In Search Of… S02E24 The Garden of Eden

We start with some very 1970sy models playing Adam and Eve. We don’t see them much below the neck, so the nudity is only implied. Still, I felt very uncomfortable watching this on my laptop on a train. Even the music has a 70s softcore sort of vibe. It's all a bit silly, and it really detracts from Nimoy's retelling of the story of the Fall. Anyway, blah blah blah, we're going looking for where the Garden really was.

From this episode I learned that the Assyrian Empire was once ruled by a pantomime genie.

How are we going to find it? Well, we're looking for the four rivers that ran through Eden. Two of them are the Tigris and the Euphrates, and we all know where they are. But there are another two mentioned – Pishon and Gihon. Presumably find these rivers, find the garden? I guess that's what we're getting at.

So we go to Egypt, to see the Nile, sometimes associated with the Gihon. It's quite a long way from Mesopotamia and the Tigris and Euphrates. Anyway, travelogue of Egypt now. So many quaint ethnic folkways, etc.

Nice music, but Egypt is not where the Pishon is! We're going across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. Now we're in a travelogue of Saudi Arabia. See the souks and casbahs, and what have you. Among other things, we see the ruins of a destroyed church which was supposedly the burial place of Eve. Cut back to awkward looking 1970s model. And my day is complete.

More Saudi travelogue. There's a lot of padding this episode. More than most. More talking about Adam. Travelogue now takes us to Jerusalem. Some quite nice footage of the Dome of the Rock. But where is the fourth river? Nimoy asks. Not here, aparantly. We've been deliberately wasting your time.

Map of the Middle East, and now we're talking about the Assyrians? I'm bored and confused when suddenly the best thing EVER happens. A chunky looking white guy in a robe and a turban turns up and addresses the camera, proclaiming himself Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria.

And the crowd goes wild!

He delivers a monologue about seeking this kingdom where people didn't die and had a lot of pearls. It's the best crappy re-enactment ever. Nimoy waxes lyrical about how awesome the place this dinner theatre dropout is planning to invade is. Pearls, flowers.  A seal with two people on it – whoa! Adam and Eve were two people! Mind blown!

So basically, we find this place something something fourth river Eden. This episode's not really doing it for me. Can you tell? Unlike the weird jumping about of ancient aliens episodes, I strongly suspect that this theory only has one card in its hand, and it's holding on until the very end to play it. So instead of arguments about Eden, we're watching shipwrights building dhows. To be fair, it's kind of cool.

Now we're in Bahrain. Nimoy is pronouncing it strangely, Bah'rain -- which for all I know is the correct pronunciation. I'm not going to look it up. White privilege is a great time saver.

Travelogue again. Footage of flatbreads being made while Nimoy praises the Bahraini work ethic. Ah the exotic market… The electronic music played over footage of the local oil refinery makes me wonder if it's infested with Movelans.

But oil doesn't enter into our discussion of Genesis, Nimoy assures us. We're talking about water. Like that mysterious fourth river, right? Okay, now we're looking at rock mounds –tombs. Older than the Pyramids, if somewhat crappier. Somehow this ties into Ashurbanipal and the Assyrian domination of the north.

Ruined sixteenth century Portuguese fort. Was this episode paid for by the Bahraini Tourist Bureau or something? But under the fortress is an ancient dwelling, including a reservoir. Possibly part of an underground irrigation system, with regular stone-clad 'chimneys' from which water could be drawn.

It's actually pretty interesting. I'm always impressed with the incredible things that ancient people accomplished, with a fraction of the tools that we have at our disposal. I'm less impressed with the way these accomplishments get pressed into service for silly arguments, but that's another matter.

Anyway, Nimoy's talking about freshwater springs in Bahrain, forming dessert oases. Nimoy assures us that Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve "frolicked" in oases. Why? Because 'it may very well be' that the underground water table of Bahrain is the fourth river, Pishon.

More travelogue. Birds in palm trees. Nice. Nimoy finally states this episode's thesis: "If we take Genesis as a mixture of revelation and allegory, then it is likely the author had a real place in mind when he described Eden."

And now we're talking about Gilgamesh, talking about similarities between it and Genesis. In the Gilgamesh epic, Gilgamesh seeks a magic flower under the sea to become immortal, but a snake eats the flower. Bahraini tomb offerings often include a snake and a pearl.

Get it? Well what if 'undersea flower' means 'pearl'? Mind blown yet?

But who cares? We're looking at camels. Oh, and there's a type of tree that grows in the Bahraini dessert, known locally as the 'tree of life.' Coincidence? Well, probably.

Okay, in a lab now, watching an archaeologist piecing pottery together. Nimoy explains that money for archaeology is always tight and Bahraini archaeological projects lack the glamour of Egyptian ones, which is a fair point, I guess. A planned causeway will cut through a bunch of burial mounts, so we may tragically lose the Garden again.

So… Finding the Garden of Eden. Well, we have three choices there. We can take a fundamentalist approach and assume that it's a real place, exactly as described in the Bible, in which case we will probably find this episode unsatisfying. We can take the view that the story is purely allegorical, in which case the location of the Garden is an irrelevance.

Then there's the In Search Of… approach – a mixture of mythology and actual fact – leaves the show in a strange position. That it puts the rivers of Eden in Iraq, Egypt and Bahrain might seem weird, but remember we have no idea how big this Garden is supposed to be. On the other hand, it also means that Bahrain isn't Eden, it's basically just one corner of Eden. And yet the show is trying to position it as Eden itself.

Anyway, not a bad episode, just not a great one. Like I say, the arguments and evidence this episode puts forward to support its thesis could be summed up in five to ten minutes, leaving a lot of room for filler – a bunch of shots of Middle Eastern locations and lectures on Bahraini commerce.

Quotes

Nimoy: "[Saudi] Arabia is a land of seeming contradictions.  Gasoline is virtually free, but water is sold for twenty five cents a glass. Part of the price, perhaps, for Eve's temptation."

I love that 'perhaps' in there. I just love it.

Nimoy: [After the fall] Mankind's future seemed bleak – as bleak as the interior of Bahrain.

'Hazy like the moors of Scotland?'

Nimoy: If we never again achieve the Garden, it will certainly not be because we lost our way in our dreams.

I think we can all agree with that one.

Summing Up

Nimoyness: 7/10, Intrusive Electronic Music: 8/10, Travelogue: 6/10

Padding: 10/10, I Think We've Found Eden: 0/10. Overall: 31/50. Pass.

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