Hanging gardens of Babylon found in Kurdistan

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were not in Babylon south of Baghdad! 


We learned in primary/elementary/basic school about the 'Hanging Gardens of Babylon' as one of the 'Seven Ancient Wonders of the World'.  Of the seven, the Gardens were the only one of the Wonders that hasn't been found. 


But now, according to an Oxford University researcher, the Gardens were actually in Nineveh close to Mosul. The Gardens were irrigated by a well-engineered canal over 30 kilometers long constructed some 2,700 years ago, hundreds of years before Roman aqueducts were built.  The canal flows from Khinis (Khennis), not far from Shekhan in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) where there is an important complex of Assyrian rock sculptures (bas reliefs). 


A major remnant of the canal is an aqueduct (water bridge) just off a main road between Erbil and Duhok.  In 1935 the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago published a 140-page report on the aqueduct.  Below is information on the aqueduct built by Assyrian King Sennacharib in 700 BC.  Attached is a research report by an Oxford researcher that the Gardens were actually in Nineveh, not Babylon. 


Recently, this story was the subject of an intriguing PBS 'Secrets of the Dead' episode 'The Lost Gardens of Babylon' featuring Oxford's Stephani Dalley with input by Harvard anthropologist Jason Ur.



Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Secrets of the Dead


'The Lost Gardens of Babylon'  




Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the most elusive of these constructions of classical antiquity. While traces have been found of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, centuries of digging have turned up nothing about the lost gardens of Babylon – until now.

Why, in the nearly 3,000 years since the gardens were presumably built, has no archeological evidence ever been found to support their existence? Is the Hanging Garden of Babylon a myth or a mystery to be solved?

The New York Times
5 May 2014
In Search of a Lost Wonder, Off the Rivers of Babylon
‘Secrets of the Dead’ Seeks Ancient Gardens

Secrets of the Dead

An ancient bas-relief of a hanging garden in “The Lost Gardens of Babylon,” an episode of this PBS series on Tuesday night


This is the time of year when weekend gardeners peer into the neighbors’ yards for confirmation of their own superiority or inadequacy. But practically every gardener will feel unworthy upon viewing Tuesday’s episode of the PBS series “Secrets of the Dead.”

Turns out that long before Miracle-Gro or digitized sprinkler systems there was a guy who created a garden that put practically anything today to shame. The episode is titled “The Lost Gardens of Babylon,” and it explores the theory that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that hasn’t been found, were not in Babylon at all. They were in Nineveh, the program suggests, and were the work of a king named Sennacherib.

The episode details the research of the Oxford scholar Stephanie Dalley and is a detective story with an element of personal risk: She is shown traveling to the area, which is in a particularly dangerous part of Iraq. It’s also the story of a formidable engineering achievement. The historical record clearly shows that Sennacherib, king of Assyria some 700 years before Christ, built a fantastic tiered garden, which was no easy feat in that dry land.

He created a canal, remnants of which are still visible, that brought water to Nineveh from the Zagros Mountains. He also had to devise a way for that water to make a gravity-defying trip uphill to reach the top tiers of his creation. This king really, really wanted an eye-popping garden.

Casual gardeners in the audience may end up dismayed that they do not have a king’s budget or a king’s supply of forced labor. But still, spring is a time to dream of what could be. Disappointing reality can wait till the heat of summer.




The 1935 140-page report on Sennecherib's Aqueduct at Jerwan can be found at http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/oip/oip24.html   The report is a little tricky to find and download.


First, go to http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/oip/oip24.html


Then, on the left click on Catalog of Publications (under Publications)



Then, under "Arranged by Series" go down to and click on Oriental Institute Publications (OIP)



OIPs are numbered in reverse order. Go way down to "OIP 24. Sennacherib’s Aqueduct at Jerwan" Thorkild Jacobsen and Seton Lloyd. 1935". Click on the down arrow and wait for the pdf file to download. It might take a bit.



The Kurdistan Region's cultural heritage is extremely rich. Indeed, it's priceless.  Though valued differently, arguably it's more valuable than all the petroleum that could ever be produced.


Beginning with the land itself as the 'First Ancestor', all who came onto the land over many thousands of years contributed bits of heritage. That heritage is what enriches and distinguishes the peoples of the Region as they are today.


Over 50,000 years ago Neanderthal cousins at Shanidar Cave are the earliest known human-like beings to have expressed feelings. They buried their dead according to ritual, supposedly with flowers.  Columbia University archaeologists made these findings in the 1960s. Shanidar Cave is about a two-hour drive from Erbil.


Some ten thousand years ago mankind transitioned from nomadic hunters and gatherers to stay-at-home farmers planting crops and raising animals. The evidence of this was obtained by hunter-gatherer archaeologists at Jarmo, a place between Slemani and Kirkuk. 


Among many known and yet to be discovered features of the Region's rich cultural heritage is probably the oldest aqueduct (water bridge) in the world.  It's located less than 10 minutes off the main road between Erbil and Duhok. Not visible from the main road because of its low profile, everyday thousands pass by, but few know of it even though it's been there for 2,700 years.


Constructed by Assyrian King Sennacharib about 700 BCE, it was a major engineering achievement, part of a 30+-kilometer canal that carried water to his capital at Nineveh. The water came from the mountains and hills of today's Kurdistan. 


The aqueduct carried canal water across a shallow valley.  Water coming down the valley ran underneath the aqueduct through arched passageways, like culverts.  This is well detailed in the 140-page academic report published by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1935.  

Incidentally, by the way, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Apparently, they were not in Babylon, which is near Baghdad. There is no archaeological evidence or mention in historical texts indicating they were ever in Babylon.  Recent Oxford University research, however, strongly suggests the gardens were in Nineveh, constructed by none other than Sennacharib. See the report, attached. The waters of Kurdistan, perhaps by the same water that flowed on his aqueduct, likely irrigated the Gardens.  In a way, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are, in today's terms, the Hanging Gardens of Kurdistan. No? 

Here is a modern version of the concept put into practice by Sennacharib 2,700 years ago.
(Magdeburg Water Bridge over the Elbe River in Germany)

 Sennecherib's 700 BC version

22 meters wide and 280 meters long
A small plane could have landed on it.


How to get to Sennecherib's Aqueduct

The aqueduct is visible on Google Earth.   Coordinates:   36.669692N,43.393878E       elevation: 407 meters

Sennecherib's aqueduct at Jerwan (village no longer exists) is an impressive structure with cuneiform writing on the side. It is located about ten minutes off the main road from Erbil to Duhok via Ruvia and Chraa. It is not visible from the main road.

Coming from Erbil, the turnoff to the aqueduct, to the right, is opposite Mahad collective town, which is on the left of the main road. A ways back from the main road, toward Mahad, there is a noticeable pinkish compound wall with white arches.  There is also a large Arcelik billboard advertising washing machines. The dirt road opposite Mahad from to the aqueduct might be muddy and deeply rutted; no problem for a Land Cruiser. The road goes toward low hills.  The aqueduct carried water across a shallow valley between two hills.  Water coming down the shallow valley ran under the aqueduct.


Mahad on the left, and the aqueduct on the right, are located before going up a hill where the road splits into a new dual carriageway. At the top of the hill is Betnaur village. Beyond this village is a major junction: straight goes to Duhok via Baadre or Al Qosh, right goes to Shekhan/Ain Sifni, Khennis, Lalish, toward Atrush, and also another (more scenic) way to Duhok via Bablu and Zawita where traffic is much less.

Sennecherib's aqueduct is part of a canal that ran from Khennis to Nineveh. Khennis is a place of impressive Assyrian rock sculptures, also 700 BCE, including a lamassu (winged lion) that has fallen near the water's edge. To get to Khennis, go through Shekhan/Ain Sifni Town and after about 15 minutes there is a good paved road to the right that runs along a mountain. Take it. After another about 15 minutes there is a bridge. Go up either side of the stream a short distance to view the sculptures.

Also in the area is Lalish, the main religious site of the Yezidis.  It is very worthwhile visiting.  Instead of turning right to Khennis, continue straight (or, coming back from Khennis, turn right).  Not too far ahead is a Gulf Keystone drilling site, on the right.  A little farther ahead there is a road on the left to Lalish, not far.  Go inside the main temple, down to the crypt of Sheikh Adi and the room of clay jugs of olive oil for oil lamps.  You have to take off your shoes when you go inside, and step over thresholds, not on them.  You will be most welcome and hopefully there will be someone to explain in English.

And by the way, before reaching the aqueduct you will pass through the Battlefield of Gaugamela where Alexander (The Great) defeated the Persian King Darius in 331 BCE.  According to some scholars, the battle is well portrayed in the movie Alexander with Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, and Anthony Hopkins (copies available in the local market). 

And also by the way, along the way a stop at the grand monastery of Mar Matti (St. Mathew) up on the side of Maqlub Mountain is not to be missed.  This monastery began in the 4th century.  At Bardarash, at the T-junction, turn left instead of turning right to Ruvia.  Drive about 10-15 minutes and turn right where there is a checkpoint.  Continue to the end of the road, about another 10-15 minutes.  Don't miss the crypts inside the back of the church.

Why not make a day of it and visit all 5 places: Mar Matti, Gaugamela, Sennecherib's aqueduct, Assyrian rock sculptures at Khennis, and Lalish. Very doable. If not returning to Erbil the same day, which is very possible, it can all be done during a full day's drive to Duhok.