Last night Channel 4 screened an archaeology documentary claiming to have found the true location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Although Greek sources say that the Gardens were in Babylon, and were built by Nebuchadnezzar, no trace of them has ever been found, either on the ground or in documents left by the very efficient Babylonian state bureaucracy.
The program suggests that the gardens were in fact elsewhere in the area covered by the historical Babylonian empire. Specifically they were at Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, and they were built by Sennacherib, one of the greatest Assyrian kings. Evidence is provided in the form of an actual canal network built to supply water to the city, and a carving in the British Museum that appears to show an ornate garden. There is also a cuneiform inscription stating that Sennacherib built a large and ornate garden adjoining his palace.
As a Mesopotamian history geek, this is very exciting to me. But just as exciting is that once again we’ve got a highly publicized broadcast TV program fronted by a lady academic who appears well past the age at which women are usually chuckled off TV for not being pretty enough. So congratulations Stephanie Dalley on a great piece of historical detective work, and on overcoming British TV’s notorious age and gender biases.
Of course this is all to the greater glory of Ishtar, and one in the eye for the perfidious Babylonians. Huzzah!
UK readers should be able to watch the program here. Those of you in the rest of the world will probably find the video blocked, but there is a long article about the discovery in The Independent which contains a lot more scholarship than the TV producer felt comfortable with including. There is also a book, which I am definitely buying.