Thursday, September 11, 2008

Religion today
By DONNA ABU-NASR – 18 hours ago

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — On a sweltering August morning, a small group of Iranians crowded outside the green metal door of a cemetery. They wanted to go in to look at the remains of one particular tomb: the tomb of biblical Eve.

Like hundreds of Muslims who visit Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage in nearby Mecca, the Iranians had heard the legend that Eve was buried in that spot. The two blue signs inscribed with "The Graveyard of our mother Eve" flanking the cemetery entrance appeared to add credibility to a story passed on by generations of Saudis but never scientifically proven.

"We hear this is the tomb of Eve," said Minoo Ghadimkhani, 45. "That is why we want to go in."

There is no archaeological evidence old enough to authenticate the story of Eve's burial in Jiddah, according to many Bible experts. But that hasn't kept the legend from persisting.

William Dever, a professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at the University of Arizona and a prominent U.S. archaeologist, said there just isn't any archaeological evidence going back far enough to back up the claims.

"The problem is that these are all legends, these are all myths and we can't date them," said Dever, who specializes in the history of Israel and Near East in biblical times. "My guess is the story could go back two or three thousand years, but we don't have any archaeological proof."

"There are lots of traditional tombs of saints of various kinds in the Middle East," he added. "But they are never excavated or investigated scientifically."

Asked if he had heard of any other final resting place for Eve, Dever said, "No. There are tombs of Abraham all over the place, but I don't honestly know in Israel or the West Bank or Jordan of any Eve tomb in these places."

As Mark Twain would say, it comforts my heart to encounter the revered burial place of a relative.