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
Beginning with a structural examination of the pillars, Banning suggests they are placed and buttressed in a manner that would have supported overhead wooden beams, which in turn would have been thatched. There are several hints (ranging from grooves and notches to wood) that this may in fact have been the case, and Banning has sketched one possible layout:
http://genealogyreligion.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Gobekli-draw-better.jpg Göbeklis T-shaped pillars are arranged in the round and may seem completely unique (which they are in terms of size alone), yet it turns out that similar pillars and arrangements are found at other Neolithic sites in the area, and in several cases these structures are residential.
I’m with you about your skepticism on how some of these sites were constructed, but I don’t think there is any reason to think that aliens had anything to do with it. I think we simply underestimate the technology that was available at certain points in the ancient world.
Archaelogists seem to assume that people were as primitive as possible, until they find artifacts or documents that prove otherwise. I’m of the opinion that ancient man was just as intelligent and inventive as we are, though he had a smaller base of knowledge to draw on, and less opportunity to transmit new knowledge to others. So, I think a lot of these “anamolies” might be explained by local technologies that were either kept secret or just never had the opportunity to be transmitted and adopted on a wider scale.
For example, they’ve recently found evidence that ancients were using large, water-wheel powered band saws to cut stone blocks with precision in one location. It’s possible that this was more widespread and the mills just didn’t survive or haven’t been recognized as such since the archaeologists aren’t looking for them. Who knows what other technology the ancients had that was lost in the countless wars, razings of cities, and burnings of libraries that happened in the ancient world?
If we don’t need alien technology to make impressive stone monuments, then I figure there’s no reason to assume the ancients did either.
I don’t see any water source for a mill/bandsaw anywhere near most of these sites located on hills or barren plateaus.
Have you seen the pics of the ruins of Puma Punku in Bolivia? Of all ancient ruins, Puma Punku is the most mystifying to me. Check out this story and accompanying pics.
Note in the story that the stones are either granite or diorite which are extremely hard to cut and probably would need diamond cutting tools.
I don’t believe that you could develop the tools and the sophisticated technical knowledge of engineering without writing and a way to transmit the knowledge so you lose me there with the argument that somehow our same species was able to do all this and then completely lost the knowledge—on a worldwide basis. How and why?
I’m willing to be persuaded that civilizations 12,000 years ago had this technology and somehow we are left with only the ruins and not their tools—but I haven’t been persuaded yet. Remember that we haven’t found much of human existence on this planet back beyond 10-12,000 years.
I’m still looking for answers but I’m not sure why a visit from space by other worlders is more fantastic than the idea that Earth had insanely technological human societies that appeared full blown and then degenerated into primititive human societies.
“I dont see any water source for a mill/bandsaw anywhere near most of these sites located on hills or barren plateaus.”
Yes, but the power source isn’t the essential element, you could just as easily power it by a team of oxen or donkeys pushing a wheel around. The essential thing is that some ancients at least were able to construct machine tools that were not too far from what we use today.
I haven’t heard of that site, thanks I will check it out. Regarding the granite/diorite, it’s very hard yes, but diamonds aren’t required to cut it, just to cut it more effectively. You could just do it with sand and water but it would take much longer. That’s why the “ancient aliens” hypothesis doesn’t pass Occam’s razor, as far as I’m concerned. All these structures are explicable by means that are less far-fetched than aliens flying all this way just to teach us how to build big buildings.
In some cases, we do have both the monuments and the tools, and there isn’t that much mystery as to how they were constructed. The Giza pyramids, for example, we have tools and toolmarks and half-quarried blocks that let us know with a certainty that humans milled these stones. We may not know the exact method they used to stack them up, but we know humans cut the rocks out, so there’s no reason to assume the rest wasn’t done by humans as well.
I think you are probably underestimating the odds of alien contact, while overestimating the technology needed to build these monuments. They are impressive, but at the same time, it doesn’t take a lot of advanced knowledge to figure out how to cut and move stones, just some simple machines, a little ingenuity, and a lot of manpower.
I also don’t think we lost the knowledge or technology to do these things. We never forgot how to build pulleys, ramps, saws, wedges, etc. We may have lost specific know how about building techniques, but that isn’t a big mystery. Someone in modern day France might have a hell of a time trying to build a Gothic Cathedral nowadays, even though we know they were built by man. We just don’t use the same techniques as those builders, because we came up with easier or more effective techniques. Once humans figured out how to cast concrete and fire mass amounts of brick effectively, we probably had no need to use those old stone building techniques anymore, and they died out with the masons who knew them.
Oh another thing that you said in an earlier post that I wanted to address... the ancient bronze tools comment. There is a lot of misconception about ancient tools. Most people still think bronze tools were inferior, because everyone knows the Bronze Age came before the Iron Age. Actually, bronze is harder, lighter, easier to shape, and less brittle than iron, so it is in all ways a better metal for tools and weapons than iron was. It was not until steel tools became prevalent that we had better hand tools than bronze ones.
The reason the Iron Age follows the Bronze Age is not because the tools became better, just more widely available. Bronze was hard to come by because tin is quite a rare metal, where iron can be found nearly anywhere. Once people figured out how to refine iron into a halfway decent substitute for bronze, its use exploded, even though the tools were actually inferior. Perhaps that is one reason that these monuments fell out of favor as well. The new tools just might not have gotten the job done.
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