Adam, Eve and planting design in the Garden of Eden

What type of plants grew in Eden, apart from apples and figs?

What type of plants grew in Eden, apart from apples and figs?

Apart from fig leaves, bougainvillia and sin, what was planted in the Garden of Eden? We can say little  about the layout  but something about the location and something about the planting design. It may be argued that ‘every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food’ (Genesis Chapter 1) meant those plants which grow wild, while the the Garden of Eden (as described in Genesis Chapter 2) might have contained only those plants that grow as a result of cultivation. Cultivated varieties of plants have existed since approximately 10,000 years ago the description of the Garden of Eden in Genesis took its final form approximately 2,500 years ago, when the distinction between wild and cultivated species was well known – though its scientific origin was of course unknown.
On the wider question, we should consider whether Adam and Eve were wrong to seek knowledge – and whether we are wrong to continue the quest. George Steiner wrote, in Bluebeard’s Castle, that ‘We cannot turn back. We cannot choose the dreams of unknowing. We shall, I expect, open the last door in the castle, even if it leads, perhaps because it leads, on to realities which are beyond the reach of human comprehension and control.’ He thought it possible that humanity is engaged on an endless quest for knowledge and that, as in Bluebeard’s Castle, opening the last door will lead to doom.
And is humanity descending ever-further into a morass of sin? I hope not – but Eve on the left (by Michaelangelo) does not look as though she has been leading the good life and Adam on the right looks emasculated as a result of eating too much factory-farmed chicken. I prefer the medieval Adam and Eve (from the Très riches heures) and believe that the planners and designers of more sustainable ways of living have much to learn from the middle ages and medieval gardens.

19 thoughts on “Adam, Eve and planting design in the Garden of Eden

  1. Christine

    Interestingly Dr Juris Zarins locates the site of the Garden of Eden in the Persian Gulf. The garden supposedly was submerged about 5000 to 4000 B.C. as a result of a worldwide phenomenon called the Flandrian Transgression, which caused a sudden rise in sea level.
    [ ]

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    The west end of the Gulf is my ‘preferred location’ for the Garden of Eden – though the place where the earliest domesticated plants are found is in the Levantine Corridor.

  3. Christine

    Yes to understand Australian Indigenous cosmology (Genesis) is to understand the Dreamtime (tjukurrpa)and the continuing operation of song cycles (imma).

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    Great efforts are being made to ‘re-assemble’ the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) and at some point it may become possible to ‘re-assemble’ the beliefs which were brought Out of Africa by Homo sapiens sapiens. One of the groups of beliefs, surely, relates to the search for a cosmology.

  5. Christine

    “Curiouser and Curiouser!” cried Alice (She was so much surprised that for the moment she forgot how to speak good English.)

    Were there genderlects and/or gendered languages in PIE?

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Latin, Greek and Sanskrit (all derived from PIE) use inflections to indicate gender. Anglo-Saxon also did this, as does French, but in the English language which emerged from the Norman conquest the inflections were, thankfully, lost. The Hobbit language is related to Anglo-Saxon and one would expect it to be inflected – it is not a language I speak.

  7. Christine

    If Biblical accounts can be interpreted literally man has a long history of constructing cities and buildings with varying degrees of success. One would hope if we got it wrong again we wouldn’t confront a new international language barrier! [ ]

  8. Tom Turner Post author

    The web is destroying language barriers. You can just about say what you want to say into a smart phone and have it relay the remark in another language. But one world may give our civilization the character of a single great tower, which will collapse. Good thing too, many of the animals may say.

  9. Christine

    The illustration of Babel looks to me more like a towering city than a tower in a city? Perhaps it is the forerunner of the city in a tower typology?

  10. Tom Turner Post author

    I do not think there is any archaeological support for the imagined form of the Tower of Babel – and artists would do better to associate it with the ziggurat – though the Arabs built circular towers many centuries later.

  11. Christine

    I suppose for now we can only speculate on the form of the tower of Babel and whether it was a tower building or a towering city.

    G R H Wright in ‘Ancient buildings in South Syria and Palestrine’ Vol 1 believes:
    “A non-rectangular,curvilinear mentality characterises the earliest buildings presumably as a reflection of the natural growth which seems to be generally of this order, the circle being the most economic periphery of space.

    This form seems a natural one to flexible materials such as branches, brushwood and skins etc (those which can be gathered). Thus the form of the nomad’s temporary shelter was reproduced in more solid materials by the first group of sedentary men.”

    Is this probable?

    Referring to the architect’s bible ‘Bannister Fletcher’ Catal Huyuk is noted as the first important architectural site. ‘The International Dictionary of Historic Places’ says of Catal Huyuk:

    “Folklore held that the Konya plain (in Turkey) was the first dry land to appear after the Old Testament flood. In fact a large shallow lake covered the plain in 16,000 BC. When the waters receded, a fertile plain emerged, watered by a river flowing from the Taurus Mountains. The terrain with grasslands for pastures, marshes teeming with game, and forests to provide wood for houses, could support a large human population. About 7,000 BC on the banks of the river, where the lake bed adjoins the clays of the former swamps the city of Catal Huyuk emerged, thought to be the very first city.”

    The homes at Catal Huyuk were made of mud brick, only one storey in height and of the two rooms one, the primary living area,was rectangular in form.

  12. Christine

    This biographical note on Wright suggests he is anything but an armchair historian, in the sense of having only a amateur interest.

    “G.R.H. Wright studied history, law and architecture. He taught at the University of Munich and spent a lifetime recording and restoring monuments throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, East Africa and Southern India. His many publications include equally works on the History of Architecture and on the History of Religion, as also technical accounts of restoration projects.”

    Wright was actively involved in archaeology in the 1960s, albeit he was involved in the reconstruction of ancient monuments (ruins), an approach which would certainly be frowned upon by contemporary archaeologists concerned with preserving historical evidence, the integrity of archeological sites and conservation.

    Similarly, Bannister Fletcher would not be considered a bible for historians whose concerns are different from those of architects…nor for that matter, would architectural historians with theoretical interests in critical theory be much interested in the work of Bannister Fletcher. I suppose it all depends on what aspect of knowledge within the discipline of architecture you are interested in as to which authority you consult.

    Within planning and archaeology the organic or orthogonal plan has typically been used as a reference point in the dichotomy between planned and unplanned cities. [See Michael Smith ‘Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning published in the Journal of Planning History 2007.]

    It is strange as you say that access to the homes in Catal Hoyuk was from trapdoors in the roof. It is difficult to understand from the published plans how internal circulation worked within the city. However, there are suggestions that villages of this type still exist – so a site visit for urban planners should be a must do! [ ]

  13. Tom Turner Post author

    I think the circulation with Catal Huyuk was at rooftop level. One advantage of this is that fewer walls would be required – but then one wonders if there was some defensive advantage: perhaps the whole settlement functioned as a fort. This is armchair history – and I think archaeologists regard all non-archaeologists as armchair folk.

    Thinking about the future, it is possible that cities will develop networks of connected open space at rooftop level and that roof-level access to buildings may once again become important. I like the idea of city form returning to its starting point.

  14. Christine

    The fort theory seems plausible. I also wondered whether common walls sheltered the building from the effects of rain on mud brick?

    Viewing these photographs of Baitil Aman Guest House in Kenya my guess is that the form of the house and arrangement of rooms and perculiar access at Catal Huyuk would be at least partly due to climate.[ ] The emphasis in the guesthouse is on upper spaces used at night and lower spaces without windows or opening onto a courtyard used by day.

    This is very intriguing. Not sure whether this educated guessing qualifies me as an armchair archaeologist also?


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