Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eden Was a Well-Watered Region

Henry Breasted's map of the Fertile Crescent. He coined the term "Fertile Crescent."

Alice C. Linsley

According to the Genesis 2 description, Eden was a vast well-watered region that corresponds to the Fertile Crescent shown on the map above. This is the home of the biblical Hebrew who dispersed out of Africa in Canaan, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Iraq, and Anatolia.

In the garden of Eden narratives, we find clues as to the cultural contexts of the narrators. The term Eden derives from the Akkadian term edinu, which refers to a fertile plain or a well-watered region. The Hebrew word gan (garden) is related to the Kushite term egàn, which refers to a virgin forest.

Cain moved "east of Eden" (Gen. 4:15) and his descendants are found in the land of Kenan/Kenites, which is the land of Canaan, or כנען, pronounced kena'an.

Cain was a sent-away son who established his territory "east of Eden" which is to say that he moved away from his brother Seth who is associated with the Upper Nile Valley. (See An Anthropologist Looks at Genesis 5.)

The phrase "east of Eden" in the Hebrew text is "quimat-Eden" and appears to be a Nilotic reference. Originally, the word was probably qma, and ancient Egyptian word that refers to bulrushes. So it is possible that Cain went to the place of bulrushes, which would be the Nile Valley. In Exodus 2:1-10, we read the story of how Moses; mother hid her infant in the bulrushes of the Nile.

Perhaps Eden simply refers to a well-watered region, just as the Hebrew word gihon (Genesis 2) refers to a gushing spring. One of the rivers that bounded Eden to the south is called the Gihon. It is likely one of the rivers at the source of the Nile in the Ethiopian highlands. The earliest human populations settled by major water sources which sustained them.

Abraham's ancestors were Nilotes and Proto-Saharans

The book of Genesis contains the oldest layers of information about Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors who ruled territories along the Nile when the Sahara was wet (Neolithic Subpluvial). At that time the water systems of the Sahara were larger and interconnected.  This has been confirmed by geological and hydrological studies of Central Africa and by discovery of proto-Saharan petroglyphs of boats and cows.

It has also been attested by the discovery of an 8000-year black mahogany dugout in Dufuna in the Upper Yobe valley along the Komadugu Guna River in Northern Nigeria. The Dufuna boat (shown above) is about 2500 years older than the oldest known boat in Egypt.

The area shaded in red is the location of biblical Eden. It was said to be a well-watered area. Today this is one of the driest regions on earth, but during Noah's time and before it was vastly wetter. Abraham's ancestors came from this region. It is the point of origin of the Abrutu or Habiru (Hebrew) who preserved for us in a biblical record the traditions, beliefs, and practices of their ancestors.

Biblical Eden had forests, sustained large herds in the grasslands.
The region was well watered by extensive, inter-connected water systems
including the Nile, Lake Chad, Lake Victoria and the Benue-Niger Trough

Mega-Nile was once comparable in surface area to Lake Michigan (22,394 sq miles) in the US, Lake Tanganyika (12,703 sq miles) in East Africa, and Lake Baikal (12,248 sq miles) in Siberia. Here is the latest information on the vast expanse of the Nile during the last interglacial period.

Between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago the Nile filled with waters from the Angolan Highlands. Before this time, the streams of the Ugandan highlands flowed west to join the Congo River, which drains into the Atlantic. Geological uplift about 12,000 years ago tilted the region to create Lake Victoria and direct its excess flow north into the White Nile. The waters of the White Nile provide most of the Nile's water during the dry season. Essentially the entire Albertine Rift was a vast flood plain extending 3,700 miles from Syria to central Mozambique.

Likewise, the now dry Botswanan lake basin in southern Africa was once a sea, filled by water from the Angolan Highlands. Thousands of manmade stone tools have been found in the area dating to between 80,000 and 100,000 years.

Between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago Lake Chad filled its present drainage basin and spilled southwest out the Benue River to the Atlantic. It was called "Lake Mega Chad" and during that time it was the world's largest lake with a surface five times larger Lake Superior. The local population calls Lake Chad the "Sea of Noah" and the regional place names "Benue" and "Borno" also refer to Noah. 

Genesis 2:10-14 says that Eden was watered by four rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Pishon and the Gihon. Two rivers are in Mesopotamia and two are in Africa. This is the place of origin of the ruler-priests and of "him that holds the scepter from the house of Eden" (Amos 1:5). They are "the mighty men of old" who spread across this region. This is the point of origin of the practices associated with the priests of ancient Yisrael/Israel: circumcision, animal sacrifice, two-wife marriage pattern for rulers, sent-away royal sons, and the Holy Name YHWY.

The Ethiopians identify the Gihon with the Abay River, which encircles the former African kingdom of Gojjam. The Pishon "flows through the whole land of Havilah" (Gen. 2:11) which was rich in gold and bdellium, a semi-transparent oleo-gum resin extracted from Commiphora wightii and from Commiphora africana. These trees only grow in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Havilah was a son of Kush (Gen. 10:7) and the "Kushites" lived in the upper Nile region and the Sudan. Kushite kings also ruled in Egypt and were the first to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

The description of Eden as a well-watered region is supported by climate and geological studies. These four rivers encompass the heart of Eden in the ancient world which was ruled by a network of kings, priests, and clan chiefs. They controlled the major water systems and built shrines and temples along the rivers. They exacted taxes on cargo that moved along the rivers between twin cities that set up effective maritime checkpoints.


Ed said...

So my question is then, what do you make of the references to the Tigris and the Euphrates?

Are we left with two conflicting traditions in the same story? Or is this really an attempt at some sort of symbolism?

Reading Anonymously for a Long Time Now,


Alice C. Linsley said...

I don't see conflicting traditions. Both are Afro-Asiatic and the fact that there are eastern and western Afro-Asiatic traditions supports the claim that Genesis is the story of Abraham's people. If these differences didn't appear, we might suspect corruption of the text, just as a judge suspects collusion when the accounts of 2 witnesses are identical.

Both traditions are evident in the Genesis creations stories as well. Both are evident in the details of Noah's flood. In the eastern tradition, Noah sends out a raven. In the western, a dove. There are no ravens in Africa, but many types of doves. The dove that Noah sent out was probably the pink-bellied dove which is plentiful in west central Africa where Noah lived.

Thank you for reading faithfully. I hope that this research is spiritually beneficial. May God bless you!

carol said...

Noah would have had both birds on the ark. I am sure that God had a purpose for sending both birds out.

Also, the dry land we see today was not the same as the days of Noah. Much topography has changed. The Scripture says that the garden also was "eastward" in Eden and a river went out of Eden and split into four branches as named in the Bible. Some sources think that one river circled the entire Arabian peninsula while another circled the continent of Africa and that the Tigris river went all the way up around England. Interesting theories, but we may never know for sure until the return of Christ. I am sure though, that the truth concerning this (if we could know it now) would satisfy everyone's version.

Alice C. Linsley said...


The four rivers ARE identified in Genesis. Two (Tigris and Euphrates) are in Mesopotamia and two (Gihon and PIshon) are in Africa. At the time of the flood - the Holocene Wet Period - these rivers were much bigger than today. And the entire area between them was wet due to geological uplift in central Africa which caused run-off water from the Angolan Heights to flow toward the Nile rather than toward the Atlantic.

DDeden said...

So the Gihon spring of Jebus/Jerusalem was not the Gihon river of Eden?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Gihon on the west boundary of Eden would have been a tributary of the Upper Nile. It was associated with the land of Ha-vilah, known for gold. Ha-vilah is related to the Hebrew word te-vilah which pertains to immersion in water.

Eden was not a small place. It was a vast territory under the control of Afro-Asiatics and their Ha-piru (Ha-biru) ruler-priests. Horus shrines were found widely. These had falcon-shaped fire altars.

Barsanuphius Coppola said...

Fascinating about the drainage changes on the African continent, Alice. The Wikepedia article doesn't really deal with this. Do you have other links that give this geological sequence?

Alice C. Linsley said...

B.Coppola, See these:

Anonymous said...

Dear Alice,
Why is it you in the beginning of your paper "Eden: A Well-Watered Region" say: "Abraham is a descendent of Nimrod, the son of Kush when Genesis states that Abra(ha)m is in the blood line of Sem/Arpaksad and not in the Kushite line?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The ruler-priest Ha'biru (Hebrew) lines intermarried. The lines of Kain and Seth intermarried. The lines of Ham and Shem intermarried. This is called "endogamy" and it is one of the characteristics of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horim. It helps to see the diagrams based on the biblical data. See this:

Unknown said...

In another post you have the land that Cain went to Nok/Kano in North east Nigeria, and scripture establishes that he was banished to a place east of Eden. However, this distinction and the image you have for your speculation of where the Garden of Eden (in this very article) propose a contradiction in putting the Garden of Eden in West Africa. How do you reconcile when you have already made claim that the Garden of Eden is in a different region?

Or are you looking at Africa upside down due to the flow of the Nile putting South Africa (Azaniyah?) at the top.

Alice C. Linsley said...

This research is a 40 year work in progress. I'm glad you have read enough to note discrepancies. What might you offer to this perplexing question? Any thoughts? Perhaps the author's point is to place Cain in Canaan, though his ancestors are clearly from Africa. If Nod/Nok/Enoch is East of Eden,Enoch's territory was expansive. Enoch was a contemporary of Adam.

Alice C. Linsley said...

See this:

DDeden said...

Alice, you amaze me, I look forward to someday reading "This research is a 50 year work in progress"! Keep on keeping on.
I am reviewing the 2 human creation stories in Genesis. To me, the bit about Adam's rib has been changed, and it may have referred to early home construction. Adam, Adamah in Hebrew means ground, earth. Eve, Hava in Hebrew means life and thus birth. As a naturalist, I perceive Adam's rib = bent sapling (cf canoe rib) supporting the early dome hut where human life begins & is nourished. Unlike arboreal ape bowl nests made of treebranches, humans dwelt on the forest floor under dome shields of interwoven saplings shingled with broadleaves, smaller versions of the one pictured below.

Alice C. Linsley said...

DDeden, the research is now a 40-year project, and a book on The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew is coming out this year.

I imagine you in conversation with the late Loren Eiseley, a naturalist and anthropologist who would appreciate your reading of these 2 creation stories.

Best wishes!