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Science has amply demonstrated that modern humans originated in Africa, but what about the biblical story of creation? Was the Garden of Eden really in Africa rather than Mesopotamia?

Image by mikedarnell1974 via Flickr

While there are still those who disagree, science has amassed a significant amount of evidence through anthropological and genetic study to prove that modern humans originated in Africa.  A 2007 study done by the University of Cambridge, for instance, which analyzed the genetic diversity in a large quantity of ancient skulls from around the world, found that the farther away from Africa a sample came from, the less genetic diversity, while the African specimens were the most genetically diverse.  While some who support the theory that anatomically modern humans sprang up in multiple locations point out that ancient peoples from the Middle East are the second most genetically diverse, this does not negate the findings of the Cambridge study.  If, in fact, genetic diversity decreases with distance from Africa, it stands to reason that those from nearby locations, such as the Middle East, would be close in diversity, but still less.

So, while there will be those who continue to disagree, it would seem logically that the facts are as the single point of origin believers have stated, modern man came from Africa.

What, though, about the religious belief that man was ‘created’ by God from a single couple, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden?  Is there a way that the findings of science can be reconciled with the Biblical belief?

The Book of Genesis relates the story of creation.  According to chapter 2 of Genesis, beginning with the eighth verse, God planted a garden east of Eden, and in put man.  Genesis goes on to describe Eden as a place out of which flowed a river which watered it, which parted into four heads – or other rivers.  Only the four ‘heads’ are named in the Bible; they are Pison, or Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates.

These four rivers are used by some scholars to locate Eden somewhere in Mesopotamia, but others differ with this view, claiming that Eden is everywhere from northern India to the Caspian Sea, and even in Africa.  If those who believe it to be in Africa are correct, it would mean that the biblical version of creation is in agreement with scientific evidence.

Interpretations of the Bible are varied, but some known facts raise interesting questions.  The Bible, for instance, is silent as to how the off spring of one couple found mates not related by blood in order to create all the subsequent races of modern man.  But, if mankind indeed was ‘created’ in Africa, movements to the Arabian Peninsula and further could explain it.

There is still, however, the question of where the original Eden was.  One might assume that with the rivers being named, pinpointing a location would be an easy matter, but such is not the case.  The Pishon, for instance, is variously claimed to be the White Nile, the Indus, the Ganges, and other rivers.  Since we have scant records from ancient times, and must only guess from geological evidence, this remains an open question.  Similarly, the Gihon, is thought by some to be the Blue Nile, or the Ganges.  Neither of these two rivers exists today, and their actual location is only a matter of speculation.  Scientists have found evidence of extensive flooding in Mesopotamia, deep lakes in Africa, grassland and lakes in Arabia, and heavy forest along the eastern Mediterranean coast, which provides evidence that the region experienced a lengthy wet period.  The Hiddekel, which is believed to be an ancient name for the Tigris, and the Euphrates, can be located, but again, no one can say with absolute assurance that their present courses are the same as they were when mankind originated.

So, even though the evidence is not available, what is known or thought to be raises the interesting possibility that Genesis is referring to Africa, specifically Sudan or Ethiopia, as being an approximate location of the Garden of Eden.  It can’t be proven conclusively, but equally, it can’t really be disproven.  One must also take note of the fact that Genesis states that the river Gihon encompasses Ethiopia, which if correct, makes Africa an even more compelling candidate.

Except for those who wish to cling tenaciously to old beliefs, and who might be offended by such a thought, it just might be the case that the term ‘Mother Africa’ has a biblical as well as a scientific basis in fact – and that Adam and Eve, the purported parents of us all, were in fact African.