Daily Archives: October 21st, 2008

The Mystery of Gobekli Tepe and its Message to Us

Gobekli Tepe ( Turkish for “hill with a belly” ) is an archeological Neolithic site that was discovered by American Peter Benedict in 1964, but was ignored by American academia until German archeologist Klaus Schmidt from the German Archeological Institute led a team thirty years later to excavate the site.

What was discovered sent mainstreamers into epileptic seizures and outright denial since.

For you see, Gobekli Tepe is one of the first constructed temple sites discovered to this date.

But that’s not the reason mainstream archeologists are ignoring the site, oh no.

The reason, as I see it, and others, is the extreme antiquity of the site.

According to Professor Schmidt, organic material scraped from the “T” shaped monuments radio-carbon dated the site to 10,000 to 8,000 B.C.!

That’s right, 5,000 to 7,000 years before the Egyptian Pyramids, or even Stonehenge !

So you can see how a monkey-wrench was thrown into the contemporary theory that sedentary societies ( farming/early towns ) under a single elite ruler could muster the manpower needed for such demanding construction projects.

The monkey-wrench being that Gobekli Tepe was most certainly constructed by hunter-gatherers !

It’s either that, or entertain the notion that agriculture/farms/towns/cities started earlier than hypothesized!

Already, the proposed date of wheat domestication has been pushed back somewhat by the discovery of the site:

Thus, the complexes originated before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, which is assumed to begin after 9,000 BC. But the construction of the Göbekli Tepe complex implies organisation of a degree of complexity not hitherto associated with pre-Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10-20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site.  For sustenance, “wild cereals may have been used more intensely than so far; perhaps they were even deliberately cultivated.” Residential buildings have not been discovered as yet, but there are some “special buildings” which may have served for ritual gatherings.

There is also a theory that the story of the Sumerian creation myths/Biblical Genesis come from this site. There isn’t much empirical proof of such, oral histories passed from generation to generation before they were written down are considered heresay evidence:

Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt downplays extravagant spiritual interpretations of Göbekli Tepe, such as the idea, made popular in the press, that the site is the inspiration for the Biblical Garden of Eden. But he does agree that it was a sanctuary of profound significance in the Neolithic world. He sees it as a key site in understanding the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from tribal to regional religion.

That being said, the oral and written links between the Garden of Eden tales and the transition between the hunter/gatherer and agricultural societies persist and aren’t easily dismissed:

 […]“To build such a place as this, the hunters must have joined together, in great numbers. After they finished building, they probably congregated for worship, and for funerals. But then they found that they couldn’t feed so many people with the game. So I think they began cultivating the grasses on the hills. Einkorn wheat, a forerunner of domestic wheat, grows wild here. So they domesticated it.” Schmidt looks at the solitary mulberry tree on the hill. “In other words, they began farming to support their religious community. But it was the farming that maybe caused their downfall.”

According to Schmidt, it seems that agriculture began here, in the province immediately surrounding Gobekli, sometime around 8,000BC.

This indeed was one of the very first places in the world where people farmed. We know roughly when and where farming began, because of the archæological evidence: domestication is a shock to the physiology of man and beast. The skeletons of people change, they temporarily grow smaller and less healthy, as the human body adapts to a protein-poorer diet and a more arduous lifestyle. Likewise, newly domesticated animals get scrawnier at first.

But 8,000BC, it seems, was also the time when the local landscape began to alter. As the trees were chopped down, and the soil leached away, the area became arid and bare. What was once a glorious pastoral region of forests and meadows, rich with game and wild grasses, became a toilsome place that had to be worked ever harder.

Schmidt and I descend a ladder to the floor of the dig, where the ancient dust is banked against the T-stones. He continues: “The really strange thing is that in 8,000BC, during the shift to agriculture, Gobekli Tepe was buried. I mean deliberately – not in a mudslide. For some reason the hunters, or the ex-hunters, decided to entomb the entire site in soil. The earth we are removing from the stones was put here by man himself: all these hills are artificial.”

The link is becoming irresistible: a lost paradise, a forsaken lifestyle, a terrible ‘mistake’, even a solitary tree. Could there really be a connection between Gobekli Tepe and the Garden of Eden story…?

This is not the first time this hypothesis was made. I remember watching a documentary about Stonehenge on the Science Channel last year and proposed theories why lunar calculations were a big deal at the site when solar calendars and relationships to the northern growing season mattered. The theory was that when these people were still hunter-gatherers, they hunted at night and needed to know when the phases of the Moon occurred.

Kind of like a “legacy” system.

And memories of a more “simpler” time perhaps.

It makes sense. Hunting at night during times of the half to full Moon provides just enough light to see by.

And to catch unsuspecting prey animals off-guard.

But when agriculture came along, with its adherence to a “day to night” time keeping schedule because of working the crops and domesticating/maintaining livestock, a different means of keeping and measuring cycles needed to happen.

Thus, our present means of solar-based timekeeping and seasonal measurement was born.

These events believe it or not was traumatic to our peaceful hunter-gatherer ancestors. A whole new way of life was evolving and certain groups of people and animals didn’t survive the transition.

Along with the Ice Ages ending around the 10,000 B.C. time-frame and possible local environmental changes nascent agriculture might have been causing, well it’s no wonder that stories and legends of more pristine, pure/innocent times were passed on.

Now, after our present means of civilization has grown up from these events, the agricultural town/city/nation-state model of coveting and stealing our neighbor’s property after we used up our own backyard has brought us to these precipitous times, the culmination of 6,000 years of collective “materialistic” knowledge so to speak, we must ask ourselves these very same questions our pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors must have asked asked themselves:

“Is this truly what we want? Is this what life is? Are we any better off than when we hunted the Mammoth, Deer and Bear?”

A paradigm shift is coming our way again, Armageddon, 2012 and the Apocalypse not withstanding.

What legends and tales will we be passing on down the line 6,000 years hence?

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe

http://www.archaeology.org/0811/abstracts/turkey.html

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/449/gobekli_tepe_paradise_regained.html

http://www.britannia.com/history/h7.html

P.S.: Tip of the chapeau to The Daily Grail !

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