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Researcher suspects she may have found the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Bible tells us of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, describing a tall, lush, terraced structure that was cool and inviting amid the desert sands of Mesopotamia. Exotic fragrances from herbs and flowers added to the pleasantry. Amid this, strolled it's builder, Nebuchadnezzar and his wife, for whom the gardens were built. So, what became of this wonder of the world?

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - After years of fruitless searching in the desert sands of modern Iraq, historians have given up on the Gardens. The Gardens either remain buried too deep under desert sand, or have long been paved over with more recent construction. Or perhaps, the Gardens never existed at all.

These are the conclusions of frustrated historians and archaeologists who have searched for the elusive wonder only to be disappointed.

However, the conclusion that they never existed seems premature. The Hanging Gardens are cross referenced, an important clue when deciphering historic mysteries. In addition to mention in the Bible, both Greek and Roman writings refer to the Gardens as an actual place, although the writings are late, and follow the destruction of the Gardens by centuries. This lends credibility to the notion that they were more than legend.

Still, the Gardens have remained elusive, at least until now.

A researcher from Oxford University thinks she knows where the Gardens can be found - and it's not in Babylon. If true, it would explain why the gardens haven't been located where archeologists have been looking.

Dr. Stephanie Dalley, an honorary research fellow and member of the Oriental Institute at England's Oxford University, says the gardens existed, but not in Babylon, hence the lack of physical evidence for them. Instead, she suggests, archaeologists should be looking somewhere else.

Delly is a scholar of ancient Mesopotamian languages and she has studied ancient cuneiform texts. According to her readings, she believes the Gardens were built 300 miles to the north of Babylon, in Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrian civilization.

The Assyrians were legendary for their ruthless military conquests that often involved acts of brutality that were shocking even by ancient standards. Assyrian accounts tell of towers built with the heads of captured warriors, the skins of flayed nobles draped over city walls, and the mass burning of adolescent children.

Despite this savagery, the Assyrians were also fond of writing and built libraries, collecting all the cuneiform texts they could find. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known written story for which we have a manuscript, came from an Assyrian library.

Among the many Assyrian writings are references a King Sennacherib who was called "king of the world." His palace was described as "unrivaled" according to Delly. An account in the writing tells of his having "a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh."

Such a watercourse, or aqueduct, could feed the hanging gardens.

On the walls of his palace, bas reliefs depict lush gardens being fed by water.

Certainly, the nearby mountains of Assyria, now northern Iraq, would have allowed for easier construction of aqueducts to feed water to the city.

So far, the references to the gardens in Assyria are composed of ancient writings and a bas relief. However, they provide a crucial clue for anyone seeking the gardens elsewhere beyond Babylon.

So what does this mean for the scriptural references to Babylon? Is the Bible in error?

Not at all.

Dalley explains that Nineveh was often referred to as the "New Babylon" and King Sennacherib even renamed the city gates to mirror those in ancient Babylon.

Also, modern names and references are different than those used in ancient times. Modern historians sometimes refer to the empire of King Nebuchadnezzar as the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Ancient kings sometimes also took credit for the work of others, as they sought to increase their prestige with others.

This fluidity could contribute to modern confusion, causing archaeologists to mistake ancient locales and assume legends where there remains fact.

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