New Hypothesis of the Garden of Eden and the Flood
In recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Persian Gulf dating to about 7,500 years ago. Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist and researcher with the University of Birmingham in the UK, said:
Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight. These settlements boast well built, permanent stone houses, long distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world.
But how could such highly developed settlements appear so quickly, with no precursor populations to be found in the archaeological record? Rose believes that evidence of those preceding populations is missing because it’s under the Gulf. Rose thinks it is no coincidence that the founding of such advanced communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago.
Surrounded by deserts, there is no obvious source for the civilized settlers. But they could have come from the heart of the Gulf, the part that is now submerged. Displaced by rising sea levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean, they had to move to higher, more marginal land, where their remains are now being found.
Historical sea level data show that the Gulf basin was above water from about 75,000 years ago, when sea levels fell. The newly exposed land was an ideal refuge from the harsh deserts surrounding it, with fresh water supplied by four substantial rivers, the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Wadi Baton Rivers, as well as by underground springs. When conditions were at their driest in the surrounding hinterlands, the Gulf Oasis would have been at its largest in terms of exposed land area. At its peak, the exposed basin would have been about the size of Great Britain, Rose tells us.
Modern humans could have been in the region even before the oasis was above water. The area in and around the “Persian Gulf Oasis” may have been host to humans for over 100,000 years before it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean around 8,000 years ago. Rose’s hypothesis suggests that humans may have established permanent settlements in the region thousands of years before current migration models suppose.
Recently discovered archaeological sites in Yemen and Oman have yielded a stone tool style that is distinct from the East African tradition. So humans were on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula beginning as far back as 100,000 years ago, far earlier than the estimates of several recent migration models, which place the first successful migration into Arabia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago.
A once fertile landmass now submerged beneath the Persian Gulf may have been home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa. The receding of the waters from 75000 years ago left the Gulf Oasis accessible to these early human migrants out of Africa, and would have provided “a sanctuary throughout the Ice Ages when much of the region was rendered uninhabitable due to hyperaridity”, according to Rose.
The presence of human groups in the oasis fundamentally alters our understanding of human emergence and cultural evolution in the ancient Near East.
Vital pieces of the human evolutionary puzzle may be hidden in the depths of the Persian Gulf, but if the rise of the sea around 7,500 years ago was quite quick, the land being low lying rather like Bangladesh, and subject to storm surges, the story of a flood could have arisen. The people who escaped will have fled upstream to the present day Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, where the Sumerian civilization developed a few thousand years later, and the numerical literacy which had already emerged for recording trade began to transfer to recording narrative. So the elements of the Flood and the Garden of Eden story with its four rivers, and its springs could have existed at the dawn of recorded history in Mesopotamia.