This Ancient Wonder Of The World Was Never Found – But Experts May Finally Know Where To Look

Image: Ferdinand Knab/{{PD-US-expired}}

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are all incredible structures from the classical era. However, while six of these monuments have been located, one of them has never been found and some argue that it might even be a fictional creation. But the lack of evidence relating to the lost location could have a plausible explanation.

Image: Harald Nachtmann/Getty Images

It was the Greek builder Philo who first came up with his seven “things to be seen” in approximately 225 B.C. These days, we refer to these as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They include the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Pyramids at Giza and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Image: duncan1890/Getty Images

Over the years, Philo’s compilation of his Ancient Wonders has been edited and refined to reflect different eras. Nonetheless, his original seven remain the defining selection. And each of them symbolizes feats of engineering and scale that would have been considered astonishing in their day.

Image: David McEachan

Sadly though, only one of Philo’s Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still stands relatively unscathed today. That’s the Pyramids at Giza, which have stood for more than 4,000 years. Five of the others have since been destroyed, although there’s sufficient archaeological data to substantiate their existence.

Image: H. Waldeck

But while six of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – whether standing or not – have been accounted for, one has long eluded archeologists. That mysterious site is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. They’re said to have been created by King Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon, who reigned between 605 and 561 B.C.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: duncan1890/Getty Images

However, no real evidence has been found of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon’s existence. For instance, no remnants have ever been found and Babylonian records make no mention of them. With that in mind, archaeologists are none the wiser about their potential whereabouts or what caused them to be included in Philo’s list.

Image: Nastasic/Getty Images

Given that the gardens were supposedly situated in Babylon, Philo would have had to venture east to see them. The rest of his Seven Wonders all lie in or around the Mediterranean’s easterly regions, an area that was Greek, or “Hellenist,” in its outlook and way of life. However, Babylon was not.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson

Babylon was the capital of Babylonia, a nation situated in Mesopotamia. The remnants of the city now sit within Iraq. It was originally established as a Euphrates River port four millennia ago and subsequently grew into one of the most prominent metropolises of its era.

Image: traveler1116/Getty Images

Babylon’s might increased during the rule of King Hammurabi, who reigned between 1792 and 1750 B.C. Through his leadership, Babylon overcame neighboring states and eventually annexed a sizable proportion of Mesopotamia. And this state became known as Babylonia.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Kindattu2004 / CC BY-SA 3.0

As the Babylonian capital, Babylon prospered. It became powerful and wealthy as a city and was filled with exquisite architecture. However, the rule of Babylonia didn’t last long. Following the death of Hammurabi, however, the empire imploded and for several centuries it existed only as a small kingdom.

Image: Jean Fouquet or Master of the Munich Boccacio/{{PD-US-expired}}

Babylon then experienced a resurgence between 626 B.C. and 539 B.C. when the Neo-Babylonian Empire emerged. This new dominion was the planet’s mightiest nation after triumphing over the Assyrians in 612 B.C. But once again the empire didn’t endure, and in 539 B.C. Persia forces spearheaded the fall of Babylon.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: RobertoDavid/Getty Images

While the influence of Babylon waned, the epic architecture of its prosperous years became the stuff of legend. The so-called Tower of Babel – a structure built to reach the heavens – is even mentioned in the Bible. Other monuments such as the city walls and the Ishtar Gate are remembered to this day for their scale and beauty, respectively.

Image: Charles Le Brun/{{PD-US-expired}}

Then, of course, there are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were immortalized by Philo in the 3rd century B.C. He’d arrived in the region a century after the Persians and Babylon had been quelled by the ancient kingdom of Macedon under Alexander the Great. Nonetheless, it’s likely that the area and its architecture will have remained unusual to Philo and his readers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Multipedia/Getty Images

According to Philo, the wondrous Hanging Gardens were suspended on wooden shafts that sat on stone pillars. The timber formed a trellis, which in turn contained carefully irrigated soils that was planted with an impressive selection of vegetation. Philo described the spectacle as a “labor of cultivation suspended above the heads of the spectators.”

Image: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Alongside Philo’s account of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are other Greek and Roman sources that paint the site in an equally enticing manner. They often talk of dense greenery that sat on terraces that towered at more than 70 feet. These plants were said to be in stark contrast to the bleak appearance of most of Babylon at the time.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: ZU_09/Getty Images

According to these sources, the Hanging Gardens were an assault on the senses. They overwhelmed the eyes with their remarkable greenery while the scents of flowers left a sweet-smelling perfume in the air. Furthermore, aside from plant life, the gardens were said to be decorated with pillars and statues as well.

Image: David Clode

So, what was such a vision dedicated to? Well, according to legend, king Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens for his wife Amytis, as she missed the lush greenery of her home region of Media, which today lies in Iran. But bringing the arid desert landscape to life was no mean feat, especially in the 6th century B.C.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: SI Imaging Services/Imazins/Getty Images

Researchers have speculated that in order to create the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the way that they’ve been described, an intricate irrigation process would have been required. Such an arrangement would have been a remarkable feat of engineering, using cisterns, waterwheels and pumps to transport the Euphrates’ waters inland.

Image: Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images

However, despite the romantic story of Nebuchadnezzar II’s display of love for his wife, there’s still no solid evidence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon’s existence. The many Greek and Roman references to the site were penned hundreds of years after the site is said to have perished. And since then, archeologists’ quests to locate the gardens have proved fruitless.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: American Colony (Jerusalem). Photo Dept., photographer

In the early 1900s, German researcher Robert Koldewey led the earliest archaeological digs in the ancient city of Babylon. His team spent almost two decades trying to search for the Hanging Gardens, in fact. At one point, he thought he’d found part of the wonder’s irrigation complex. However, most experts now believe that the structure he’d uncovered was likely to have been a storage center.

Image: DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini via Getty Images

A decade after Koldewey’s expedition, British historian Leonard Woolley claimed he’d found evidence of the Hanging Gardens in Ur, a metropolis around 150 miles from Babylon. He believed that a series of apertures at regular intervals in the brickwork he uncovered could have been an indication of an irrigation scheme.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Bettmann/Getty Images

However, it would seem that – like Koldewey before him – Woolley had mistakenly linked his discovery to the Hanging Gardens. The holes that he believed were signs of irrigation were most likely created to allow the brickwork to dry out evenly when the structure was built. So, once again, the wonder had eluded archeologists.

Image: Dion Lefeldt Rezaei/Getty Images

Given the lack of archaeological and documentary evidence associated with the Hanging Gardens, then, in recent years researchers have started looking at their problem from another angle. Perhaps the wonder has remained so elusive not because it didn’t exist, but because it was never in Babylon. Maybe it was situated somewhere else altogether.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images

Dr. Stephanie Dalley is an honorary research fellow and a member of the Oxford University’s Oriental Institute in England. And she’s among those experts who suspect that no one has ever unearthed any remnants of the Hanging Gardens in Babylon because they were constructed somewhere else. What’s more, she outlined her reasoning in her 2013 book The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced.

Image: sergey Mayorov/500px/Getty Images

The idea that the Hanging Gardens weren’t actually in Babylon isn’t so outrageous. That’s because Greek and Roman sources often mixed real-life accounts with those taken from myths. Furthermore, retellings of Mesopotamian history from that era regularly conflate the two kingdoms of Babylonia and Assyria.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Joe & Clair Carnegie/Libyan Soup/Getty Images

For instance, the historian Diodorus stated that the Assyrian Empire’s capital, Nineveh, was by the River Euphrates. However, it was actually located beside the River Tigris. Furthermore, in his description of the walls of Babylon, Diodorus described in detail a depiction of Queen Semiramis with a spear. This has never been unearthed in Babylon, but a similar scene is found on a Nineveh palace wall.

Image: Frans Sellies/Getty Images

Given the tendency for Greco-Roman sources to mix up locations within Mesopotamia, then, it’s not inconceivable that ancient scholars could have mixed up the location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as well. And after almost 20 years of investigating the wonder, Dalley has come to suspect that it was in fact located in Nineveh. That’s a few hundred miles north of the city they came to be associated with.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: nicoolay/Getty Images

While Nebuchadnezzar II has been credited with creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Dalley suggested that it was actually an Assyrian ruler named Sennacherib who’s responsible for the wonder. She claims that he constructed them in the 7th century B.C. As a result, the gardens could also be a hundred years older than previously thought.

Image: traveler1116/Getty Images

Researchers at Oxford University, where Dalley is based, came to such a conclusion after making fresh translations of ancient inscriptions about Assyria. The engravings were, in fact, the records of Sennacherib’s rule, which occurred between 704 and 681 B.C.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: ZU_09/Getty Images

On one of the stones, Sennacherib details the extensive monuments he erected. An inscription reads, “I raised the height of the surroundings of the palace to be a Wonder for all peoples… A high garden imitating the Amanus mountains I laid out next to it with all kinds of aromatic plants.”

Image: benoitb/Getty Images

The description of Sennacherib’s lush spectacle of course mirrors those of the Hanging Gardens. And while Greco-Roman sources suggest that Nebuchadrezzar designed his gardens to mimic the Persian landscape, Sennacherib’s creation took inspiration from Mount Amanus, which now lies in Turkey.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: duncan1890/Getty Images

Furthermore, the records of Sennacherib’s rule also described a screw designed to lift water – reminiscent of that developed 400 years later by Archimedes. Indeed, the ruler was known for his innovative approach to technology. So, it may be that such an invention was used to water the king’s grand gardens.

Image: Vivienne Sharp/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Moreover, the Sennacherib translations weren’t the only evidence that pointed towards Nineveh as the true location of the Hanging Gardens. A dig in the city – which is located in Iraq close to Mosul – uncovered an impressive aqueduct complex. And it dated from the reign of the inventive king.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Vivienne Sharp/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The aqueduct found in Nineveh was constructed from a couple of million stone blocks, and it transported water over the Jerwan valley. Furthermore, an inscription on it read, “Sennacherib king of the world… Over a great distance, I had a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh.”

Image: Gary Todd / CC0 1.0 Universal

Interestingly, an aqueduct is depicted in a relief made during the reign of Sennacherib’s grandson, Ashurbanipa. In the artwork, the watercourse supplies a luscious sloping garden with a pavilion at its top. Consequently, some experts believe that it shows the famous Hanging Gardens, though not in Babylon.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: StreetFlash/Getty Images

Further evidence that appears to make Nineveh a more likely candidate as the location of the Hanging Gardens is the city’s topography. The Assyrian capital is more mountainous than its Babylonian counterpart. As a result, elevating water to the heights of the garden would have been much more straightforward than in the flat terrain of Babylon.

Image: Vittoriano Rastelli/Getty Images

According to Dalley, the source of the confusion over where the Hanging Gardens were located could be down to the fact that Babylon was invaded by the Assyrians in 689 B.C. After that, Nineveh became known as “New Babylon.” The name was so customary, in fact, that King Sennacherib even gave the gates of the city the same name as Babylon’s.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Furthermore, Dalley believes that Alexander the Great may have spotted Nineveh’s sophisticated aqueduct complex in 331 B.C on his way to battle in Gaugamela. She argues that his curiosity about the watercourse could have sparked the story of the Hanging Gardens, which were later mistakenly said to be in Babylon.

Image: Nastasic/Getty Images

If Dalley’s assertions that the Hanging Gardens were located in Nineveh are correct, it would put to bed rumors that the ancient wonder was simply a “historical mirage.” However, it would also probably indicate that a slight name change would be in order. Babylon, of course, would no longer lay claim to the site.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Peter Andersen/{{PD-US}}

Such a rewriting of the history books is bound to cause a stir. And Dalley herself realized that her theory regarding the location of the Hanging Gardens would divide opinion among experts. Nonetheless, to her at least, the Nineveh paradise was very much a “wonder” in the fact that it was “magnificent in conception, spectacular in engineering, and brilliant in artistry.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT