By: Prof. Patrick Hunt, PhD

And the Lord God planted a garden in the east in Eden…The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” Gen. 2:8-14


Gudea, ruler of Lagash in Neo-Sumeria (c. 2100 BCE) said, “He who controls the rivers controls life.” [1] The famous Louvre diorite statue of Gudea depicts him holding a vase from which two streams flow, symbolic representations of both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Water has always been the antithesis of desert and the necessary life-giver and the source of many gardens. Indeed, gardens cannot be conceived of without water.

Some might think it a tautology in the above title to use the word “paradise” as an adjective for “garden”. But we gardeners would not agree, especially if we might just have some kind of internal genetic template in our instinct to recreate some faintly remembered paradise in our gardens that ancient literature echoes.

Regarding instinct, I was conducting Jean Clottes, the eminent cave prehistorian on a brief wine tasting in Northern California in late April, 2010 before his Stanford lecture. No doubt re-inspired by the streams in the nearby redwoods, I tried out an idea on him that had long been burbling through my own mind. I asked, “What if we love to hear water in our garden fountains or other places as a relaxing sound, putting our deepest minds at ease because we instinctively know the sound of running water is good for our health since our earliest human existence – maybe even earlier as animals – and the opposite of this is that stagnant water meant death?” Jean was receptive of my idea.

A few days ago I repeated this idea and many others below in my talk “Persian Gardens on The Move” in the Gifts of Persia: Garden Conservancy seminar on July 15, 2011. Most of these ideas are also delineated in my forthcoming book (2012) Gardens of the Ancient World. This brief article – whose shortcomings are due mostly to brevity – also condenses my Gifts of Persia talk.

Garden of Eden as chahar bagh….. Click HERE to read more.