In early Sumerian civilization, deriving from ancient Mesopotamia, the gods were seen as living in a garden secluded from humans. In the story of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s first epic tales, it describes the hero Gilgamesh traveling to
this garden to find the Utnapishtim, the equivalent of Noah, who was saved from a great flood by building a large boat to save himself, his family, and various animals. As he was allowed to live forever, Gilgamesh travels to see him so that he too can find an eternal life. Paradise is also described not just as a place of plants and gardens but also having precious stones and pearls. A very early tablet that discuses the domain of the gods describes it as a garden. In different mythologies and stories, potential locations of the gods could be in Mesopotamia, Dilmun (now Bahrain), or in Lebanon. While it is debatable what the region was or where it is in the minds of the Sumerians, it is clearly associated as a peaceful and beautiful setting where the gods reside.
This concept of garden and a sacred place for the gods continued from the 3rd to 1st millennium BCE. In fact, very likely temples built during this time often had gardens within their compounds. Although these gardens did not preserve, we often see large spaces between the physical temple structure, in this case a ziggurat to the god Marduk, and an enclosed space (Figure 1). This could suggest that the space between these was a garden that likely represented the sacred dwellings of the gods and the holy structure inside was the inner sanctuary where the god resided. Additionally, in this garden the concept of a sacred tree is developed in Sumerian mythology. This likely is similar to the Tree of Life found later in the Bible.