The world's first historic gardening experiment


Shukallituda is the first gardener known to history, because the world’s oldest literary texts come from Sumer. It is recorded that the raging winds smote his face with the dust of mountains and all the plants he had tended turned desolate. Shukallituda therefore lifted his eyes to the heavens, studied the omens, observed and learned the divine laws of nature. Having acquired new wisdom, he planted the Sarbatu tree in his garden. It gives a broad shade which lasts from sunrise to sunset. As a result of this horticultural experiment, Shukallituda’s garden blossomed forth with all kinds of green plants. The Illustration (Microsoft® Encarta®) shows a ziggurat seen across the Euphrates. The trees look like date palms, which were probably the most widely grown trees in Mesopotamian gardens. The area beneath the palms  conveys something of  the character of a Sumerian garden in the time of Gilgamesh. He was the fifth king of Uruk, ruling c2700 BCE, and boasted that his city was ‘one third gardens’ – by which he probably meant date and orchard gardens within the city wall. This part of Iraq is now completely arid, which is a blessing for archaeologists….  ‘ a landscape from which came some of the earliest and most important impulses leading to Mesopotamian civilization, a landscape dotted with urban ruins testifying to past intensive settlement, prosperity, and even greatness, today is virtually empty and wholly neglected’ (The Uruk Countryside Univ Chicago  1972, p.1)

[See also: Previous post on Asian gardens and landscapes]

5 thoughts on “The world's first historic gardening experiment

  1. Pingback: History of Asian garden and landscape design book | Blog

  2. Pingback: Where was the world’s first garden made? | Blog

  3. Christine

    The city of Eridu was believed by the Sumerians to be the oldest city on earth? []

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    ‘Believed’ is the operative word! Jericho is accepted by archaeologists as being much older. It is also noteworthy that Eridu was probably a temple before it was a city – and that Sumerian and Mesopotamian temples had temple gardens. Eridu can be assumed to have been an architecture-landscape complex, if not a ‘composition’.

  5. Christine

    The archaeological rediscovery of Jericho is fascinating! An amazing challenge to both faith and reason…
    1) to accurately date remains []
    2) to match textual sources
    Trying to match recorded biblical history
    3) to interpret historical accounts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *