Skip to comments.Rewriting the dawn of civilization ( Was Göbekli Tepe the cradle of civilization? )
Posted on 01/03/2012 10:27:32 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
If National Geographic had more stories like this one, Id be inclined to subscribe. This is fascinating stuff.
Seven thousand years before Stonehenge was Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, where youll find ring upon ring of T-shaped stone towers arranged in a circle. Around 11,600 B.C. hundreds of people gathered on this mound, year after year, possibly for centuries.
There are plenty of mysteries on this hill. Some of the rocks weigh 16 tons, but archaeologists can find no homes, no hearths, no water source, and no sign of a town or village to support the hundreds of workers who built the rings of towers. The people apparently, unthinkably really, were nomadic, as far as we know, they had no wheels, and no beasts of burden. True hunter gatherers, whose first heavy building project was not a home to fend off the elements, but a religious sacred site.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised, after all, we know the pyramids, the largest and oldest surviving buildings didnt house people or grain either the only humans they keep warm were dead ones. In a sense, the theme repeats. It takes extraordinary expertise and effort to move tons of rock, especially if you dont have a trolley, let alone a crane, yet seemingly the first priority for our ancestors was not food or shelter, but just some respite from daily overbearing fears. Could it be some other reason than fear like the spectacle or festival (mentioned in the article) or the ever reliable search for status? Maybe, but its hard to believe these circles could be about power trips or parties if the there is no permanent settlement to reward the hierarchy.
Hat tip to GWPF which linked to the story: All You Know About The Neolithic Revolution May Be Wrong
Here are a few selected paragraphs:
Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier [than Stonehenge] and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animalsa cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecturethe first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.
Within minutes of getting there, Schmidt says, he realized that he was looking at a place where scores or even hundreds of people had worked in millennia past. The limestone slabs were not Byzantine graves but something much older.
Inches below the surface the team struck an elaborately fashioned stone. Then another, and anothera ring of standing pillars. As the months and years went by, Schmidts team, a shifting crew of German and Turkish graduate students and 50 or more local villagers, found a second circle of stones, then a third, and then more. Geomagnetic surveys in 2003 revealed at least 20 rings piled together, higgledy-piggledy, under the earth.
Puzzle piled upon puzzle as the excavation continued. For reasons yet unknown, the rings at Göbekli Tepe seem to have regularly lost their power, or at least their charm. Every few decades people buried the pillars and put up new stonesa second, smaller ring, inside the first. Sometimes, later, they installed a third. Then the whole assemblage would be filled in with debris, and an entirely new circle created nearby. The site may have been built, filled in, and built again for centuries.
These people were foragers, Schmidt says, people who gathered plants and hunted wild animals. Our picture of foragers was always just small, mobile groups, a few dozen people. They cannot make big permanent structures, we thought, because they must move around to follow the resources. They cant maintain a separate class of priests and craft workers, because they cant carry around all the extra supplies to feed them. Then here is Göbekli Tepe, and they obviously did that.
Discovering that hunter-gatherers had constructed Göbekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife. I, my colleagues, we all thought, What? How? Schmidt said. Paradoxically, Göbekli Tepe appeared to be both a harbinger of the civilized world that was to come and the last, greatest emblem of a nomadic past that was already disappearing. The accomplishment was astonishing, but it was hard to understand how it had been done or what it meant. In 10 or 15 years, Schmidt predicts, Göbekli Tepe will be more famous than Stonehenge. And for good reason.
I cant say Im totally convinced of the whole these, perhaps the wooden huts blew away or are buried under the hill next-door. But certainly the old neat theory is dead. It was thought that the Neolithic revolution began with farming. To manage the farms, people needed permanent housing. To manage the stores of grain, they needed a stable society. But some settlements have been discovered from as far back as 13,000 B.C. (around where Palestinians, Lebanese, and Israelis reside). So another theory suggests villages came first, then farming and religion.
Göbekli Tepe, to Schmidts way of thinking, suggests a reversal of that scenario: The construction of a massive temple by a group of foragers is evidence that organized religion could have come before the rise of agriculture and other aspects of civilization. It suggests that the human impulse to gather for sacred rituals arose as humans shifted from seeing themselves as part of the natural world to seeking mastery over it.
Im not too sold on theories of humans shifting to seek mastery and what not either (what human didnt want mastery over cold, hunger and disease?) So I think the motivating force is straight out fear. The sentient empathetic intelligent soul needs a salve for all the pain that would have been a regular part of Paleolithic life.
Today the closest known wild ancestors of modern einkorn wheat are found on the slopes of Karaca Dağ, a mountain just 60 miles northeast of Göbekli Tepe. In other words, the turn to agriculture celebrated by V. Gordon Childe may have been the result of a need that runs deep in the human psyche, a hunger that still moves people today to travel the globe in search of awe-inspiring sights.
The photo gallery is true Nat Geo quality.
Its worth a look (these photos here are not from Nat Geographic).
Read the whole story: The Birth of Religion at National Geographic.
1. Teomancimit : Gobekli Tepe, Urfa
2. Erkcan: The sculpture of an animal at Gobekli Tepe, close to Sanliurfa.
3. Teomancimit: Göbekli Tepe, Şanlıurfa
Interesting that even people who may not read or write understand that there is something way beyond themselves to which they are irrevocably tied, and feel the overwhelming need to build something marvelous to the glory of that Being.
Ancient Civ ping!
Reminds me of the excavation for the moon monolith in “2001”.
Link is just above the last photo....in the text.
I have a dumb question: What is the evidence that this structure, or in fact many of the old structures are temples or religious sites? I always see that the people studying them argue for religiosity, but when I see a pile of rocks, I don’t necessarily think that it must be religious. I never here an explanation as to why exactly it is considered religious...If anyone can enlighten me, I am willing...
....dig deeper and you will find stuff that humans have made...
...human nature is such that no matter how ancient, people like to dig and build things....always have, always will.
I am always surprised when people are "surprised" at what they find when they dig deeper...
...a good spot to build something now was a good spot before, and probably was since a great upheaval in earth's geography...
..I would speculate that the date of the "cradle of civilization" will be extended farther back in time as the people who study such things dig ever deeper.
The delusional childish utopian theorizing of Marxism drove the framing ideas of pre-civilized wild man the hunter-gatherer changing into civilized man with the advent of farming and the urbanity that farming brought. All hogwash! Balderdash.
**** “ The delusional childish utopian theorizing of Marxism drove the framing ideas of pre-civilized wild man the hunter-gatherer changing into civilized man with the advent of farming and the urbanity that farming brought. All hogwash! Balderdash.” *****
Exactly!!! Everyone knows it was when they invented BEER.
....I don't think so either...I could be just some guy or group who was/were experimenting with new designs?
"Academics" like to demonstrate their brilliance by attempting to assign some profound intellegence to ancients.....but ancients were just like us ......some people just like to tinker, build and innovate...
Old archaeological custom. Whenever they can't assign a particular purpose to an artifact or construction, they assume it is ceremonial or religious.
I looked through the linked article and a couple of the sub-links as well and can find nothing which states what evidence was used to arrive at the 11,600 BC dating. I would not necessarily dispute the date since I happen to believe that there were very likely human civilizations which predated and were destroyed / covered up by the last major ice age. But it would be nice if they mentioned what organic materials have been found in association with the site and depth that could have been used to determine the age of these particular monolithic constructions. Rocks in and of themselves tell nothing about when they were carved.
Beer/wine was surely part of it — of creating a viable urbanized culture that is. A protection against bearing grudges, at least. In order to dwell in close proximity, the socially explosive emotions of envy, revenge and jealousy have to be quelled.
Yet, I think that human cultures did not follow the childishly simple path Marxists and “Progressives” model it has. “Liberty” as a whole coin — one side social duty and the other social freedom I am certain played — the real role.
I’m just an ignorant non-intellectual, but after reading the Nat.G. article and viewing the pix, my opinion is that these works of man date from BEFORE the Noahic Flood. The reason that no dwellings, etc, have been found is because they were washed away in the Flood. Discoveries that are made nowadays, which still have dwellings, fireplaces, etc. intact, are obviously POST-Deluvian!
I find it fascinating to watch these so-called intellectuals and brilliant minds, tie themselves in knots to come up with some scenario; ANY scenario, for what may have happened there, just as long as they can leave GOD out of their thought processes, and N-E-V-E-R mention the Scriptures or any connection Biblical history might have thereto!
The entire 2nd Chapter of Psalms comes to mind:
Psa 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
Psa 2:3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
Psa 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Psa 2:5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Psa 2:6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
Psa 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Psa 2:8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Psa 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Psa 2:10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Psa 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Psa 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
It would be instructive if one of the “all scientists are moronic fakes” crowd could speculate on what use or reason other than religion could have given rise to this monument. Are these the garden gnomes of the time? Just something to do with folk’s free time?
Good article. Thank You.