized in the Tree of Wisdom of Good and Bad. By eating the fruit of wisdom, man has gone from his infant stage, that of the hunter and gatherer, to the stage of civilization. Mankind did this by following it’s Promethean spirit and stealing the secret knowledge from heaven and using it to create weapons and armor, as well as mirrors and make-up. It’s a change that has been both good and bad, and one fraught with nostalgia for a timeless Golden Age. Civilization itself is separated by two main groups of people who are interdependent upon one another: the farmer and the herdsman, symbolized by Cain and Abel, or Winter and Summer. Although the farmer needs the herds man for meat and dairy products, the herds man is far more dependant on the farmer for grain, and in times of need, it is the herds man that must be more willing to change occupations. Those who live in cities have a much greater standard of living as those who herd sheep. The unequal nature of the duality leads the stronger to oppress the weaker. The gospel Jesus likewise symbolizes this duality between the haves and have-nots. Being the son of a tekton, or craftsman, from a village in Galilee meant being on the bottom wrung of society, heavily taxed by Jewish and Roman elites from Sepphoris and Tiberius. Emulating the pastoral lifestyle, Jesus and his followers have no home but travel from city to city healing people yet are often harassed by other elites, the Jerusalem priesthood and certain Pharisees, whose greed and hypocrisy Jesus continuously uncover.

Like Prometheus, Enki is said to have been reluctant in allowing Pandora’s box to be opened. In the Sumerian story of Inanna and Enki: The Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech, Inanna praises her genitalia and decides to seduce her stepfather Enki. She goes to his temple in Eridu and after getting him drunk, convinces him to give her all his secret arts, called me’s. Each me represents some kind of cultural art, but also included abstract concepts such as: heroism, power, wickedness, righteousness, the plundering of cities, making lamentations, rejoicing, deceit, the rebel lands, kindness, being on the move, and being sedentary. There are also crafts, like that of the carpenter, coppersmith, scribe, smith, leather-worker, fuller, builder, and reed-worker. Other me’s include: wisdom, attentiveness, holy purification rites, the shepherd’s hut, piling up glowing charcoals, the sheepfold, respect, awe, reverent silence, the kindling of fire, the extinguishing of fire, hard work, the assembled family, descendants, strife, triumph, counseling, comforting, judging, and decision-making. They also include classes within the nobility and priesthood, such as: the noble scepter, the staff and crook, the noble dress, shepherd-ship, kingship, and the offices of the egi-zi priestess, nin-dijir priestess, icib priest, lu-mah priest, gudu priest, and kur-jara priest. Also present are the inventions of the sword and club, the cultic personnel known as saj-ursaj, the “black garment,” the “colorful garment,” different hair styles, and different arts of love-making, including: the standard, “the quiver,” sexual intercourse, kissing, and prostitution. Different modes of speech are included, such as: forthright speech, deceitful speech, and grandiloquent speech; and various people, places, and things like: the cultic prostitute, the holy tavern, the holy nijin-jar shrine, the temple slave of heaven, loud musical instruments, the art of song, and venerable old age, the attractiveness of women, perfect divine powers, the holy tigi, holy lilis, ub, meze and ala drums.

Inanna loads these me’s into her Boat of Heaven and heads for Uruk. After Enki wakes up and remembers what he did, he sends his servant Isimud and 50 giants to stop the ship. Inanna asks Isimud how Enki could have countermanded his order and demands that the giants release the ship. The giants do this, but Isimud catches up and has the ship stopped six more times. Despite this, Inanna makes it to Uruk, and the people there rejoice at the arts she bestows on them, and so names the dock where her ship came in “the White Quay.” Although Enki is at first angry, he eventually relents and decides to declare a festival in Uruk. The story may reflect a transfer of power or cultural dispensation from Eridu to Uruk. In the Sumerian epic of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, Enmerkar demands that King Ensuhgirana of Aratta donate gemstones to enhance the me’s of the shrines of both Kulaba (in Uruk) and Eridu.

The story shows the earliest known mythical connection made between the snake, the fruit of wisdom, and the tree. Enki’s son Dumuzi and his mother Nammu are both associated with the serpent and/or sea dragon, and the snake in the Myth of Etana seems to confirm that the snake totem originated from Eridu’s culture. Snake or lizard-headed clay figurines have been found dating back to the Ubaid culture of the 4000’s in Eridu and Ur. As shown previously, Serpents and dragons have a long mythological tradition of being associated with goddess worship. This makes for strong evidence that originally there was a snake cult that worshipped a goddess equivalent to Nammu, and that it was characteristically sublimated by a male god, in this case, the fish god Enki. When a culture is conquered, it was almost universal that women from the conquered nobility would marry men from the conquering culture to cement the new dynasty, and it is largely taken for granted in mythology that the marriage of many goddesses to the national god of the dominant culture made for a symbolic representation of the same process. Assuming the Ubaid was a different culture, it is possible that the Sumerians conquered the Ubaid culture and then married their fish god Enki to the Ubaid culture’s snake goddess, Nammu, producing a new cult centered in Eridu on the worship of their son Dumuzi in the form of a king. There seems to be a similar divine family structure in the nearby city of Ur, whose temple was dedicated to the moon god Nanna. Despite his seeming importance in the pantheon, he and his wife Ningal play little more than advisory roles in Sumerian myth, while their twin children, Utu and Inanna play more active roles and are more commonly identifiable with the king or queen of a city. Thus, Dumuzi’s marriage with Inanna may represent an ancient alliance between Eridu and Ur.

Snake or lizard-headed clay figurines from Ubaid culture in Ur, dated to 4000’s B.C.

The fruit of wisdom can be seen as being emblematic of the me’s of Sumerian -- and later Canaanite -- civilization, which were taken from Enki and brought to earth by the Queen of Heaven. Enki is also the one to prevent Adapa from gaining eternal life from the god of heaven, and is identifiable with the wise Prometheus with his box of evils and with Azazel in 1 Enoch, the fallen angel who teaches humans to make weapons and cosmetics. Since Sumerian cities, and Uruk in particular, were built around the temples, it is perhaps not surprising that this is where the arts of civilization are said to have come from. While each city was based on a particular male god, such as Enki in Eridu, An in Uruk, and Nanna/Suen in Ur, the cult of Inanna seems to have been far more universal throughout Sumer and Akkad. This interconnectedness of the goddess cult between different may have been a primary factor in the spread of the “secret arts” between Eridu and the other cities of Mesopotamia.

The Four Ages of Mankind

The belief in the world beginning with a magical Golden Age was the most popular historic perspective of Europe, the Middle East, Persia, and India throughout ancient times. In both the Greek division of ages and the Hindu division of “yugas,” each of the four successive eras was considered more corrupt than the last. In Greek mythology, the ages were divided into the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the “present” Iron Age. Hesiod also included a Heroic Age, or Second Bronze Age, directly after the first one, but this era can be seen as a subset to the Bronze Age. In 380 A.D., the Latin father St. Jerome, author of the Vulgate, attempted to map these four ages in his Chronicon, setting the Golden Age at 1710 B.C., the Silver Age at 1674, the Bronze Age at 1628, the Heroic Age at 1460, and the Iron Age at 1103. The Bahrain National Museum, the most scholarly-attested identification for Dilmun, asserts that it’s own “Golden Age” lasted from 2200 B.C. to 1600 B.C.

Modern archaeology uses two of these same terms from Greek mythology, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, in a “three-age” system that includes a prior “Stone Age,” to describe periods of a civilization’s metallurgical development. Howeevr, the Stone Age itself has been divided into two ages: the Paleolithic, literally “Old Stone Age,” and Neolithic, or “New Stone Age,” which equates to four total eras used by today‘s archaeologists. There is also in many cases a “Copper Age,” but this is recognized as being only a short, transition phrase between the more universal Stone and Bronze ages. The Paleolithic Age is usually seen as beginning with the first archaeological evidence of tool use, starting some 2.5 million years ago. The Neolithic Age is marked by the “Neolithic Revolution,” the first agricultural revolution that transformed hunter-gatherer society into an organized, hierarchal social system based off of farming. It first developed in the Levant from 8,500, when Jericho was first built, to 8,000, and came to Iraq some time around 7,500, about 200 years after wheat and barley was first grown on the Tigris and Euphrates. The first cities such as Eridu were then built around temples by 5,000 B.C. The Neolithic Age normally develops into the Copper or Bronze Age, but in some places developed directly into the Iron Age. Although bronze has been known to be used in Greece since 3,000 B.C. and in Palestine and the Middle East since 3500, archaeological discoveries in Thailand have shown it to has shown that the art can be traced as far back as 4500. With the technological advance of hotter furnaces, Turkey was able to start working iron around 2,000 B.C. and had been able to develop superior weapons by 1500. Palestine’s Iron Age is believed to have begun around 1150 B.C., with Greece coming around by 1050, and Iraq 100 years after that.

According to Hesiod, the Golden Age was the age that Kronos ruled, when people did not grow old and died in peace. Spring was eternal and people lived off the nuts, fruits, and honey of the forests. Their spirits still guided people as Daimones. This age is said to have ended with the opening of Pandora’s Box. The Silver Age began with the birth of Apollo, and the rule of Zeus. The birth of Apollo probably represented the arrival of the Dumuzi cult that helped transfer female-dominated worship to neutral or male-dominated worship. The people of the Silver Age lived 100 years as children and then aged normally, but these people were impious and killed by Zeus. The Bronze Age began with the Ogygian Deluge, a flood that hit Greece while Ogyges was king of either Thebes or Attica. Some scholars identify this flood with Noah’s flood, although there is no accompanying ark story as in the case of Deucalion’s flood. Julius Africanus placed the flood in 1796 while the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro placed it in 2136, adding that the flood changed the color, size, and course of Venus. The Greek Heroic Age began with Deucalion’s flood and was the age in which the Trojan war was fought. It was the time of heroes and demigods, paralleled by the Sumerian Heroic Age of Uruk, which was also located in the era subsequent to the great flood. People who died during the Heroic Age were said to have gone to Elysium. The Iron Age began when Doric-speaking populations displaced the earlier Mycenaean-speaking people of the Peloponnesus. According to Hesiod, it is only in this latest age that people struggle to survive in a world of pain. It was believed that this age would come to an end when babies are born with white hair.

The division of eras can also be seen as having been set from the earliest source of the Old Testament. The Golden Age is represented in the ageless garden of Eden. The Silver Age can be seen as beginning with the expulsion of man from Eden and Cain building the first city, Enoch, just as the Sumerians saw their emigration from Dilmun to Eridu as the end of their Golden Age. Noah’s flood also marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. Five generations after Noah, one of Shem’s descendants is named Peleg because “in his time the earth was divided.” (10:25). The Yahwist also identifies this third age with heroes, just as Hesiod did, saying, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days -- and also afterward… They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” The Biblical heroes of the Old Testament, from Abraham forward, are largely to be found after the flood as well.

Identifying the Iron Age in the Bible is a little harder. Iron is spoken of throughout the Old Testament. Both bronze and iron were said to have been first forged by Tubal-Cain, one of the twin sons of Lamech from before the flood. The Canaanites from the days of Joshua and Judges were said to have been especially hard to defeat because of their iron chariots. But David is the first one who is said to have collected a great amount of iron from plundered cities, which seems to mark him as the beginning of the “Judean” Iron Age according to the Old Testament. There are also many parallels made by the patriarchal narratives from Genesis and the national history beginning with Judges and ending with David and Solomon, which I will elaborate more fully in a later chapter. These parallels give the impression of a repeating cycle that seeks to compare the Bronze Age events with Iron Age events. Most modern Bible chronology is based off the “Ussher method,” consisting of dates provided by an archbishop named James Ussher from 17th century Ireland, and which was popularized in the 1800’s in Victorian England. Ussher derived the method by counting backwards using the ages of the patriarchs in the Bible. Ussher dated the world’s creation at 4004 B.C., with David ruling in 1048, some 50 years after Jerome’s date and 100 years after the beginning of Palestine’s Iron Age.

The four Greek ages also correspond to the four metals represented in the idol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the Book of Daniel. The Book of Daniel retells the story of Joseph during the time of the Babylonian Captivity, paralleling the earlier Egyptian captivity that proceeded Joseph’s death. Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar, asks Daniel to interpret a dream of his in which an idol made of four metals is struck by a stone “cut not by human hands” and causes the statue to fall. Although the other magicians and diviners can not explain these mysteries, Daniel tells the king that the God in heaven could interpret them for him. Daniel explains that the golden head represented the king himself, who God had given complete dominion over all creatures of the earth (2:36). That empire is known today as the Chaldean Empire, of New Babylonian Empire, to distinguish it from the earlier empire of Hammurabi. The silver chest represented a kingdom that would come after his kingdom and be inferior to it just as silver is inferior to gold. This metal is identified with the Median Empire, which was originally formed in northwestern Iran by invading Aryans, but grew to stretch out from Turkey to Pakistan in the 600’s B.C. The bronze torso of the statue represented a kingdom that would take over the entire world. This referred to the Achaemenid Empire of the Persians, the largest and most powerful empire the world had seen up to that point, and which immediately succeeded the Median Empire after Cyrus the Great conquered it. The legs of the statue were said to have been made of iron, but it’s feet had toes that were mixed with clay. This symbolized the Macedonian Empire created by Alexander the Great, which took over after defeating the Persian Empire. This kingdom would break and smash things, just as iron breaks and smashes things, but just as the toes were mixed with clay, so too would the kingdom be mixed and divided. Like iron mixed with clay, the kingdom would be both strong and brittle, and because of this flaw, the stone cast would break the feet and cause the entire idol to collapse and shatter itself on the ground. The stone cast at the idol symbolized the spiritual kingdom set up by the God of heaven “that will endure forever.”

Although there has been some suggestions that the iron legs symbolized Rome, the identification with the Macedonian Empire is confirmed by another vision of four beasts which are also identified with the four kingdoms. The last of these beasts is said to have a horn that snaps off and was replaced by four horns, representing the early death of Alexander and the empire’s division between his four generals (8:20). The first of these four beasts is the griffon that turns into a human, iconic for the Chaldean Empire, and paralleling the hypothetical transformation of the lion-god into a man-god, as elaborated on in the first chapter of this book. These four beasts would later be paralleled by the four creatures worshipping before the throne of God in Revelations, which in turn would fuel St. Irenaeus’ arguments for the validity of there being only four true gospels. Irenaeus set each icon to one gospel, basing most of his reasoning on the words each gospel started with. But a spurious document attributed to the proponent of Orthodoxy in the Nicene Council, Athanasius, went on to give a different order for the icons, and both St. Augustine and St. Jerome followed suit, naming different identifications. The result is four possible iconic configurations of the four gospels.

The four eras of Hindu mythology were believed to have lasted considerably longer than “metallic” ages from Daniel and Greek mythology. The Satya Yuga, or “Truth Age,” for example, was believed to have lasted 1,780,000 years. The way of life as expressed in these four eras are just as pessimistic as that of Hesiod and Daniel though. After each age, one of the legs of the Dharma bull, symbolizing morality, is cut off. The four eras are named after dice throws from an ancient dice game popular during the Vedic period, and are divided into four, three, two, and one part respectively, with a total of 10 parts of 432,000 years each. All four eras total 4,320,000 years, or a single day in the life of Brahma, the god of heaven.

The Satya Yuga was a time ruled by gods, with all the pillars of religion were present in totality. Humans lived pure and happy lives of knowledge, meditation, and penance for 4,000 years. There was no need for trade or labor and no one was rich or poor. There was no disease, fear, sorrow, or hatred and everyone could attain supreme blessedness. Vishnu, the Hindu Enki, is said to have had four incarnations in the Satya Yuga, and three more in the subsequent era, the 1,296,000 year-long Tetra Yuga, or “Three-Part Age.” It was during this era that mental power was said to have been harnessed for the power of mankind. It’s moral system concentrated more on sacrifice than meditation. The Dvapara Yuga, or “Two-Part Age,” focuses it’s 864,000 years on worship. The age drops to 2,000 years due to the decline in sacrifices and readings of the Vedas, and the sacrifices that are done are often done for materialistic reasons. People in this age are valiant but competitive, courageous but also zealous. Without meditation or sacrifice, people concentrate only on penance and charity, and so deceit and conspiracy rule the age, and people suffer from disease. There is also a cycle of sin, suffering, penance, and redemption that goes on in this age, similar to what it found in the Old Testament.

The final era, the Kali Yuga, or “Dark Age,” is generally believed to have begun in January 23, 3102 B.C. and will last for 432,000 years, although there is some who hold the opinion that we are in or have gone back to the Dvapara Yuga. The term Kali, meaning black or dark, is also connected to a male demon of the Apocalypse with the same name, who is both the nemesis and negative manifestation of Vishnu. (This Kali is different from the Hindu goddess Kali Ma of Temple of Doom fame). During this dark age, the predominate moral system is believed to have shifted from worship to gift-giving, rulers are unreasonable and do not believe their duty is to protect people or promote spirituality, and instead become dangers to the world. Unfair taxes are levied and people must migrate to find wheat and barley. People are full of greed, wrath, and ignorance, and lust is seen as socially acceptable. Sex is seen as the central requirement of life, so even pre-teenage girls will get pregnant. People are led by emotions instead of logic and one hand deceives the other. The brave are seen as cowardly and vice-versa, while those who have a false reputation teach truth. People are weaker not just mentally and spiritually, but also physically, as the body becomes shorter and weaker. As sin increases, so does divine wrath, so that people who see these acts will have a choice of either submitting to God or disregarding it as a freak of nature.

Golden AgeSilver Age[Bronze AgeHeroic Age]Iron Age
Hesiod Kronos Zeus/Apollo Ogygian flood Deucalion flood Dorian
Sumerian Dilmun Eridu Shurrupuk Flood/KishUruk
Bible eras Eden Enoch Nephilim/Noah’s Flood David(?)
Ussher dating 4004 B.C. 3769 B.C. 2349 B.C. 1048 B.C.
Bahrain 2200-1600 B.C.
Archaeology Paleolithic Neolithic Copper/Bronze Age Iron Age
Dates 2,500,000 8,000 B.C. 4,500-3,000 B.C. 2,000-950
Palestine 90,000 B.C. 8,500 B.C. 3,500 B.C. 1,150 B.C.
Greece 20,000 B.C. 10-6,500 B.C. 3,000’s B.C. 1,050 B.C.
Iraq 10,000 B.C. 7,500 B.C. 3,100 B.C. 950 B.C.
St. Jerome 1,710 B.C. 1,674 B.C. 1,628 B.C. 1460 B.C. 1,103 B.C.
Yuga years 1,780,000 y.l. 1,296,000 y.l. 864,000 years long 3,102 B.C.
Yuga practice meditation sacrifice worship alms/gifts
Daniel: metals Chaldean Median Achaemenid (Persian) Macedonian
Daniel: dates 626-539 B.C. 606-550 B.C. 550-330 B.C. 330-168 B.C.
Daniel: beasts winged lion bear leopard horned beast
Revelation many-eyed lion bull man/angel eagle
St. Irenaeus John Luke Matthew Mark
“St. Athanasius” Luke Mark Matthew John
St. Augustus Matthew Luke Mark John
St. Jerome Mark Luke Matthew John

Finding the Real Eden

Even if Eden is only symbol for the nostalgia of a lost Golden Age of the mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t also a real place. Dilmun was not just some fantasy world invented by the Sumerians but was listed on ancient economic records. Ur-Nanshe, the first king of Lagash, writing from the early 2300’s B.C., tells how ships from Dilmun brought wood “as tribute from the foreign lands.” Later that century, Sharru-Kin, the first known emperor of history, boasted that he had annexed Dilmun into his Akkadian Empire. Later records spoke of imports from Dilmun consisting of gold, copper, lapus lazuli, ivory tables, beads of semi-precious stones, dates, onions, and “fish-eyes,” which may be pearls. Akkadian documents also spoke of caravans and messengers from Dilmun. In the 1200’s B.C., Tukulti-Ninurta referred to himself as king of Dilmun and Meluhhu (Meluhhu is usually associated with the Indus Valley). In the 700’s B.C., Sargon II, the king who would conquer Israel and scatter the lost tribes, also received tribute from a king of Dilmun named Uperi. Tribute taken from another king of Dilmun named Hundaru included copper, bronze, sticks of precious wood, and the ever-sinful kohl, used by the ancients for eyeliner.

Another story of an island paradise that once ruled the world has come down to us through Plato’s myth of Atlantis. Atlantis was said to have been a naval power that took over parts of western Europe and Africa in 9400 B.C. before an explosion sank the island beneath the ocean. Like Eden, it was said to have been centered at the source of four rivers. Genesis says that the Tigris and Euphrates were two of these rivers, although the rivers run from different sources today. However, the concept of four rivers coming from a common source is consistent with the Sumerian myth of Ziusudra and the Zoroastrian legend of pairidaeza, from which we get the word “paradise.” The Avestan term from Old Persia was also used to refer to enclosed parks, which matches with Plato’s description of Atlantis being walled off. The Hebrew word used for the Garden of Eden was gannah, which also means a covered or hidden place, a connotation that continues in the Arabic word jannah. Gardens in ancient times were usually protected by walled enclosures, which lends to the concept of Adam and Eve being “expelled” and unable to return. Arthurian legend also has King Arthur taken to a mysterious fairy island named Avalon after being fatally wounded by his son Mordred. The name Avalon itself is derived from the Celtic word abal, from which we get the word apple. The concept may derive from the otherworldly dimension Annwyn, which appears in many Welsh tales, including Arthurian ones. Tír na nÓg, the Land of Eternal Youth is largely believed to be the Irish equivalent: a land associated with the afterlife. The afore-mentioned island garden of Hesperides, in which Heracles retrieved golden apples of immortality as a part of his 11th labor, also holds many similarities to the British “Isle of Apples.”

Plato describes the massive island in his dialogue Timaeus:

“Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavored to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.”

Poseidon is said to have carved the inland mountain into a palace and enclosed it with three circular moats of differing width, each separated by rings of land of equivalent size, and connected by bridges on the north side of the mountain. Along the bridges was a great canal, made by carving great tunnels underneath the strips of land and lined with docks. A great wall surrounded each of the city’s rings, with each passage to the city fortified by gates and towers. Whether Atlantis was real or just invented by Plato was disagreed upon by ancient philosophers and historians, and even Aristotle believed it to be fiction.

Artist’s depiction of Plato’s Atlantis

The concept of the Lost Continent became increasingly popular in Europe during the middle of the 19th century. In 1864 A.D., the French traveler Augustus Le Plongeon wrote that he had translated the story of a lost continent of Mu from ancient Mayan writings. Mu, like Atlantis, was said to have sank and the survivors supposedly founded the Egyptian and then Mayan civilizations. The name Mu is generally believed to be a mistranslation from the “Troano manuscript” and his ideas have long been discredited. That same year the English geologist Philip Sclater theorized that the reason lemurs could be found in both Africa and India was because of a sunken land bridge which connected the two continents, which he dubbed Lemuria. The popularity of Darwinism had inspired many scientists to try and trace the of different species throughout the world, but the modern theory of continental drift has rendered the need for a Lost Continent obsolete.

A similar desire to “find Eden” seems to have manifested itself in America around the same time. Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, placed the Garden of Eden in what is now Jackson Country, Missouri, based on a revelation he had in 1830. According to the vision, Adam and Eve traveled 85 miles north to the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. This was in tandem with the Mormon prophet’s call to move the church from New York to the “New Jerusalem” and “center place” of Zion: Independence, Missouri. The church had that same year become formally organized had met with a great amount of local opposition. Settlement was rapid and many local Missourians began putting up resistance. The general public saw the group as a theocracy that bought up a lot of land, voted in large blocs, and held abolitionist beliefs. After being tarred and feathered in 1832 and becoming involved in a banking scandal in 1837, Smith himself moved from Kirtland, Ohio to Independence, Missouri in 1838. As he put it, this was done to “escape mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies.” The swelling in of people from Ohio and New York caused the Compromise of 1836 limiting Mormon expansion to Caldwell County to be broken and war soon broke out between the church and the state authority. After a small gun fight between Mormons and non-Mormons on Crooked River, Missouri’s governor, Lilburn Boggs, mustered a militia of 2,500 men and issued an Extermination Order to put down what he saw as an insurrection. The Mormons were forced to sign over their property to pay for the mustering of the militia and leave the state in their own Eden-like exile, while Smith and other leaders were held for trial.

Most of the refugees migrated to a new Mormon-founded city in Illinois named Nauvoo, where Smith himself escaped to after spending months in captivity. In 1842, Smith was made a Master Mason only one day after becoming initiated into Freemasonry, and in 1844, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. On June 10th of that year, he passed an ordinance as mayor of Nauvoo, in conjunction with the city council, to destroy the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper published by disaffected Mormons exposing some of the sect’s secret practices, including polygamy. Joseph Smith himself had married 33 women, and Brigham Young, the second “Prophet-President” after Smith’s son is recorded as having 52 wives. Smith’s actions were seen as violating freedom of the press, and he and some of his associates were brought up on charges. A week after passing the ordinance, a mob of 200 men stormed the jail Smith and his brother Hyrum were being held at. Smith was given a gun to defend himself, and after firing three shots, he tried to escape through a window but was shot multiple times and killed along with his brother. Construction of the Mormon temple in Nauvoo, which had begun in 1840, was finally finished in 1846, only 4 months before the church abandoned the city under mob threats. In 1852, 8 years after Smith’s death, the church for the first time publicly acknowledged the practice of polygamy, but retracted it 38 years later under threat of losing all their property to the federal government.

Although Joseph Smith’s identification of Eden with Jackson County, Missouri is not seriously considered by any Bible scholar outside the Mormon church, it gives a good example of how powerful a force the idea of returning to lost Golden Age was in the mid-19th century. Today, there are far more theories as to the location of these lost worlds, many of them producing an intriguing amount of evidence to back up their claims.

Here, I have devised a small list of sites that have been identified with Dilmun, Eden, or Atlantis:


The island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf is by far the most scholarly attested identification for Dilmun. This identification matches some Sumerian writings that describe the island as being three-day sail from Sumer, which certainly makes Gilgamesh’s long, arduous journey seem absurd. It’s not hard to imagine that the island paradise could have been the main influence behind the Garden of Eden as described in the first lines of the Yahwist (starting at 2:4b). The abundant water springs that have so greatly contributed to Dilmun’s fertility also provide a clear parallel with the verse in Genesis immediately preceding the creation of Adam in which, “streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground” (2:6). Although there is no evidence that Dilmun ever sank beneath the Persian Gulf, the island of Bahrain did break away from the Mainland around 6000 B.C.

From the 2300’s on, Bahrain had a trade monopoly in copper, diamonds, and timber between the Sumerians and the Indus Valley. Archaeological excavations have brought up flint tools and weapons from Neolithic times and one of the largest necropolis’ ever discovered, with around 170,000 burial mounds dated to the 2000’s. Civilization in Bahrain began some time between 3500 and 2500, and reached it’s peak around 2000. Large amounts of Ubaid pottery, coming from the culture that either founded or preceded Sumerian civilization have been found on Bahrain. Further excavations of Ubaid pottery further south along the Persian Gulf show trade links between Bahrain, Iraq, and Arabia. Special “Persian Gulf” style seals have been found in these same three places, and organized trade is also evident in their identical weight and measuring systems. Trade items are similar to those found in Sumerian trade lists: timber, ivory, gold, lapus lazuli, glazed beads, and pearls. In return, Bahrain received silver, tin, woolen textiles, olive oil, and grains. Bahrain’s abundant source of pearls was it’s primary economic base until the 1900’s A.D., when oil was discovered there and manmade cultured pearls were invented. Trade appears to have ceased starting with Hammurabi’s Old Babylonian empire, which conquered Sumer and Akkad in the 1700’s B.C.

In 600 B.C., Bahrain became part of the Chaldean, or New Babylonian Empire, in which records speak of Bahrain as the “Life of Eternity” and “Paradise.” Dilmun then declined due to the drop in the copper trade and substituted the less profitable trade in spices and frankincense. During the time of Alexander the Great it was known as Tylos. After experiencing Hellenistic, Zoroastrian, Nestorian, and Manichian influences in the 600’s A.D., the population largely converted to Islam, some say by Mohammed himself. The modern name Bahrain itself comes from a Zoroastrian divinity Varahrdn, who symbolized Victory. In 899, a millenarian offshoot of the Ismaili Shi’ites, called the Qarmatians, took control of the country and tried to create a utopian society based on communism. They were able to collect tribute from the caliph of Baghdad and even sacked Mecca and Medina, stealing the sacred Black Stone of Mecca and holding it for ransom on the island until they were defeated in 976 by the Abbasids.


One likely location for the cedar forests of the Sumerian “Land of the Living” from the original Gilgamesh texts is Lebanon. In one version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Humbaba is referred to someone whose words made all of Mount Saria tremble, and Saria is the Akkadian name for Mount Hermon in Lebanon. Even today, Lebanon is best known for it’s once vast forests of cedar trees, a symbol which appears at the center of Lebanon’s red and white flag. However, centuries of foresting without replanting has depleted the mountainous country’s once prized resource. The Old Testament routinely refers to Lebanon’s cedar trees, which have been forested since ancient times for boat wood. Homer, Plato, and Pliny the Elder have also given descriptions of the cedar forests, attributing to the forests’ ancient fame. As described in the case of Solomon, the wood was often ferried from Tyre or Sidon down to Egypt or Palestine, or taken down river to Babylon. If King Bilgames’ needed to get wood for Uruk’s construction projects, following the Euphrates up to Syria and Lebanon along the fertile crescent would have been the ideal way of going about it. This may have set a precedent followed by later Babylonian and Chaldean kings, including the king who conquered Judah, Nebuchadnezzar. In Isaiah, a taunt is written out for the day that Nebuchadnezzar dies, in which “all the lands are at peace… singing” and “even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say, ‘Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes to cut us down.’” (14:8). If a link can be made between the temples that Gilgamesh were said to have built in the Land of the Living and the Melqart temples spoken of by Herodotus, then this would provide another link to Lebanon and perhaps explain the “journeys” that Elijah ridiculed Ba’al for. If Lebanon was the final location of the original ark of Ziusudra as Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld implies, then it could be that this was the original “land of the ever-living” and that these qualities of immortality were transferred to Dilmun when the island of Bahrain went through it’s economic “Golden Age” some 400 years after the reign of Bilgames’.


In his book, The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, written in 1963, Kramer argued that the Sumerians may have originated from the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley and that it is also a likely identification for Dilmun. Kramer points to the reference in the Eridu Genesis that says Dilmun is the “place where the sun rises.” The sun god Utu was also said to “rise from the land of aromatics and cedar,” which implies that the Land of the Living was not the south as Bahrain is, or the northwest as Lebanon is, but to the east. A lament for Dumuzi also says: “My shoulder is the cedar, my breast is the cypress, my … is the consecrated cedar. The cedar, the consecrated of Hashur, the shade of Dilmun.” This gives further evidence that the Land of the Living was the original Dilmun and that the name was later associated with Bahrain. Kramer also points to an inscription made by king Lugalannemundu of Adab from 2400 B.C. which lists the lands that ruled over as including: the Cedar Land, Elam, Marhashi, Gutium, Subir, Martu, Sutium, and E-Anna. All the names on this list move from southwestern Iran up to Assyria and then back down to southern Mesopotamia. This would imply that “the Cedar Land” was east of Elam. The Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta claimed the title “King of Dilmun and Meluhha.” Kramer points out that this may be reminiscent of the title “king from India to Ethiopia” used in the Book of Esther. Although Meluhha can not be positively identified with Ethiopia, Africa has been one suggested possibility. The Assyrian King Assurbanipal wrote that he had marched against Meluhha and Magan. Magan is another land mentioned in Sumerian inscriptions that is normally identified with Oman, on the southeastern coast of the Arabian peninsula.

Two other minor connections between Sumer and the Indus Valley can also be added onto Kramer’s arguments: a Dumuzi/Tammuz cult was known to have been practiced by the Dravidian king Tammuzh of the Pandyan kingdom, whose capital was Kuadam in southern India, and the Greek poet Nannus, who lived some time around the late 300’s or 400’s A.D., and wrote a 48-book epic called the Dionysica in which Dionysus travels to India. Nannus also wrote a paraphrased version of the Gospel of John, prompting many to believe that he was a pagan who later converted to Christianity. Tacitus also records a tradition of Bacchus conquering “the East.”

In his book, Kramer also brings up the question as to how is it that if the Sumerian literature had become so important as to be an influence for Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, and the Song of Songs, that the Sumerians themselves escape mention in the Bible. The obscure term “Shinar” has often be identified with that of Sumer, but scholars have found that the term better describes all of Sumer and Akkad, which Sumerians referred to as “Sumer-Akkad.” Kramer cites a different answer suggested by his teacher and colleague, Arno Poebel: that the name Shem is derived from Sumer. This would mean that the name given for the Semitic races ultimately derives from the name given to southern Iraqis by northern Akkadians. The name the Sumerians gave themselves, Saggiga, or “black-headed ones,” died along with the rest of their language by the first century A.D.

How the word evolved can be explained by linguistic means. The transformation from S- to Sh- is normal in Semitic languages. The u in cuneiform is also very often replaced by an e in Hebrew, just like in the Akkadian word shumu, which, like the Hebrew word shem, means “name.” The dropped -er is explained by what Kramer refers to as the Sumerian grammatical law of “admissibility of final consonants.” This law says that the final constant in a Sumerian word is not pronounced unless a grammatical particle is attached to the end of it, such as -a, meaning “in [the noun],” or -e, meaning “by [the noun].” Thus, the word Sumer would be pronounced Shum unless one of these vowel particles was attached, as in “Shumera,” which would mean “in Sumer.” Karmer uses the term “in Ur” as an example, which could be written in long form as “Urim,“ but instead appears in the Bible under it’s short form, Ur. Some modern scholars, however, have more recently brought a greater amount of skepticism in identifying “Ur of the Chaldees” with the Ur of the Chaldean Empire as English scholars from the 1800’s did.

Santorini and Crete:

One of the most popular theories on the location of Atlantis is on Santorini, within the Mediterranean Sea itself, just north of Crete. Crete had been the center of Europe’s ancient Minoan civilization, which flourished between 2700 and 1450 B.C. The sinking of Atlantis is believed to have come from the massive volcanic eruption in Santorini that occurred over 3500 years ago. This explosion was the largest on earth in thousands of years and caused the volcano to collapse in on itself. Before the Minoan eruption, the caldera formed a nearly continuous ring with the only entrance between the tiny island of Aspronisi and Thera. This makes the unique geography of the island very similar to Plato’s account. Plato also said that Atlantis went to war with Athens, and Crete is closer to Athens than the far-west location “beyond the pillars of Heracles” that Plato has. In Greek myth, King Minos waged war on Athens and won, forcing them to send seven maidens to be sacrificed every nine years. This parallels the war Plato speaks of between Crete and Atlantis. At the third sacrifice in the story, the Athenian hero Theseus went to Crete and slew the Minotaur.

The “Thera eruption” destroyed two sections of the ring and created new channels between Aspronisi, Therasia, and Thera. The event is believed to have created giant tsunamis that struck Crete and brought a decisive blow to the Minoan culture. However, there is scholarly conflict on when exactly the eruption occurred. Dendrochronological research, radiocarbon dating, and Greenland ice core findings indicate that the eruption occurred between 1650 and 1600 B.C. But archaeological evidence of the Minoan decline seems to indicate that the eruption occurred some time between 1550 and 1500 B.C. Dating the eruption earlier would require a revising of the well-established conventional Egyptian chronology. However, the eruption has also been correlated with the collapse of the Xia dynasty in China, and according to Bamboo Annals, this collapse occurred around 1618 B.C., accompanied by a “yellow fog, a dim sun, then three suns, frost in July, famine, and the withering of all five cereals,” a fair description of a volcanic winter. Egyptian records show civilization had returned to Crete by the 1300’s B.C., when pharaoh Amenhotep III sent an emissary to some of it‘s cities.

Santorini Island’s distinctive shape came about from the Thera Eruption

Excavations in the Santorinian city of Akrotiri in 1967 by the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos uncovered large structures, some three stories high with stone staircases. The excellent masonry and rooms filled with fine wall paintings, all of which remained highly preserved under the volcanic ash, showed that the site contained a very wealthy and sophisticated culture. The town maintained a highly complex drainage system that included toilets with running water and a dual pipe system indicating the ability to pump both hot and cold water. The origin of the heat may have come from the same geothermic activity that would ultimately bring an end to the Minoan civilization.

Minoan religion was matriarchal. With a few possible exceptions, all Minoan figurines found are female. Goddess figurines are often represented with snakes, birds, or poppies. Some figurines appear to represent either different goddesses or multiple representations of the same goddess. There is a fertility goddess, a mistress of animals, a goddess for the city, the household, the harvest, the underworld, and others. Ancestry was recorded through a matrilineal line instead of through fathers and sons. Women wore robes that opened to leave their navel and breasts exposed, with short sleeves and layered flounced skirts, while men wore loincloths and kilts. A Minoan temple has never been found but over 300 Minoan cave shrines have been discovered throughout Crete.

Both the snake and the bull were used in sacred Minoan symbolism, along with the tree, the sun-disk, the pillar, and the labyrs, or double-headed axe, from which the name Labyrinth derives it’s name. Snake worship and snake-related magic was a popular fixture of the ancient Middle East. Archaeological work in Arabia has shown temples dedicated to snake worship from 1250 B.C. to 550 A.D. Two rooms in Bahrain’s “Late Dilmun Palace” hold nearly 40 pits, surrounding what may be an altar, most of which contain snakes that were placed in a bag and a ceramic bowl and then buried. One of the oldest Semitic scripts ever found is a nearly-5,000-year-old magic spell to keep snakes away from the tomb of an ancient Egyptian king, buried in a pyramid south of Cairo. The bull totem, in turn, was the foundation of Sumerian, Akkadian, and Canaanite religion, and was worshipped in Egypt as the Apis bull. The sun-disk, the symbol behind the worship of Atum-Ra in ancient Heliopolis, would later provide inspiration for Akhenaten’s monotheistic Aten cult during Egypt’s New Kingdom.

Minoan Snake goddess from Crete dated to 1600 B.C.

An elaborate ruin in Knossos, Crete, was discovered in 1878 A.D. by a Cretan merchant and antiquarian named, fittingly enough, Minos Kalokairinos. The ruin, called the Palace of Minos, was a religious and administrative center that is believed to be the source behind the labyrinth. The palace contains over 1000 interlocking rooms, forming a maze-like complex that includes artisan workrooms, centers for food processing and wine-pressing, and a center court where youths of both sexes would practice bull-leaping.

Bull-leaping Fresco, Court of the Stone Spout in Knossos

There may also be some relation between Minoan religion and the Egyptian bull-god Min, who was worshipped even in pre-dynastic times, before 3100 B.C. In his Histories, Herodotus writes that the priests of Heliopolis claimed Min was the first ruler of Egypt. Egyptian records of it’s first ruler, the Scorpion King, indicate that he worshipped Min. The legend of Atlantis was said to have originally come from an Egyptian priest, who related the story in the 500’s B.C. to one of the founders of Athenian Democracy, the Greek lawgiver Solon. Martin Bernal, a Professor Emeritus of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies, has made several arguments for a relation between Minoan religion and the Egyptian cult of Min. In Egypt, Min was said to have had a white bull consecrated to him. In Greek myth, the minotaur was born from King Minos’ wife copulating with a white bull after King Minos refused to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon. The portrayal of the minotaur as a human with a bull’s head also parallels the Egyptian style of showing gods as humans with animal heads. In Greek myth, King Minos became a judge of the underworld after his death. This seems to fit in with the role of Egyptian god Osiris, who also dies and becomes a judge in the afterlife. However, Bernal’s theories have not been generally accepted among Classical scholars and he has been sharply criticized by many linguists.

During the New Kingdom of Egypt, priests were to chant, “Hail to thee, Min, who impregnates his mother! How mysterious is that which you have done to her in the darkness!”, as the pharaoh copulated with the queen. The line brings to mind Enlil carrying away his mother, Ki, at the separation of the An-Ki, and impregnates the earth to form Summer and Winter. Min was often portrayed with an erect phallus, which probably explains why he was identified with Pan by the Greeks. Christians routinely defaced the monuments to Min in temples that were co-opted. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, written in the early 1300’s A.D., Minos judges the sins of each soul and assigns it to its rightful punishment by indicating the circle to which it must descend. Joseph Smith is said to have identified the phallic Min with God, causing a great controversy in his own time.

One of the biggest problems with identifying Santorini with Atlantis is that it greatly contradicts descriptions given by Plato. Plato said that Atlantis was past the “Pillars of Hercules,” in the Atlantic Ocean, from which the island gets it’s name. The sinking of Atlantis was also said to have occurred almost 8,000 years earlier, although any event from that long ago had a far less chance of being remembered. It’s been argued that because Egyptians used a lunar calendar and the Greeks a solar one that 9,000 years might have been mistranslated from 9,000 months, or 700 years, putting it in the 1400’s, putting it near the end of Minoan civilization but a little late for the Santorini explosion. Atlantis is also described as being 10 times larger than Crete, and this is has been argued as coming from another mistranslation, although it would be far more unlikely. Other criticisms include that ancient Greeks were aware of volcanoes and would have specifically described the destruction of Atlantis as such, but it must be remembered that the ultimate source is most likely Egypt, not Greece, and the Santorini explosion was significantly larger than most volcanic eruptions.

Although Santorini is usually connected to Atlantis rather than Eden, one of our sources for the historical Jesus, Tacitus, repeats a tradition that makes Crete the original homeland of the Jews as well. In Book V of The Histories, Tacitus writes that the Jews were originally “refugees from the island of Crete who settled on the remotest corner of Libya in the days when, according to the story, Saturn was driven from his throne by the aggression of Jupiter.” Writing from the early 100’s A.D., the Roman senator also says that it was deduced that the name ‘Judaei’ had come from a “barbarous lengthening of ‘Idaei,’ the name of the people dwelling around the famous Mount Ida in Crete.” Although “many” gave assurances that the Jews came from Ethiopia, others identified the Jews with the Solymi of southern Turkey, deriving the name of Jerusalem from ‘Hiero-Solyma’ or ‘holy place of the Solymi.’ Tacitus admits all of this was a matter of debate, but according to him, most authorities in Tacitus’ time agreed that the Jews were originally expelled from Egypt into the wilderness under the advice of an oracle of Hammon (or Amen) because they carried a plague with them. “But one of them, who was called Moses, urged his companions not to wait passively for help from god or man, for both had deserted them: they should trust their own initiative and to whatever guidance first helped them to extricate themselves from their present plight.” The Pharaoh who expelled them is listed as Bocchoris, who has been identified with Bakare from the 700’s B.C., but this is far too late. Moses is said to have built channels of water to quench the thirst of the Israelites, paralleling the “water from stone” miracle stories in the Torah. It is said they traveled for six days without rest and expelled the inhabitants of Canaan and took over their lands on the seventh. Fasting is said to commemorate the hunger they endured and the Sabbath was set aside to mark the end of their toils.

The Ipuwer papyrus, discovered in Egypt, describes natural disasters and the state of social collapse, in which the rich become poor and poor rich, and speaks a “river of blood” reminiscent of one of the Ten Plagues of Egypt in Exodus. It’s be argued that these natural disasters were a result of the Santorini explosion, although the document may be much older, having been dated as coming from 2000 to 1600 B.C. The collapse of the Minoan civilization brought about the more patriarchal Mycenaean civilization, which flourished from 1600 to 1100 B.C. Some time around 1400, Mycenaean culture dominated Crete and adapted the Minoan language into what is now called Linear B, an early form of Greek.

Although Eden has rarely been pictured in art or oral tradition as being destroyed by fire, a reference in Ezekiel gives this when he criticizes the greatness of the king of Egypt by comparing his kingdom’s stability with that of Assyria and Lebanon: “Because of it, I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field were withered away. I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to She’ol [the underworld] with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, all the trees that were well-watered, were consoled in the earth below. Those who lived in its shade, its allies among the nations, had also gone down to She’ol [the underworld] with it, joining those killed with the sword.” (31:15). After Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden in the Book of Genesis, God is said to have “stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (3:24). Looking being the symbolic imagery of the Yahwist, this “flaming sword” that “turns in every direction” may have been meant as a description of the pillar of lava sent most of Santorini “down to She’ol.”

Southern Iraq:

One of the more popular sites identified as the original location of the Garden of Eden is the marshlands of southern Iraq. The swampy waterways make for a tempting connection with the streams that “came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.” The Tigris and Euphrates being two of Eden’s four rivers also makes Iraq the most obvious location for the Garden of Eden, but there remains a large problem in this identification. The other two rivers, the Gihon and the Pishon, which both mean “gushing,” can not be positively identified, and the traditions behind their locations put them far from the Mesopotamian rivers.

Southern marshland of Iraq

The first river, the Gihon, is said to have encircled the entire land of Kush. This name has a long tradition of being identified with the kingdom of Kush, on the Nile south of Egypt. The African land of Kush, which today is in Ethiopia, was heavily influenced by the Egyptians and the people there even built pyramids like them. The Kush were also frequently invaded by Egypt and once conquered Egypt themselves, but were eventually replaced by the Nubians from modern Sudan. Historical research done on the Nubian language group suggest that this happened before 500 B.C. Kush is also one of the sons of Ham, along with Mizraim (Egypt), Put (Libya or Somalia), and Canaan. King Tirhakah of Kush in 2 Kings can be identified with the Ethiopian King Taharqa from the mid-600’s B.C. The Septuagint also identifies Kush as being Ethiopia. In the apocryphal Book of Jasher, Moses flees not to Arabia but to the land of Kush, where he leads an army to victory against Aram. But Josephus and the Alexandrian Jew Artapanus both repeat traditions that say Moses fought a war against Kush. Josephus identifies Gihon with the Nile, while Ethiopian Christians have a tradition identifying it with the Abay River, also called the Blue Nile, which flows out from Ethiopia’s Lake Tana and runs west, feeding into the Nile. The quote in Jeremiah that “Can a Kushite change his color?” assumes that Kushites had a remarkably different skin color, which would be consistent with Ethiopians (13:23).

However, since the Tigris and Euphrates run from north to south and the Nile runs from south to north, giving them the same river source as the Tigris and Euphrates presents geographical problems no matter what century you‘re in. There have been arguments that in some instances the Biblical Kush is referring to Arabia instead, but this is not definitive. Modern Arabic scholars from the 1800’s connected the river to Hindu Kush, in Afghanistan. Other suggestions include that it’s derived from the Akkadian city of Kish, or the empire of the Kassites, who were referred to in inscriptions as Kashshi, and began their empire in Iraq around 1600 B.C. The New International Version of the Bible gives southeast Mesopotamia as it’s sole suggestion. That the river has since disappeared is of course another possibility.

The second river is the Pishon, which is said to weave through the golden land of Havilah. In the Table of Nations, one of the descendants of Shem is named Havilah, a son of Joktan (10:29). Joktan is generally identified with the ancient town of Jectan, near Mecca, and all of his other sons are have been linked to locations in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia. This gives the river a strong association with Arabia. Although there is no river there today that can be identified with the Pishon, the use of satellite imagery has brought about the discovery of an ancient dry riverbed that ran across Arabia and ended in the Persian Gulf. Ironically, modern Arabic scholars have instead identified the Pishon with the Amu Darya, which runs from Uzbekistan to northern Afghanistan, since the river was known as Jayhun in Arabic antiquity.

The southern marshlands of Iraq are home the Ma’dan, or Marsh Arabs, who claim to be descended from the Sumerians. These marshlands were drained in the 80’s by Saddam Hussein in retaliation against the Shi’ite majority during the Iran/Iraq war, and then again during uprisings connected to the first Gulf War. Massive dams were created in order to create a third Iraqi river called the Saddam, which was ostensibly for agricultural purposes but was actually designed to uproot and destroy the southern tribes who were sheltering Shi’ite rebels. The plans may have found their inspiration behind British plans from the 50’s to create agricultural land but were greatly expanded on in order to purposely decimate the 5,000 year old ecosystem. No cultivatable land was ever created out of the project.

The ecological disaster caused the desertification of over 12,000 square miles of marshland, disrupting the food supply throughout all of southern Iraq, especially in the realm of fish, rice, and dairy products. Bird and fish populations plummeted and over 300,000 Marsh Arabs were forced to evacuate their homes and become refugees. Fine underwater sediments covered the land and turned up huge dust storms, causing some cities to plow the dust like snow to keep the streets clear. The dams were breached after the 2003 invasion, allowing about 20% of the original marsh to return. However, there is little chance for a full restoration as Turkey and Iran have also cut the river’s flow to the marsh. Many areas have also been poisoned by the high concentrations of selenium that was left over from the drainage.

Northwestern Iran:

One theory to the location of Eden, advanced by the rock musician-turned-Egyptologist, David Rohl, is that it’s location is in northwestern Iran, near Armenia and Eastern Turkey. Rohl identifies the Biblical Pishon with the river Uizhun in Kurdistan, pointing out that the land is also associated with gold and that the Uizhun, or Qezel Uzun, is known locally as the Golden River. The river moves through ancient gold mines and lodes of lapis lazuli, which is consistent with the gemstone themes that run throughout Sumerian, Greek, and Enochian myth. Rohl identifies the Gihon with the Aras river in Turkey, which flows into the Caspian Sea. Eden’s location places itself with the Euphrates to the west, the Tigris to the southwest, the Aras to the east, and the Uizhun to the southeast.

David Rohl’s theory of Eden’s original location

Rohl hypothesizes that the name Eden, which means “delight” in Hebrew, is derived from the Sumerian word edin and Akkadian edinu, meaning “plain” or “steppe.” Sumerian writings do refer to the fertile lands between the Tigris and Euphrates as the “valley of E-din.” However, another suggestion made by a professor of Hebrew languages, Allen Millard is that the root of the word comes from the Semitic stem dn, meaning “lush” or “abundant.” The heavy forests also make it a possible location for Cedar Land. An identification with Iran would also be consistent with the theme in the story of Enmerkar’s messenger crossing of seven mountains in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta. This metaphysical crossing over is paralleled in the seven gates to the underworld, Kur, a word meaning mountain and was also shared by the Iran’s mountainous river. It also fits a more traditional Biblical view of placing Mount Ararat on the northeast border of Turkey. Rohl identifies Eden as the plain east of Sahand, a dormant volcano that’s one of the highest mountains in Iran. Rohl argues that the marshlands to the west of the volcano and the “Land of Nod” to the east form a geographic wall around the garden. The four biblical rivers flow to the West, Southwest, East and Southeast of the garden.

David Rohl is also known for hypothesizing an alternate chronology for the New Kingdom of Egypt which places the reign of Akhenaten over 300 years after it’s commonly accepted date of 1353 to 1334 B.C. Rohl bases his “New Chronology” primarily on a solar eclipse recorded in the Ugarit during Akhenaten’s reign that he calculated could only have appeared in 1012. Rohl suggests that the 21st and 22nd dynasties of Egypt were contemporary with one another based on the absence of steles for the Apis Bull in the temple of Serapis from the 21st dynasty. Rohl also points to a non-royal Egyptian genealogy that insinuates a later dating for Ramses the Great. The traditional chronology, however, retains three strong foundations. The first is that the Biblical Shishaq should be identified with the Egyptian Shosenq I. Rohl instead identifies Shishaq with Ramses the Great. The second is the Ebers papyrus, which records the helical rising of the Sirius star in the 9th year of Amenhotep I, which sets the year to 1542 or 1517. Rohl suggests that the Ebers papyrus is misread and sees it as an attempt to reform the Egyptian calendar. The third is the Leiden papyrus I.350, which records lunar observations during the 52nd year of Ramses, which Rohl argues could have been observed 300 years later as well. The New Chronology would also force historians to revise the chronology of both the Hittites and the Assyrians.


In 1987, a Japanese marine explorer, Kihachiro Aratake, accidentally discovered a very strange pyramid-shaped structures beneath the waters of Yonaguni island. A group of scientists led by Masaaki Kimura of the University of Ryukyus did an extensive study of the monument and concluded that they were manmade. Analyses done on one of the structures shows it to between 8,000 and 10,000 years old, around the same time as Atlantis, and older than any structures known to have existed in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, or India. Thus, if the monument was manmade, it would be evidence of an early unknown civilization that achieved a sophistication unparalleled by the cultures that would come to follow it. However, because no tools or fossils have been found on the site, many historians and archaeologists believe that the structures are natural products of ocean erosion and coral reef settlements. Some geologists have pointed to similar rock structures with right angles that have occurred in nature. Most importantly, the entire structure is composed entirely of living bedrock and has not been constructed out of separate blocks of rock. The structures themselves, however, look very intricate. Other explorers, however, have found that the heavy coating of algae, corals, and sponges makes the monument appear more homogeneous than it actually is. Although the Yonaguni is now an island, it once formed a land bridge between Taiwan, Ryukyu, Japan, and Asia during the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.

Underwater rock structure found beneath Yonaguni Island in Japan

Staircase-like structure at Yoniguni
Structure at Yonaguni

Israel and the Sinai:

Jaime Manuschevich argues that over 12,000 years ago, Israel and the Sinai formed an island caused by the seismic shifting of the Great Rift Valley, and that the Atlantis civilization corresponds to the Natufian civilization, whose capital was Jericho. The Natufian culture was originally discovered and linked to Jericho by Kay Kenyon, an archaeologist from the University of London in the 1950’s. The remains she found were dated their civilization to 10,500 B.C. The Natufian culture is also known as being among the first to domesticate dogs, shown by dog burials in Northern Israel dated to 10,000 B.C. Manuschevich sites archaeological reports that link the grains first used by the Natufians to the same kind of farming elements present in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, arguing that farming first originated from the Natufians.

Ireland and Dogger Bank:

In 2004, the Swedish geographer Dr. Ulf Erlingsson released a book hypothesizing that Plato’s Atlantis can be linked to the Megalithic tomb culture of Ireland. The culture is marked by tombs built throughout Europe and the Mediterranean in the Neolithic period. Erlingsson argues that Ireland is similar to Atlantis in both side and landscape as described by Plato, and unlike most other Atlantis candidates, Ireland is actually in the Atlantic Ocean. Erlingsson suggests that the legend that Atlantis sank came from the Dogger Bank in the North Sea sinking around 6100 B.C. This was caused by a massive tsunami brought on by one of the largest recorded landslides recorded below it’s banks in combination with a receding Ice Age. The North Sea contains several lands that were once above water, some of which have also been identified with Atlantis, such as Heligoland. The Oera Linda Book, which came to light in 1867 A.D. but claims to have been written in 1256, places a land called Atland in the North Sea which was destroyed in 2194 B.C. Paleolithic hunting artifacts, along with mammoth and rhinoceros teeth have been found on the submerged sandbank. Nothing in terms of a city has been found on Dogger Bank, but Erlingsson suggests that the concept of an Atlantean city came from a legend that must have centered around the sight of a meteorite impact crater at the base of Dogger Bank.

Adding to the possibility that Ireland is the original Eden is the high probability in being identified with the Arthurian Avalon, another magical realm that holds parallels with the “land of the gods” motif. Avalon may come from the Brythonic word, Annwyn, the realm of fairies and the underworld, but Geoffrey of Monmouth translated the word to mean “isle of apples,” which is more likely since aval means apple in Breton and Cornish. The theme of a magical island filled with apple trees parallels that of the Isle of Dilmun, the Garden of Hesperides, and the Garden of Eden.

A Welsh poem written around the 900’s A.D., The Spoils of Annwyn, tells how Arthur went to Annwyn to recover a magical cauldron that may be ancient version of the holy grail from a crystal tower, repeating the line that only seven men returned from the ordeal as a refrain. In the Mabinogion, written some time after 1000, a giant named Bran the Blessed is also said to have gone after a magical cauldron with life-giving powers, this time in Ireland, and like Arthur, only seven men returned from the expedition. A book of Irish mythology written in the 800’s century called the Book of Invasions tells of the ancestors of the Irish people coming upon a glass tower in the middle of the ocean, inhabited by a people called the Milesians who do not speak to them, paralleling how Arthur has a problem speaking to the sentinel in Spoils of Annwyn. The Irish attack and only one ship survives the battle, similar to how Bran and Arthur lost most of their forces.


Two authors named Flying Eagle and Whispering Wood released a book in 2003 named Atlantis Motherland putting forth the hypothesis that Atlantis was located in the Sea of Azov, a northern section of the Black Sea off the Ukraine. They suggest that tectonic evidence shows that there was a massive earthquake in Kerch brought about a great flood that destroyed much of Greece around 9600 B.C., at the same time Plato places the sinking of Atlantis.


The visions of paradise recorded by Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Platonists are so similar that it is hard not to believe they are talking about the same place. And yet, surveying the landscape of Dilmun, Eden, and Atlantis theories, we find that one particular site can be a better candidate for one paradise while another site is better identified with a different paradise. From this situation another possibility arises: that many different places have become identified with this world myth. In comparing different Sumerian and Babylonian myths, it looks as if the concept moved from Cedar Land to the island of Dilmun. Even if the location of the Sumerian paradise could reveal the ultimate origin of their race, the concept of the garden paradise might still have been borrowed from an earlier culture that had meant for it to represent a completely different place. The Yahwist may have taken the concept of the four rivers surrounding Eden, which is almost universal, and added the names of rivers that had contributed to the culture that the ancient shepherds of Judah had inherited. In this case, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Nile, and a lost Arabian river would be ideal candidates even if they were not geographically close. Plato’s Atlantis brings up even greater problems, and is more likely than the others to have ultimately derived from a different source. Of course, there has always been the contention that Eden and Atlantis were never meant to be a truly historical physical locations but were originally only literary devices. I find this contention unlikely for the same reasons that I consider a fictional Jesus or a fictional Arthur to be unlikely. The real problem with identifying the mythical with the historical is not the lack of historical congruencies but the overabundance of them. Just as representatives of Christ can be seen throughout time, from Dumuzi, Enoch, and Melchizedek to Orpheus, the Teacher of Righteousness, and Jesus Ben Ananus, so too can be seen the mythical “Golden Age” be seen as representing different places to different people at different times. It may be that the original Eden belongs to none of these places mentioned but a completely different place from prehistoric times and that the recurrent themes of a garden paradise, four rivers, immortality, have spread from it to multiple cultures that in turn identified it other places that better fit that culture’s myth of origin. For example, although we have seen that certain themes of Eden such as immortality and painless pregnancy are ultimately based on the Sumerian conception of Dilmun, other elements, like its destruction from flame as spoken of in Ezekiel, may have come through Golden Age legends about the Santorini explosion. Seeing as nearly every Eurasian culture has retained some form of the myth, it’s possible that they all descend from a common story that has been retold and reinterpreted into other places in various eras throughout history.