IRAQ – A vast complex of wetlands and marshes in the Middle East, believed by some to be the original Garden of Eden in Genesis, has been designated a world heritage site by the United Nations.
Last week the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the addition of eight new sites to its world heritage list. One of the sites is the Ahwar of Southern Iraq—a place described by UNESCO as a “refuge of biodiversity” in southern Iraq.
“The Ahwar is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq,” UNESCO said in a statement last Sunday. “…The Ahwar of Southern Iraq—also known as the Iraqi Marshlands—are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment.”
Although the Iraqi marshlands were severely damaged in the 1990s by Saddam Hussein, aggressive restoration efforts have revitalized the area.
Not only is the Ahwar of Southern Iraq important as a natural refuge, but it is significant historically and biblically as well. As part of the Fertile Crescent, also known as the cradle of civilization, many of the world’s oldest cities are located nearby. The Tower of Babel was likely constructed in the Fertile Crescent area, many scholars believe. The ancient city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham (Genesis 11:31), is located there. Furthermore, many believe that the original Garden of Eden was located in the Ahwar.
Although the Bible does not state exactly where the Garden of Eden was located, Genesis 2 mentions that a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden. The river then divided and became four rivers, two of which were the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Today, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers converge in southeastern Iraq, which is why many believe the Garden of Eden was once located there.
However, others suggest that the Great Flood of Noah’s day would have completely reshaped the landscape, meaning the world looks very different today than it did prior to the Flood. In an article titled, “Where Was the Garden of Eden Located?” Dr. John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research considers how the Great Flood affected the Middle East.
“The key is in recognizing that through the Flood of Noah’s day, ‘the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished’ (II Peter 3:6),” Morris wrote. “As described in Genesis 6-9, the Flood would have totally restructured the surface of the globe. … No place on Earth could have survived untouched.”
Why then are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers still around today? Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis believes these modern rivers are different than the pre-Flood ones but were named after the originals.
“In my native country of Australia, one will recognize many names that are also used in England (e.g., Newcastle). The reason is that when the settlers came out from England to Australia, they used names they were familiar with in England to name new places/towns in Australia,” Ham wrote in “The New Answers Book 3.” “Another example is the names given to many rivers in the United States. There is the Thames River in Connecticut, the Severn River in Maryland, and the Trent River in North Carolina—all named for prominent rivers in the UK.”
“In a similar way, when Noah and his family came out of the ark after it landed in the area we today call the Middle East (the region of the Mountains of Ararat), it would not have been surprising for them to use names they were familiar with from the pre-Flood world (e.g., Tigris and Euphrates), to name places and rivers, etc., in the world after the Flood,” he stated.