An archaeological dig tells us more about the Garden of Eden,
says Sean Thomas:
I am standing above an archaeological dig, on a hillside in
Beneath me, workmen are unearthing a sculpture of
some sort of reptile (right). It is delicate and breathtaking. It is
also part of the world's oldest temple.
If this sounds remarkable, it gets better. The archaeologist in
charge of the dig believes that this artwork has connections with
the Eden story. The archaeologist is Klaus Schmidt; the site is
called Gobekli Tepe.
World's first temple
In academic circles, the astonishing discoveries at Gobekli Tepe
have long been a talking point. Since the dig began in 1994, experts
have made the journey to Kurdish Turkey to marvel at these forty-odd
standing stones and their Neolithic carvings.
But what is new, and what makes this season's dig at Gobekli so
climactic, is the quality of the latest finds - plus that
mind-blowing thesis which links them to the Garden of Eden.
The thesis is this. Historians have long wondered if the Eden
story is a folk memory, an allegory of the move from
hunter-gathering to farming. Seen in this way, the Eden story
describes how we moved from a life of relative leisure - literally
picking fruit from the trees - to a harsher existence of ploughing
And where did this change take place?
Biologists now think the
move to agriculture began in Kurdish Turkey. Einkorn wheat, a
forerunner of the world's cereal species, has been genetically
linked to here. Similarly, it now seems that wild pigs were first
domesticated in Cayonu, just sixty miles from Gobekli.