By: Ashur Sada
It is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world yet no one in this generation has ever seen what they look like nor where it was situated exactly. You just
had to take historians’ word for it, that it was a marvelous piece of engineering from the ancient world. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon has been the subject of an intense debate amongst the archaeological community. Finding its exact location is the holy grail of this field and till this day no one has been able to find its remains and exact location. Some even went as far as doubting its existence and thinking it was only a stuff of legend.
New research and evidence
Then came a British academic and archaeologist by the name of Stephanie Dalley from Oxford University. She has gathered a wealth of evidence suggesting the garden was created at Nineveh, 300 miles north of Babylon (current day Iraq.) Nineveh was the capital of the ancient powerful Assyrian empire. Babylon, at various times in the life of the Assyrian empire, was a satellite state for the Assyrians. Based on all of this, the Assyrians and Babylonians-even till this day-are considered virtually one and the same, both speaking Aramaic and both rising to inherit the earlier Summerian and Akkadian civilizations in what is currently referred to as ‘Mesopotamia’ or the land between two rivers.
Given these facts about the Assyrians and Babylonians and their close social and geographical proximity to one another, it may have been a historical fallacy or inaccuracy by someone to attribute the gardens to Babylon rather than to its rightful builders and hosts, the Assyrians. And that is exactly what Stepahnie Dalley has argued for, amongst her many other arguments to support her claim.
Her 18 years of research culminated this month in the release of her new book “The Mystery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon” Most of her evidence comes from re-translating previous cuneiform scripts which were poorly deciphered. Add to that recent discoveries of an aqueduct (water supply structures) near the site of ancient capita of Nineveh and you have more evidence to support this claim.
Global and Assyrian Implications
Assuming this research and claims are accurate, and I personally find it all very compelling, what does this mean going forward? both from a global prospective and an Assyrian one? globally, this is a paradigm-shift indeed. It is akin to someone claiming that Hitler lived another 10 years beyond his stated death date. It will literally require the reprinting or correction of thousands of books and other literature in which this is currently stated as a fact. Wish there was a magic way to use the electronic version of ‘Find and Replace’ and apply it to physical books and texts!
Likewise, the implications for Assyrians will be huge although not surprising to some. The fact that this was already attributed to their Babylonian cousins to the south was like being their own. As a matter of fact, there was already talk that the hanging gardens may have been pioneered for or by an Assyrian queen in Babylon. But now that there is evidence to suggest they were indeed in Nineveh, the historical, spiritual and cultural capital of the Assyrians, a new sense of pride and glory is born. It is a new site to add to a long list of significant ancient Assyrian landmarks, including the library of AshurPanipal, the Palace of Sanharib, the Winged Bulls and more…
One question remains: What sounds better: “Hanging Gardens of Nineveh” or “Hanging Gardens of Assyria”? The first may sound more accurate and specific but I would choose the second for two reasons. First, more people are more familiar with the word ‘Assyrian’ than the word ‘Nineveh’, so the transition from the old and wrong ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’ to the new ‘Hanging Gardens of Assyria’ will be easier and more familiar to most. Secondly, it promotes the ‘Assyrian’ name and makes it more widely used.